For the husband of Melody Albano Castro, a Filipino caregiver killed in the Hualien earthquake on Tuesday last week, the grief of losing his wife has caused him unimaginable pain that no one seems to know how to deal with.
“He is always crying, we don’t understand well what he is saying,” Castro’s cousin Mishelle Pacquing Macanaya Rosales said of the widower, identified only as Jay-ar.
The right side of Jay-ar’s body was paralyzed in a motorbike accident in 2014, making it hard for him to speak clearly, and that has prevented him from expressing his feelings about Castro’s death in front of family members, Rosales told reporters on Sunday.
“The aura of his face looks like it’s very difficult to accept,” she added.
Jay-ar’s condition was the main reason Castro left him and their three-year-old daughter behind to work as a caregiver in Taiwan, Rosales said, adding that Castro wanted to save up for a brain surgery for her husband.
Castro was taking care of a person with disabilities in an apartment on the seventh floor of the Yun Men Tsui Ti (雲門翠堤) building that was nearly toppled over by the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck Hualien.
She died of the injuries she sustained as the building listed to one side, while three other people who were in the apartment survived.
Having grown up with Castro in a rural village in Cagayan province in the northeastern part of Luzon Island until they had their own families, Rosales talked about her childhood with her cousin.
Rosales said she was five years older than Castro, but her cousin was more “mother-like.”
“She dealt with other people as if she knew them all. She was friendly,” Rosales said.
“Simple living in the barrio used to remind us of our childhood, helping each other harvest vegetables alongside the river and helping our parents and relatives,” Rosales said. “I never saw her give up when it came to work. She helped others with joy and gladness in her heart.”
Castro’s daughter, Given Grace Albano, also lives in the same neighborhood, Rosales said. “She is now at kindergarten, really pretty and dedicated in her studies.”
The unexpected death of 28-year-old Castro also left the family of five without their main household income.
“My aunt [Castro’s mother] can’t accept that Melody was gone, because she is the breadwinner of the family,” Rosales said. “We are trying to help my aunt and explain everything [to her].”
Jayson Albano, Castro’s younger brother, said it is a difficult time for his family.
“Everything happened in the blink of an eye,” Albano said. “We are saddened by my sister’s loss, but we are trying our best to be strong.”
Castro’s death once again revealed the long-standing problem of a lack of legal protections in Taiwan for foreign caregivers, who are not covered by the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) or the Labor Insurance Act (勞工保險條例), and are entitled to fewer injury, disability or other benefits.
However, there is a provision that stipulates compensation be paid to the families of employees who die on the job, but do not have labor insurance.
Castro’s family is to receive NT$1.19 million (US$40,534) from the Ministry of Labor. Her family is also to receive another NT$600,000 from the Hualien County Government, given as “consolation” for all victims of the earthquake.
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