Good morning Manila. 5:30 a.m. Well rested for another day, not really. The nights and days are really hot. It is summer in Manila and around 40° Celsius. I learned that the normal body temperature in the Philippines is considered to be 37°. In Germany I was used to 36° body temperature.
Where do you sleep?
Malia Luna and I stay with our remaining two cleft patients and their parents in the St. Joseph Transient House in Quezon City Manila. This place is run by the ICM-Immaculate Connception Missionary- Sisters. It is for the less fortunate people and their relatives who come from far away to Manila for operation. The relatives wait here until the patients get discharched from hospital and then the patients stay here until they recover or in some cases they stay for month and wait their turn for operation. Many different characters and energies come together.
The cost are really low. It’s converted 2€ a person for the night accomondation and food. It is a cheap stay and therefore everyone has to join in and help. Cooking, cleaning, sweeping the ground outside and some other chores.
There are two dorm style rooms. With 10 and 16 beds. We stay in the bigger room, which is luckily not fully booked. It is 10 of us in this room. We put two beds together, where Malia and I sleep with Charly and his mum Norlita. Both kids spin around all night and we parents just adjust to the remaining space. So you never know where your head is and whose feet are next to your face.
Day and night it is so hot. First time that we sleep completely without any blanket. Ms Mel from NCFP had mercy on us and brought two extra electric fan. Which I really have to protect. Noone would take my fan but the one for Norlita and Charly was taken a few times. Survival of the fittest. This fan makes me so grateful every day and night. I am honestly not sure how we could cope without in this heat.
Can you get a good night sleep?
Not really. I get up at 5.30 am try to do some work and get some writing done. As soon as the kids are awake, they are with me. The parents of the others patients seem not to care too much about the activities of their kids. I had one mum, her son was in a wheelchair after breaking both legs in the Yolanda taifun in 2013. The boy and his mum lived here for several month. The mum would leave very early to go to the market and when her 5 year old son woke up, he would just cry for her. So I got him out of bed and tried to occupy him for a while. He was a real chatter box and there was no way to concentrate with him beeing up…and he used to wake up at 5:30…so I had to start my day even earlier. When is mum was not at the market, she would just get him out of bed and put him next to me on the table and leave without saying a word.
I am also not used to all the noise. We are next to a big street and one can hear the traffic very loud all day and night. Inside we have several kids and babies, so waking up three to four times a night is very common as well.
Oh and the light. It is never really dark. The street lights can be seen all night and in addition they leave the light on in the toilet. This is because every one is afraid of the ghost, which almost everone has seen, smelled or heard so far.
How about the other people living there?
People come and go. In February my whole Bohol group of 23 people was staying here. At the moment there are next to Malia and me five of our friends of Bohol and 13 other people staying. There is one family with three kids. The older one is four years old and Malias friend. She seemed used to to be on her own. Her younger twin sisters (15 month) where joined on the chest from birth. They were just recently seperated in Taiwan and they stay here in the Transient House for observation. The parents probably are overwhelmed with this tough situation and the twin are getting all their attention. They recover well but the older sister is missing out a lot of her childhood. She is very strong and climbs obstacles very easily. I can see that she is used to do a lot on her own. Other social tasks like communication, comprehension and social interacting are not very strong. In the time I am here I also work on this skills with children and parents. But it is very difficult when the parents are not interested in joining in. And mostly it is the parents who would bebefit a lot on improving this skills.
I am used to mosquitos at dusk and down but here there is one hour at night that must be the mosquito hour. They attack and are really nasty and make it hard to sleep. There are mosquito nets on the windows but they don’t really stopp them.
Each dorm has two toilets and showers. The shower is philippine style, where you use a dipper (like a cup) to poor water over your head. Annka, the photographer stayed here as well one week. She asked me at the very first day about the smell: ‘The shower is used as a toilet as well, right?’
There is no toilet paper provided. Philippine style is using water and the dipper. The toilets are shared with a lovely cocroach family. They became our friends and we were watching them growing from the size of a walnut to the size of a memory stick. It seems like the philosophy of the less fortunate is ‘Live and let live’. Noone would think of killing the cocroaches…or maybe the people here are just tired of getting rid of them. The next ones are coming anyway.
How is the food?
The Food is very basic. There is plenty of rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The side dish is very limited and usually not enough for all. Sometimes the taste is really ok. However most of the times I am very impressed that noone is complaining. Water is fetched from the nearby school, someone has to carry it every day. Malia and I eat sometimes at least one meal outside the campus. And sometimes I use my money and buy some fruit and vegetable and cook together with the patients. For around 30€ I am able to buy a lot of goodies and everyone is enjoying the fresh and nutritious meal.
Is there really a ghost?
Islanders are much more open to ghosts and their stories around. I was told about a young girl that was seen from almost everyone here, crossing the dorm at night from prayer room to CR and backward. I was told about coffee smell, candle wax on the ground, crying at night and more.
Early morning on my 34th birthday, around 3:30am I see one of the mums crossing the dorm going into the CR. I wonder why she would come over and use the CR in our dorm, but I don’t show her that I am awake, because I want to go back to sleep and not talk at this time. I go back to sleep, not waiting for her to come out again.
Next morning I asked her why she would use our CR. She told me, she did’t come over at night. I asked: ‘When did you change, last night you were wearing your red shirt?’ Her friend said: ‘No, she did not waer the red shirt.’
I have seen her in her red shirt crossing the room entering the CR. But I did not wait for her to come out. The older woman explain, that ghosts sometimes change apparence, in this case to someone I would not be afraid off.
I investigated about who had lived here before and who had died. So I was told about a young woman, named Joy who lived here last year. She had cancer stage 4 and stayed here for quiet a while. Shortly after she got home she died. Joy was 34 years old when she died.
I don’t know whether it is true or not. I know that sometime I can feel a shiver here and I have accepted Joy to be part of the group here.