Nanay Fedelina was enslaved for 37 years in southern California, made to work for free for generations of a family that kept her as a domestic slave. Now 82-years-old, she is finally free.
Fedelina hails from Tacloban, Leyte in the Philippines, and she initially came to the US on a tourist visa in 1981. Yet she was then trafficked into domestic slavery, forced to work for free for a family for decades. Her employer confiscated her passport, making it difficult for her to flee.
Authorities became aware of Fedelina’s case when she suddenly collapsed at a hospital when she was caring for her employer. Concerned hospital staff contacted the FBI, which found that she was a victim of human trafficking and had fainted because she had not been given food to eat for two days.
Fortunately, with the help of an organization called the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), the FBI rescued Fedelina from her employer’s home in 2018, helping her find a home care facility to stay in Los Angeles that would cover her daily needs.
GMA News reports:
Fedelina’s employer pleaded guilty to forced labor, said Consul General Adel Cruz from the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles.
But the elderly woman had no intention of sending her employer to prison, even as this person deprived her of freedom for so many years.
“It’s poetic justice,” Cruz said.
“The judge wanted to put the old employer behind bars but the old employer is just two years younger than her, Nanay Fedelina requested otherwise, that she would not be jailed.”
In fact, the 82-year-old did not want to file charges against her employer’s daughter or any member of any family she served, Cruz said.
The elderly employer ended up facing probation in an assisted living facility and paid Fedelina $101,000 in restitution.
Her case has prompted the Philippine consulate to coordinate more closely with officials and Filipino-American organizations on how to identify, rescue, and protect human trafficking victims.
Cruz hopes Fedelina’s case will also send a message on safe migration to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“I would just like to warn our kababayans not to blindly believe in promises especially if it’s too good and, should they wish to seek employment abroad, make sure that they go through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration so they become documented workers.”
Cruz added that the Philippine consulate had never seen a case of modern slavery as “grave” as Fedelina’s.
“Being made a slave for 37 years, that’s a lifetime already,” said Cruz.
“For us, this is one very emotional case because, at this day and age, especially here in the United States, you wouldn’t even think that there would be people who would do this.”