After more than four years in captivity by Somalian pirates, the five Filipino crewmembers will finally be home on Friday, days after they were freed.
Relatives of Arnel Pregillana Balbero, Elmer Salvador Balbero, Ferdinand Jacinto Dalit, Akes Tininggal Edwas Jr., and Antonio Auxtero Libres Jr. will be at the airport to meet them, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
The five are scheduled to arrive at 4:30 p.m. via Emirates EK 322 and will be welcomed by the officials and representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and OWWA.
OWWA officer-in-charge Carmelina Velasquez assured full government assistance to the five seafarers.
?"We imagine the nightmare that our 'kababayans' went through all those times, so much so that we wish that they, together with their families, will be able to adjust and be back to their normal lives," Velasquez said in a statement Thursday.
Among the help that will be extended to the five repatriates are airport assistance and accommodation, as well as transportation fares to allow them to go to their respective hometowns.
Velasquez said the five, who were released over the weekend, will also be recommended to undergo psycho-social counseling as part of their "healing process."
The five Filipinos were among the 29 crewmembers seized by the Somali pirates when their vessel, MV Nahan 3, was seized on March 26, 2012 while passing through the Indian Ocean.
Aside from the Filipinos, other victims of the incident were Cambodian, Chinese, Indonesian,Taiwanese and Viatnamese nationalities. —KBK, GMA News
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) have uncovered a strategy allegedly being used by human traffickers for their victims to evade detection at airports.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente on Thursday said a female suspected trafficking victim attempted to slip past the BI departure counter at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on September 10 using a fake departure stamp.
The woman was scheduled to board a flight bound for Dubai when she was spotted by an immigration officer who referred her for secondary inspection to members of the BI's travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU).
During an interview with immigration personnel, the woman said she was going to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates not as a tourist but to work as a maid at the house of her niece's Arab employer.
"Afterwards, she brought out of her handbag a departure stamp and a stamp pad which she would use to stamp her passport and boarding pass upon reaching the boarding gate and before boarding her flight," Morente said.
According to the BI, the woman was previously offloaded at the Clark International Airport (CIA) after being suspected to be "tourist worker" or an undocumented overseas worker disguised as tourist.
The woman admitted that she was instructed by her recruiters to make another attempt to leave the country and avoid inspection by immigration officers at the NAIA.
She was given the fake departure stamp before she went to the airport.
"Had she succeeded in evading immigration inspection, the airline personnel would have allowed her to board her flight upon seeing the fake stamps in her passport and boarding pass," said BI spokesperson Ma. Antonette Mangrobang.
The victim is now under the custody of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation.
Morente, on the other hand, ordered the fielding of more BI intelligence agents at the NAIA's departure areas to ensure that no passengers could sneak past the BI counters undetected. — VVP, GMA News
A Catholic bishop is offering pastoral support and other assistance to the five Filipino crewmen who were recently freed by Somali pirates after more than four years in captivity.
"We in the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) are greatly gladdened by the news that five Filipinos were among 26 crewmen freed by Somali pirates," said Bishop Ruperto Santos, ECMI chairman, in a statement Thursday.
The five Filipinos were identified as Arnel Pregellana Balbero, Elmer Salvador Balbero, Antonio Auxtero Libres, Jr., Edwas Akes Tininggal, Jr., and Ferdinand Jacinto Dalit.
ECMI is under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
"We offer to them our pastoral and spiritual support and other assistance that are in our commission’s capacity to provide," Santos said.
"We welcome them home. We assure them of our continued prayers, that the loving embrace of their families and friends and the entire country will ease their re-entry into normal lives."
Somali pirates freed over the weekend 26 Asian sailors — from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan — held captive in a small fishing village for more than four years since their ship was hijacked in the Indian Ocean.
The sailors were held in Dabagala near the village of Harardheere some 400 km (250 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu, a fishing hamlet that became known as Somalia's main pirate base at the height of the crisis.
Balbero, in a report on BBC, said he and his companions felt "like the walking dead" during their captivity, as food and water were scarce.
