Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sarah Balabagan (born 1979 August 16) (her surname is pronounced with the stress on the third syllable) was a Filipina prisoner in the United Arab Emirates whose case caused a good deal of controversy in 1995-96. Her story was made into a controversial film.
Her case in the UAE
She was born and brought up in the Muslim community on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Like many Filipinas, she left to become a domestic worker in the UAE, lying about her age. In 1994 she stabbed her employer to death while defending herself against a rape attempt. In 1995 a court sentenced her seven years imprisonment, but a second trial a few months later sentenced her to death by firing squad. There was an international outcry and a defence campaign in several countries, as her case was seen as symbolising the ill-treatment of domestic servants in the Persian Gulf countries, and just a few months earlier there had been the rather similar case of Flor Contemplacion, a Filipina domestic servant who was hanged in Singapore.
A few months later her sentence was reduced to a year's imprisonment and 100 strokes of the cane. She was caned in 20 strokes at a time, over a week in January/February 1996. She returned to the Philippines on August 1 1996 for a heroine's welcome.
In 1997 her story was made into a film, The Sarah Balabagan Story. It made in the Philippines, directed by Joel Lamangan , and starred Vina Morales in the title role. Sarah was offered the chance to play herself, but declined. The government of the Philippines made several attempts to prevent the film from being shown, because it might damage relations with the United Arab Emirates, and its release was delayed for several months.
Shortly after her release she embarked on a career as a singer. She also appeared on a television programme with Geri Halliwell. In 1998 she became a single parent after a brief relationship with a broadcasting journalist. In August 2003 she announced her engagement to Russell Vergara.
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