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Fedelina Lugasan

1936-2020

In Tagalog, nanay is a loving way to say mama. Fedelina was and always will be nanay to so many people.

Fedelina was born in a rural area in the southern Philippines. When she was a young teen, she went to Manila and applied to be a domestic worker. She worked for a family, cooking and cleaning for them. When they moved to the United States, Fedelina went with them. Her responsibilities grew. She took care of the children, did the laundry and shopping. She woke up before everyone else to prepare the meals and went to sleep only after the house was scrubbed clean. Fedelina was never paid for any of her work. She was not allowed to eat meals with the family and she was only permitted to sleep on the floor. Her “employers” threatened to have her arrested if she tried to leave. They took her passport away from her and forced her to become undocumented. Fedelina was what is known as a modern-day slave. She was enslaved for 65 years.

In 2018, the FBI learned of Fedelina and called the Pilipino Workers Center to help rescue her. At first, she didn’t want to leave. She was scared, unsure about her future and even worried that no one would take care of her employer. It took many visits from the PWC to convince Fedelina that she deserved a life of her own. When she walked out of that house, she was 83 years old, and ready for freedom.

Once she was free, Fedelina enjoyed karaoke and meditation, movies and coloring books. Fedelina had her first manicure and marveled at how soft her hands could feel. She spoke out against human trafficking and was reunited with her sister after 65 years apart. She was so happy.

Nanay Fedelina was in a nursing home when COVID struck. She had just started her new life. Just started sleeping in a bed and breathing in fresh air. She had just begun to live, when COVID took her.

Nanay, you will live on in our hearts forever.

Listen to Fedelina’s friend talk about how she escaped being a modern day slave.
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