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Young OFW’s remains cremated as her death remains a mystery

19 October 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Final prayers are said before Andrelyn's casket was rolled into the crematorium

“Andrelyn was the best.” This was part of the short eulogy given by the employer of 28-year-old Andrelyn P. Onera, whose remains were cremated Sunday, Oct 18 at the Cape Collinson crematorium.

Onera was found lifeless in a swimming pool in Laguna City, the estate where her employers live, on Sept 20. She was rushed comatose to United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong and passed away three days later without regaining consciousness.

The exact cause of her death is still being investigated.

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The employer, Leo Liu, recalled how Onera endeared herself to his family, especially to his young daughter, because of her caring ways.

He also expressed admiration at how the young foreign domestic worker and single mother would save up much of her salary so she could support her son, mother and siblings back in the Philippines.

Liu recalls Andrelyn's caring nature and the sacrifices she made for her family

About 50 of Onera’s friends and fellow overseas Filipino workers had earlier gathered at United Christian Hospital for a final viewing of her body and a short mass said by Filipino chaplain, Fr Jay Flandez.

In his homily, Fr. Flandez said the gathering was not just to thank God for the “gift of life for Andrelyn”, but also as a reminder to everyone to support each other as members of the Christian community.

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After the blessing, those who paid their final respects were bused to Cape Collinson for the cremation, which was preceded by more prayers and a short program where Onera’s aunt, Mayel Oroceo, who also works as domestic helper in Hong Kong, thanked everyone for coming.

Mourners led by Oroceo (foreground) during mass said by Fr Flandez outside the mortuary 

A recorded video message from Onera’s younger sister, Jenny Mae Bandillon, was played as mourners placed white roses on the coffin before it was finally rolled away into the crematorium.

An autopsy was earlier carried out on Onera’s body after doctors were unable to determine the exact cause of her death.

According to her employer, doctors said they saw no signs that the young OFW had struggled while in the water, indicating she did not drown. There were no marks in her body, either, meaning she did not injure herself, and fell into the water, as was initially believed.

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The employer had told investigators Onera was on her day off on the day of the incident, but had asked for permission to go swimming in the estate’s swimming pool shortly after lunch. At about half past 3 in the afternoon, the police had come knocking on their door to report that Onera was found lifeless in the pool.

The victim’s family and friends were also puzzled by her death, as Onera had no known ailment, and was physically active, often going on hikes or swimming in the sea during her days off.

Many had also raised questions as to how she was not saved in time, as she was swimming in a pool where there was a lifeguard on duty, and where presumably, there were other people around.

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Bandillon also asked if there were no CCTVs in the pool area that could help explain how her sister ended up in the water.

Police who were called to the scene initially classified the case as “drowning.” A spokeswoman said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Onera’s death, but they were still investigating.

To find answers to their questions, Bandillon wrote to Consul General Raly Tejada to ask for help in getting a full report on the police investigation. They should be able to get this once the autopsy results are known.

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Depending on the outcome of the police investigation, the Coroner could decide if a further inquiry should be conducted through an inquest, where witnesses would be called to determine the cause of death.

Doctors say the young and pretty Andrelyn could not have drowned

Until then, the reason for the tragedy that befell Onera could not be known.

The outcome could also determine how much her family should receive from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration as compensation for her death.

Death through natural causes entitles the victim’s immediate survivors to Php100,000, and double that if the cause of death is accident. There is an additional Php20,000 in death benefits.

But as her death happened on her day-off, the employee compensation paid under Hong Kong’;s labour laws in cases of work-related deaths could not be awarded to her next-of-kin.

Still, her employer said Onera’s family could still receive the proceeds from the personal accident clause in their FDH insurance. In most insurance policies with this provision, the payout is $200,000.

Onera first started working in Hong Kong in 2015, but had been with her current employer for just eight months.

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