The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Exactly 20 days after she returned home from Hong Kong, Nida Ampaguey, the Overseas Filipino Worker who had become a poster girl of sorts for returning cancer-stricken OFWs, has passed away.
“She had a seizure last night and died at around 7:30 this morning,” Merliza Salunoy, Ampaguey’s former colleague in Hong Kong and also a cancer survivor, told InterAksyon.com.
Ampaguey is the latest statistics in the list of OFWs with cancer from the former British territory who came home and died. Salunoy said in her recollection that at least seven members of Buhay Ka, a cancer support group formed by Fr. Robert Reyes in Hong Kong, have died in the Philippines.
Ampaguey returned to the Philippines on June 27 after working as a domestic worker for 14 years. She was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, which metastasized after she tested positive for breast cancer in 2008.
She came home a day after being discharged from a Hong Kong hospital where she underwent six cycles of radiotherapy. In an interview by InterAksyon.com upon her return to Manila, Ampaguey said she decided to come home because she was tired of undergoing the painful and costly series of treatments. Her employment contract is expiring in October but she asked her Chinese employer not to renew it.
“Pagod na ako. Gusto ko na’ng magpahinga,” she told Interaksyon.com as she was about to be taken to an ambulance of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration that was to take her to her Baguio hometown.
Ampaguey, 51, is a member of Buhay Ka which recently observed its fifth year founding anniversary. Fr. Reyes is currently in Hong Kong to regroup the organization. A recent InterAksyon.com article quoted Buhay Ka as seeking government action on the health needs of ailing OFWs – called the unsung heroes of this country for the billions of dollars they send home.
Earlier, there were other Buhay Ka members who came home and died a few months later as they failed to continue their treatment. Chemotherapy in Hong Kong may cost only HK100 or less than P600. In the Philippines it may cost between 18,000 and 40,000 each session.
Deprived of help from their own government, Buhay Ka members rely on each other and other OFWs for support and strength. When Ampaguey returned to the Philippines, friends sent her HK$8,000.
Reyes has been calling on government to provide assistance to returning OFWs who suffer from cancer since treatment can be very expensive in the Philippines. While they pay a measly amount in Hong Kong and can complete treatment even if their employers fire them, continuing treatment becomes a problem for them as soon as they come home.
One Buhay Ka member living in General Santos said she paid a total of P80,000 for chemotherapy and other medicines when she went for treatment early this year. She also complained that there is only one oncologist in the hospital where she had her chemotherapy. She could not go for a second chemotherapy as the money she brought home from Hong Kong was used up during her first treatment.