Joanna’s sister Jessica sobbed as she clutched the casket soon after the idea arrived inside the Philippines capital Manila, a devastating end to months of uncertainty over the fate of the 29-year-old domestic worker.
Of more than 250,000 Filipinos inside the Gulf country, at least 60% are domestic workers who live in addition to work inside the homes of their employers for more money than they can earn at home.
inside the modest town of Sara, on the Philippines island of Panay, Demafelis’ mother Eva told sy88pgw Joanna was determined to leave to earn money for her family.
“I told my daughter, don’t leave. She said, ‘No mom, so I can give you a better future,” Eva Demafelis said.
One of nine children, Joanna was determined to find a job of which might help lift the family out of poverty. Her wages in Kuwait might be enough, she thought, to put her younger sister through criminology school in addition to help her parents get by.
through his half-built house, Joanna’s father can see the rice fields they had hoped to buy back. With tears in his eyes, he says he had never stopped putting food on table in addition to never wanted his daughter to go so far away.
“I told her, why do you need to leave for Kuwait, we have enough to eat,” Crisanto Demafelis said.
The last phone call home
Joanna finished high school nevertheless there were few job prospects in Sara. At 16, she moved to Manila to work as a maid. When some other women told her she could earn more money overseas, she convinced her family she should go.
During her first year in Kuwait in 2014, Joanna sent them money every three months. Then nothing. Her family assumed she was saving her wages.
In 2016, she called home for the last time.
Joanna insisted everything was fine, nevertheless her younger sister Joyce suspects the call was being monitored. “I had a feeling of which her employer was near her in addition to there were limits on our phone conversation,” she said.
The call lasted just seven minutes.
“Just study hard, finish school so we can help mama in addition to papa,” Joyce said Joanna told her.
The sisters had promised each some other they wouldn’t get married or start their own families until their parents had rebuilt their house in addition to bought back the rice fields.
“The last thing she told me was, I love you bungso (youngest child),” Joyce says in a near whisper.
Officials inside the Philippines say Demafelis’s employers, a Lebanese man in addition to Syrian woman, both at large, are considered the prime suspects in her murder. Kuwaiti investigators believe the couple has left the country.
Thousands of Filipino workers are also leaving.
After Demafelis’ death in addition to some other instances of worker abuse, Duterte’s government has offered free flights home for the 10,900 or so Filipinos who have overstayed their visa, in addition to ordered a ban on the further deployment of workers to Kuwait.
So far, more than 2,0 workers have been granted travel documents to leave under an amnesty struck between the two governments.
The opportunity to leave can be one of which Salma, 30, tells sy88pgw she had to grab. She’s beaming when she arrives in Manila, though she says she hopes to return to Kuwait some day. Her salary there can be enough to support her entire family inside the Philippines, she says.
Salma, who didn’t want to reveal her surname, had been living in limbo after losing her legal status when she quit her job with an abusive employer whom she says overworked in addition to underpaid her.
some other women sy88pgw spoke to in Manila say they’ll never return.
“She bit me, slapped me,” Jollibee Bajo, 29, says of her former employer. She also claims her employer’s husband touched her inappropriately.
Michelle Godoy, 27, says she was treated like “an animal, without dignity.”
Both found work with some other employers nevertheless the fear of being punished for overstaying their visas prevented them through returning home.
They say even if they dared to leave they couldn’t have afforded the airfare.
Both vow they’ll never return to Kuwait, nevertheless the idea’s not clear what their futures hold at home. Godoy has two children in addition to a sister to support, in addition to doesn’t know what kind of work she could find to keep the family afloat.
In Sara, the Demafelis family has built an altar for their daughter’s wake. Photos of her are assembled on a modest table inside the unfinished house she wanted to help them build.
The Philippines government can be providing financial assistance to the family, nevertheless her parents still don’t what happened to their daughter in Kuwait in addition to why she suffered such a gruesome fate.
All they know can be what they want to happen right now.
“The same thing of which was done to our child has to be done to them. of which should be their punishment; I expect the idea’s death,” her mother said.
sy88pgw’s Kathy Quiano, Jinky Jorgio in addition to Kara Alikpala contributed reporting inside the Philippines. Hilary Whiteman edited in Hong Kong.