Filipina helpers here worried for their families back home after quake reduces homes to rubble, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Filipina helpers here worried for their families back home after quake reduces homes to rubble

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Filipina domestic helpers in Singapore were awoken on Wednesday (27 July) morning by frantic calls from families evacuating their homes after a tragic 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the northern provinces of the Philippines.

The hours that followed saw many helpers who hailed from the affected region juggling between their daily duties here and dealing with the devastating destruction of their homes.  

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the earthquake affecting the Island of Luzon happened at 8.43am. The epicentre tracked at about 11km south-east of Dolores town in the mountainous and lightly populated province of Abra, which was most severely impacted. 

Ms Marilou Bilar, 40, a domestic helper, told TNP she was heartbroken to hear that her house in Abra had been heavily damaged by the earthquake and mostly collapsed into heaps of rubble.

It had been housing her 59-year-old mother and four children, who are now forced to sleep without a roof over their heads, unable to return inside due to the earthquake’s aftershocks. 

The sole breadwinner of her family, Ms Bilar has no way of financing the rebuilding of their house or returning home right now. 

She said: “I want to physically see my family, especially to hug and kiss my children during something so traumatic.”

The house had cost her 500,000 pesos ($12,500) and was not yet complete as she was still working towards financing the construction. 

“I don’t have enough money to fix it again. I don’t have any help and don’t know what to do. I hope and pray God will send someone to help,” she said.

The Straits Times reported that there were at least 58 landslides in the Abra province on top of road damages, which are hindering aid efforts as the area is now unreachable by land.

Another domestic helper from Abra, Ms Marjio Blanes, 33, was in tears when she heard that her house had been completely destroyed. 

“My family is traumatised because of how severely damaged our house is. Our second floor collapsed and is completely extinguished,” she said. 

She added that her contract in Singapore will expire soon, leaving her unsure of how to move forward: “What I know for now is that I have to secure the safety of my family.”

The last major earthquake Luzon experienced took place in 1990, a deadly tragedy that killed over 1600 people. 

Though the casualty count this time is not as high, property damages are reported to be just as massive, causing blackouts and breakdowns in telecommunications.

Domestic helper Gorjean Ganvanes, 34, had been panicking all morning after her elderly parents became uncontactable.

She had repeatedly reached out to neighbours who eventually informed her in the late afternoon that her parents were okay, but that their home had lost all electricity and water supply. 

She said: “My parents have to stay outside all day. They cannot go back into their house because tremors are still happening and they’re too old to evacuate quickly. 

“They’re scared (and) they haven’t eaten all day because they have nowhere to cook and the neighbours’ houses were hit much worse.”

She added that government aid and assistance would be “difficult” because of the high number of properties damaged, and that help would be “distributed very slowly”.

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