A 59-year-old transgender Filipino American has still not been found after she went missing at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Texas while on a layover on the way to Mexico almost one year ago.
What happened: Paula del Mundo, a nursing assistant at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida, was last seen wandering inside the airport on Sept. 14, 2019, according to Asian Journal.
- Airport cameras show she was not carrying any luggage even though her sisters say she brought her yellow Nautica trolley bag.
- Del Mundo planned to visit Cozumel, a resort city in Mexico as a way to treat herself, Inquirer reported.
- She reportedly visited the Dominican Republic in the last two years.
- The day she went missing, del Mundo contacted her sister, Lolita, and told her about her plans to abandon her trip.
- “She even relayed her last messages to my youngest sister Lolita, for her to get her return ticket back to Tampa. However, when my sister was about to confirm, Paula could no longer be contacted. It was tough because we feel she does not deserve to vanish and leave her family worrying for her,” one of her sisters, Yolanda, from New York, told Asian Journal. “It was supposed to be a scheduled vacation treat to be in Cozumel, Mexico where all her travel and accommodation expenses [were] already taken care of.”
- All of del Mundo’s five sisters became worried and contacted DFW to request them to page their sister.
- The Malaya Movement, a human rights activist group located in Texas, managed to locate the last spot where del Mundo was last seen through the help of caseworker Caiti Le Ward.
- Ward was able to locate del Mundo’s last spot when she exited Terminal C at 7 p.m. and went near the Exit Area where the Office of Airport Public Safety is located. The trail went cold after 4 a.m. on Sept. 15.
Search for Paula: After not hearing from their sister, Lolita and Yolanda went to the DFW search on their own on Sept. 20. The DFW Airport Public Safety was the first to help the family with the missing person case.
- Her family also tried to connect to the local LGBTQ+ community.
- The all-volunteer Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons conducted an intensive nine-person search with K9 dogs, motorized boats and aerial video cameras on July 25 and July 26.
- Del Mundo’s family also hired a private investigator, but the PI reportedly ran with their money and never did his job.
- “Later, we found out, we were scammed and demanded a full refund of the one time upfront $5,000 demanded from us for the investigation services,” Yolanda said.
Who is Paula: Del Mundo, who is the ninth out of 12 children, came to the United States at the age of 48. Two siblings have passed away.
- She stayed with her sister, Leonor, in California for seven years.
- Her sister also sponsored her nursing assistant studies.
- Del Mundo, who was the top of her class, was immediately hired as a caregiver.
- Her other siblings are Erlinda, who is in California, Lilia and Lolita in Florida, Yolanda from New York, and Susan and their eldest sister and two older brothers in Manila.
“We never lose hope. We never cease praying. We regularly pray the holy rosary as a family both in the U.S. and Manila with our special intention that she may be found safe,” Yolanda said. “We continue to believe that one day a miracle is bound to happen.”
“Every cloud has a silver lining,” she added. “There is always light at the end of the tunnel. And as our family tirelessly pray, whatever the consequences will be, may justice be served for trans Fil-Ams like Paula whose only wish is to reach her American dream.”