My Battle

Oct 27, 2018

Charo Abraham was never a regular kid. Born in 1959 and raised in Magallanes, Sorsogon, Charo grew up with eight siblings who all experienced strict parenting from both their very Catholic and ex-teacher parents. But Charo was treated a little differently, especially by her father. It was upon Charo’s birth when, after having already seven daughters, her father’s frustration about having a son grew worse and had been demanding to be given an end. So in response to this, Charo’s father turned her into a son—a little boy who dressed, played, and acted just the way her father wanted. Charo also was a bright child and participated well in school which pleased her parents very much. Because of these, Charo was her father’s favorite. She grew up being given almost whatever she wanted—like moving to Manila for college, a privilege given only to favorite children then, something her elder siblings only dreamt about. So the favorite child studied in Manila, away from her comfort zone which was her family. But because Charo was intelligent, it wasn’t difficult for her to soon turn this unfamiliar avenue into another one of her comfort zones. College was a piece of cake and so was getting herself a fulfilling job as a researcher who travelled all around the country saving marine species. This was how Charo ended up in Tawi-Tawi where she was exposed to superstitious belief and culture, far from the Catholicism she was brought up in. During work, she was given an amulet by an old man. The amulet, as the stranger had said, possessed supernatural powers to keep Charo safe. Because Charo was never really religious, she relied her safety on this amulet. Not very long after that, Charo lost her job due to the dismissal of their contract and work program. Having been spoiled all her life, Charo was not used to rejection. So she was also not able to handle this unfortunate event very well. At this time, Charo had also already lost her father to a terrible heart attack. Had he been still alive, Charo might have had someone to run to to get her broken heart a little fixing. But that was not the case. Charo was slowly losing control of her situation and not even her amulet could keep her away from harm. Given the weight of burden on her shoulders, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and had to undergo operation. But since then, Charo hardly ever slept. She was having hallucinations which gradually affected her behavior. She had kept the amulet all the years that had passed until one day, a friend told her that in Charo’s possession was a product of black magic and that she must get rid of it. Charo followed her friend’s advice, convinced that this probably had got to do with her sleepless nights. But as soon as she threw her amulet in flames, Charo’s hallucinations grew worse. She acted as if possessed by an evil spirt and given this, Charo was convinced it was because she burned the amulet. Soon, Charo was diagnosed with schizophrenia—a mental illness unfamiliar to her nor to her family, including her eldest sister Manay Jean who eventually travelled all the way to Manila to look after her little sister. Charo was changing into a different person—all due to the bad wiring in her mind. She was seeing things; hearing things—barely knowing which ones are real and which ones are just a product of her impaired brain. And all the while, she still believed it was because of a mistake she might have committed—burning the amulet. With voices, both of evil and of good, Charo had had difficulty sleeping. Until one of these voices commanded her to grab a paper and a pen one day, dictating Charo words to a music and soon, even the melody to this newly crafted song. Charo may have always been enemies with these voices, but she was surprised how songwriting helped her distract her loud and messy mind. So she fully submerged herself in it, making it her therapy. Unfortunately, Manay Jean objected when Charo began joining songwriting competitions as she believed this would only cause Charo more stress. Yet Charo did what she felt like doing. Charo, ignoring her eldest sister, the only person left taking care of her, followed the voice she was enemies in an ironic attempt to defeat it. She was even more determined to fight her condition when in 2004, Charo suffered a mild stroke. Having realized how short life could be, she knew she needed to do something to make the most out of her time alive despite her condition. During this time, she had grown closer to the God she used to refuse believing. She had not only continued writing songs but she’d also began writing chapters and chapters explaining her mental illness in the hopes of raising awareness. There might have been a few hesitations from Manay Jean, but through time, understanding, and acceptance, she began supporting Charo. Today, both of them campaign love and moral support for better mental health in celebration for Charo’s gradual healing, as her last episode was way back in 2004, just shortly after her mild stroke.



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Sumilip sa likod ng kamera at alamin kung paano nabubuo ang mga madamdaming tagpong iyong natutunghayan sa Maalaala Mo Kaya.


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