For 65 years, “Nanay Fedelina” lived like a modern-day slavery victim with her employer in the United States. This year, at 81, she’s ready to begin the life of a free woman.
Nanay Fedelina was a nanny who was brought to the United States by the Filipino-American family she was serving when she was just 16 years old.
She spent 65 years in servitude.
In a June 2019 interview with ABS-CBN’s Balitang America, Nanay Fedelina narrated her ordeal with the family she served for four generations.
“Nag-alaga ko ng nanay niya, nag-alaga ako ng anak niya, tapos nanay naman niya, apat na apo ang inalagaan ko. Lahat ‘yun ginawa ko ako lang mag-isa — nagluluto, naglilinis, namamalantsa, namamalengke — ako lahat, kayang-kaya ko, hinahatid-sinusundo, dinadalhan ng pagkain sa eskuwela (I took care of the matriarch, I took care of the children, and then the mom, I watched over four grandchildren. I did everything alone– from cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes– I did those alone),” she said in the interview.
“Ang hinihigaan ko ang lamig, ang dumi-dumi, butas-butas pa ‘yong blanket ko, salbahe silang mag-ina (I slept on the cold floor with my blanket hole-ridden. The mother and child were cruel),” she added.
“Ngayon, maligaya na ako at malaya. Hindi na ako nakakulong, hindi na ako inaapi ng mga tao (Now, I am happy and free. I am no longer locked up, no longer abused by people)”.
In a recent Philippine Independence Day reception in Los Angeles she attended, Nanay Fedelina was hailed as “a symbol of courage and freedom, the very essence of the annual celebration of Philippine Independence.”
In 2018, the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), through the help of US law enforcement, rescued her and helped pursue and win her case in court.
“Today, with the help of PWC, the Consulate General, and many other generous hearts in Los Angeles, Nanay Fedelina is ready to begin a new life at 81,” the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles said.
Nanay Fedelina wants to go home to Tacloban City and find her family. Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez hopes to help her with her dream.
At present, Nanay Fedelina is staying at a Filipino-American retirement home for free.
“We are working on getting her T-Visa (trafficking victim visa) which will allow her to stay in the US indefinitely. As soon as she gets her visa, I promised to fulfill her wish to get a tour of Malacañang and maybe a chance to see the President,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.
In a meeting with her last September 15, Romualdez reiterated the Philippine government’s commitment to uphold the welfare and protect the rights of overseas Filipinos at all times.
“The President instructed us to prioritize overseas Filipinos. We must do our best to safeguard their welfare,” he said.
Nanay Fedelina came from a generation when slave-like employment practices or highly unregulated domestic employment were still commonplace in the Philippines.
According to the Consulate General, she also seems to be one of the few to survive this and gain freedom.
The meeting between Romualdez and Nanay Fedelina was facilitated by PWC last month. It was part of the joint advocacy of the Consulate General and PWC to tell her story in the hopes that no more Filipino would fall victim to modern-day slavery. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)
Top photo: FREE AT LAST. “Nanay Fedelina” meets Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez (left). She spent 65 years in servitude and was rescued in 2018 by the Pilipino Workers Center, through the help of US law enforcement. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles)