IT HAS BEEN a part of the Filipino culture to think not only of one’s self, but what will be good for the family. This is also a very Asian value — that communal feeling and mindset that makes one’s personal dreams and desires take a back seat to the what is the consensus among the community.

Ambassador Romualdez shakes hands with Nanay Fedelina, an 83-year-old woman who was recently granted freedom after being trafficked and abused by a Filipino family for 65 years, during a meeting at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles on Sunday, September 15. She was joined by Consul General Adelio Cruz and Pilipino Workers Center operations manager Malou Villacisneros and Executive Director Aquilina Soriano Versoza. | Photo courtesy of Benjamin Garcia-Ascue/Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles

This is the reason why young children in their early teens who are born in the provinces of the Philippines agree to work in Manila as “katulong” or “kasambahay,” leaving behind the farm life just to earn money to send back home to their families.

I am sure you have had this experience yourself or have known a lot of families whose domestic helpers have lived with them since they were little children and have kept them as their own kasamabay or yaya for their own children.

This is the same spirit and aspiration behind Filipinos who go to other countries, leaving behind their own children to take care of the children of others just so they can give their families better opportunities than they ever had growing up in the Philippines.

Yes, there are great success stories and they become the superstar of their barrios when they go home with pasalubong of one big can of biscuits from Manila. They are able to send their siblings to schools and build better homes for their parents.

The same success stories of kababayans earning much much more as domestic helpers abroad become the envy of their neighbors because they can afford to send the latest gadgets to their children, send them to private schools, and build Italian-looking homes.

But not all stories have happy endings. In fact, a lot of them are kept hidden because of shame, because of commitments to their families they do not want to disappoint, and so they endure the heartaches and abuses for years, even decades. Some die without their families really knowing what they had to go through just to give them a better life.

On October 19 and 20 (Saturday and Sunday), The Filipino Channel will air “Kept: Six Decades of Servitude”, a documentary that tells the story of Nanay Fedelina.

At 16 years old, Fedelina went to work for a family in the Philippines, just like many kababayans did. Unfortunately, this family she worked for forced her into a life of servitude and abuse.

For more than 60 years and across the world in the United States, away from her family, Fedelina lived what we could probably call an American nightmare in the hands of her kapwa Filipino.

But now, after six decades, Fedelina is finally free.

Kudos to my colleagues behind this original documentary: Writer/Producer – Steve Angeles; Director of Photography – Jeremiah Ysip; Editor – Danny Manansala; Graphics/Animation – Mike Carrion; Executive Producer – Troy Espera; Public Relations – Pia Lopezbanos Carrion; and Content Marketing – Moselle Grace Lazatin-Cabral.


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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at, or send her a message via Facebook at

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to and

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