BEIRUT

Middle East

Filipina domestics finally make it out of Syria

Filipinas cheer upon arriving in Manila.

MANILA: A Filipina maid gave a dramatic account of how she escaped her demanding employer to flee besieged Syria, by sliding down a rope after he refused to let her quit her post as war raged around them.

A fearful Nurmina Canapia pleaded to leave the country along with hundreds of other maids, but her Syrian boss insisted she stay for the final year of her three-year contract.

The last straw came when a bomb exploded outside her employer’s home in Aleppo and still he would not let her go, despite the Philippine consulate advising all Filipinos to evacuate, the 33-year-old said.

“My employer was so mad. He said I would not be able to leave till I finished my three-year contract,” Canapia said.

“I climbed down from the balcony of the house with a rope. Then I called a taxi and went to the Philippine consulate in Aleppo,” said the mother of three, from the impoverished southern Philippines, recalled.

“My employer went to the consulate and tried to get me back, but the consulate would not let me go. They said all Filipinos must leave Syria,” she said.

After reaching the consulate, Canapia, along with another 262 maids from the Philippines, were driven to Damascus where they were flown by charter plane to Manila Tuesday.

A further 20 are scheduled to arrive late Tuesday on a regular flight.

Manila has repatriated more than 2,100 workers from Syria since December last year. About 5,000 remain in the country, although the government says it is seeking to bring home as many as possible.

One Filipina maid was killed in the war, when she and her employers were ambushed by unknown gunmen in a car, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters.

“Our policy is not to leave anyone behind. Anyone who wants to come home, we will bring him [or her] back,” del Rosario said as he welcomed the women at Manila airport.

He said some 600 Filipinos were still waiting to return home from Syria, with a third of them in hiding in various parts of Aleppo.

But 3,000 more said they did not want to leave the country, believing their employers would protect them, the minister said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 12, 2012, on page 8.

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