Typhoon Haiyan: Elderly Woman Becomes Breadwinner


At 61 years old, Marlyn Iradiel looks frail and when she walks, her back hunches a bit. Hard lines are visible on her face. She talks in such a soft voice that you have to inch closer to hear her better. 

But her looks and gentle demeanor betray her resolute spirit to surmount the challenges super typhoon Haiyan dumped on her once quiet life. 

Marlyn lost her house when Haiyan battered her hometown of Malinao in the province of Aklan on Panay Island in the Philippines. During the storm, her husband, Edelito, 59, became so nervous that he suffered a stroke. It left him paralyzed.  

Edelito used to lead an active life as a farm worker and carpenter. Now, while nursing her husband, Marlyn also had to take over the task of earning for the family. 

Despite her age, she now works on rented farmland planting rice, coconuts and bananas. Marlyn only expects to harvest eight sacks of rice, which would mostly go to their own food consumption, along with the bananas. She may earn anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 pesos (roughly USD22-USD33) from coconuts every three months.  

Marlyn shows no hint of anger or bitterness for how difficult her life has suddenly become after Haiyan. She is more concerned about how her husband is coping with his condition, not just physically, but also psychologically. 

Edelito, being a former carpenter, wanted so much to be in charge of rebuilding a new house for them. 

“If only I’m not like this now, in this state, our house should have been rebuilt by now. I feel for you – that you are assuming the role that I should have been fulfilling,” Marlyn recalls her husband’s pained words. 

But for Marlyn, her faith in God and love for family will see them through the process of recovering from their woes. She has nine children, but most of them have families of their own to think of. So, she has then taken it upon herself to lead the rebuilding of their house. 

Even as she works hard, her earnings continue to be meagre, barely enough for their food needs and for her husband’s medicine. 

That is why Marlyn was super thankful when she was chosen as one of the vulnerable beneficiaries of a shelter repair kit in their barangay from CARE and local partner ACCORD. 

“I’m excited because on my own, I cannot yet afford to buy those materials. With the shelter repair kit, we can now start rebuilding our house,” she says.

Marlyn was one of the first residents to welcome the CARE team that would distribute the housing materials to their community. Turns out, she was not just there get her package, but to be a volunteer assistant team leader as well. 

She was in charge of helping CARE and ACCORD staff facilitate the distribution by monitoring the flow of materials and ensuring that her fellow beneficiaries get the right amount of materials. She wanted so much to help so things can move faster. 

“After the distribution, I would also carry as much materials I could from the kit given to us. I can carry even two pieces of corrugated sheets!” Marlyn proudly shares. 

After all, she is a strong woman determined to ensure her family recovers.

Written by Winnie Aguilar, CARE Philippines national communications officer


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