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Filipino maid in Hong Kong can’t believe she made history

By: - Correspondent / @yzsoteloINQ
/ 01:46 AM October 09, 2011

POLARIZED HONG KONG. Foreign maids gather in Central, business district in Hong Kong. A Filipino maid in Hong Kong won the opening legal battle in her fight for permanent residency after a court ruled that an immigration provision excluding the city's hundreds of thousands of foreign maids was unconstitutional. The decision has polarized opinions in Hong Kong and has also prompted different reactions among maids themselves. AP photo/Kin Cheung

URDANETA CITY, Pangasinan—Evangeline Vallejos is happily incredulous that she won her case for permanent residency in Hong Kong, for which she had been fighting for three years.

“Unbelievable,” she said on Saturday when reached by the Inquirer in China where she was vacationing with her employers. “But I am very happy I won. Ang tagal kong hinintay ito (I have long waited for this).”

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Vallejos, 59, has been employed as a maid in Hong Kong since 1986. She said that while she was not sure she would win the case, she trusted the law granting permanent residency to foreigners who had lived in the Chinese territory for seven years.

She said many Filipino workers in Hong Kong were happy about the court decision handed down on Sept. 30 because it paved the way for thousands of others to seek permanent residency.

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But in Barangay Paurido where Vallejos’ family lives, there was hardly a stir when news broke of her legal victory.

Family members took pride in her achievement. But while a door has been opened for them to live in Hong Kong, Vallejos’ husband, Zacarias Oria, said they were not planning to do so.

And Vallejos—who is using her maiden name as it appears in her passport—has not discussed with the family the possibility of settling there, Oria told the Inquirer in an interview recently.

In reports, Justice Johnson Lam was quoted as saying in his decision that the immigration provision denying foreign maids the right to gain permanent residency after seven years, which is granted to other foreigners, was inconsistent with Hong Kong’s Constitution.

But the Hong Kong government will appeal Lam’s ruling, the reports said.

Fighter

Oria, 60, said he received a call from his wife shortly after the decision was issued.

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“It was a very brief call. She just said, ‘Nanalo ang kaso (The case won),’ then the phone went dead. Then I saw the news on TV the next day,” he said.

Oria, a tricycle driver, has visited his wife in Hong Kong only twice. “Life is difficult there, and there are no available jobs for men. Most jobs there are for women,” he said.

Vallejos’ legal fight and her eventual victory did not come as a surprise for Oria and their five adult children.

Oria described his wife as “a fighter who will not stop fighting for what she thinks is right.”

“Matapang siya, palaban (She’s brave, aggressive),” he added. “That’s why I was not afraid when she decided to pursue the case for her permanent residency.”

The children, all now employed and raising their own families, said they were proud of their mother.

“Imagine, she is only a maid and a high school graduate but she managed to fight for her permanent residency in Hong Kong,” said her third child, Ryan.

Vallejos managed to send the children to college with her earnings as a maid.

Reggie, 36, has a degree in electronics and communication engineering; Renante, 34, in architecture; Ryan, 32, in accountancy; Gilbert, 29, in nursing; and Jaime, 27, in business management.

Helping hand

According to Ryan’s wife, Shiery, Vallejos is helping other maids in Hong Kong who are grappling with various problems, including abuse by their employers, early termination of work contracts, and illness.

“Siya ang sumbungan (They take their problems to her). She never lets them down. She goes with them to the labor department to seek settlement of the cases. Most of the time, she is able to get help and benefits for distressed OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” Shiery said.

It helps that Vallejos’ employers, whom she has been serving for 25 years, are kind and supportive of her advocacy. It was they who encouraged her to pursue the permanent residency case, Shiery said.

She said the house of Vallejos’ employers was always open to her fellow Filipinos as well as her guests from the Philippines.

Vallejos has apparently become so close to her employers that one of them flew to the Philippines in July to stand as sponsor at the wedding of her youngest son.

Shiery and another daughter-in-law, Erna (Renante’s wife), also worked in Hong Kong as maids on Vallejos’ prodding.

“She wanted us to experience her life as a domestic helper,” said Shiery, a management graduate. “We stayed there for two years. It’s a difficult job.”

Happy family

Before she went to work as a maid in Hong Kong, Vallejos was a washerwoman in Urdaneta City.

Oria said he and his wife had agreed that she would work overseas and he would stay to tend to their children.

“Ang hirap kasi ng buhay namin noon. Inaapi kami dahil wala kaming pera (Our life was so hard then. We experienced being oppressed because we had no money),” Oria said.

It was inevitable that the children, some of whom were mere toddlers when their mother left, grew closer to their father.

Recalled Ryan: “Sometimes she would be jealous because of our close relationship with our father. She would say, ‘I know I did not raise you.’ But ours is a happy family. We would make her laugh and everything would be all right again. She would laugh again.”

The children also said their mother tried to make up for her absence by constantly phoning and talking to them.

They said she always reminded them not to fight and to always stand by one another.

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TAGS: Evangeline Vallejos, Hong Kong, overseas Filipino worker, poverty in the Philippines, Zacarias Oria
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