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91 Filipinos died in HK last year with cancer as leading cause

08 January 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Bonagua being wheeled to hospital shortly before she succumbed to cancer

Deaths in the Filipino community in Hong Kong increased 40% to 91 last year from 65 in the previous year, with cancer and stroke reportedly the top two causes.

Among those who succumbed to cancer last year was domestic helper Merle Bonagua, who died on Sept 20 at age 52 in Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She was found to have stage 4 ovarian cancer a month after being plucked from her employer’s house in Saikung by a migrant support group.

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Another prominent death was that of Andrelyn P. Onera, 28, who was found floating unconscious in a pool in Laguna City estate in Lam Tin on Sept. 21, and was declared dead two days later at United Christian Hospital. A coroner is still looking into the cause of her untimely death.

From published reports, however, suicide appears to have caused the deaths of even more Filipinos last year. At least seven such cases were reported by The SUN between February 11  and September 22, mostly involving domestic workers, both male and female; but also a resident who was found dead in a sound studio that he owned.

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Statistics supplied by the Consulate this week showed the deaths averaged 7.58 a month last year as against 5.42 in 2019. Officials say the figures do not include deaths of Filipino residents of Hong Kong that were not reported to the Consulate.

Details on the causes of deaths were not available from the data shared by the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, which liaises with relatives of the dead as well as police, hospitals, and Hong Kong funeral homes that would handle the repatriations.

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Cancer in all its forms, grouped as malignant neoplasms, has consistently been the No.1 killer in Hong Kong over the last 40 years, with a total of 14,871 patients dying of the disease in 2019, records of the Department of Health Centre for Health Protection show.

While pneumonia was the secondary killer in Hong Kong, it was not so with the 207,000-strong Filipino community, where the second leading cause of death was stroke.

Mystery still surrounds the death of Onera in September last year

Consulate records of reported death cases last year showed four Filipinos dying in January, compared with two deaths in the same month a year earlier.

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The toll jumped in February with seven deaths reported, including two suicides. One involved a domestic helper who hanged herself in Yuen Long on Feb 11 due reportedly to love problems. A male resident took the same path in Sheung Wan 12 days later.

The number eased to four in March but rose to five in April and doubled to 10 in May. After dropping to seven in June, the figure reached nine in July and 10 in August, then stayed high at 12 in September and October before falling to eight in November and plunging to three in December, the lowest for the year.

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In previous years, the Consulate and its attached agencies, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and OWWA, actively promoted health-care awareness among OFWs, especially during the winter, when they are most vulnerable to illness and depression.

The activities were evidently in response to events that directly affected the physical and mental health of workers that could lead to extremes.

The PCG hosted or organized seminars and forums where experts were invited to educate, listen and advice the workers on various issues that ranged from basic financial planning such as saving, investment and debt avoidance as well as crucial issues such as affairs of the heart and home.

Free check-ups and temperature and blood pressure taking were also conducted at the POLO for workers five days a week.

But anti-covid-19 measures implemented by the Hong Kong government since late January last year, such as social distancing, has restricted or halted such activities.


No. of Filipino deaths reported to PCG

Month

2019

2020

January

2

4

February

5

7

March

4

4

April

10

5

May

5

10

June

2

7

July

6

9

August

8

10

September

7

12

October

3

12

November

7

8

December

6

3

TOTAL

65

91

Monthly avg

5.42

7.58

Increase y-o-y (%)

 

40

Source: PCG Hong Kong

 

      

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