"Their ordeal has no doubt been harrowing," Santos said of the Filipino victims. "Away from family, anxious and fearful about their uncertain faith, they must have suffered great pain and anguish."
The Filipinos are expected to arrive to the country on Friday. —KBK, GMA News
With only a liter of water to share every day, the 28 crewmen of Naham 3, among them Filipinos, spent the last four and a half years in torment — hunting rats for food, enduring violence from their Somali captors, and watching fellow captives die.
Libres is one of the 26 sailors who survived the crew's four-year captivity by Somali pirates, who seized their ship in the western Indian Ocean near the Seychelles on March 26, 2012.The sailors were released after the pirates accepted an amount that would cover the costs of holding the captives, a pittance compared to the millions of dollars they initially hoped to get, according to reports.Arnel Balbero, another Filipino sailor, told BBC they were only given a "small amount of water" every day and were forced to eat rat they caught and cooked in the forest near the village where they were held.The sailors were held in Dabagala, a fishing hamlet that became base of operations for Somali pirates at the height of the piracy crisis."[We] just eat anything, anything. You feel hungry, you eat," said Balbero, who said he and his companions were "like walking dead" during the duration of their captivity.Balbero and Libres also witnessed their fellow sailors die from sickness because the pirates had no money to buy medicine for them.Another of their companions was shot dead, while their captain was killed when the pirates boarded their ship in 2012.Despite the anger he feels towards the pirates, Balbero said there was no point in holding a grudge as he and his companions have to adjust to living outside again.“Even if I tell you all the bad words in the world, that is not enough for them,” he told New York Times."I don't know what is... outside of this world when this finish, so it's very hard to start again," Balbero told BBC.Piracy subsided in the region after shipping firms started hiring armed groups to protect their ships and international warships began patrolling Somalia's coastlines. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
“The pirates are worse than animals,” Antonio A. Libres Jr., one of the former hostages, told The New York Times. “You can’t understand these people.”
Government assistance has been assured to OFWs who are living in cramped quarters in Saudi Arabia and performing jobs different from what was promised to them by their recruiter in the Philippines.
An exclusive report by GMA News' JP Soriano on "24 Oras" on Wednesday said Labor attaché Jun Rasul has already met with the affected OFWs and urged them to make a formal written complaint that can be forwarded to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for action.
"Sabihin niyo lahat ng reklamo niyo. Walang sweldo, walang iqama [at] accommodation. Sabihin niyo pangalan ng agency niyo para ma-forward ko sa POEA agad," Rasul told the OFWs during their meeting.
One of the OFWs, Prince Wharen Kian, accused his recruiter of duping him when he got a job in Jeddah different from what was promised to him.
"Hindi po nasunod yung pangako sa 'kin na HVAC/building electrician. Nagtanong ako kung bakit iba nakalagay sa visa ko, ang sabi nila alam na daw 'yun ng company dito sa Jeddah. Kaya daw plumbing tech ang nakalagay sa visa kasi 'yun lang daw madaling paraan para makaalis ako," he said in a text message to GMA News.
Aside from that, Kian and several others were also forced to live in cramped quarters. He said sometimes, they would sleep on the rooftop especially when there was no electricity because they could not stand the heat in the room.
Food was also scarce, and the OFWs have to subsist on donations from outsiders and then find ways on how to cook them, the report said
"Bigyan ng pagkain, salamat din kami kasi wala rin ho. Gusto man namin umuwi, pero dadaan pa po namin sa tamang proseso kasi 'pag na-deport kami, wala rin, lugi din," Daniel Brace, another affected OFW, said.
POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch OIC-Director II Atty. Rosemarie Duquez said these OFWs may also pursue legal charges against their recruiter through POEA.
"We can provide legal assistance kung meron silang reklamo sa agency at sa employer," Duquez said.
Wise Recruitment Agency, the recruiter, has declined to comment on the accusations, the "24 Oras" report said. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
A Filipina living in Saitama prefecture int he Greater Tokyo area emerged victorious in the 8th Soy Sauce Recipe & Story Contest held at the Royal Park Hotel on September 30, The Japan Times reported.
