Finally, OFW killed in Syria is home

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PASACAO, Camarines Sur—The remains of overseas Filipino worker Mer-An Montezor, 23, were finally brought home Saturday, 50 days after she was killed at a checkpoint in the strife-torn city of Homs in Syria.

Montezor’s body arrived at the Legazpi City Airport at 9:40 a.m. on April 14.

The repatriation took almost two months as the Philippine Embassy in Syria had difficulty searching for documentation on Montezor, who slipped into Syria as a tourist, according to her only sibling Almer.

The vehicle carrying Montezor’s body traveled seven and a half hours from Legazpi City to this port town southwest of Naga City, where their small concrete house stands.

Long wait

Almer said it was a long wait for the family, since he was informed about the death of his sister through the municipal mayor of Pasacao on March 13, or 18 days after armed gangs manning a checkpoint opened fire on the car she was riding in with the family she worked for on Feb. 24.

He said he was told by a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Legazpi City that the Syrian couple and their two kids, whom she served as a domestic helper, were also killed after they failed to stop at the checkpoint on their way to Damascus to flee the violence in Homs, the center of unrest in Syria.

Lamberto Regnim, 23, Montezor’s boyfriend, said he last talked to her on Feb. 9. “She wanted to come home because of the escalating violence but her  employer would not allow her since she had yet to finish her two-year contract on July 23 this year.”

Regnim said he had no premonition of her death despite the prolonged lack of communication because Montezor had told him of the poor cell phone signal where she was.

He said Montezor’s monthly salary was $150 or P6,402 at the present peso-dollar rate from which she regularly remitted P2,000 to her family.

Irish Mae Flores, 23, a cousin of Montezor’s and a former OFW in Dubai, said they were recruited by an agency called Worldview, which had closed down.

Flores said her cousin was able to leave the country through the Manila-Hong Kong, Hong Kong-Syria route, entering Hong Kong as tourist and taking off from there to her work destination.

Flores came home from Dubai without finishing her one-year contract in June 2011, less than a year after she started working as a domestic helper for a couple working for the government.

Undocumented

Flores said she realized she was an undocumented OFW when she was already on the plane bound for Hong Kong. She said she was instructed by someone from Worldview to open the sealed envelope that contained what turned out to be a tourist visa.

Flores said she received only P8,000 monthly and not P12,804 ($300) as promised by Worldview.

Almer said his family had been promised P40,000 in government assistance by Olive Palala, a representative of the Philippine Embassy in Libya.

He said the expenses for the wake and burial were shouldered by the local government of Pasacao.

Remegilda Montezor, 73, Mer-An and Almer’s grandmother who raised them after their parents separated, said she had accepted her granddaughter’s fate.

“Mer-An was our breadwinner since her father died. Without her, we (she and Almer) will have to struggle to survive,” she said.

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