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Pinay's Real Life Drama on the High Seas |

Pinay’s Real Life Drama on the High Seas Pinay, Feature, Life, Reflections, Filipina, OFW Pinay, Feature, Life, Reflections, Filipina, OFW
Anna Liz Cabrido

In 2003, Rebecca Catedrilla, in her 40s, left the Philippine island of Mindanao to work abroad—not for greener pastures but to hide herself from the shame she brought to her family.

“I am not proud of what I did but I am proud of the lessons I learned,” she said.

Back then, she decided to leave her parents and work abroad after they got mad at her. They found out that she was having an affair with a married man, a big slap for her pious family, especially for her father who is a trusted elder in their church.

Her Pinay’s real life story is a life-changing journey, laden with anxiety, difficulty, courage and finally, redemption. She has since reunited with her family.

In her desire to run away from her past, she decided to tag along with other Filipinos to travel to Malaysia. They had an employment agency work out their travel details as well as where they would work.

It wasn’t smooth sailing. Before the ship departed, she discovered that her papers were faked. The ship captain agreed to put her, along with the other illegal passengers, behind a close door at the bottom of the ship. Unfortunately, the Malaysian authorities heard that their ship was carrying undocumented passengers.

“We were told to jump off the vessel because the Malaysian authorities were coming, and if they discovered that we didn’t have proper documents they might put us to jail or worst they might kill us,” she said. “At that moment, I wish I didn’t leave home.”

She refused to follow the ship captain’s instructions but she and her companions were thrown out to the sea anyway. The border guards saw them and opened fire. Rattled and nervous, Catedrilla swam for her life and moved away from the ship as fast as she could. She recalled playing dead when she heard a series of gunshots from the Malaysian authorities.

It was discouraging, the wind was cold and it was dark. But when she saw the stars, towering above her, “That’s when I realized I should never give up,” she said. “Good thing, I knew how to swim.”

Pinay, Feature, Life, Reflections, Filipina, OFW


She paddled for hours until she noticed an island nearby. Tired, hungry and desperate, she gave all her strength to get near the shore.

A Malaysian couple found her the following day. Despite their language barrier, she was able to relay what happened to her. They let her stay at their house for days and helped her find a job as a household help to a known family in the village.

At first, things were working out until she noticed the family didn’t allow her to go out. Catedrilla thought it was normal and they were just protecting her because she had no legal documents. “They locked me inside the house,” she said, recalling eight years of working without pay.

Until one day she met a friend of her employer, Ms. Chin (not her real name). She asked her friend if Catedrilla could help clean her house. It was the break she needed. She believed God sent Ms. Chin, who worked for a government agency in Malaysia and later assisted her in reaching out to the Philippine Embassy, to help her.

Over time, Ms. Chin, who had a property in Brunei, brought Catedrilla with her to be her household help. She later allowed Catedrilla to go back home to the Philippines and confront her past and seek her parent’s forgiveness.

“I know they are suffering too because they might think I am dead for I haven’t contacted them for years,” Catedrilla said. “I want to see my parents alive.” She finally did and praised God for being there for her. “The emotional battle I experienced became the opening for God to come in,” she said as she threw a glance at the table where all of her family and relatives gathered to celebrate her safe trip back home after eleven years abroad.

Catedrilla is preparing to go back to Brunei to fulfill her two-year contract. This time around she is not running away from anyone.

Sparkle and Shine Like Rebecca!

Anna Liz Cabrido is a blogger based in the Philippines’ South Cotabato. She has written stories on mountain climbing and Philippine culture. All photos were provided by Rebecca Catedrilla unless otherwise noted.  


Anna Liz Cabrido

Anna Liz Cabrido is a contented 32-year old single lady and a proud South Cotabatena, whose home province, South Cotabato, is known as the Land of the Dream Weavers. When not in her writing mood, she is offfor another traveling experience---to islands in the sun, to a grand or street food trip, happy when in a tranquil vacation with her best travel buddies. Visit her blog at


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