A Filipino domestic helper died from a chronic illness which could have been treated with prior medication and proper care. Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Maristel Pepito, 35, worked in Hong Kong for more than five months before her death on February 18 this year.
But Maristel’s family members and close friends claimed that her recent death was further worsened by insufficient food and long hours of tedious work. Her untimely death was even aggravated by the lack of attention from her employers when she got seriously sick.
As expected, her employers denied any maltreatment. According to a media report, a family representative expressed that police would not have allowed them to go if they had maltreated the poor domestic helper. The family declined to comment further with regard to the sad incident.
Pepito, who started working as a domestic helper at a Tai Po residence in August 2018 is survived by her grieving husband and three minor children. According to Susan Polo, a distant cousin and also a domestic worker in Hong Kong, Maristel needed the job to send her children to good schools. She also added that Maristel’s husband was not earning enough as a construction worker.
“She was a very loving mother, who did this job and sacrificed for the family,” said Polo, who was always in contact with Pepito when she was still alive.
Pepito had told Polo about her difficult situation at work but did not consider terminating the contract since she badly needed the money for her family in the Philippines. Polo even recalled Pepito telling that her employers gave her expired food such as chicken and biscuits.
Pepito’s sad life in Hong Kong
A concerned church group member recalled her experience having to spend her own money to get some food for Pepito during her first month in Hong Kong. Even after she raised the matter with her employers, the whole situation did not change that much, according to a church friend. There was a time when Pepito was given a four-kilogram piece of meat, 12 small pieces of hotdogs, rice and green beans as her personal food in a month, separated from what her employers would consume.
Pepito worked in a four-story luxury apartment, performing housekeeping duties for not less than 10 hours. A good church member also recalled Pepito explaining that she was pounded with lots of ironing and washing chores since the family was huge.
In January, Pepito’s health condition got worse and was confined due to pneumonia and advanced signs of lupus, the church member said. She was not at her full strength when she got discharged from the hospital after 17 days of confinement.
On February 16, two weeks after being discharged, Pepito complained of continuous coughing with blood, but her employers just ignored her health concern and instead told her to seek help from others. She died two days after Pepito’s was taken to a hospital. The church member, who was with Pepito during her final days, got shocked upon learning from doctors that Pepito’s medical case could be treated with proper medication if only treated early.
Last year, the consulate on average got reported cases of three to five deaths in a month. The Philippine authorities had urged their Hong Kong counterparts to formulate such policies that would encourage domestic helpers to undergo annual medical check-ups.
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