Image Caption: Leah Pulido with friends who helped her, Susan and Gelli
By Vir B. Lumicao
On Mar 20, Shatin Court Magistrate Joseph To sentenced the 38-year-old Pulido to three months in jail, suspended for three years, after she pleaded guilty to overstaying since June 2012.
Pulido, a single mother from Nueva Vizcaya, told The SUN in an interview outside the courthouse that on Feb 14 she called police from her bed at Kowloon Hospital to surrender, three weeks after she suffered a stroke in her boarding house.
She spoke with a slight slur, so Susan Mondoyo, a close friend and fellow helper from Mindanao, did much of the talking on her behalf. Even so, Pulido managed to speak on her own when not chewing her first few spoonfuls of rice since she woke up on Mar 20.
“Dumating po ako rito noong 2006 at four years ako sa unang amo ko. Kasi hanggang four years lang daw talaga ako magtatrabaho sa kanila,” Pulido said.
From there, she moved to her second employer who allegedly gave her a difficult time.
“Magkaaway kaming palagi. Gusto kong tiisin hanggang sa matapos ang aking kontrata, hindi na po natapos,” she said.
In 2011, the boss fired her with four months left in her contract. Unable to find a new job within the 14-day visa extension, she overstayed.
Pulido said she decided to remain in Hong Kong hoping to find work to pay off debts she incurred coming here. But she lost her passport a month later and was too afraid to report the loss, as she had by then already staying here illegally.
She stayed with friends most of the time, until she met Mondoyo, who let Pulido stay for free in her rented room in a boarding house in Hung Hom.
“Noong time na iyon, kung sinabi lang niya sa akin (na illegal siya) ay natulungan ko sana siya para hindi pa siya nagtagal… alam ninyo, nalaman ko lang na ganun siya, na OS, noong inatake siya at dinala ko siya sa Queen Elizabeth Hospital,” said Mondoyo.
She said Pulido refused to enter when they got to the hospital door. “Ayaw niyang pumasok, so nakatayo lang kami doon …kamuntik nang malagot ito, umiyak na ako,” she said.
The friend phoned Pulido’s sister Beth, a former helper in Hong Kong who had returned home, and asked her why the sibling refused to get into the hospital.
That was when the sister revealed the truth: “I’m sorry, Ate. Nagsinungaling kami sa iyo. Hindi nagsabi si Ate at ako sa iyo ng totoo. Sana hindi ka susuko sa ganitong sitwasyon.”
Mondoyo replied: “Ngayon pa ako susuko na kailangan niya ako?”
She took Pulido to the hospital’s information desk, but the receptionist could not find any data on the patient. Just the same, Pulido was admitted, treated and, after five days, sent to Kowloon Hospital to recover.
When Pulido surrendered, the officers took her to Kowloon City Police Station. The next day, an Immigration officer came and interviewed her, then told Mondoyo to find her a place to stay. The police helped by calling up some boarding houses, saying they would have to keep her in custody if she didn’t have a place to go.
The officers were very kind, Mondoyo said, recounting how one of them rushed outside and bought Pulido a pair of trousers after she peed in her pants.
Mondoyo and another OFW took Pulido to a boarding house where she had a complete bed rest. Her food came from Mondoyo and other Pinays nearby, while nursing care was given by other Filipina boarders.
Mondoyo took a 10-day leave from her employer to take care of her sick friend. When Pulido’s time to report to the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre in Tuen Mun came, Mondoyo’s employer reportedly complained. But Mondoyo told her, “If I don’t help her, who would?”
The employer asked if Pulido had no other friends, and Mondoyo retorted she had many, but when they found out her true status, they abandoned her.
“I told my employer, ‘Ma’am, I’ve been beside her when she fell ill and was in trouble, I have to be beside her until this is over,” Mondoyo told The SUN.
She said the employer understood and gave her leeway to help Pulido.
Meanwhile, Pulido’s friends had reportedly vanished, with many even going to the extent of changing their phone numbers.
“They had been telling me they were afraid to help because she was an illegal stayer and helping her could put them in trouble as well,” Mondoyo explained.
Mondoyo and Gelli, another helper who just finished her contract, nursed Pulido until she could limp about aided by a stick. Mondoyo also bought her a wheelchair for mobility. But Pulido still has a hard time climbing up and down the fourth-floor boarding house.
A one-way travel document for the helper has been prepared by the Consulate, an ATN officer told The SUN. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration is also helping her process whatever benefits may accrue her and has promised to help fetch her from Ninoy Aquino International Airport and drive her to Bayombong, her hometown.
On Mar 29, she reported to the Immigration center in Tuen Mun to pick up her release papers and plane ticket. Any time thereafter, Pulido will be flying home.