[UPDATED] MANILA, Philippines – She saved 25 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in conflict-stricken Syria, and comes home Thursday, March 22, ushered in by commendations from government and other Filipinos.
She is Alma Bella Guiao, an OFW who helped at least 25 Filipino domestic workers escape from the Syrian localities of Homs and Latakia from 2011 until she left Syria for the Philippines.
Guiao, who was reserved when the media interviewed her upon her arrival, said she did not mind risking her life as long as she can help her fellow Filipinos. “Masaya naman dahil nagpapasalamat sila sa akin na natutulungan ko,” she said. (I’m happy because they’re thankful that I am able to help them.)
Other OFWs in Syria would call her for help after she left her contact details with the Philippine embassy, she said.
Akbayan party-list Rep Walden Bello, who accompanied Guiao back to the Philippines along with 9 other OFWs, noted that Guiao usually came to the aid of other OFWs on her own.
“She made many of these trips by taxi, and she accompanied them personally, so she came in and out of the danger zone,” Bello said in a mix of English and Filipino. “Because of that, our embassy, the DFA, and the people are so grateful”
The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement commending Guiao.
“She is a role model for the Filipino community in Syria because of her steadfast dedication in getting Filipino household service workers out of harm’s way. She is an example of a Filipino who is truly patriotic and dedicated to the service of her fellow Filipinos,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Bello called her a “true heroine.” “She operated as a 1-person rescue mission as she undertook the dangerous task of coming in and out of the city several times to bring over 25 OFWs to the safety of the embassy,” he said.
The solon, who saw for himself the situation in the conflict-stricken country, reiterated government calls for OFWs in Syria to come home.
The Philippine government has worked for the repatriation of Filipinos from Syria for 3 months now. Scant employment opportunities in the Philippines, however, have led a majority of OFWs in Syria to reject the government’s repatriation plan.
Conflict has so far continued to escalate in Syria. Only last Sunday, March 18, a 3rd car bombing hit a Syrian city, killing 2 and wounding 30. The deadly revolt in Syria entered its 2nd year last week. – Rappler.com