Friday, October 31, 2008

December 17, 2007

Pinay shepherdess stuck in Saudi won't be with daughter yet on Christmas
12/17/2007 12:40 PM

The Christmas homecoming of Leonora Somera, the 65-year-old Filipino shepherdess stranded in Saudi Arabia for two years, has been delayed due to immigration problems, according to the Philippine Labor Attache in Jeddah.

This development came even after members of the Filipino community in Jubail pooled funds to complete the amount needed to pay for the penalties for Somera’s expired iqama (residence permit).Somera left her hometown of San Jose in Nueva Ecija and worked in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha area in 1987 without receiving a regular salary.

She has a pending case for the collection of P784,000 in back pay but Somera earlier said she was willing to forgo the money just to be able to return to the Philippines and be reunited with her only daughter after 20 years of being away.Her daughter is now 24, and is said to be working in a hotel in Manila.

“Please help me go home. I want to see my daughter," Somera earlier appealed. Her daughter was only four years old when she decided to seek employment abroad following the death of her husband.

She worked as a bus conductor before leaving for overseas job.The fund-raising activity during the 2nd anniversary and general membership meeting of the Filipino community in Jubail last Friday, Dec. 14, raised 1, 634 riyals (about P18, 000), in addition to the P1, 661 riyals ((roughly P18, 500) collected from a previous fund drive.Community leaders Ador Tañedo and Robert Fajardo said that of the amount raised, 2, 600 riyals will be used to pay part of the penalties for Somera’s expired iqama, and the rest will be deposited to an account put up in her name at the Philippine National Bank.

Kind-hearted Filipinos in Jeddah had raised half of the 5, 200 riyals (abut P57, 700) needed to pay the penalties for the expired iqama to pave the way for the processing of Somera’s travel permit.Somera’s homecoming before Christmas became a possibility last week when the son of her previous employer showed up at the Philippine consulate in Jeddah and gave her a “no objection certificate," a requirement for the issuance of her exit visa.Mohammed Misfer Al Ghamdi, son of Somera’s previous employer, also gave her 2,000 riyals (roughly equivalent to P22, 000) pocket money.

Over the weekend, however, Musa said there were some immigration problems that may delay Somera’s homecoming."We are not losing our hope, we will continue to follow up her case," the labor attaché assured.Misfer Al-Ghamdi became Somera’s sponsor after his father died in early 1988. Somera had joined the family in Riyadh in December of 1987.But after her sponsor died, she moved to Al-Baha with her sponsor’s son, his wife and children.There they left her in a large house to look after their goats, while they moved to Makkah for the education of their children.

Her employers had since been leaving her inadequate money for her expenses and the animals.After long years and she was finally brought to the Philippine consulate in 2005 for assistance, her employers had declared insolvency and admitted they could not pay the salaries they owed her.Somera could not go home yet because of a pending labor case consular and labor officials helped file against her employers on her behalf.

But Somera said she was willing to waive her claims for back wages for as long as she could go home to the Philippines and be with her daughter.On her 65th birthday, Somera said her birthday wish was to “go home before Christmas… I am longing to see my family and my daughter." - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

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