Love letters and memories: Marriage so good it’s absolutely made in heaven

Finding your perfect match and sharing a journey to ‘forever’ still exists. “Getting married is fate. It just brought us together.”

She was a lovely village lass teaching in a public school in Tantangan, a small town in Mindanao, while he was a rising hotshot lawyer from Manila. The backdrop was the in 60s and the only way to travel was by ship that took weeks. It was amazing how their worlds were brought together with such distance and barrrier between them.

But fate intervened, their two paths crossed and they found each other. We all love stories like these, but double that giddy feeling when you know them well.

Paulo Coelho wrote, “So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.” This is what exactly happened to Pio and Minda.

Pio Marinas, a lawyer by profession, hails from Natividad, Pangasinan. After finishing his law degree from Manuel L. Quezon University and passing the bar exams, he worked in an insurance company in Manila. His nephew, then the mayor of Tantangan, encouraged him to move to Mindanao. He thought it was a good idea.

When a position in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) opened up, he took the opportunity and got assigned in its satellite office covering Tantangan town and Koronadal City. Imagine the ship sailing and you are on to your journey courtesy of (to borrow from a popular local movie) this thing called tadhana (fate)?

Luzminda Cueva’s family moved to Tantangan in the late 50s where she finished a 2-year Elementary Teaching Course and was offered a job in a private Catholic school in Koronadal. She took the job to complete a bachelor’s degree in Education from the Notre Dame of Marbel College (now a university).

She was 25 and he was 27. She is third in the family of five and he is the youngest in the family of nine.  

“I like her eyes. They’re beautiful”, Pio said of their first meeting. He added with a laugh, “Look at her. Even when we are old, it is still the same.” It was love at first sight for him. But she was not easily taken. Minda thought he was a palikero (ladies’ man) coming from Manila.

She even knew that he has eyes for other women in town. “I was skeptical”, she added with a laugh. Her parents also warned her to be wary of him. The lovers’ date weekends were often at Capitol Restaurant, then the most popular place in Koronadal, eating pancit canton.

Mayor Torres eventually stepped in and urged Pio to pursue Minda seriously. Upping the ante of his efforts, everyone got won over, including Minda’s parents. The courtship took eight months. Only then did she realise he was so different.

She recalled with a smile, “He sent me love letters everyday for the entire period he was wooing me.” No day was missed.

The carefully preserved love letters survived 50 years. Very much like their relationship that turned gold.

Handwritten, the letters expressed Pio’s passion and love for her. They were delivered to their house by a boy every 3:00 pm, rain or shine. The letters we lovingly kept for 50 years and still in good condition! Just like the love they have for each other. Pio also visited daily in the afternoons after work, prompting her parents to be slightly annoyed.

But Minda got impressed. Who can do such things with commitment and persistence? “He was there when we needed something done. He even helped us pump our Petromax at night”, she said. Without electricity, most of the houses in the 60s were lighted up with gas-fueled Petromax lamp.

Small efforts win big, remember that. In life and in winning the heart of your somebody special, it still works. Take it from Pio.

On 16 September 1967, the two got married in a simple ceremony attended by families and close friends. After the marriage, Pio became a revelation to Minda. “For one who grew up in the big city, he was unexpectedly hardworking and dedicated. He would clean the house when he got home early and would even prepare his own clothes, to lessen my burden”, she shared.

The courtship lasted for eight months. Quite a record in the conservative 60s. Their uncle, Mayor Torres, said why would they wait if they love each other.

He even took care of her family, especially her mother. “One time my father kept forgetting using his medicine for his allergy. Pio promptly took over and made sure he did not miss it three times a day. He also supported me in helping my siblings”, Minda shared. Those small acts built their relationship’s strong foundation.

Used to a frugal life, Minda budgeted their income carefully. “I grew up from a poor but hardworking family so every centavo counts. I took care of our income well. With our savings, I started investing in mortgaged lands and together, we started to learn about farming. Pio would be sunburned biking to our farms everyday and he never minded”, she continued.

At one point, they were able to acquire 20 hectares of rice farms mortgaged to them. “I realised I never had any issue with him. It was a very easy relationship. We understood each other and thrived on the journey as husband and wife. There was balance and we supported each other’s plans.” 

She added, “I cannot remember us fighting that much. Pio would always be the patient one to wait until I calm down. We always settled our differences right away.” Some girls have all the luck.