Clair Ocampo's dish, pork back ribs adobo and banana with burned brown sugar, outdid 74 other non-Japanese contestants to win the Gold Prize.
"I have loved adobo since my childhood. I used soy sauce and brown sugar to better bring out the pork’s flavor. Also, to give it an interesting taste, I used hakkaku spice and laurel leaves. My dish is unique and original," Ocampo was quoted saying.
Coming in second is Justin de Jesus, another Pinoy living in Saitama. He cooked a "Philippine beef steak with a yuzu citrus and soy sauce flavor."
De Jesus shares the Silver Prize with Canadian Florence Zappia, who made "deep-fried, stewed eggplant with Italian sauce."
The competition was organized by the Japan Soy Sauce Association in commemoration of World Soy Sauce Day on October 1. Judging the dishes were Hattori Nutrition College president Yukio Hattori, cooking critics Remi Hirano and Akiko Watanabe, and Royal Park Hotel head chef Isao Iimura. — Aya Tantiangco/BM, GMA News
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has revived its website where Filipinos living and working overseas can offer prayers for their departed loved ones in the Philippines in time for All Souls' and All Saints' Days.
"For those who cannot make it to your parishes, especially Filipinos in other countries or the seafarers, you may request for Masses to be celebrated for your beloved dead," said Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, CBCP Media Office director, on Wednesday.
Overseas Filipinos who want to offer prayers should visit the website, www.undasonline.com, click "Prayer Request," and then list down the names of their beloved dead for whom they wish to offer Mass.
The CBCP said starting November 1, Masses will be held at the CBCP chapel in Intramuros, Manila.
Aside from prayer request, the website also features donate button for those who would like to make a donation or give Mass stipends that will be given to the priests who will be celebrating the masses.
Donations are not obligatory, Quitorio said.
The Undas Online website, which was established in 2011, also offers prayers and catechesis on the significance and liturgical meaning of the celebration of All Souls' and All Saints' Days. —KBK, GMA News
The government is offering a one-time cash relief assistance to OFWs and their families who were affected by supertyphoon Lawin, which left many areas in northern Luzon devastated last week.
Covered by the Cash Relief Assistance Program being offered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are OFW members and their families who reside in areas put under Storm Signal No. 5 during Lawin's onslaught.
These include cities and municipalities in Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga, Apayao, Northern Abra and Ilocos Norte.
OWWA said it will begin releasing the financial assistance "at the soonest possible time."
"The financial grant is in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s instructions to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello lll to immediately extend assistance to OFWs and their families who experienced the wrath of typhoon Lawin," OWWA said in a statement Wednesday.
The agency has allocated P30 million for the program. Under it, a cash assistance of P3,000 per OFW-family shall be extended to active OWWA members, while non-active members are eligible to receive P2,000.
"In the event that there is more than one OFW in a family, only one OFW member is entitled to receive the monetary assistance," OWWA said.
The OWWA said claimants may apply through OWWA Regional Welfare Offices. They are required to submit the following:
Duly accomplilshed Claim Form with Undertaking that no other OFW-family has availed of the grant;
Certification that the claimant OFW/family member is a resident of the barangay and has suffered loss/damage to property and/or personal injury due to Super Typhoon Lawin from the authorized official of the Local Government Unit (LGU) (Office of the Mayor, Barangay Captain, City or Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or Local Social Welfare and Development Office );
Identification Card or any document that will establish the identity of the claimant, and
Proof of relationship, if applicant is dependent of OFW-member.
OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac has instructed all OWWA implementing units in the affected regions to facilitate the release of the OFWs’ and their families’ CARE based on the guidelines prepared for this purpose.
"We wish to assure the OFW/family claimants that once they are able to submit complete documentary requirements, OWWA will immediately release their money even in one day," Cacdac said.
"This way, they can use the money to fix their houses or in a way help them," he added. —KBK, GMA News
A group of OFWs is living in prison-like condition in Saudi Arabia and working on jobs completely different from what was promised to them by their recruiter in the Philippines, an exclusive report by GMA News' JP Soriano on "24 Oras" said Tuesday.
