Lelanie Narciso Adalla owns the co-op in Philippines that makes the majority of our beautiful pearl jewelry. We’ve been working with Lani since 2005.WE asked Lani to share with us her life story. The majority of what follows is in her own words.
Lani was the last child of ten born to a family in a small rural province that was one hour by plane to Cebu, Philippines. There they lived in a plywood house with no door, no bathroom, no running water. Her dad worked as a driver. She remembers always being hungry.
“Everyday [dad] send us to school with a wrapper with corn meal in it. That was our food for the day. We had no breakfast. Many times I wanted not go to school. I wanted to find a way to help. To get money. Have food. Dad and mom said, ‘‘No Lani, you must finish school. Education very important, hunger comes and goes.’
“When I went to school my lunch was rice, and my ulam (topping) which was left over candy or sometimes dried fish or the leaves from a casava plant. We walked 4 kilometers (2 miles) to go to school wearing regular rubber slippers (flip flops) during grade school.”
Lani grew up without enough money for food, clothing or shoes. They used coconut milk for shampoo, a detergent bar for body soap, and salt for toothpaste. Sometimes they would chew guava leaves to clean their teeth, and if they didn’t have a toothbrush they used their fingers.
“During high school days, we walked 12 to 13 kilometers (7 miles) to school. We don’t have enough money to pay for tricycle every day. We tried to help load the train with sugar cane for transport just to have extra money. But I had an accident because of that. I fell down and hurt my chest. My chest got swollen and we don’t have money to go to the hospital. My father helped me using herbal medicine that he gets from the mountain.”
“High school was the first time I ever got shampoo and toothpaste,” Lani said. “I was 17. My teeth have many problems by then. Most of my teeth now are not real.”
“We never complained or got mad with our parents because we know how hard they worked to provide food for us,” she said. “We know they love us.”
Part two of Lani’s story coming next week.
[Note: We wanted to put pictures in this part of Lani’s life story. Only when we asked her if she had any she laughed and said, “oh no, we do not have money for pictures.”