Interview With Jemina Sacro

Jemina Sacro discusses the various struggles she overcame to provide for her family in the Philippines.

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Born the youngest of 9 children in 1943 to plantation workers in Negros Occidental, Jemina begins by explaining that she was too young to remember anything from the second world war. Her mother stopped her education after elementary school. She then shares how she married her first husband on a whim at the age of 16 when he asked her to elope with him, and believes she was bewitched with a love potion. Though she despised him, she had 2 children, whom she was left to raise alone when he died 3 years into the marriage. 

    She then moved to Cagayan de Oro 1962, which provided better employment in the smuggling industry, that she enjoyed. Jemina worked with her relatives, bartering primary products from the Philippines for imported electronics with foreign vessels out at sea. The business allowed them to build their own home. She also met her second husband, a fishing boat captain, through the smuggling trade, and stopped her illegal activities after marrying him. 

    Her second marriage was joyful, and she had 3 more children. Life in Puerto with her new family was peaceful until illicit drugs entered the community. Her own son was arrested on drug charges and imprisoned, but he used his time in incarceration to upgrade his qualifications, even earning the trust of wardens. Unfortunately, he was killed after release in an act of revenge by someone he had assaulted in prison. Jemina also lost her husband to disease after 42 years of marriage.

Interviewee: Jemina Sacro                        Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya

Born: October 13, 1943

Interviewer and writer: Kisho Tsuchiya       

Date: February 28, 2020

Location: Puerto, Cagayan de Oro City 

Language: Bisaya


I am Jermina Sacro. I was born on October 13, 1943 in Negros Occidental. I finished only elementary education in Negros Occidental, and used to work as a waitress. I am currently a widow. 

 My father was originally from Negros Occidental and my mother was from Talisay, Cebu. They both met in Negros Occidental as workers in a hacienda owned by a person from Spain. My father was a tractor driver. And my mother stopped working after having children. They had 9 children, of whom I was the youngest. I am the only one who is still alive among them. I was born during the World War II, but was too young to remember anything about the war.

We lived in barrio. Unfortunately, I was only able to finish primary education because my mother did not let me proceed to secondary education. She just let me stay in our house. I lived idly until I met my first husband.

I think I met my first husband when I was 16 years old. I am not very sure because I didn’t bring my marriage certificate here. Moreover, after migration, I never heard any news about him. I remember though that my friend introduced him to me. I didn’t mind him and didn’t really have any feelings for him. 

One day, my mother asked me to go fetch water because back then there were still no faucets in our house. While I was coming back to my home with the pale above my head, he suddenly came out of nowhere and asked me to elope with him. I didn’t k know what got into me, I placed the pale beside the street and went with him. At the time, this kind of things often happened to young people. We married in a civil wedding but during our marriage I started hating him. Some say I was tricked and was made to drink a love potion. I believe them because when we got married, I felt like the love potion was losing its effect. My first marriage was not a happy one. I despised him and spit on him when he tries to touch me. He didn’t provide me with money either. He died when I was 19 years old but not before having 2 children with me. 

I decided to move in Cagayan de Oro City to start a new life. Soon I came to like this place. In Negros, I was disappointed because I couldn’t pursue second education so that I would secure decent job. But, to come to think of it, there wasn’t many choices for jobs. Women could only be tailors after high school education. In Puerto, it was easy to make a living. 

At first, I tried to sell used clothes. This didn’t work out as business, and I shifted to smuggling TVs. What I enjoyed most in my life is smuggling. By 1962, It was already a thriving business in Puerto when I came here, and my best friend invited me to this business. I started smuggling with my mother’s siblings, nieces and nephews, and raised them all here in Mindanao. Our business was successful, and we were able to purchase our own house in a few years. Then, I invited all of my relatives here. That’s why, when they were alive, they admired me a lot!

We rode a motor boat to the ship to sell local goods such as fish, banana, pineapple, beer, bedsheets, and Coke in exchange with Japanese and Korean imported goods like TVs, ramen and cigarettes. It was barter. We were 5 people in the boat with 1 of them is the boat’s operator. We divide the goods from the ship to the five of us.  We then sell imported goods to the locals with a higher price to earn profit. My life got better gradually, I started to canvass goods from the ship and sell to different places. I sold random things such as television, used clothes and such. I was saving a lot of money from it.

Among my family members, I was the only one who was constantly involved in smuggling. They didn’t think of working. After many years, my niece and some others went  back to Negros, because they like it more than Cagayan de Oro. 

I stopped working as a smuggler when I married again. My second husband was an answered prayer. He was really kind, gentle and caring even though he was 10 years younger than me. Our marriage was unplanned also. We were introduced to each other when we were in the smuggling business. My mother convinced me to marry him. I agreed because he was a kind man. It was the best decision of my life and I couldn’t ask for a better man to marry. He worked as a captain in a fishing boat. They go fishing in different places like Cebu and Bohol. They get the salary every after 1 month of fishing in the open sea and it was better than the smuggling business. We were able to save money to be able to buy a house and fetch my parents, nieces and nephews from Negros Occidental. We took care of them through a little of my husband’s salary and my own savings. We had 3 children with my husband but one of them died because of an incident.

Puerto was a peaceful place back then but started to be chaotic when drugs started to circulate around.  It was known to me that my son was already involved when he was caught and imprisoned. He was still a good man inside the jail. They call him their ‘’mayor’’ because he was trusted by officials there and often receive foods and give some to his friends inside the jail. He even graduated high school inside the jail because of his good performance. When he was freed, and continued studying vocational studies offered free to him by TESDA but was not able to finish because he was killed by someone he punched when he was still inside the jail. It was revenge but fortunately the man who killed him was caught.

My husband was devastated and depressed. He died of a heart attack and never told us that these heart attacks were already happening for a long time. We were married for 42 years and he died at age of 67. It was really devastating for us. I can’t say much of how good of a father and husband he was to me and my children. I still cry whenever I remember him. I just pray that he is doing fine in the hands of God and for him to guide us and his children.

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya

Interviewee: Jemina Sacro

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Transcript Notes


  1. How were the experiences of women in the postcolonial and contemporary Philippines shaped by their cultural and religious background?

  2. Consider the degree of agency they had in shaping their daily life experiences.