ALAMINOS CITY—She sent out an SOS on Facebook (FB) and people heard it.
Lalane Fontanilla Balcorta, a 32-year old native of this city working as a domestic helper in Amman, Jordan, put a message last January 21 in the FB account “Taga Alaminos Pangasinan Ka Kung…” calling for help and claimed she was locked up without food in her employer’s house while the family she worked for was away on vacation.
Two concerned members of the FB page, both natives of Alaminos City residing in Hong Kong and in San Diego, California U.S.A., immediately forwarded Balcorta’s post through private messages to Mayor Hernani Braganza’s FB account.
Braganza said he read the messages while he was on lunch break at the mayor’s office and immediately initiated contact with Balcorta with the help of fellow Alaminians in the social networking site.
The mayor was able to get through to Balcorta and they continued their communication through “chat” using her employer’s computer.
Balcorta, who was already in panic at the time after 19 days of being locked up, showed Braganza her situation through video chat, panning the camera on her surroundings to prove the futility of trying to get out.
“Ipinakita niya sa akin ang mga steel bars na nakapaligid sa mga bintana ng amo niya kaya naniwala ako na imposible siyang makatakas sa ganoong sitwasyon,” Braganza told newsmen later.
Balcorta narrated that her ordeal began 19 days ago when her employers’ family members left for Iraq, leaving her under the care of her employer’s brother.
“Hindi po niya ako pinapakain at ikinakandado ang bahay kapag umaalis siya. Mabuti po at may mababait na kapitbahay na inaabutan ako ng ilang piraso ng pagkain kapag wala ang kapatid ng amo ko,” Balcorta said in her chat with the mayor.
Braganza then alerted the Philippine Embassy in Jordan on the plight of Balcorta, a mother to twin daughters who arrived in Jordan four months ago to work as domestic helper.
Balcorta’s relatives were called to the mayor’s office to talk to her and give her encouragement.
As Balcorta did not know exactly where she was, Braganza asked her to scan her surroundings to help embassy officials in organizing a rescue operation.
“I also advised her to tie a white towel in a floor mop and hoist it outside the window so that rescuers would know her exact location,” the mayor added.
Balcorta was rescued around 11 p.m. last Monday (Philippine time) by the Philippine Embassy in Amman headed by Consul General Emmanuel Fernandez in coordination with Amman authorities.
She was subsequently turned over to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office pending her repatriation to the Philippines.