Sarah Balabagan shares memories of one-time savior Roy Señeres
Former human trafficking victim Sarah Balabagan on Tuesday mourned the passing of OFW Family Club party-list Roy Señeres, the ambassador who helped her escape the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates in 1996.
"Nalungkot ako at nagulat dahil hindi ko po akalain," Balabagan, who is now based in California, told News To Go anchor Kara David in a Skype interview. "Hanggang ngayon nakapa-picture pa rin po sa mind ko 'yung isang masiglang ambassador, masayahin, laging nakangiti."
Señeres, who died Monday morning at the age of 68 due to complications from diabetes, was the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE when Balabagan's case hit the headlines in 1994. His death came days after he withdrew his candidacy for president in the May elections.
Balabagan, then a minor who lied about her age to work as a domestic helper in the UAE, was sentenced to death after she was found guilty for murdering her employer who allegedly tried to rape her.
Her case hit international headlines and inspired public outcry from various countries, as it was seen as symbolizing the abuse foreign domestic workers endure in Gulf countries.
Balabagan, in the "News To Go" interview, said Señeres, whom she calls "Amba," did not only help her with her case, he and his family also took her under their wings.
"Tinutukan po niya ang aking kaso at ang maganda po nito hindi lang po siya 'yung dumadalaw sa akin sa kulungan kundi maging ang kanyang pamilya," she said. She would later break down in tears while narrating how Señeres helped her.
Like a second family
Balabagan said the assistance was extended even when she was already in the Philippines.
"Pagbalik ko sa Pilipinas kinupkop po nila ako, tumira po ako sa kanila almost three years din po kaya po parang sila po ang naging pangalawang magulang ko," she said.
Balabagan, who oftentimes speaks about her ordeal in the UAE in gatherings organized by California-based Filipino groups, said she intends to continue Señeres' pro-OFW legacy in whatever way she can.
"Hindi po nasayang ang buhay ni Amba dahil marami po siyang natulungan, at iyong kanyang legacy ay patuloy na mabubuhay sa atin, sa akin po, 'yung pagtulong sa mga OFW," she said.
"Kahit nandito po ako sa Amerika ay kung ano po ang maitutulong ko ay handa po ako, kahit sa pagbabahagi lang ng aking karanasan [ay] umaasa ako na makapagbigay ng impormasyon at aral sa ating mga kababayan," Balabagan added. —KBK, GMA News