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Rescued DH found to have stage 4 ovarian cancer

02 September 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Merle Bonagua, before and after her cancer diagnosis

A 52-year-old Filipina domestic helper got the shock of her life recently when she was told she had stage 4 ovarian cancer that had already spread to her stomach.

The news came as a further blow to Merle Bonagua, who had been at wits’ end for months, trying to find out why she had lost so much weight and suffered constantly from abdominal pain.

Bonagua learned about her illness only on Aug 24, a few days after she was rescued from her employers’ house in Tseung Kwan O by the founder and members of an online group called HKOFW, which enlisted the help of the police.
Before this, she  had appealed online for help to go for a checkup because her employers allegedly objected to her going to the hospital.

Despite the initial shock from the diagnosis, Bonagua, a single mother who supports two grandchildren, says she now feels rested.

Mas maayos na po ang pakiramdam ko ngayon,” (I feel much better now), Bonagua said from her sick bed at Tseung Kwan O Hospital today, Sept. 2.

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Two days earlier, the emaciated maid posted on Facebook a picture of herself sitting on a wheelchair and holding a red backpack on her lap in the lobby of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She said she was there to consult an oncologist for her treatment.

Bonagua said she was accompanied to the hospital by Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and attaché Arnel Deluna of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section.
Bonagua being wheeled by Welof Tamayao in Queen Elizabeth Hospital

From there she was transported back to TKO Hospital by the Consulate officers and her HKOFW friends, where she will undergo more tests before her next appointment with the oncologist at Queen Elizabeth.

The maid from Polillo, Quezon, has lost so much weight that she looks very much older than her age.
She said she lost so much weight because she was given little food since she joined her employers eight months ago. Previously, she worked for 17 years for her first employer in Hong Kong.

Bonagua said she began feeling unwell about four months ago. When she complained about pain in her belly, her female employer from mainland China reportedly gave her the card of a private doctor in Tseung Kwan O and told her to go there for consultation.

The helper said she went to see the doctor on May 9 and was told that she had gastroenteritis.
When the pain persisted, Bonagua said she asked to go to the hospital repeatedly, but her female employer always objected saying, “Hospital Covid, Covid, Covid!”

She said the employer gave her another doctor’s card and a video on how to go to his clinic. But each time she tried to go, her female employer allegedly ordered her to do so many tasks that by the time she was finished doing them, the clinic was already closed.

The male employer reportedly allowed her to go to the doctor on her Sunday day-off, but the clinic she was meant to go was closed on that day as a precaution against coronavirus infection.

Bonagua said as days passed, she became more and more intimidated by the female employer until a friend linked her up with HKOFW, which ended up rescuing her.

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