SARAH BALABAGAN: Saved from facing a Death Squad to become a Missionary Pop Star

In 1994 BALABAGAN then a 14 years old Filipino-Muslim OFW killed her employer for raping her.  The incident happened in Al Ain, UAE.
In 1994 BALABAGAN then a 14 years old Filipino-Muslim OFW killed her employer for raping her. The incident happened in Al Ain, UAE.

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.

Complaints unheeded

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

Balabagan being shielded upon arrival in 1994 from UAE
Balabagan being shielded upon arrival in 1994 from UAE

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.

Actress Vina Morales as Sarah Balabagan in film
Actress Vina Morales as Sarah Balabagan in film

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.

William T. Gatchalian, Chairman, Willex Group
William T. Gatchalian, Chairman, Willex Group

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

Sarah Balabagan then and now (Courtesy of newsinfo.inquirer.net)
Sarah Balabagan then and now (Courtesy of newsinfo.inquirer.net)

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.

Modern Sarah Balabagan
Modern Sarah Balabagan

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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Comments 14 comments

writerjj profile image

writerjj 4 years ago

Very nice hub kabayan! Inspiring and comprehensive and with an added bonus of stumbling to another filipino hubber :)

Keep up the good work.


nick071438 profile image

nick071438 4 years ago from City of Catbalogan, W, Samar, Philippines Author

Thanks writerjj for the visit and for posting a nice comment.


precy anza profile image

precy anza 4 years ago from San Diego

Wow! And I remember her, it was all over the news. I was only 11 years old then. I also had watched the movie, "Sarah Balabagan Story." Reading this makes me want to watch the movie again. Great hub! :) Voted up!


nick071438 profile image

nick071438 4 years ago from City of Catbalogan, W, Samar, Philippines Author

Hi, precy! Thank you for dropping by. I hope readers would appreciate her effort to enjoy her just share under the sun.


poa 2 years ago

musta you


UAEnurse 2 years ago

Wow i knew her story way back then when i was on my elementary days. But only now that i am working here in Al Ain, UAE, and my co worker just mentioned her story to me (my co-worker is living and working here in Al Ain for 31 years now!) did i knew that it had happened here! I was so surprised beacause all along that i was a child and knew about Sarah Balabagan, i thought that her story happened in Saudi or somewhere else the Middle East! Oh well, i was just a child then. And now i became more curious about her. My co-worker even pointed to me the house where she was working and allegedly raped by her elderly employer... Thanks for your story, remembering her from my childhood days in the Philippines.


Jennifer 23 months ago

Maria, it was great meeting you and snhairg this experience with you as well. What a great weekend with MeRa and Brian. But I think the best part is the bonding we've all done after the workshop, the feeling of togetherness, and knowing we all have this community of women who get it and will lift us up when we need lifting, hold our hand when we need holding, and share and support always. It was and continues to be truly amazing. You are an extremely talented photographer and I am blessed to share this journey with you. ♥xoxo Marcy


Tdx 23 months ago

Marcy, I love the images you took of my fmlaiy. You are a wonderful photographer with a great eye. You can take this business anywhere you want to go! Thanks again for the beautiful images of my fmlaiy. These two that you put on your blog also happen to be my favorite.


Liam 23 months ago

wow!!! Christina Carroll!!! I have been FB buds with your dad for a year or so, but never found you on there. I hope you & your mom & brother are all doing well. You have an amizang birth story and gorgeous twins!!! You were always such a beautiful child & young lady growing up! I am so glad to have found you on here!! Congratulations to mother hood! It is challenging at times, but the rewards are worth every second! I hope to catch up with you some day! May God bless you abundantly!! HUGS sweetie!!Kellie


nick071438 profile image

nick071438 19 months ago from City of Catbalogan, W, Samar, Philippines Author

POA, whether or not the greeting was meant for me doesn't matter. I understand and say I'm fine and in good health and thanks a lot for coming over to post your comment.

UAENURSE, it's providential for you to be assigned in Al Ain and be afforded the chance to view with your naked eyes Sarah's employer house where she had encountered the sad encountered. I appreciate your comment and say many thanks for it.

JENNIFER, TDX and LIAM, thanks for coming over and using this facility as medium for communication. I only hope and pray you were successful in getting your messages across.


Jess 15 months ago

This story is realy inspiring and very knowledgeable for filipino like us, we should know the right of every one of us to fight for the truth and never be afraid..


Mel 15 months ago

Remembered visiting her in the Al Ain prison


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 15 months ago from Philippines

Sarah is an amazing and beautiful human being. Your story has done her justice. Do you know, she likes it so much, she linked it on her FB?


Roel 14 months ago

Sarah, celebrate your life on earth. Earn fame, money and fortune. Anything that our eyes can conceived. It's all yours. But renouncing your Islamic Faith is the foolest thing you have ever did on your life. Non-Muslims do not understand this, but what you did is so terribly wrong. I am praying for your soul as early as now Sarah. You might be happy, rich and wealthy now that you are alive. Goodluck when you die.

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