Portrait 25: First time I met Charles, we had gun man following us.

How we met

I was told about a boy with cleft in Inabanga, which is around 1 1/2 hours away from Pangangan Island. It is complicated to find the house, so someone had to accompany me. We prepared for the journey and I asked to call up the mother to make sure she is there when we arrive. It was a very hot day. Malia felt asleep in the car. I carried her to the hut where I met Charles for the first time.

Charly was very shy, the food he was eating came out of his nose and through his cleftlip. I noticed a small wooden stick that was used as a earing. Hundreds of flies were attacking my legs. Just standing there I could feel the hard live and the struggle.

The little hut were Charles lives with his three siblings and his mother is not bigger than 2×4 meters. I entered the tiny house and almost bumped my head into a chicken nest which was hanging in the corner of the room. Later I found out, it was the chicken of Charlies late dad. The chicken’s name is Marcia.

The mother was not there. She is working on the rice field they explain to me and maybe she is ashamed of her dirty clothes. I tried to explain the grandmother and the sister what kind of support we could offer. They didn´t speak any english. I ask the nurse who is assisting me to explain everything. But I can see that she is not translating everything I say and that the relatives of Charles say yes yes but they didn`t seem to understand everything. I ask Christian, a half german half Filipin, who had accompanied me to Charles house, to make sure that they really understand what I am trying to explain. He is the one who suggested that we go to the rice field so I could speak to the mother.

It is very hot and not an easy path. With Malia on the shoulders we walk with our flip flops to the rice filed. This is where I met Norlita for the first time. Norlita is a very pretty and small woman, widow and mother of four little children. She was working all by herself on the rice field while the sun was burning down. And again while stading there and talking to her, my feet got attacked by animals, this time by ants.

I was told, that Norlita had never left her town and that she probably will hesitate to bring her son to Manila. She talked a lot in Vissayan and she immediatly agreed to come.

I still wondered, I am coming all the way in the heat with my daughter. I had her called so she knew that we come and still she was not in the house.

Two month later in Manila she told me why she didn´t wait in the house. Her neigbhors were teasing her that she just wants to have a good time going to Manila and that she is not thinking of her son. She also told me, that she had given up any hope. More than three times before a mission had come and promised an operation for Charles. More than three times she went by bus to Tagbilaran for x-ray. It is over two hours by bus and each time she had to vomit due to car sickness. More than three times her hopes were raised and then she was let down again and again. One time Charles was underweight, than his x-ray was not good or he had a cold. One time the doctor even told her off, why she would not take better care of her son. More than hree times…when he was one year old, three years and four years old. Norlita was tired, she just had given up hope. She told me only when she saw me, the foreigner with her daughter on the shoulders, standing in the sun in the muddy rice field…only then she believed this time it might be different.

On the way back from Inabanga, our driver told us, that we had been followed by gun men. Probably watch man who where send to controll the area and to check what the foreigner and a car were doing there.

Idea © Rucksack Coach – Foto © Ann-Kathrin Lange.

Report © Rucksack Coach – Text © Annie Lulu

Translation: German

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