'Overfatigue' cause of breakdown of Filipina domestic worker in HK

HONG KONG – Given her strength of character and having lived abroad for a decade without incident, Liza L was the unlikliest candidate for a breakdown.

Liza L is the woman who was videotaped and photographed by hordes of people as she stripped to her panties while shouting incoherently in the Mong Kok MTR station on July 23.

When the breakdown did happen, Purita P, her distant cousin and childhood friend,  told The SUN-HK she could only think that it was because her cousin had too much work and not enough time to unwind, or overfatigue.

According to Purita, Liza's work at her employer's house in Kwun Tong involved looking after a couple and their two teenage sons, apart from two dogs and a parrot. She also cleaned several cars each day.

Liza L, 37, is from Davao, and is now recovering in a Kowloon hospital after suffering from an apparent mental breakdown. She is single, and has been working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for the past 10 years.

Recovery 

"Please let her recover in peace," Purita said.

Thus, while she appreciates the numerous messages of concern that are being relayed to Liza through her, Purita said it might be better if her cousin is allowed time to recover away from a lot of people.

"Kung pwede, ang Konsulado na lang ang magsabi kung sino ang pwedeng dumalaw at makausap ni Liza (If possible, the consulate should be the only one to say if someone is allowed to talk to Liza)," Purita said.

According to Purita, Liza has been working for her current employer for less than two years. The contract is due to end on August 14, and her employer had reportedly offered to extend it for another two years.

However, Liza, who had been complaining of overwork, declined. Also, she had just been hired by her best friend's employer and was set to start working there soon after she finished her current contract.

But 4 days before the MTR incident, Liza started acting strangely.

According to the Consulate's welfare officer Kris Furaque, the employer said Liza did not sleep for 3 days, and kept talking about how she would save their family from the devil, and even sprinkled water on them, saying it was "holy water."

On July 22, the employer and her family took Liza to her employment agency, and paid her about HK$7,000 (US$903) for her unpaid salary and other benefits before leaving.

'Overworked'

But Liza would not stay put. The next day, she left the agency, bringing with her a suitcase, and reportedly said she was going to stay with a friend. A staff member saw her off at a bus stop.

The next thing everybody knew, Liza had gone berserk at the Mongkok MTR station.

Purita, who had contacted The SUN via FB for help, said she was upset about the spread of the video and pictures showing her cousin's pitiful state. But worse were the comments alleging that Liza had come from a bar where her drink was spiked by some drugs.

This was farthest from the truth, said Furaque. A blood test reportedly done on Liza showed no trace of drugs, alcohol or any substance which could have altered her state of mind.

"Siguro naman matitigil na yung mga nagpapakalat ng masasamang balita tungkol sa kanya (I hope those spreading the bad rumors about her would stop)," said Purita. 

According to Purita, it was totally out of character for Liza to be nearly naked in public and display aggressive behavior toward others. The real Liza, according to her is kind, cheerful, industrious, and intelligent.

Purita said the two of them grew up and went to school together in Davao. Hardy and industrious, Liza worked to send herself through 4 years of an accounting course at the University of Mindanao.

Liza was also said to be generous to a fault. Though still single, she worked hard to send the two children of her elder sister to college in Manila. Liza also paid for her sister to come to Hong Kong and work, but the latter quit after only a few months.

Within her small circle of friends, Liza is also known for being religious. A member of the El Shaddai prayer group, she often posted religious verses on her Facebook wall.

What reportedly contributed to her situation was that she could go out only once a month, though it was a condition she agreed to from the start, and for which she got compensated by her employer.

Purita said that while Liza did not have any problems with her employer, she often complained about her workload and how her two wards were treating her.

Termination

Liza reportedly decided to toughen it out because she did not want to be terminated.

"Noon pa yan nagrereklamo, pero ang sabi, `Titiisin ko na lang basta maayos ang release ko,'" said Purita.  (She had been complaining ever since but she would say,  "I'll suck it up as long as my release is done properly.")

The attitude apparently stemmed from a bad experience Liza had with a previous employer. After working for 6 years straight for her first employer, Liza moved to another household which treated her no better. Toward the end of this new contract, she reportedly turned down an offer of renewal, causing her employer to terminate her.

The shock of being sacked, plus the expense involved in securing new employment, appeared to have left its mark on Liza that she did not want it to happen a second time.

Sadly, her resolve to keep her job at whatever cost became her undoing. She snapped just weeks before she was to due to move to what appeared to be a safer haven. – Rappler.com

This piece was first published in The Sun Hong Kong. Rappler is republishing this with permission. The author is a veteran journalist, having worked for various newspapers and TV stations in the Philippines and in Hong Kong. She is also a lawyer and migrants rights activist.

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