Pio said in reflection, “This once more proves that a woman can make or unmake a man. We were having good income but she knows how to take care and make it grow. She is very responsible. We did really well financially because she knows how to manage what we have.”

They bought their very first car, a Volkswagen Brazilia, with their hard-earned income. Minda found it funny now that she was too shy to ride the car. It was among the few ones in town. After three years, they started seeking medical advise to start having children. Lillian came first on 1970 followed by Marlowe on 1972.

From left: Marlowe, Minda and Pio, Lillian and Charlene. “We are blessed. We cannot ask for more. God is so good.”

Five years later Charlene was born. With all of the children leading successful family lives and career, both Pio and Minda claim this as the highest point in their marriage. Lillian, married to Rhodel who is an Anesthesiologist, is a successful businesswoman taking the reigns of the investments they acquired through the years. Marlowe, married to Kaye, is a Primary Care and Geriatrics Practitioner in the US and Charlene is a bank executive based in the United Kingdom.

Sharing a laugh with grandson Boris.

“We were often overwhelmed how God just made things fall into place in our life – from the very start how we met to how we started our life together in Tantangan until we moved in Koronadal City when he became the general manager of South Cotabato 1 Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Socoteco-1). God has impeccable timing in our lives”, Pio added.

So, a perfect marriage is possible. They both quipped they had their challenges, too, but they were both mature to face them, “There were a lot of ups and downs just like any other couple. But we have more petty arguments now that we are older than when we were younger. Maybe because we have time for each other’s differences. But nothing really serious. We always laugh at the incidents. They were actually silly lovers’ quarrels.”

Their most heart-wrenching challenge was when Pio underwent a heart by-pass surgery in 2010. People who loved, from different parts of the world, them joined them in prayers for his speedy recovery. He did. “I appreciated more that Lillian and her family never left the country and lived close by. God really plans well and took care of us”, he said.

On 2017, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Koronadal City attended by family and friends. “I never even imagined we would come this far. We even celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when my mother was still alive. That alone was an unforgettable blessing”, she added.

Do they still have a dream for themselves? “We’re more than fulfilled, we cannot ask for more. God gave us beyond what we prayed for.”

Yes, marriage made in heaven still exists. It may not be for everyone, but ‘forever’ and everlasting love do exist.

The brood has grown through the years with four grandchildren.

The nuggets of wisdom they learned from their journey together:

  1. Marrying the right person is fate. You just find each other. When you find that person, treasure him or her as a blessing in your life.
  2. Marry only for love. Never get married if you do not love the person. If you love him or her, the rest of the journey will be easy. The challenges will be bearable because you share it together.
  3. Never hurt a woman. If you hurt the woman you love, you also suffer. Men might not accept it but if they look into themselves inwardly, the pain is deeper.
  4. Expect marriage as hard work shared together. Even small chores at home that are shared becomes precious memories. They strengthen the bond.
  5. Be thankful. Having a beautiful marriage and a wonderful family are a privilege given by God. Material things are just secondary.

This part of their their vow to each other during their 25th wedding anniversary still rings true until their golden years, “May you remember today the promise we made, to be faithful to each other regardless of our age.”

The Marinas family during their 50th wedding anniversary. They have four grandchildren, two boys from Lillian and two boys from Marlowe.

As the former general manager of Socoteco-1, all its staff became part of the family.

More of the author’s stories here: Cecil Laguardia @ Medium

Manic for organic: The Victor Neal Palarca success story

Victor Neal “Loloy” Palarca won as 2015 Best Presenter and Best Learning Site for his farm at the Mindanao Zonal Assessment of Learning Sites on Organic Agriculture by ATI Central Office.

By Vic Thor Palarca

Defying most conventional beliefs on agriculture and challenging traditional farming system, he dared to demonstrate that growing food and eating them fresh in one’s backyard can be done—regardless of location and circumstances.

Testing the Waters

Tagcatong, Carmen, Agusan del Norte – A businessman almost all of his life, Victor Neal Palarca, or “Loloy” as he is fondly called, envisioned being healthy and disease-free. When he ventured into farming, little did he know that his lifestyle and attitude towards mindful consumption of anything organic will change him and his family for the better.

Recalling his childhood days, Loloy says, “I remember the basics of gardening because in my elementary years, gardening has been a constant activity back then, next to going to school and playing. It makes sense to me now that I realized it was an integral part of my daily routine”.

