We Filipinos are no stranger to heartbreaking stories of Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) fate abroad. Stories our countrymen suffering physical, emotional, sexual, and even financial abuse from their foreign employers abound the news everyday and yet thousands of them still leave the country for a chance at earning more in a foreign land. And an even harsher reality is that some people never have to leave the country to experience this kind of nightmare.
The Story of “Aida”
Aida was only 13 years old when she left her hometown of Liloan, Leyte in 1958 to find a job in Manila. She only attended school until the 2nd grade.
She was then hired by a physician, “Dr. Cruz,” as their all-around helper: housemaid, cook, and nanny to his 4 children.
Like many Filipinos, Aida is long suffering and will take as much as she can without complaining about it. She is hospitable. According to her friends, she is kind, honest, and friendly.
Bad dreams are made of these
One of Aida’s concerned friends shared that Aida was treated like a slave in the Cruz household. Her innocence (because of her young age) and ignorance (for having only attended two to three years of school) were abused by her employers. She was tasked to do everything and anything they could think of, even errands beyond her years.
In 1981, after 22 years of service to the family, the Cruzes immigrated to Canada. They sponsored “Aida” to come with them to Canada as an employee. Their treatment of Aida did not improve nor lighten in any way. It actually grew worse.
After a few years of living in Canada, perhaps after being declared a citizen, Dr. Cruz forced Aida into an arranged marriage so that a certain man can come and live in Canada. Sadly, Aida had no choice.
Her devotion to and fear of her employer kept her grounded in Canada with them. She worked for them for more than 31 years.
To the friends she made in Canada, Aida confided her problems and miseries. She shared that she was underpaid and overworked. She was constantly maltreated by members of the household that she works for. And as if taking care of two adults and raising their four children weren’t enough, Aida also looked after the grandchildren.
Beyond sound judgment
Her friends advised her to find a different employer. In a country teeming with the nicest people on earth, she will surely find a family that will appreciate her and pay her well. Despite sound judgment, Aida decided to stay with the Cruz family because she’s scared of that they’ll do to her if she left.
There was a time when she got really sick and the Cruzes did nothing to help her. Despite being employed by a doctor, Aida was not given proper medical attention. She also doesn’t have medical or dental insurance so there’s no coverage for her ailment. She barely had money. One of her friends even noted that Aida couldn’t even afford to replace her old dentures, which she said were almost “rotten.”
It was “Leni,” one of her friends and a nurse, who brought her to the hospital in Surrey where she stayed for several days. However, for fear of being needed by her employers, Aida did not want to stay in the hospital any longer.
Just when you thought it’s all over
After over 50 years of service to the Cruzes, Aida decided she’s had enough. She finally had the courage to quit her job and leave her employers. She lived with her friends for some time in Richmond.
“Cindy,” the adopted daughter of the Cruzes, allegedly invited Aida out to dinner at Aida’s expense, including a high-roller trip once or twice to a casino.
Aida lived off her measly CPP (Canada Pension Plan) of only Can$37.00 a month. This is the same money she uses to make ends meet as she pays for rent, food, medication, and to support her family in the Philippines.
It continues to be a mystery to her friends why she only received Can$37.00 every month after working in Canada for over 30 years. Aida also reportedly received Can$1000 as her monthly salary. Nobody knows where all those money went.
On a fateful Sunday morning, October 27th of 2013, Aida suffered a massive and fatal heart attack. One of her friends informed the Cruzes about Aida’s demise. Her former employers asked about Aida’s legal documents, but did not bother to ask what happened to her and what’s going to happen to her family in the Philippines.
As Aida’s friends held a nightly prayer vigil, none of the Cruzes ever came. The family simply referred her death to the Public Trustee and the Social Services. They wanted to spend as little money as possible. Before she was cremated, the Cruzes agreed to a two-hour viewing time where Aida’s friends could see her for the last time and pay their respect. Donations gathered during Aida’s wake were sent to her family in the Philippines.
Aida’s friends continue to seek information about the legalities of her alleged CPP and 10,000-dollar life insurance whose executor was a certain “Larry Cruz” and where “Cindy” is the beneficiary.