Butchoy Halasan, one of the OFWs, said a recruitment agency promised him a monthly pay of 1,600 riyal or P20,000 plus good accommodations for work related to graphic design.
His companions, former teachers and IT experts, were promised the same deal in their respective fields, but all ended up working as hotel cleaners and other low-paying jobs upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia, the report said.
These OFWs were also forced to live with almost a thousand other Filipinos in the building of Old Bhara Abu Sarhad International Recruiting Agency and share instant noodles and rice as their daily meal.
"Halos sa lapag na lang po yung iba natutulog sa sobrang siksikan. Halos isang libo na po kasi ang tao dito na Pilipino, 'yung pagkain, sir, puro noodles na lang at parang hindi mo na makakain kasi nga parang kaning baboy na, sir," Halasan said.
Wise Recruitment Agency, the firm that allegedly deployed Halasan and the others, declined to comment until they verify the authenticity of the video and photo evidence posted by Halasan on Facebook.
The video, which already had over 73,000 "shares" as of posting time, also shows the Filipino workers sleeping on the rooftop.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) forwarded the evidence to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Jeddah and the recruitment agency after the OFWs' relatives told the agency of their situation.
Lawyer Rosemarie Duquez of the POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch said the recruitment agency is responsible for the well-being of their deployed workers.
"Dapat po yan sagutin ng agency. Kung talagang wala silang trabaho 'pag dating duon, walang accommodation at yung food ay ganun po nga ang klase, kailangan pong mag-explain ng agency," Duquez said.
Licensed recruitment agencies must also double-check the authenticity of job orders to ensure that deployed workers are employed in the field they wish to work in.
Photo by Ronaldo Concha
Meanwhile, Jun Rasul, the Philippine Overseas Labor Attachés in Jeddah, said he has already asked the concerned OFWs to prepare a formal written complaint so that they could go after their recruiter. —Rie Takumiwith Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News
In an effort to make life comfortable for overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs), President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Tuesday that he has been mulling over creating a bank solely for the OFWs.
"I'm thinking really seriously now na magkaroon kayo ng sariling bangko ninyo," Duterte told members of the Filipino community in Tokyo shortly after his arrival there for a three-day official visit.
"Maybe iyong postal bank ng gobyerno. Wala namang sumusulat ngayon," he added, referring to the Philippine Postal Savings Bank (PostBank), a state-owned thrift bank targeted to areas where banking services are not yet available.
A bank catering to OFWs was one of Duterte's promises to migrant Filipino workers during the campaign period, the others being a separate government agency for OFWs and a one-stop shop that will cater to all their needs.
A total of 154 more Filipino workers stranded in Saudi Arabia arrived home on Tuesday, bringing the total number of repatriated OFWs since July to 2,031.
The OFWs arrived on Tuesday afternoon aboard Saudi Airlines flight SV 872 and were oriented upon arrival by government officials on the programs and services available to them.
In a statement, the Overseas Worker's Welfare Association (OWWA) said these OFWs are entitled to the Relief Assistance Program (RAP) and other financial and business assistance packages.
Those staying at the OWWA Halfway Home may also have their post-repatriation service expenses covered, including land transportation, food, and toiletries.
OWWA said it has distributed P400,804,031.06 in the form of RAP to 18,255 stranded OFWs as of October 21. The agency has also distributed food and hygiene kits worth P2,310,295,82 to 13,245 OFWs in Saudi Arabia and P68,516,000.00 to 10,846 OFW families in the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Labor and Employment and attached agencies to prioritize the repatriation of Filipino workers from Saudi Arabia after the extent of the current oil crisis came into light.
There is an estimated 9,000 to 11,000 Filipino workers who were retrenched when falling oil prices destabilized the Saudi economy and forced construction companies to cut down on employees.
Numerous Filipinos remain in Saudi to settle their legal cases and claim their end of service benefits and salary or transfer to financially-stable companies. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
Facing Filipinos in Japan, President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday made a new vow: that the next generation of Filipinos will not be overseas workers.
