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The Tropical Breeze: Geraldine's story

Following is the story of a rescued girl, Geraldine. Told in her native Philippines dialect of Ilongo, it is translated here for you.

September 2014

I was seven years old when my mother left to work as housemaid in Manila. I had to look after my three younger sisters and older brother. But he soon left to live with relations 70 kilometres away.

My mother left because father only relies on her earnings from doing laundry for other people. She also tried manicuring nails to earn more income.

When my mother got to Manila, she started to send money every month. Father always got the money and used it to buy rum to drink with his friends instead of buying food. Three months had passed and mother heard what father was doing, so she stopped sending the money. That was the last time we heard from her. Later, we learned she was living with another man and pregnant with his child.

Father hardly came home. When he did, he was always drunk. He came home very late and did not bring any food. He would kick the walls and wreck the roof, which was already leaking very bad. When it rained at night we had nowhere to go so we huddled together trying to find a dry spot to sit and go to sleep. We tried to protect our youngest sister because she was too small to handle the cold, she was only a month old when my mother left.

Most times we go to sleep without any food, waiting for father to bring us food. We wake up hungry and often go up to three days or longer without real food. We picked edible leaves off trees, called 'bago', to cook to stave off hunger. We learned that people in the market will buy these edible leaves. We tried picking the leaves and selling them. We were proud to earn some money to buy rice and told father about it. He took the money and bought rum for himself. We went home crying and hungry and ate more of the bago leaves.

People saw me and my sisters sitting on the ground, around the cooking pot, eating these leaves. A couple of people living nearby saw us sitting there eating the bago, and felt pity for us. We were able to eat good when you guys stopped in with some food, when you passed by on their way to town. Father started to brag saying he does not need to bring home food anymore for there are people feeding us.

Our living condition got really bad. The house was collapsing and there was hardly any roof left. You gave us a tarp to cover the roof to keep the rain from getting us wet. But instead of fixing the roof or putting the tarp on, father took us to his friend's house to spend the night with his friends. The old man seemed to treat us well, giving us hot chocolate drinks before we went to bed. We did not know he was putting sleeping pills in the hot chocolate to make us sleep. Most nights when we slept in this old man's house, I could hear my sisters cry out in the dark. When we woke up in the morning, we found it very strange that we were all wearing the old man's clothes.

There was a bunch of earthquakes several times a day for over two weeks. You guys found us wandering around on our own when most people had moved to higher ground in fear of a tsunami hitting the lowlands near the seashore. Then you picked us up and took us to your home. My father did not even ask about our whereabouts or look for us.

Thanks for reading my story,


Geraldine's letter / TheTropicalBreeze.org
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