Hilaria Capara, 84-year-old, lives in Western Leyte. She has three children who all have their own families. Her two sons are in Manila and her daughter lives next door to her. Her daughter and family were living with Hilaria after Yolanda, but she wanted things to be quiet so they moved next door. She has 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

“I was born in Eastern Samar, where I married and had my children. When the children were still small before they had started school, my husband left us. He died soon after. When he left us, I took my children and moved to Manila to work as a tailor in a dress-making factory. It was there that I learned how to make clothes. I earned enough from that to support my three children. During our time in Manila, we also went to Saudi Arabia for two years where I worked as a seamstress too.

I left Manila when my home there burned down. My daughter’s husband is from Tacloban, so she moved here and brought me with her. I worked in a dress-making shop up until two years ago, but I stopped because the cutter in the shop went abroad and I didn’t like his replacement. Then I started my own clothes-making business in my home.

Before Yolanda, I was living alone in a home close to this one. It was completely destroyed. My daughter’s house was also destroyed. We lost all our clothes, the refrigerator, and the electric fan. Everything was washed away. Looking at our house, you might think that it wasn’t destroyed by Yolanda, but everything has been rebuilt. The water flooded through here and it was over my head; I was clinging to some electric wire. Some men rescued me. They said to me, ‘can you swim’? I said, ‘I’ll try’. They said ‘OK, hold onto me’ and took me to higher ground. There was nothing to eat, nothing to drink – nothing at all.

After Yolanda, at first we sheltered in a little hut, then we pooled together relief from different organisations to rebuild our house. We rebuilt it little by little. Initially it was for me and my daughter and her family, but then the church gave her another house. Before my daughter got the new house, there were ten of us living in two small rooms. It was very crowded there, but we survived. After a few days, we were given rice and other food. I was given a green card from the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Philippines, which meant that we would get continuous support and relief assistance because we were identified as a vulnerable family. But then they took away my card because my daughter also had one. I don’t understand this, because I live alone, not with my daughter. Even before Yolanda I was not earning enough so I ate meals at my daughter’s house.

When my house was destroyed, my sewing machine was also washed away. I spent the 20,000 pesos livelihood grant from HelpAge-COSE on equipment like scissors, needles, elastic, zips, thread, buttons, chain, an electric fan and sewing machine parts. I spent more than 1,000 pesos to fix the sewing machine. The assistance really helped because now I am able to work again. Before the assistance came, I wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t even have any thread, so I couldn’t work and no work meant no income. I am happy that HelpAge-COSE helped me because I don’t receive any pension at all. Now that business is good I don’t spend the income I get from dressmaking, I save it all. I am afraid to spend it on anything, because I might lose it.

Sometimes my grandchildren come and ask me for money and they cry if I don’t give them any, so I try to help them. My daughter used to have nine pedi-cabs, which she would hire out for 50 pesos per day each, but only three are functioning now.

I have arthritis in my feet and legs, but I exercise it with working at my sewing machine. My arthritis got worse during Yolanda and afterwards I found it difficult to walk.

Before Yolanda, food was my primary concern. I could not afford food all the time. It became even more difficult after Yolanda because I had no income. I am already old and can’t do much.

Now, I do spend some income on my daily needs, but anything I have left, I save. Sometimes I eat with my daughter’s family if I don’t have any food. Also, if I’m busy and I don’t have time to cook, I eat with my daughter. Otherwise, I cook for myself.

Hilaria-feature-image3When the school term started again, I made some good sales from sewing children’s uniforms. I earned enough income to make some new items for my home like seat covers and curtains. I also bought materials to fix my house such as more galvanized iron sheeting.
Caption: Hilaria shows the school uniform she made using the repaired sewing machine through the conditional cash transfer – livelihood from HelpAge COSE

My daughter bought a brand new sewing machine and I have been teaching her how to use it because my arthritis has been getting worse and it has been affecting my work. I am glad she already has an interest in tailoring. She may then help me with my work or continue what I have started if my feet no longer cooperate with me.

I do not wish to be rich. As long as I have enough to eat each day, I have no worries. I don’t like to worry because it causes me pain. If I have no money, I don’t sit and think of money, I work. Until the end, I want to work; work and work.

I am grateful for what I have received. Thank you for this blessing. I was worried about how to buy the thread and everything else I needed, so thank you. May God bless you.”