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‘Meatball maid’ has one more fight before flying home

17 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Sarangani native Mildred N. Ladia is about to end her stint as a domestic worker in Hong Kong cut short by a decision to share 10 pieces of meatballs with her employer’s mother for lunch that led to a nearly year-long nightmare.

But she says the fight is not yet over, as she plans to pursue a claim with the Labour Department for unpaid wages and costs against her former employer, barrister Gekko Lan Suet-ying.

Ladia’s ordeal began on May 2 last year when police arrived at her employer’s flat in Repulse Bay and arrested her for the alleged theft of $7,500 in cash, some pieces of jewelry, an Agnes B pouch, two pairs of leather slippers, and the meatballs.

On Friday, Apr 7, a magistrate in Eastern Court imposed an $800 fine on the 40-year-old Ladia after she pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing the meatballs, allegedly worth $100, from her employer Lan.

The prosecution withdrew a second charge of stealing the pouch – which the maid said was an airline giveaway to passengers, and the slippers, as the complainant was reportedly in hospital.

But the case of theft over the meatballs, which were subsequently paid for when Lan deducted $100 from Ladia’s salary, was pursued.

Ladia said she pleaded guilty to the charge on the advice of her duty lawyer.

She was was resentful and firm, but sometimes moved to tears, as she recounted her traumatic experience during an interview with The SUN on April 9.

She has obviously not yet recovered from the trauma of that experience as she faces the prospect of going home soon, penniless and with a criminal record.

“Hanggang ngayon hindi pa ako nakakatulog,” Ladia said, breaking into a sob. “Kahit tapos na, hindi pa rin ako na makatulog nang mabuti, lagi akong nagigising kasi iniisip ko pa yung nangyari sa akin.”
She admitted the case had dealt a blow to her family, as she was the main breadwinner. Her husband, a tricycle driver, was making just enough for the daily expenses, while her mother supported her three children’s education.

In fact, Ladia said, her eldest son’s college education is being paid for by her mother.

How she survived without a job while her case dragged on for the past 11 months was itself laudable, but she gives much of the credit to the Saints Peter and Paul Church shelter called “Bahay Natin” in Yuen Long, and many Filipino community supporters who gave her cash for her personal needs and Octopus load.

Whenever she needed to go to the Immigration Department for visa extension, some people, including the parish priest, would give her money for the visa fee.

“My friends know that I have no money because I have no job and I do not dare to work illegally because I don’t want to add to my problems, so they come here and give me whatever they can afford to give,” the helper said.

“It’s they who give me the determination to fight on. They’re just the opposite of my very own relatives here who had been wishing me ill and spreading wrong information about my case on Facebook,” Ladia griped.

Because of the said disinformation, the helper’s mother is said to have become overly worried for her.
Ladia said she draws strength from the woman everyone calls “Nanay” at the shelter, who she said has been advising her to fight for her rights. In turn, Ladia says she taken to advising fellow OFWs seeking the shelter’s help to assert their rights.

In her own battle, she listened to officers of the Mission for Migrants who were also at the shelter late on Apr 9 to meet with her.

Ladia said she will fly back home after the Labour Department decides on her case.

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