One-year-old Zoe Sophia and her mother have started the new year back in their home country thanks to the kindness of 7DAYS readers.
Last week we reported how the illegal immigrants (both pictured) faced a race against time to avail of a government amnesty for overstayers after being stuck, homeless in the UAE without visas.
After reading about the duo’s plight, readers stumped up cash to fly Balibat and her baby back to the Philippines to be reunited with her husband in time for the start of 2013. They celebrated new year as a family for the first time, in their hometown in San Marcelino, Zambales.
“My husband cried for joy as he saw his child,” Balibat told 7DAYS from the Philippines. “He thought he would never see Zoe. My baby was also very happy to see her dad.
“It is like a big thorn has been taken from my chest. I no longer live in fear. I can now sleep soundly and finally I can say, ‘my child has a home’.”
Balibat, 33, came to Dubai on a tourist visa in January 2011 to look for work. She initially got a job as a domestic help then picked up part-time work in a hotel but was never given a visa. Her husband was forced to go back to the Philippines one month before Balibat gave birth and he had never met his child.
Balibat and Zoe Sophia hit rock bottom a few months ago when they were thrown out of their accommodation as they could not pay the rent. For two nights they slept on a bench in an alley in Satwa.
Eventually, Filipinos living nearby gave them shelter.
Balibat said: “My baby and I really had a tough time but thanks to all the support we were able to pull through it.” And Balibat said she would eventually like to return to Dubai and work legally. Philippine Vice Consul Gerry Suliguin called on those staying illegally in the UAE to take advantage of the amnesty before the February 4 deadline.