At first, his challenge was not his hometown’s bleak agricultural scenario but the prevailing frame of mind among residents that their soil is highly acidic and is not suitable for farming. Most seasoned farmers ahead of his time have been steeped in traditional farming system using harmful chemicals like pesticides and insecticides.

Will he be able to convince his own neighbours and his community in general that going organic is the way to go? After all, his savvy entrepreneurial skills leave less to be desired now that he has stepped in to a venture which is relatively new to him.

Shattering expectations

His farm is now a Learning Site of ATI in the CARAGA Region in the Philippines. It is composed of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur provinces.

Loloy’s integrated and diversified organic farm right in his own backyard silenced skeptics and cynics alike because of the farming technology he has learned in his involvement with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) via the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture (OA) Program. As a training participant, he made sure that the principles and knowledge he has learned is put to practice. Testing those principles is highly imperative because he believes that what works for other farmers might not work for him.

One of the immediate steps he did to avert the soil problem was to apply Bio-Char, a pulverized charcoal which serves as an agent to neutralize the acidity of the soil. The application of carbonized rice hull and bokashi also greatly improved the condition of his soil since it functioned as soil conditioner to amend mineral deficiency.

He also put up a water pump in the middle of his demo farm to keep his leafy greens hydrated and for the convenience of watering his plots of vegetables and rows of root crops.

Meanwhile, aside from the trainings he gets to attend, he reads online materials and research findings to further enhance his knowledge on organic farming with US Department of Agriculture and Philippne Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST) as his frequently visited websites.

It was only in 2011 when Loloy started his organic farming operations since his demo farm was originally planned as a leisure farm on an experimental basis. He now produces vegetables and root crops such as carrots, squash, bitter gourd, cucumber, tomato, eggplant, okra, lettuce, malabar spinach, ginger, string beans, bell pepper and sweet potatoes.

He has a fully utilized 500 square-meters of sustainable integrated organic farm which is now also a sprawling breeding ground for his 60 native chickens, 10 organic-fed large whites and three Anglo Nubian goats as part of his livestock entourage. His cooped native chickens are bordered with madre de cacao trees which at the same time serve as forage for his Anglo-Nubian goats. The litter flooring of his piggery consists of rice hull mixed with salt and effective microorganisms (EM) to combat foul odor.

Acquiring a 3,000 square meter land for expansion, he plans to expand his demo farm by having a fruit orchard.

Loloy is about to forge a partnership with FeedPro, one of the leading commercial feeds in Mindanao which boasts of its natural feed ingredients for their “Baboyang Walang Amoy” campaign project. Perhaps, his efforts to make hog raisers adapt his prescribed technology for an odor-free community paid off.

A Social Message

He is working hard for the farm to become a full-pledge Agri-Tourism site in the Philippines.

Loloy’s drive and resolve to eat nothing but the best has rubbed off on to his family since his wife and kids (and a handful of nieces and nephews) help him tend and manage his garden. The value of organic farming have now secured a spotlight among his circle of farmer friends since he serves as Vice-President to the organized Tagcatong Diversified Organic Farmers (TADOFA) with 23 active members.

As part also of his civic responsibility, he shares his knowledge and expertise to anyone interested in OA through techno-transfers and on site lectures in his demo farm since Loloy happens to be a member of the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council (MAFC).

He makes himself visible by regularly attending trade fairs and agri-business events nationwide as well as the Regional Organizational Meeting of Organic Farmers as organized by Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office in Caraga (DA-RFO-XIII). He concurs that through family farming, the members of the family will be encouraged to promote farming as a key solution to food security.

Aside from the health and practical reasons, Loloy advocates OA because of the following reasons: it promotes sustainable use of natural resources; it is economical and cost-efficient; it helps reduce hunger incidence in the countryside and it protects the environment and all the farm produce is safe since it is 100% organic and is pesticide-free.

To date, Loloy markets his season’s harvest at a reasonable price in his community and to an expat who is a regular patron. Although he does not rely on his harvest to financially support his family since he has a thriving garments business, Loloy admits that his organic farming venture is for keeps. “I want to make a bold statement that organic farming is here to stay and that it is neither a fad nor a trend because it sustains our well-being as well as the situation of our environment. For me, that is worth investing in our time and efforts”, he adds.

The Farming Saga Continues

Loloy’s humble agricultural venture has grown into a haven for every farmer in the country.

So far, Loloy has already attended several workshops and training events relevant to his organic farming venture which was made possible by ATI’s intervention and support.

The technologies he apply on his demo farm were the very technologies he got from his trainings complemented by his research of the latest breakthroughs in organic farming on the internet.

