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Detained OFW tourists return relieved, furious

31 January 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao
The detained group enjoying Shenzhen's attractions
while Escamillan slipped  away
Fourteen Filipina domestic workers who have gone back to Hong Kong late last night, Jan. 30, after being detained at the Lowu border for about 26 hours,  say they are relieved that most of their employers welcomed them back.
However, they are furious at a member of their tour group, Josephine Escamillan, who went missing during the Shenzhen tour, causing authorities there to detain them.
The 14 who joined a tour organized by the social media group OFWs in Hong Kong,
were released by the Chinese authorities after a whole day of negotiations with officers of the Philippine Consulates in Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
At least one of them said her employer was concerned upon learning that she had been prevented from returning to Hong Kong on Jan. 29.
“OK naman si amo, nasa China siya. Kung di pa nga kami nakauwi kagabi pupuntahan niya dapat ako ngayon, kasi kahapon nasa bundok sila,” she said in an SMS to another member of the group.
Regina de Andres, a moderator of OFWHK who led the tour, said she did not encounter any problems with her own employer.
Wala namang sinabi basta alam nila ang nangyari,” she said in a FB chat message.  Lahat naman kami mostly OK.”
She said the helpers were all back at work on Tuesday, despite it being the last day of the Lunar New Year holiday.
De Andres was profusely thankful to Hermogenes Cayabyab Jr, the assistance to nationals officer who was sent to Lowu to help negotiate the release of the 14.
She said she was forced to drop the name of Cayabyab when she got into an argument with the Chinese immigration officers who stopped them from leaving.
“Kaya nung nagsabi ako na kilala ako ng taga-ATN like nila makausap si Sir Junie (Cayabyab). Kaya dun na ako nakipag-argunento dahil sa totoo lang, kung wala si Sir Junie till next week pa kami doon. Pero nagpwersa at halos lahat ng contact na ang kinontak din kaya nakauwi kami agad,” De Andres said.
In contrast, De Andres slammed the ATN at the Consulate in Guangzhou.  “Nakipag-argumento ako sa taga-Guangzhou dahil unang salita nila parang ayaw pa kami atupagin,” she said.
However, Hong Kong ATN head, Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, said it was the PCG in Guangzhou that sent a note verbale (a diplomatic missive) to Chinese authorities to secure the group’s release.
Vallespin credited his counterpart in Guangzhou, in particular, for taking all possible steps to get the OFWs back home as soon as possible.
“I requested my batchmate vice consul in Guangzhou to call their contacts in immigration and security departments, “ said Vallespin in a text message to The SUN last night, explaining how the two diplomatic posts worked for the OFWs’ release.
From their side, he said they contacted Hong Kong immigration to help facilitate the entry of Cayabyab to Shenzhen.
Meanwhile, De Andres was similarly furious at the Chinese immigration staff at the border who she said did not even attend to their needs. She said it was their tour guides
who provided them with food, and helped her page the missing tour member, Escamillan.
But her anger was mostly directed at Escamillan, on whom she heaped scorn in her Facebook posts and in online chats.
“Kapal ng mukha ng babae na yun, kuya. Till now nanginginig ako sa galit,” she said in an FB chat message.
De Andres said it was Escamillan who begged to join her group when they had to be split from a bigger batch of 28 travelers at Lowu.
Everybody in the group said they had no idea that the woman was set to run away.
Asked if she would lead another group tour to China again in the future, De Andres said: “For sure, Kuya. Pero ibahin ko na ang pag-organize.”
She organized the tour with the help of Kathy Travel HK, whose owners rushed with Cayabyab to Lowu after hearing of the snag. - The SUN Hong Kong 
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