Marimel Ansdell


As Interviewed by Alexandra Andsell, March 2012

Marimel Ansdell: In Her Own Words

My name is Marimel Ansdell. I was born June 4, 1964 [in] Tacloban City, Philippines. I had eight siblings. I went to school and I completed high school which was 7th through 9th grade was high school in the Philippines and then I went to college at Divine Word University and I completed freshman and sophomore and junior years but I didn’t finish my senior year because I had to leave the country to search for better opportunities. I was a working student. I had to work full time from 9 o’clock to 5 o’clock at the post office, then I had to go to school in college from 7am to 8:30 and then back again from 5:30 to 8.

If you’ve heard of Ferdinand Marcos, he was the leader when I was there. He was the leader when I was growing up. Ferdinand Marcos ruled for twenty years. Philippines is a democratic country, and it is a developing country. I could see the poor just getting poorer and the rich just getting richer, and it’s still the same way now -- there’s such a huge gap between the rich and the poor, just a huge gap. If you’ve ever been to the Philippines or seen pictures of it, there are some places that are prosperous, that are really good, and there are some places that are really [suffering from] poverty. No water supply, no education, children roaming around the streets

Heard of a corrupt government? That’s what did it! What I can remember is that I was a leader of our community. The Philippines is divided into regions which are divided into barangi which [is] called a village. So in our village I was one of the leader called [a] barangi officer and, when election time comes, we the officer has access to the wife. Ferdinand Marcos’ wife was from Leiti, which was my province. I came from Leiti. So she would go there and gather us there and they would give stuff to people -- like they would give money and food to people. We were happy to receive freebees. So, okay, if you vote for this party and if you receive these freebees, it was like a form of bribery. I didn’t know that at the time until later in my life. We did not see the long term effects, but we were just seeing the short term effects because we were so poor that, when we see something free -- rice, free food, free money -- it was like, okay, we have to vote for the party. We didn’t even know what is their goals and what their party offer[s]. We just vote[d] because we were told to. Before we got the food, we had to sign a paper saying we would vote for them. That’s how it got there, and the Marcos’ were exiled from the Philippines for stealing money from the government because they had so much influence over everything, businesses and all. Everyone was corrupt from the top down.

When there was a calamity, a typhoon or an earthquake or something, the power will go off, and the streets would be blocked with trees. There was this one typhoon where our roof got blown away and all the trees all over. When there was a disaster, food would be more scarce. So we really needed to really be prudent about our food. I remember that, when I was a kid, when there was a disaster, I did not stay home. I [would] go out and look into the streets and see what was happening. And sometimes there’s a lot of banana trees and papaya trees, and when they fall down, it was easy for us to get the banana because we didn’t have to pull it up high from the trees. So we just go over there and there’s banana, and people are grabbing things to store for food. I quite enjoyed it when there was a disaster, not knowing that it was hard for the economy and for the people. As I grow up, I realize how hard it was. Even the government would send out help for the people who was affected by the disaster, and sometimes it doesn’t make it to the disaster, to the people. The many middlemen in between takes a little piece of it, and then a little, and then, by the time it gets to the people, it wasn’t much -- it wasn’t enough.

My grandparents ran a restaurant, which means we had to get up at four o’clock. We had to walk towards where the restaurant is. My grandmother would have to go to the market to buy the fresh fish and all the supplies. She hired a chef and people who would wait [staff] the tables, and we were all up early because we had to cook and all that stuff. By seven o’clock, the food has to be ready because the people who goes to work, like bus drivers and travelers because we were near a station. The food had to be out by seven o’clock. We cooked the food hot and set it out on trays on a cabinet [with a glass cover] so that people could see it, and then we put it in a bowl and measure it. So we started at seven and finished at around ten to eleven o’clock, so it was very tiring. My grandparents were very hard workers but the only [problem] was that they were not good savers. So when they got old, there was no pension in the Philippines. There was nothing, so they had to depend on their families. That’s why they had to work hard, because they sent their children to school so that they could get education. My grandparents were not good savers because they spend the money for their children to go to college and become professional. And in the Philippines, at least where I grew up, my family values education. My grandmother and my mother told me that [you‘ve] got to get education, you’ve got to get education. It’s in you, it’s in your head, and nobody can steal it from you. It was a big thing for us to get our education.

We had a public hospital, which is of course run by the government, and private hospitals, which is of course privately owned, and so it is very expensive. Even now it’s not as advanced as here in States, but compared to the price, it was really cheap there. The public hospital, it had an okay service, but when you get to the hospital and you get to the operating room and the ward room, it was really full, Some people stay on the sides in the hall, and they have a roll out bed, and it was pretty disgusting for me to see some people with their legs hanging out into the hallways, some of them are bleeding, and they are on the hallways. It was pretty frustrating. I went to the hospital once, when I was run over by a jeep when I was crossing the street with my grandfather, and so I have a big scar on my forehead. I was six years old when it happened, and I was unconscious when they picked me up. So they took me to a public hospital. So they stitched the cut on my forehead. I was there for three days, and then it got infected. There was a puss inside my cut, and it wasn’t any better, so they moved me to a private hospital, and what they did was they reopened it to clean it out because it wasn’t done properly at the public hospital.