Filipina caregiver who died in quake had been saving for husband's surgery

Filipina caregiver who died in last week's Hualien earthquake was trying to earn money for her husband's surgery

Castro (right) holding her daughter (left).

Castro (right) holding her daughter (left). (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Filipina caregiver, who perished in last week's deadly magnitude 6.0 earthquake which struck eastern Taiwan's Hualien on Feb. 6, was working to earn enough money to pay for her husband's costly surgery after he was left paralyzed from a car crash as well as to support her parents and six-year-old daughter, reported CNA

A female Philippine caregiver, identified as Melody Albano Castro, was confirmed dead on Feb. 8 after her body was found in the rubble of the Yun Men Tsui Ti Building (雲門翠堤). The 28-year-old woman worked as a caregiver for a Japanese family, including a 63-year-old woman, Sumin Okubo (大久保淑珉), her 68-year-old husband, who is disabled from a stroke, and Okubo's mute younger brother.

Okubo was so sad about the news of the death of her caregiver and friend that she left her bed in the emergency room to speak to the media. Choking back tears, she said, "Soon, we will meet in heaven, it is just that you will no longer be able to care for your husband and children any longer, it's a pity. We've lost a helper. We had never met a caregiver as good as her. She was our little angel," reported Apple Daily

Castro's cousin, Mishelle Pacquing Macanaya Rosales, 33, in an interview with CNA said that Castro had mainly come to Taiwan to raise funds to pay for her husband's surgery. Her husband had suffered serious head injury in a car accident and needs additional surgery, but they need to raise another NT$450,000. For that reason, she was going to have to keep working for a number of more years as a caregiver.

Rosales said that she and Castro had lived in close proximity to each other in a small village in Cagayan in northeast Luzon Island and had been close until they went their separate ways to start families. Rosales said that when relatives tried to break the tragic news to Castro's mother, "Auntie has so far been unable to accept the fact that Melody is gone." Her parents have lost their sole form of income as she was the breadwinner for them as well as her daughter and disabled husband. 

Rosales said that Castro's husband was involved in a collision when he was riding a scooter in 2014 and suffered paralysis on the right side of his body and has difficulty speaking. After hearing the news of her death, her husband has been crying nonstop and family members are unable to understand what he is saying, only that they can tell from his facial expression that he is greatly pained by her death.

Castro (left), her daughter (center) and brother (right).

Rosales says that when Castro went to Taiwan to work, her daughter, also named Melody, was only three years old. She says that "Little Melody" is now attending kindergarten and is a very beautiful and studious little girl. Castro is also survived by a younger brother, Jayson Albano Castro . 

The whole family makes a living by farming and are planning to try to raise more funds by planting more vegetables. 

In an interview with CNA, her brother Jayson said that "We are very sad and everyone can only try to endure the grief." He says that he will try to fill the void that his sister left by helping to care for his brother-in-law and take responsibility for all other matters. 

Her brother is also looking into applying for a passport, but as to whether he will come to Taiwan, a final decision has not yet been made. 

Okubo told CNA that Castro first came to Taiwan to babysit for a women in Taipei. However, because the woman worked in a bar, she had to care for the child day and night, and so she resigned from that position after one year. 

She then moved to Hualien to take care of a patient with dementia, however she had to endure sporadic assaults by him, including attempts to bite her or hit her with a stick. She worked there for a year, but after he pulled a knife on her, she decided to quit. 

She then worked in an Aboriginal village, but she found it to be less developed than her hometown in the Philippines and left after only working there for one week. 

In September of last year, she started to work for Okubo, with whom she soon established a strong bond with. Okubo said that her three-year visa in Taiwan was coming to an end in May, but that she had been planning to directly renew her contract with her to care for her brother to avoid the costly broker fee.

Okubo said that Castro had already spent NT$350,000 (US$11,900) on her husband's surgery, but that she would need to raise an additional NT$450,000 to pay for brain surgery. Castro had been planning to work for 10 years to raise the additional funds for the surgery. 

Okubo said that Castro would also try to sell products online to raise more money. 

To compensate for her death, Castro's family will be eligible for NT$1.19 million from Taiwan's Ministry of Labor as well as NT$600,000 from the Hualien County government, according to CNA. 

The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei is also working on helping the family deal with Castro's death and will try to raise funds for her family as well, though the precise amount is yet to be determined.