Note: Charie is a family member of one of the young women we’ve been following for The Long Rescue. She’s 24 years old, living in Cebu, Philippines with her husband and two young children. I asked her to write a description of her life during the pandemic and how they are surviving after the devastation of Typhoon Odette. She wrote in her native language, Bisaya. Gladys David translated, and I have lightly edited for clarity. Photos and videos are also contributed by Charie. (Charie is not her real name, and pseudonyms are used throughout to protect the identities of Charie’s family members. ) -Jennifer Huang
Our life as a family before the typhoon was difficult, but we were able to cope with problems and challenges. I already have two kids and am six months pregnant now. My husband, Mikel, works to feed us all. He also supports his siblings. We are living at his aunt’s house. Our day-to-day lives are hard due to the pandemic. Mikel’s business is what we have been depending on; he makes cockfighting spurs for roosters. Work has been very slow to the point where we barely had anything to eat.
I have to bring my daughter for a checkup almost every month due to her asthma. She is always coughing, perhaps also due to the place where we are staying. The surrounding area is very dusty since we live at a carpentry shop, and Mikel’s business is also dusty and creates fumes. We struggle to buy food and pay for electricity and water, even more so if our kids get sick.
At this time, we are looking for a house where we can live since our current place is about to get demolished. Unfortunately it’s very hard to find housing. I fear that our expenses will increase while we are renting, plus electricity and water bills, our food everyday, and my husband is the only one who has work out of all of us. We have no one else to depend on, we don’t have parents we can turn to. My mother is far from me since she was imprisoned (drugs), and I grew up without a father.
When Mikel was 16 his father passed away and he became the breadwinner of his family. He continues to support our children, some of his ten siblings, and sometimes four of my siblings as well. We’ve cared for as many as eight children since I started living with him when I was sixteen. His mother is far away in Bantayan since she remarried, so it has been hard that there’s no one to guide us but we were able to cope. We entrust everything to God and we always pray.
It would have been okay to not have parents to guide me because I have my siblings around me. My younger brother and two younger sisters were living with us, after our grandma kicked them out when they reached fourth grade. But not anymore. I am happy because they are in a place for a better future -- they went back to living with our grandmother. I miss them so much. But I am not on good terms with my grandmother, and we haven't spoken for several years.
I would be happy to have my big sister, Dolores, around. Before, she was always there for me when I needed her -- and when she needed me I was there for her. But things changed the day she lost her beloved husband to Covid on August 24, 2020. After that day happened, she started changing her life. She is not thinking straight anymore and is acting irrationally. I feel so sad for her, and especially for Rosamie, her three-year-old daughter.
Dolores has been leaving Rosamie here with me. She goes somewhere she doesn’t come back for several days, even a week. I always beg her to stop that and focus on her child’s future but she doesn’t listen to me. She used to be my super big sister, my best friend, but she changed.
Even though she’s like that I still love her. I want what’s best for her and I miss her very much. I just hope and pray she comes back to be a better big sister Dolores someday.
To read how Charie and her young family survived the destruction of Typhoon Odette on Dec. 17, please return to the blog next week, Dec 24, 2022, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.