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2 cancer-stricken Filipina DHs return home

29 October 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao

Elma, looking frail and thin after her surgery, is met by her mother (right) at Manila airport

Two Filipina domestic workers who are waging a battle against cancer have returned home to be reunited with their families.

The more serious of the two patients, 39-year-old Elma P. dela Cruz, flew home this morning, Oct 29, on a Philippine Airlines flight to Manila, from where she will be transported overland by an ambulance to Santiago City, Isabela, in the Cagayan Valley.

The other patient is Airene Hogan, a 33-year-old mother of two young daughters who decided to fly home on Sept 26 to Davao City where she would continue her medication and possible surgery to remove her colorectal cancer.

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Today’s flight was the third attempt of Dela Cruz to return home. She was set to fly home on Aug 29, but her condition turned worse. Then she was rebooked for a flight on Oct 23, but doctors put off her release.

Dela Cruz was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November last year. Her employer did not rehire her after learning about the diagnosis. But despite her medical condition, a British employer signed her up so she could continue getting treated in Hong Kong.

In August, she was taken to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan after complaining of blurring vision. Doctors found out that her cancer had metastasized to her brain. She underwent brain surgery on Aug 27 to remove a tumor that had caused her partial blindness.


Dela Cruz, a mother of a girl aged 19 and a boy aged 16, had been confined in the hospital since then.

Her plight was brought to public attention by Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, through a crowdfunding campaign.

More donors stepped forward after The SUN published a story about her case on Aug 24. Migrant workers and Hong Kong residents alike chipped in to raise a total of $36,440, all coursed through Social Justice.

Pindutin para sa detalye

In accordance with Dela Cruz’s wish, the donated money was mainly sent to her family in the Philippines, but was also used to buy her air ticket home.

In addition, a Hong Kong couple who read The SUN's story sent $13,200 directly to Dela Cruz's family in the Philippines. The couple also promised an additional cash aid of $16,000 to help her rehabilitation once she gets back home.

This morning, the patient's childhood friend Mary Alejo attended to her discharge from the hospital and took her to Hong Kong airport. Manilyn Abuana, a Social Justice member who was taking her vacation in Bacolod City, escorted Dela Cruz on the flight.

Elma was accompanied on the plane by fellow OFW Manilyn Abuana

At the airport, Josz Villa, a nurse connected with  the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Hong Kong office, waited with a wheelchair for Dela Cruz, then helped her check in and clear Customs and Immigration, and onto a plane.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

When the plane arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila before 2pm today, Dela Cruz was met by her mother and an ambulance team sent by the local government of Santiago City to fetch her. The 330km northeast trip would last 10 hours.

She will go straight to a hospital in Santiago for a check-up before going into home quarantine, said Palma.

Dela Cruz came to Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper for a Chinese couple on Nov 8, 2018. When her contract came up for renewal last November, she went for a medical examination and was diagnosed to have breast cancer. The employer didn’t rehire her.

A British couple signed her up next even after being told she had cancer. They also helped her undergo mastectomy at Pamela Youde. When they eventually left Hong Kong, they let Dela Cruz keep her visa for a few more months so she’d get treatment.

Airene shows the money sent to her in the Philippines by DWC members

Airene Hogan, colorectal cancer patient

Hogan, meanwhile, is back with her family in Davao City but struggling against her colorectal cancer, which her doctors reportedly said was progressing towards Stage 4.

She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on Aug 3, and decided to go home the next month after her employer released her from their contract. On her return in the Philippines, she sought a second opinion which confirmed the earlier diagnosis.

On Oct 20, she posted an appeal for help through the Facebook page of the online group Domestic Workers Corner, saying she needed to undergo surgery to treat her ailment. 

The group managed to immediately raise cash donations totaling $3,897, which they remitted to her on Thursday.

In the post that was accompanied by her photo on her sickbed, Hogan said that on doctor's advice she opted for surgery, but didn’t have the money for it, that’s why she asked for help.

In the meantime, she said she needs to boost her health before the surgery as she has lost weight and has not been sleeping well because of the intense pain from her cancer.

While still in Hong Kong, friends and fellow workers advised her to stay on and get treated here, but she decided to just go home to be with her family.



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