Speaking before the Filipino community in Tokyo shortly after his arrival in Japan for a three-day official visit, Duterte reiterated his earlier promise to work hard to improve the country's economy.
"Ang pagtrabaho n'yo sa ibang bansa, hanggang diyan na lang. Next generation, [sa] Pilipinas na [magtrabaho]," he said to laud applause from those present.
Later in his speech, Duterte said, "We have to improve the economy na hindi ka na babalik dito, na kung bumalik ka rito, baka-bakasyon na lang."
In his pre-departure statement delivered at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Duterte said he and his Cabinet secretaries will "seek the sustainment and further enhancement of our important economic ties" with Japan.
"I look forward to meeting business leaders in Japan. I will tell them clearly that the Philippines is open for business," he said.
He also said his visit, which came days after his state visit in China and Brunei, will be "an opportunity for me to personally thank Japan for its pre-eminent and peerless role as the Philippines’ development partner."
"I shall seek the strengthening of this role through more high-impact projects that will benefit our nation," Duterte said. —KBK, GMA News
A Filipino couple was arrested by Kuwaiti police after packs of processed pork were found in their home.
Citing Arabic news site Al Rai, Arab Times Online reported that Al Fintas and Ahmadi authorities found 30 kilos of smuggled pork in the couple's apartment in Mahboula.
Authorities said the couple, identified only as M and J, sold the meat for KD 9 per kilo.
Kuwait police made the arrest after local authorities were tipped off by an agent about the couple's activity.
The two were charged for carrying out an illegal business activity.
All "alcoholic beverages and associated materials, beef, pigs, pork, pigskin products (such as handbags, wallets)" are denied entry into Kuwait, a Muslim country, according to its laws and regulations. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
A pro-migrant rights group in Hong Kong is pushing for a new law that will protect foreign domestic workers from dangerous window-cleaning work, a report on Hong Kong Economic Journal said.
The report said the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) is likewise urging the Hong Kong government to revisit its work safety regulations after Filipina maid Rinalyn Dullulog fell to her death while cleaning the windows of her employer's flat in a high-rise building in August.
Eni Lestari, IMA chairperson, said Hong Kong should adopt a law similar to Singapore where foreign maids are barred from cleaning windows of high-rise buildings without adequate safety restrictions.
In a 2012 safety circular, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said employers or their representative must be "physically present to supervise the foreign domestic workers" when cleaning the exteriors of their flat's windows.
Window grilles must also be installed and locked during the entire cleaning process.
Lestari noted that while the Philippines had issued a circular that will bar Filipino maids from cleaning the exterior of windows beginning on October 15, it allegedly softened its position after meeting with Hong Kong officials.
Noted Filipino-American community leader Alice Bulos passed away last week at the age of 86.
Before her death on October 21, Bulos served the Filipino-American community for nearly half a century and was known as the "Grand Dame of Filipino American Politics," according to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
"With the passing of Alice Bulos, the Filipino community has lost a great advocate and leader," Lee said in a statement, as reported on Patch.com.
For her part, Filipina Women's Network CEO Marily Mondejar said Bulos "almost single-handedly" amplified the Filipino-American voice in politics, "encouraging more FilAms to run for elected office and hounding elected officials to appoint more FilAms to powerful boards and commissions."
"She had a clear vision for our community's future, always persuading rather than demanding, that we set aside our personal differences for the common good. Alice's legacy summed up: Beacon of Filipino American politics," Mondejar said in a separate statement.
Bulos, a tenured University of Santo Tomas professor, left the Philippines to join her late husband Dony Bulos in the United States during the 70's.
An article on East Bay Times in 2006—the year Bulos was named the 2006 Woman of the Year for the 19th Assembly District—said Bulos served as a mentor and teacher for her community after her arrival in the US.
Bulos served as a Clinton Presidential Appointee to the Federal Council on Aging, a member of advisory boards to former California attorneys general and state superintendents, and represented California at the Democratic National Convention five times.
