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FDW dumped in Central after testing preliminary positive for Covid-19

28 December 2020

 By Daisy CL Mandap 

May brought along this suitcase to Statue Square after she was thrown out of the boarding house

Christmas is a time for rejoicing to many, even amid the pandemic.

But for May H, who arrived in Hong Kong only on Nov 20, Christmas this year will always bring bad memories. It was on this day that she received an unexpected call from the police, telling her that because of a “problem” with her Covid-19 test result, she would be picked up and taken to hospital for isolation and further testing.

May H said that despite this setback, which came on top of her being terminated by her first employer right after she finished her hotel quarantine, she wanted to comply with the police order, knowing it was the right thing to do.

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But the problem was, all the other Filipinas in the Wanchai boarding house she was staying at, told her not to go, saying that if the police came, they would all be taken away, and their hopes of moving in with new employers would be dashed.

May said she was even blamed by the 10 or so other women that she had brought them trouble, and that she should leave.

Among them was Gie, who at first endeared herself to May when she helped the newcomer go through steam inhalation to get rid of a stubborn cough. Because she trusted Gie, May said she agreed to pack her stuff and go with her to Central, where she was promised somebody from a migrants’ shelter would pick her up.

May waited for hours in the park on a chilly Christmas afternoon before she was rescued

So on a cold day last Christmas, May trudged behind Gie to Statue Square to wait for the promised pick-up. Unknown to her, Gie had called up Marites Palma, head of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, and made up a story about stumbling on May in the park, and learned about her need for a shelter.

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Palma, who was not told about the back story about May being on the run from the police, offered to call up Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, just in case they could take her in at such late notice.

The story unraveled when Bethune’s Buhay Bangcawayan spoke with May directly on the phone. After consulting with the shelter’s head, Edwina Antonio, a decision was made to call the police so someone could get May off the park, and into a hospital.

By this time, Gie had long left Central, and May was left alone to await the police or whoever would come and rescue her.

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Recalling that time, May said: “Dumating ang mga naka ambulansya, naka PPE. Ako na ang lumapit sa kanila para makilala nila ako agad.” (Ambulance staff came in full PPE. I decided to approach them myself so they’d recognize me immediately).

She said it was already about 7:30pm then, but there were still a lot of Filipinos around, having meals or just talking. “Pasko e,” she said.

Antonio (with glasses) is tasked with ensuring a safe environment for Bethune's clients

Reflecting on what happened, Antonio said it was a good thing they immediately learned May’s predicament, so they did not make the mistake of either taking her in, or referring her to another boarding house as that would have put residents there in trouble.

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Inaayos sana na i-refer sa JIL (Jesus is Lord church) pero dahil nalaman naming ang sitwasyon pina hold ko ang referral,” said Antonio. (We were already working on referring her to JIL but when I learned of her situation, I asked that the referral be put on  hold).

She was particularly upset because Bethune House is currently housing two late-stage cancer patients, and putting them in the same place with a possible virus carrier would have been catastrophic.

Hearing about the true story, Palma was also taken aback, saying she herself was misled by Gie.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Hindi naman tama talaga yung ginawa nila dahil ipapahamak nila yung ibang tao,” she said. (It was totally wrong of them to hide the truth because they could have caused danger to others).

If it were all up to her, May said she would have just waited for the police to come and pick her up. For her, that would have been much better than being on the run again and dealing with a difficult situation on her own, and in a strange place to boot.

May related that after being terminated, she went to live in her agency’s boarding house in Taipo. She said she was not sure if the place she stayed at was the one in Fun Ning building, where an outbreak left about a dozen FDWs infected, as well as an employer’s family of four.

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But seeing how cramped the space was, she got spooked, and decided to move out on Dec 12, with nowhere to go. She said she ended up spending the night in a park in Taipo, which left her with a nasty cold.

The next day, she called up her agency, which promptly rescued her, and put her in a room in Chung King Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui. She stayed there for three days, then, using the month’s salary in lieu of notice that her agency had managed to get from her would-be employer, May moved to the Wanchai boarding house, where she said she paid $50 per day for bed space.

But still spooked by the news about the Tai Po infection, May decided to go for a test at the Leighton Hill Community Hall in Wanchai on Dec 21. Not having a Hong Kong ID card yet, she had to pay $240 for the test.

For three days, she said she waited for the result of the test, and when it did not come, decided to call the testing centre to inquire. That was when she first learned that there was a “problem” with her test result.

Since being taken to Queen Mary Hospital, May has had two more tests, and both appeared to have shown that she did not have the virus, after all. Her agency, which had been liaising with the medical staff at the hospital, had reportedly told her she had been “cleared” and that she was “healthy”.

She has now been moved from an isolation ward to the recovery room, where she is just waiting for her agency staff to pick her up and take her to the Immigration Department to apply for HKID card.

Despite her month-long ordeal, luck is still with May, as her agency has already secured her a new employer, and they are both just waiting now for her new employment visa to be issued.

As for the women in the Wanchai boarding house who effectively threw her out at a time when she needed help the most, the opposite seems to be happening. May said that from what she’s heard, everybody there was put in quarantine after they denied that she had lived with them.

Karma is real, as they say.

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