SARAH BALABAGAN: Saved from facing a Death Squad to become a Missionary Pop Star
Sarah killed her employer
REMEMBER Sarah Balabagan? Let’s have a flash back of her past. From a Muslim community in Sultan Kudarat , Mindanao, Philippines, she left her 13 siblings and parents to work as domestic helper in the town of Al Ain, UAE. Sarah who was then 14 lied about her real age so she could get work. August 16, 1979 is her birth date. On July 19, 1994, Sarah stabbed to death 34 times her 85 year-old employer ALMAS MOHAMMED AL-BALOUSHI, alleging he tried to rape her.
Sarah attended household work not only for her elderly employer who was a widower or a divorcee, but also for his 4 sons. Just a month and a half before the incident, Sarah went to the work agency that had brought her there to complain about her employer’s abuses and sexual harassment. But her plea fell on deep ears. She was, instead, advised to give in to her employer’s wishes. “Nobody takes my side. This is hell”, Sarah lamented.
Guilty of manslaughter and a victim of rape
What’s surprising is that any of the 4 sons didn’t show hatred to Sarah. They were convinced that their father was to blame and that he was capable of doing the act.
The court ruled a verdict on June 26, 1995 that she was guilty of manslaughter as well as a victim of rape. For manslaughter she was meted 7 years imprisonment and was ordered to pay $40,000 blood money to the heirs of her victim. At the same time, she was awarded $27,000 as compensation for the rape
Death by firing squad
The prosecution appealed the verdict, calling for the death penalty. A 2nd Islamic court on September 6, 1995 favored the prosecution. It found no evidence of rape and convicted her of premeditated murder. She was sentenced to die by firing squad. Meanwhile Sarah languished in the Al Ain Central Jail for 2 years while both Philippine and Arab authorities examined her case.
The case set fire to international outcry. Defense rallies were carried in several countries, calling for her freedom. The Sarah Balabagan’s case symbolized the inhuman treatment given to domestic workers in the Middle East.
Vina Morales acted as Balabagan in the film
Sarah's life was set into a film entitled, "The Sarah Balabagan Story" in 1997. It was directed by Joel Lamangan with Vina Morales in the lead role. The release of the said film for showing was delayed for months because of several blocks made by the Philippine government because of its fear that it might damage relations with United Arab Emirates. This film earned for Sarah some $92,000 as payment for granting the film outfit her life story, according to GOLDSEA Asian-American News.
Her sentence was greatly reduced
The succeeding events smiled at Sarah. UAE President SHEIKH ZAYED himself appealed for mercy, resulting in the victim's family agreeing to drop their execution demand in exchange for blood money. On October 30, at her third trial, her sentence was reduced to one year imprisonment,100 lashes, along with payment of one million Philippine pesos blood money, which was donated by a Filipino businessman William Gatchalian
She returned to the Philippines on July 31, 1996 and honored as a heroine
Still sick inside, she don't know what to do with her new-found freedom
Sarah’s love life is as dark as night. Wikipedia stated impliedly that she was abused as a child by an uncle way back home . She became a single parent after a brief relationship with a broadcasting journalist who sired her a girl, Arrah, now 12. In August 2003 she married Russell Vergara. She bore him two kids, Russell, Jr. and Saira Lyn.
Sarah seemed lost on what to do best with her new-found life. She took up mass communication course in Manila but had to quit the course when she got pregnant in 1998 with her daughter, Arrah. She began to struggle with suicidal tendencies . She saw her marriage fall apart and end in divorce. She confessed she had no idea how to handle the responsibilities of family. She thought she was okay but deep inside her was yet unhealed. Success to her was meaningless. She wished she had died in the UAE.
With a new faith, she's enjoying a new career
Then a ray of hope burst in. She started seeking the help of a psychiatrist. Her fellow recording artist Dulce Amor referred her to a therapist who was well versed in the Christian faith. And she likewise submitted herself to counseling from a pastor who told her that the 100 lashes she got on her back don’t compare to the punishment Jesus received on the cross, but Jesus took it out of his love for her. The message struck Sarah’s heart and decided to give her life to God. Sarah renounced her Islam faith and was converted to Christianity in 2003.
Now armed with a strong faith in God and having a peace of mind, Sarah is engaged in singing and TV hosting career, making her songs and stories as weapons against labor abuses. Sarah advised OFWs not to be afraid of to talk and to fight which is the message of her songs. She has recorded 2 CDs focusing on her campaign and her newfound Christian faith. Thousand copies of CDs were sold to migrant workers during their concert tours. She and her band had already visited Malaysia and Singapore. Last December in Manila where OFWs were gathered, Sarah and her band belted a mix of songs and ballads.
President Estrada shook hands with Sarah Balabagan before TV cameras. ERAP announced , “she is now a celebrity”.
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