- The Straits Times
Every Sunday since she began working in Singapore 10 years ago, Salome Pelenio Gutierrez would spend her day off having a picnic with other Filipino domestic workers on the pavement opposite Lucky Plaza.
And it was no different for the 47-year-old yesterday, a week after a tragic car accident at the site that left two Filipino domestic workers dead and four others injured.
Gutierrez was near Nutmeg Court in Nutmeg Road with about 10 friends, mostly foreign domestic workers. They shared drinks and food, and danced.
Life, they said, must go on.
Across the road, on the side of Lucky Plaza, a makeshift memorial had been set up at the site of the Dec 29 tragedy.
Gathered there were throngs of women, many of them domestic workers who shared a kinship with the six Filipino victims. Like them, these women had left behind their small town to earn a living for their families back home.
Some shared details of the accident, shaking their heads in disbelief as they left flowers, food and drinks to remember the two dead women – Abigail Danao Leste, 41, and Arlyn Picar Nucos, 50.
Others lit candles as they said quiet words of prayer.
Buddhist monk Reverend Lee Tay Lang Shifarong was also there, handing out hundreds of bottles of mineral water to those paying their respects.
“It’s a hot day, so I’m just trying to do what I can to help,” said the Singaporean, a volunteer at Volunteers Against Crimes and Corruption, a non-governmental organisation in the Philippines.
Many members of the public have helped with their wallets as well – nearly S$360,000 has been raised from about 2,800 donors as of 6pm on Sunday (Jan 5).
The Centre for Domestic Employees has been raising the funds since last Monday on fund-raising website Giving.sg. All proceeds will go to the four injured women and the beneficiaries of the two women who died in the accident.
Video footage of the crash, which has been circulating online, shows a car making a U-turn in Jalan Kayu Manis after driving off from a pickup point at Lucky Plaza.
The car then accelerates as it turns onto Nutmeg Road, mounts a kerb and drives onto the pavement where the six women are gathered. It crashes into a railing before plunging a few metres down onto Lucky Plaza’s carpark exit road.
Leste and Nucos were taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital but died later from their injuries.
Among the four injured is Nucos’ sister, Arceli, 56, as well as two domestic workers who are believed to be relatives: Egnal Layugan Limbauan, 43, and Demet Limbauan Limbauan, 37.
Demet and another injured woman – Laila Flores Laudencia, 44 – have been discharged, but Egnal and Arceli are still hospitalised.
But life must go on for Norsarah Abdullah, 46.
After leaving flowers at the memorial site yesterday, the Filipino domestic worker crossed Nutmeg Road to set up a picnic on the pavement outside Nutmeg Court.
The proximity to the accident site does not bother her or her friends, and they are not unduly worried about their safety, said Norsarah.
“We come here every weekend. I’ve been in Singapore for so many years. If an accident is going to happen, you cannot run from it,” she added.
“Accidents can happen anywhere.”
Gutierrez said the area is convenient for Filipino domestic workers like herself, who only have a few hours of leisure time once a week.
“I came here at 10am, and I must go back at 5pm to cook dinner for my employer. There’s everything we need here and it’s convenient to go back home. I cannot go far away to Sembawang or Jurong,” she added.
But not all have returned to their favourite haunt.
A Filipino domestic worker, who wanted to be known only as Alma, said she is now afraid to sit for too long on the pavements near Lucky Plaza.
“We will sit here to eat and rest, but we won’t stay for long,” said the 50-year-old who has been working in Singapore for eight years.
Life must go on but for her and many others, it will never be the same again.
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