I was motivated to show and convince my farmer colleagues that farming in your own yard is viable and can be done despite odds and unfavorable conditions”, he enthused. What made the difference were the diverse farming technologies he applied to suit and work well on his farming needs.

Some of his best farming practices include the use of Effective Microorganisms (EM), Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) for his piggery, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Oriental Herbal Nutrients (OHN), Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ), Fish Amino Acid with molasses as natural plant fertilizer, Inoculants to enhance and condition the soil and seaweeds as wonder plant food.

Meanwhile, Loloy takes pride in his practice of zero-waste farming which helps him and his family in disposing/recycling their waste products. He practices crop rotation and does not follow the traditional farming calendar.

There is no denying that Loloy’s venture to organic farming is a deliberate and decisive approach to support sustainable agriculture as well as promote family farming in his community.

With a new attitude and outlook to growing his food and eating them fresh too, Loloy is confident with the way things turned out and content with the very soil he have grown to cultivate.

“I want to make a bold statement that organic farming is here to stay and that it is neither a fad nor a trend because it sustains our well-being as well as the situation of our environment. For me, that is worth investing in our time and efforts”

Freshly-picked dragon fruits grown from the Palarca farm.


Vic Thor A. Palarca is one of the content developers of ATI-Northern Mindanao. As their Media Production Specialist-II, he writes news articles, features, success stories regularly as well as video scripts as part of his annual targets. He is also involved in coming up with Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, corporate newsletter, coffee table book and courseware development.

He is in-charge of the production and publication of BAHANDI, a coffee table book and collection of inspiring stories in farming in Region-X as well as contributed to the conceptualization and publication of e-Extension AGENDA, the official publication of the Agricultural Training Institute for e-Learning. He assists in the conduct of trainings by his peers and sometimes serves as a Resource Person. He was once an information services agent of the defunct Knowledge Products Management Division (now Information Services Division or ISD) and have brushed elbows with the Central Office peeps but decided to pursue the countryside to live the provincial life.

A self-confessed 90’s pop crusader, he is soulmates with Shannen Doherty and Tom Hardy. He is a full-time uncle and a part-time loon. He enjoys cafeteria conversations and deja vu. He is allergic to Mathematics. He ships regularly to the charming island of Camiguin. He can be predictable judging by his habitat and niche namely bookstores, libraries and book nook at home. His brain is pretty much scattered.

Did you share your blessings this Christmas? A village could be waiting for you.

Celebrating Christmas with the children of Lamtabong made December 2016 an amazing one!

Celebrating Christmas with the children of Lamtabong made December 2016 an amazing one! Photo by Loel Palma.

“We make a living by what we get; but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

A child's simple dream of a happy Christmas can be in your hands.

A child’s simple dream of a happy Christmas can be in your hands. Photo by Loel Palma.

I should challenge you – do it next Christmas. If you aren’t into it yet. Find the time. It could become your life’s best time ever.

A quiet revolution led by baby boomers and millennials is happening that does not get on the already-too-crowded headlines nowadays. A friend’s working children saved for a year from their salaries to sponsor a simple gift giving activity in a nearby orphanage. A family brings children from their poor neighborhood for a chicken and spaghetti meal in a popular fast food chain. A group of high school friends pooled their resources to buy goodies and a variety of food for children and their families – this one needs credit for their coordination efforts bringing their Christmas treat in a far-flung mountainous village.

We have been sponsoring the Christmas Party of my sister’s grade 5 pupils with small gifts and food for 10 years now. This year, the 44 children ate a simple party meal and went home smiling with school supplies as gifts. We encourage other relatives and friends to do the same in their own impoverished village schools. Sharing the event on social media does not mean you are flaunting your efforts of giving back but actually challenges and inspires others to share. Imagine the chain reaction if people respond to your call to action?

The boys enjoyed the snacks brought for them during their Christmas party. Even the simplest efforts can mean a lot to many children.

The boys enjoyed the snacks brought for them during their Christmas party. Even the simplest efforts can mean a lot to many children. Photo by Loel Palma.

Lamtabong Elementary School is located on the foot of a hill and is part of Barangay Lambingi in the municipality of Banga in South Cotabato in Mindanao, Philippines. With close to 300 schoolchildren studying in six classrooms, two are newly constructed and four are run-down, every class has at least 40 children. One of the classes is on morning and afternoon sessions. The school’s recently assigned principal Christopher Pelayo said the kindergarten class with 29 children has to hold their classes in a makeshift room in the middle of two rooms.