She was also the inspiration of organizations and Fil-Am leaders such as ALLICE or Alliance for Community Empowerment, and Erlinda Tiongco-Galeon, another Filipino-American community leader who passed away this year. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
A party-list lawmaker on Monday appealed to the Duterte administration to work out the legalization of around 200,000 undocumented overseas Filipino workers in China.
ACTS-OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto "John" Bertiz III made the appeal on the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte's four-day visit to China from October 18 to 21, in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.
"Iba't iba ito (na OFWs), household workers, tutors, private teachers na wala po talaga itong formal agreement sa ating bansa at ang China, hindi po nagbibigay ng work visas on those categories," said Bertiz during a media briefing at the House of Representatives.
"Sa ngayon kasi, ang mga OFWs (nasa) 200,000 very undocumented. Very few lang ang documented.
"Ang sa akin lang, sana lang magkaroon ng balance," said Bertiz. The lawmaker described the economic relationship between China and the Philippines as being "negative" to the latter.
He said undocumented OFWs in China do not get to enjoy the same benefits that Chinese nationals get in the Philippines, including Chinese students who study in the Philippines but end up applying there knowledge once they return to their country to work.
"Ano benefits ng bansa natin sa pagpunta nya (Duterte) doon... Most of the Chinese na nag-aaral dito sa atin, sa UPLB... they are getting technology from us, pati natututunan nila, doon nila ginagawa sa China and we are buying from them. They are selling at a cheaper price," said Bertiz.
"Dapat magkaroon ng linaw sa agriculture, territorial dispute, pati na rin sa dispute sa Filipino workers na nagtatrabaho sa China," he added.
"Marami pang dapat balangkasin sa agreement (between the two countries)."
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay earlier said the Duterte administration is open to holding bilateral talks with the Chinese government and will prioritize looking after the welfare of OFWs. —JST, GMA News
A 26-year-old former OFW in Qatar who suffered health problems due to severe overwork has won his labor case against his recruiter and employer before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
After a year of handling the case, the NLRC ruled in favor of Rafael Alejo Ambrad, who had to stop working in 2015 after being permanently debilitated due to overwork.
Ambrad, who is from Cebu province, went to Qatar in September 2014 to work as a carpenter but had to resign months later after he experienced acute pain due to a lumbar sprain.
According to him, on one occasion, he was forced to do five days' worth of work in only two days with only one helper, adding the job would normally require at least four workers. He said he also wasn't provided a lifting device by the company.
A statement from the Associated Labor Union (ALU), one of the groups that helped Ambrad pursue his labor case, said the OFW's condition meant he could no longer lift heavy objects and thus could never work in construction again.
After the company's alleged refusal to provide him assistance and paid sick leave, as well as to cover his medical fees, Ambrad resigned on March 2015.
"My Qatar experience is very traumatic," Ambrad said. "I felt helpless and I thought I will be like some of the Filipino migrant workers who will go home in a coffin."
However, according to the NLRC, under the circumstances Ambrad's resignation amounted to an illegal dismissal, noting that the respondent continually ignored his medical condition.
In its ruling, the NLRC ordered the respondent to pay a monetary award of QAR 20,063.83 (US$5,509), including the payment of the six-month salary covering the unexpired portion of Ambrad's contract, unpaid salary of one month, gratuity pay, annual leave pay, refund of PATAKA (RPID), salary differential of 200 QAR per month for 18 months period and 10 percent attorney’s fees.
Ambrad is now a college student, according to ALU. —KBK, GMA News
JAKARTA - Cyril Goliava cut an elegant figure in her yellow evening gown as she won a beauty pageant in Hong Kong, smiling to cheers from the crowd as she was presented with a tiara and trophy.
But the euphoria faded as the Filipina beauty queen removed her purple eyeshadow and fake eyelashes on a bus ride home, and thought of her week ahead.
"When I go home, it's sad all of a sudden because your time with friends is over," Goliava said.
"It's another week of work. Six days of stressful work, I'll be eating alone again and a full day of a repetitive job."
