MANILA, Philippines — Sentenced to death for killing an employer she accused of trying to rape her, 14-year-old Sarah Balabagan became the public face of poor Filipino migrant workers who regularly suffer abuses abroad.
That was 13 years ago. Her execution by firing squad in the Middle East commuted, she is now a budding singer and TV host who uses her songs and story as weapons against labor abuses.
“They should not be afraid to talk and to fight, that’s the message in my songs,” said Balabagan, who has recorded two CDs focusing on her campaign and newfound Christian faith.
She has sold several thousand copies, mostly to Filipino migrant workers during concert tours, where she preaches the lessons of her near-death ordeal. In October, she visited Malaysia and Singapore, frequent destinations for Filipino maids.
At a Manila gathering of overseas workers in December, Balabagan and her band belted out a mix of songs and ballads.