Next Christmas, don't leave a child sad and hungry. You can help in your own way.

Next Christmas, don’t leave a child sad and hungry. You can help in your own way.

“We have to survive with the P14,000 (USD290) monthly operating expense budget provided to us”, Pelayo added. That budget he explained covers small maintenance and repair work, travel expenses of teachers on trainings and meetings, school supplies and other needs. With six teachers under him, they creatively find ways to address their school’s needs. The village is composed of a majority of B’laan tribe who eke out a living from working in nearby cornfields. They can hardly buy their children’s school supplies. Most of the farms were gone, the village is surrounded with banana plantations.

Rebelyn, a 29-year old mother of two said their meager income comes from doing farm labor such as weeding, planting, putting fertilizers or pesticides and harvesting at P100 ($2.5) per day. They usually are able to work for 10 days in a month, if they get lucky. Pelayo said a Christmas celebration is a luxury the villagers cannot afford. On the school’s Christmas Party last week, the teachers have to contribute for the children to share bread. Many did not attend he said because they have nothing to bring.

Rebelyn (far right), a 29-year old mother, is grateful of people coming to help the children. "We want our children to have better future than ours."

Rebelyn (far right), a 29-year old mother, is grateful of people coming to help the children. “We want our children to have better future than ours.”

Our visiting group, composed of cousins and nieces, brought biscuits and juice for the children. It was unforgettable how the children’s and parents’ faces lit up as they all lined-up for their share. Josie, 35-year old mother said it was the first time a group has come and made the children happy. “It is your coming here and sharing time with us that’s important”, she added. Many of the women marry as young as 12-16 years old for lack of opportunity to study further beyond elementary. Rebelyn said, “Marrying is the only option for us. What do you do? We want our children to do better than us.”

Kindergarten teacher Amalia Dizon, 43, said it is difficult to watch children come to school often without lunch. A mother of two, she said it is painful for her to think of the hunger these children endure. “My husband and I cook extra food on schooldays so I can share it with my pupils. It is not much but it gives me relief that we can eat together. The rest of the teachers here do that – even buy supplies for their class so they can use something”, Dizon added.

Kindergarten teacher Amalia, 43, shares one has to have a heart for children to endure the challenges. "We often bring extra food as many of them are hungry. How can they learn if their stomach is empty?"

Kindergarten teacher Amalia, 43, shares one has to have a heart for children to endure the challenges. “We often bring extra food as many of them are hungry. How can they learn if their stomach is empty?”

Pelayo’s Christmas wish is for additional classrooms to be built. He holds office in a thatched roofed hut that also serves as the feeding center and meeting room. He worries where to keep the computer equipment when they are able to avail of them. “We do not have electricity and internet yet but we are finding ways”, he shared and added, “But foremost in our priorities is the classrooms where children can study and learn well.” He is hoping that generous individuals will take notice and help improve the children’s learning facilities.

It is not too late to check in your neighborhood and find a way to share. Make a child happy. Talk to the public school teachers of the children’s needs. Our own humble gift giving started when my sister Nanette, a public school teacher, told me 10 years ago that she got moved when saw a girl help her gather the leftover after she cooked bihon (rice noodles), brought bread and juice packs for her pupils. Then she asked her if it was fine for her to bring home the leftovers. “For my sister”, she told Nanette.

This boy was born without his left arm but goes to his kindergarten class regularly.

This boy was born without his left arm but goes to his kindergarten class regularly. Photo by Loel Palma.

Just a tip when sharing, make sure the food and supplies you give are sensitive to children coming from different tribes and religious affiliations. The last thing we want in a classroom is to isolate or leave a child behind because the food or gifts are not acceptable for them. Can you imagine if we can bring children in the cities to share gifts to children in the villages? Both groups will surely learn from each other and kindness sown while they are still young. One thing is very certain though, the fulfillment that you will feel is priceless.

Note: If you want to donate to the school, please contact school principal Christopher Pelayo at mobile # +63-930-1855714 or email him at You can also leave a message in the blog.

MORE TIPS when planning for a reach-out activity

Children in Lamtabong school eagerly wait for their gifts. More than the material gifts that you can share is making them feel that you truly care.

Children in Lamtabong school eagerly wait for their gifts. More than the material gifts that you can share is making them feel that you truly care.

