By Mildred Caranto
SANTIAGO, CHILE – It was a typical weekend off work for Norma Alforte. She met friends and went to a Christian Church in downtown Santiago.
She spent the day with friends in Escuela Militar and agreed that a friend would sleep over at her employer’s house in Americo Vespucio.
“I could be dead as well if I did not change my mind,” her friend recalls.
Around 8 pm that night a speeding silver Subaru Legacy ploughed into a bus stop killing Norma and Maria Jose Zarzar.
This is the first time a Filipina worker has been killed in Santiago in more than ten years.
“It was an untimely death, a very tragic one.”
The consulate of the Philippines in Santiago held a memorial mass for Norma at Parroquia Italiano Parque Bustamante, the venue for the Filipino community Christmas party.
“Miss Alforte was a member of our community here and in honoring her contribution we are giving her a eulogy.”
In October 2014 Norma joined her older sister, Tess Pillos Palma who is married to a Chilean national. She was the seventh of eight children. She easily adopted Chilean life but her mother is not well so she was planning to go back to the Philippines next year, her sister Tess said.
“It was her first time to work abroad as a nana here in Chile. She decided to move here with me for a new opportunity,” her sister added. “To sustain the family’s needs and of our ailing mother.”
Tess Pillos Palma was notified by her sister’s employer Sunday evening right after the accident took place.
Alforte worked for the Gonzalo Martins family in Americo Vespucio for a year and a half. Her employer saw the accident on a CCTV camera but was not aware that it was Alforte.
“I went down to cover the body in front of my house not realizing it was her. She was face down and breathing but not moving. I told her, “the ambulance is on the way, hold on. I went inside and asked my wife if Norma was home. We checked her room and realized something was wrong. I went down a second time and realized it was Norma,” Gonzalo Martin, her employer, said.
“I was shocked and repeatedly told her please be strong. Feleo and Matias need you, they love you so much please remain breathing we are here for you…”
“She is a very lovely woman. She treated my kids very well. She was a jolly, hard worker. My family always felt like she was a member of the family,” Gonzalo said.
“You would not hear her complain and often she was very shy when we offered her something or gave her something for her good work. She would do anything to help you.”
The family of the other victim, Zarzar, a newly graduated psychologist who had just visited her parents, was shocked by their daughter’s death.
“We’re all trying to deal with a tragic event,” the family said.
Jose Palma, Norma’s brother-in-law, said the family in the Philippines was notified about the funeral arrangements and about plans to open an account for Norma to help with the finances of returning her body home and to help pay for a lawyer.
“There are going to be a lot of expenses, we will not be able to afford all the finances,” Palma said.”
“She is a very generous sister. She sent all her money to the Philippines to help everyone with their finances,” her family said.
Her friends shared their memories and showed photographs of her and posted their last moments with Norma.
“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time will come — that we begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”