The story of Goliava, a Filipina domestic helper, and her fellow workers is the subject of a new documentary that seeks to shatter stereotypes about the millions of women employed in households across the world.
Directed by filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama, "Sunday Beauty Queen" follows five domestic workers as they gear up for the annual Miss Philippines Tourism Hong Kong, a pageant organised by the maids in the Asian financial hub since 2008.
The 94-minute documentary, which took four years to make, attempts to tell the women's story from a different angle instead of the usual "depressing" way, Villarama said,
"I want to break the stereotypes and the usual approach when it comes to how we tell the story about them," the filmmaker said by Skype from Manila.
"Along the way I learnt that it's not about escaping from the world they have, but it's about making something out of their struggle and finding their own happiness. It gives them a sense of purpose."
Barred from sitting on sofa
The documentary premiered this month at Asia's largest film festival, the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.
There are over 300,000 foreign maids in Hong Kong, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, who live with their employers and typically toil 16 to 20 hours a day, six days week.
Sunday is their only day off.
For Goliava and fellow Filipina helpers, Sundays are filled with catwalk coaching and rehearsals, giving them respite from tough jobs by taking part in the annual contest and the events leading up to it.
The film shows their exhausting daily routines, their relationships with their employers, and the hardships they face.
These range from exploitation and strict employment rules that discourage helpers from reporting abuse, to their treatment, such as being barred from sitting on the sofa or forced to sleep in the kitchen.
One maid competing in the pageant lost her job after she failed to get home one Sunday by her 9 p.m. curfew.
"It's a real-life Cinderella story," Villarama said.
Although Hong Kong's foreign maids have better protection than their counterparts in other parts of Asia, social exclusion and mistreatment in the city have come under scrutiny since the 2014 case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian maid beaten by her employer and burned with boiling water.
A study released in March found that one in six foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong is a victim of forced labour and that a significant proportion have been trafficked.
Meanwhile, anti-migrant sentiment surged after two Filipina helpers launched a failed legal battle in 2013 for the right to permanent residency in Hong Kong.
But not all Hong Kong residents are prejudiced towards foreign domestic helpers, as the film shows.
Jack Soo, a 67 year old who lived alone with his helper Mylyn, one of the beauty pageant contestants, said in the film that Hong Kong would "be in trouble" without foreign maids.
"Just imagine those families without a foreign helper, how are they going to work? How are they going to take care of their children?" Soo said.
Villarama hopes the film draws attention to the contributions of foreign domestic workers and changes the way they are treated.
"The beauty pageant is a light story, but behind that, there is a reality we have to confront," the director said. —Thomson Reuters Foundation
(Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change.)
NAIROBI - Some 26 Asian sailors freed after more than four years of captivity in a small fishing village in Somalia arrived in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Sunday, ahead of flights home, a maritime expert said.
The crew from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan were seized when the Omani-flagged FV Naham 3 was hijacked by Somali pirates close to the Seychelles in March 2012, when pirate attacks were common in the area.
The pirates handed the group to authorities in the northern Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday morning.
"It is great to be here today and to bring them home and to hand them over to their embassies and their families," said John Steed, East Africa region manager for the Oceans Beyond Piracy group.
"We have achieved what we have achieved by getting tribal elders, religious leaders, the community and regional government all involved to put pressure on these guys to release these hostages," he said at Nairobi's airport, where the sailors arrived on a United Nations humanitarian flight.
Their period of captivity is one of the longest among hostages seized by pirates in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
The sailors were held in Dabagala near the town of Harardheere some 400 km (250 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu. Harardheere became known as Somalia's main pirate base at the height of the crisis.
The Oceans Beyond Piracy group said the crew were brought ashore by pirates when their ship sank more than a year after its hijacking.
Piracy off Somalia's coast has subsided in the past three years, mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security and the presence of international warships.
The wave of attacks had cost the world's shipping industry billions of dollars as pirates paralyzed shipping lanes, kidnapped hundreds of seafarers and seized vessels more than 1,000 miles from Somalia's coastline. — Reuters