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Filipina DH half-blind from cancer, decides it’s time to go home

24 August 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao  

Elma before and after: Cancer has taken its toll but she remains upbeat

A 39-year-old Filipina domestic helper who is suffering from cancer has decided to return home to her family, after barely three years working in Hong Kong.

Elma Palitayan dela Cruz is set to travel on a Cebu Pacific flight to Manila this Sunday, Aug 29, even while she should still be undergoing chemotherapy treatment after her left breast was removed earlier this year.


The mother of two from Santiago City, Isabela, decided to go back home after finding out the disease had worked its way to her brain, causing her partial blindness that dashed her hope of getting employed again.

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.

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A British couple signed her up next, even after being told she had cancer. With their help, the Filipina managed to undergo mastectomy at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital.

The couple eventually decided to leave Hong Kong but allowed Dela Cruz to keep her visa for a few more months so she could stay on for her treatment.


Just a few weeks back, in the first week of August, a Hong Kong couple agreed to hire her even if they knew she had cancer.

Hindi ko naman itinago ang sakit ko sa kanila. Sinabi ko ang totoo na may cancer ako na kasalukuyang ginagamot,” Dela Cruz said. (I didn’t hide my condition from them. I told them I have cancer and that I’m still undergoing treatment.)


Everything was fine as she worked for the kind couple, until the employer’s elderly mother learned about her illness and got furious. Dela Cruz said after just five days serving her new employers, she was dismissed on orders of the old woman.

The couple let her go but again, told her they would continue sponsoring her visa so she could stay on in Hong Kong for her treatment.

Dela Cruz said she underwent alternating chemotherapy sessions at Pamela Youde and Ruttonjee until recently when she complained about her blurring vision. Doctors examined her and found that the cancer had metastasized to her brain.

Palma's group has so far raised $15k for Elma through a social media campaign

“Gusto na lang daw niyang umuwi sa pamilya niya para makapiling naman niya ang dalawang anak niya,” said Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, a support group for domestic helpers in Hong Kong.(She says she just wants to go home to her family so she could be with her two children again).  

Palma’s group has set up an online fund-raising campaign for Dela Cruz to raise money for her plane ticket to Manila and financial needs back home. Palma said her group has received total donations of around $15,000 so far.

The fund-raising through Facebook is set to continue until Sept. 5. Link is here: (

Part of the money they initially raised was used by the group to buy a Cebu Pacific ticket to Manila for the patient.

But when told this, Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration immediately contacted the employment agency that placed Dela Cruz with her last employer so they could pay for the ticket as required by law.

“Just now, I called the agency, and I was told they are more than willing to purchase the ticket for the patient,” said Tamayao in a message to The SUN.

According to the agency representative, they were not told about Dela Cruz’s predicament. Tamayao said she would just ask Palma to give the receipt for the ticket so the agency could refund the money.

In addition, Tamayao said she has endorsed Dela Cruz for OWWA’s financial assistance that could give her up to Php20,000. She could also be included for the livelihood program thorough which another Php20,000 could be awarded to her.

Tamayao also said the OWWA regional office had already called Dela Cruz’s daughter to inform her about the assistance being given to her mother, and her own eligibility for OWWA’s scholarship training program.

Before coming to Hong Kong in 2018, Dela Cruz worked for five years in Singapore. Her children were still young then but she was forced to leave them in the care of her ageing parents because her husband had abandoned them.

Despite her frail condition, Dela Cruz remains upbeat about the future. She says she plans to open a sari-sari store once she returns home so she could augment the income of her daughter, 19, who works as a salesgirl in the Santiago market. Her son, 16, still goes to school.

Having overcome the odds in providing for her children for the past eight years, Dela Cruz is confident there will be enough time for them to rebuild a life together.





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