  • Ask your public school teachers where your need is most needed. It doesn’t have to be on Christmastime. Some people would collect for June and give school supplies at the start of the school year.
  • Be practical of what you give. Pooling resources together to renovate a classroom or provide a much-needed blackboard, sports equipment or teaching supplies would be for long-term.
  • Be conscious that children come from different tribes, beliefs or religious affiliations. Check if what you’re giving can isolate other children and make them feel that they are not included.
  • Brief your group before you arrive. Check if everyone is dressed appropriately. Let them know if there are some sensitive topics or actions they should not discuss. Do not come with any agenda except to share from your heart.
  • Check the security situation. Do not take it for granted that because you are from the neighboring place, everything is secure. You do not want to put your family into a risk and make it a traumatic incident for everyone.
  • Make sure everyone is in the mood for the activity. More than the gifts you are sharing is showing that you truly care and you respect everyone participating, including parents and the children themselves.
  • Do not assume you know better. The people in the village (or barangay) knows their situation and needs better. Do not impose on what you want. Respect on their situation is very important.

Is there any lesson you want to share in your reach-out activity? Please share with us!

More photos from Lamtabong below:

This school's makeshift building that serves as the principal's and teaching force's office, feeding center and meeting room.

This school’s makeshift building that serves as the principal’s and teaching force’s office, feeding center and meeting room.

School principal Chris Pelayo rides on his motorbike going to the school daily and crosses this hanging bridge.

School principal Chris Pelayo rides on his motorbike going to the school daily and crosses this hanging bridge.

Make it a family affair! Teaching your children to be generous can be done in many creative ways. They'll love it!

Make it a family affair! Teaching your children to be generous can be done in many creative ways. They’ll love it!

Chris (far right) tapped into his own family support group to help the children in his school. You'll be surprised how your family can rise up to the challenge and show they care.

Chris (far right) tapped into his own family support group to help the children in his school. You’ll be surprised how your family can rise up to the challenge and show they care.

A couple’s journey with Davao City’s Badjaos

Here’s a story about a couple’s amazing dedication to help the Badjaos in Davao City

Pastor Jun and Daisy: Can you help them build a dream school for the Badjaos in Kanaan?

Pastor Jun and Daisy: Can you help them build a dream school for the Badjaos in Kanaan?

MANILA, Philippines – “Is that all there is to it?” asks Pastor Felicisimo “Jun” Morales, 59, to himself.

An old Badjao beggar named Johari that he met in 1990 changed his life. Pastor Jun said this was his first reaction – pity, which led his family to give him food, clothes and basic things he needed.

But another question popped on his head with nagging frequency –“That’s all?”

What he did next, along with wife Daisy, 54, was an amazing journey of courage for this often-disparaged ethnic minority.

Reliving the 8 years they have spent in Kanaan.

Reliving the 8 years they have spent in Kanaan.

A couple’s journey

They lived with them for 8 years in Kanaan (Erratum on original story: Kanaan not Isla Verde), located near Davao City, to help understand their culture and find ways to help them.

“We came without conditions. We just lived with them, built our own house among their shanties and tried to do what they do daily,” Daisy says with a smile of the memory.

She says: “People might have thought we were crazy giving up the comfort of our home. But back then it was not. The coastline was pristine and the sea breeze was refreshing. There was no way we can help them without fully understanding what their culture is.”

Said to be mostly from Sulu, the Badjaos are known as sea gypsies – their lives depended mostly from the sea’s fishing resources. But with the growth of commercial fishing, many of them went out of work and resorted to peddling and begging in the city’s streets. There are over 500 of them in this area alone.

Day-to-day challenges

Daisy recalled that with the epidemic of head lice going around, she got busy helping the women remove them from children’s unkempt hair and learned to use an improvised comb for sweeping the parasites.

CHALLENGES. Daisy taught the Badjao community basics on hygiene

Daisy taught the Badjao community basics on hygiene

“We lived, ate, shared stories and shown our sincerity to be with them. Over time, we have won their trust and respect, which are the most important of all,” Pastor Jun adds.

Food was always a challenge in the community. The Badjaos prefer fish paired with grated cassava, and are the main staple. Rice is hardly affordable.

Pastor Jun and Daisy set-up free clinics with the help of friends, and assisted the families in sending their children to a nearby public school.

“Helping them intermingle with the bigger community was a challenge. Most of the time they were avoided and considered different,” Daisy recalls.

Keep reading in Rappler.

To help, please email Daisy Morales at or send us a message here in istoryya.