Homecoming for Filipino dead in Beirut blast turns into mourning
PAGADIAN CITY—Ardel Bustamante-Maglangit looked forward to a homecoming this September to rejoin her family in Molave town, Zamboanga del Sur province after being away for eight years.
With plans to start a business founded on her baking skills, Ardel has prepared to start afresh in the Philippines and bid goodbye to Lebanon where she worked as a domestic helper.
But fate caught up with the 43-year-old mother of three last Tuesday (Aug. 5). She was among more than 130 people who were killed in a massive explosion that ripped through the port area in the Lebanese capital Beirut.
Her grieving family now awaits the arrival of her remains. Her husband, Rogelio, a passenger van driver, said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has assured that it was facilitating Ardel’s return home.
On the night before the explosion, Ardel was on a social media app chatting with her family.
“We talked with our children about her plans when she finally came home, she asked about her grandchild but later, she said she had to iron some clothes, so that ended our conversation,” Rogelio recalled.
Ardel was in her employer’s home when the explosion happened. She was identified among the first two Filipino casualties of the tragedy.
Rogelio said he found it painful to accept his wife’s death. He said he still couldn’t believe that she was dead but the terrible news woke the family up on Wednesday.
“One of our children woke up early the following morning, which was unusual,” he said. “I saw her crying in the kitchen. When I asked her what happened, she showed me the video of the explosion.”
Youngest daughter Jehan said she received a call from a friend at 4 a.m. on Wednesday (Aug. 6), informing her about the blast. The friend also sent her through the Messenger app a picture identifying her mother as among the fatalities.
Jehan said she was hesitant at first to tell her father about it until the news was confirmed by a phone call from the DFA.
In her eight years abroad, Ardel only went home for short vacations twice, the last was in April 2019, said Rogelio.
He said Ardel was lucky to have a good employer, always hearing from her how she was being treated nicely.
Rogelio said that prior to working abroad, Ardel helped him earn income for the family by cooking snacks and selling these in the town’s schools.
As their family’s needs increased, especially the children’s schooling, Ardel grabbed an opportunity to work in Lebanon where more than 30,000 other Filipinos earn a living.
“It was hard at first, missing each other, although with technology now, we regularly communicate through calls and chat,” Rogelio said.
“She already bought an oven (so) she could start baking and selling cakes,” Rogelio added.
Rogelio characterized Ardel as “a strong woman.” She is not afraid to face life’s difficulties.”