Ana discusses her early life, her arranged interfaith marriage to a Muslim man, and how she was deprived of her dreams of becoming a teacher; living a life of hardships instead.
Interviewee: Ana, born 1967
Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya Interpreter: Marjorie TsuchiyaWriter: Dominique Jonietz O. Lucagbo
Date: August 29, 2019
My name is Ana, 52 years old. I was born on August 6, 1967 in Agusan, Tin-ao. I graduated primary school in Puerto Elementary School and reached just up until 3rd year high school in Bugo City High School. My mother was a market vendor in Puerto’s market, she sells vegetables and fruits purchased from the farm and sell it in the market from 5am to 6pm. My father then was also a market vendor together with my mother, but most of the time he is an herbalist or sometimes called folk healer or “albularyo” in our term. An “albularyo” is a witch doctor who heals people using herbs and traditional practices such as massage and the like. My father’s patients are usually just his neighbours who have trouble affording legitimate medical services, or those who are very traditional and/or superstitious. Many would call my father to heal their sickness and diseases, because aside from the ability of my father to heal, they also prefer this because it was a cheaper alternative to medical doctors. This was their livelihood until they died.
I grew up here in Puerto and just had a year vacation in Negros Occidental. Then I temporarily lived in my brother’s house in Surigao and studied 1st Grade and 2nd Grade there but went back to Puerto again when my father died. I was sad when he died because despite his strictness, he was a responsible father to me and only wanted what’s good for me. I remembered the times when I was still a child, my father would scold me whenever I acted, talked or moved like a boy. My parents had 5 children who are all girls and my father, despite of really wanting a son, didn’t want his daughter to be a lesbian. Well, luckily for him, I grew up liking a boy and even had a boyfriend for 5 years but that’s another story to tell. After my father died, we went back to Puerto and I continued studying financed by my mother still as a market vendor. But due to my mother’s age, she had to go to Surigao in my brother’s house and my brother took care of her. I had no one to finance my studies and I was already in 2nd year high school. I tried to be a working student in Bicmar Company, a company producing plywood. But I quit my job not too long after, because I was unable to do my studies and work at the same time. So at 3rd year high school I stopped studying and just worked as a dishwasher and as a helper of a market vendor. I had lots of work in my hand just to be able to buy food for myself. I also worked as a waitress in a “karinderya” or a food chain, and even signed up as a watcher on strangers who wanted someone to accompany their patient in the hospital. I did everything I could and it was hard having no high school diploma. But even through all of this, I was able to find someone to be with. I had a boyfriend who I met from my high school. We even reached 5 years together but sadly our relationship still ended because he had impregnated another woman. I was heartbroken and mad, and so I went to my sister in Zamboanga City where she lived there with her Muslim husband, despite the fact that we were Christians. Her marriage was arranged by my mother before she died.
It was not common for Christian girls to be married to a Muslim. But in my case, my sister was able to arrange a fixed marriage with my husband Andy. He belonged to Moro an ethno-linguistic group which is called Samal. Our marriage was not legal if seen in the Christian’s perspective. There was no wedding that happened in a church or in their mosque instead we did a ritual in their house with few guests as our witness. Married life with Andy was no fun at all. We don’t own a property of our own to live and just lived with my sister’s house in Zamboanga but soon moved back again to Puerto. My husband was of no use because he was irresponsible and just drinks alcohol. He also had many girls and just sells sacks of sand used in making cement that they dig.
So far I learned that life really isn’t fair. And my life is constantly bombarded with unfortunate events that made it hard for me to get a better living, but I know that whining won’t change it so I know that I have to work hard to at least be able to live a comfortable life.