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Dying asylum-seeker reunites with family

21 July 2016

Christine Aquino, a 39-year-old former asylum-seeker who is suffering from Stage 4
cervical cancer, is back home in the Philippines after flying out of Hong Kong on July 18 to fulfill a wish of spending her final days with her loved ones.
The emaciated Aquino flew home on a specially arranged Philippine Airlines flight, accompanied by an officer of the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate. She had spent the past seven years in Hong Kong trying to seek asylum in a third country.
According to social welfare attaché Elizabeth Dy, Aquino was met at the Manila airport  by an ambulance provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration,.
Christine Aquino at Kwong Wah Hospital in HK
“Today, she’s doing fine,” Dy told The SUN on July 21. In fact, nang dumating siya roon, diretso siya sa ospital sa East Avenue (in Quezon City)”.
She said the patient was treated at the hospital for urinary tract infection, which had been giving her intense pain in the belly for days.
Earlier, Aquino recalled in an interview that she had pledged never to return home again, after leaving for the second time in 2009 allegedly to seek refuge from persecution.
“Previously, I vowed not to go home and would rather die here,” Aquino said in an interview at Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei on July 14.
“But when the doctor told me my illness is terminal, I told myself, what would I do but go back home so that I could see them and be with them again?” Aquino said, referring to her elderly parents and five sons.
“It won’t change anything, but if it’s really my time to go, I want them to be around me,” said Aquino, whom her doctors reportedly said had only about a week to live.
Aquino, who remained pretty despite her condition, first came to Hong Kong as a tourist in 2007 but worked on the sly. She would not say what job she was into, only admitting that she was doing part-time jobs and sending money home to support her parents and her four children at that time.
Not long after, she got into a relationship with a Caucasian man, but he left her when she got pregnant. Aquino decided to return home to her parents’ house on Cabrera St. in Pasay City in 2008 to deliver her fifth baby, who is now eight years old.
Life at home is hard, Aquino said. Her mother, Natividad, has raised her children by running a small eatery in the neighborhood that serves Filipino dishes. But since the elderly woman is now hobbled by arthritis, Aqunio's second son who just finished high school, has been doing the cooking.
It is her eldest son, who is graduating from college with an accounting degree, whom she expects to help her parents and the siblings once he starts working.
Consulate records show that on her arrival in Hong Kong in 2009, Aquino claimed that she was fleeing persecution at home. She applied for recognizance and was granted the status.
In March 2010, she was granted non-refoulement, which meant that she could not be expelled from Hong Kong until her case was decided.
Last year, she was jailed for 10 months for drug possession, and was freed in March. By then, she was already diagnosed with cancer.
On June 3 the Immigration Department cleared her for repatriation after she abandoned her claim for asylum because of her illness.- By Vir B. Lumicao

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