All photographs courtesy of Marinel Berido Banez
“Yes, my life wasn’t easy. But, I keep going.
The lesson that I learnt is – there’s no place for hate.”
Today’s Student Spotlight shares the astonishing story of Marinel Berido Banez, a Lexis English graduate from the Philippines.
Marinel completed her General English studies with Lexis Sydney on January 6, 2023, and has since been accepted to study childcare at TAFE. Read what Marinel shared with us about her extraordinary life.
My name is Marinel Berido Banez and I’m from the Philippines. I’m 43 years old and a widow. I have four children of my own and cared for my deceased brother’s three children. I recently became a grandmother.
My journey began when my husband died suddenly of a heart attack and when my brother, six months later, was violently murdered.
Tragedy and trauma
Farming is one of the major sources of income in the Philippines. Before my husband died, he had prepared for our new crops – tobacco, rice and vegetables being the main product in my village. On Saturday October 31st 2009, Halloween night (I couldn’t forget that moment) – my husband died.
My children and us was already sleeping. All of a sudden my husband woke me and told me that he couldn’t breathe. I helped him to get up from our bed and brought him a glass of water. I felt distressed and I didn’t know what to do, so I called my mother in-law for help and we took him to the hospital. He was alive when we got to emergency but the doctor didn’t manage to save him. In that moment, my world turned upside down.
Fortunately, my brother was there. He did everything for me during my hardest time and taught me how to do the tobacco farming. I hired some help too. Six months later I sold my tobacco product.
I was hoping that the money I earned was to spend for my children, but it wasn’t to be.
On April 4 2010, my brother was murdered. I remember being called with the news and seeing my brother, dead and covered in his own blood. To this day, the case is unsolved.
All the money that I earned from my tobacco harvest, I spent on my brother’s funeral. His wife wasn’t able to help and a few months after my brother died she got married and left her children – that’s when I decided to take responsibility for them. I couldn’t abandon them.
“I promised myself that whatever happened, we had to stay together as a family.”
At first it was very difficult for us, especially for my children because whatever they had was divided or shared. I taught my children to treat their cousins like their siblings and my children understand. I promised myself that whatever happened, we had to stay together as a family.
Work in Singapore
The Philippines is a poor country. To raise seven children in a poor country wasn’t very easy. So, a year after my husband died I decided to work abroad as a nanny/helper.
“To raise seven children in a poor country wasn’t very easy. So, a year after my husband died I decided to work abroad as a nanny/helper.”
I flew to Singapore to find employment. At first it was challenging. I met different characteristics of employers as I didn’t have any option but to endure the workload given me.
Through those years of working, I managed to support my children, my mum and my brothers’ children. I built a comfortable house for them to live, I bought a farm for them to grow their food, and I managed to send my children to school. I tried to save money as much as I could, to send my oldest daughter to university.
Life for me wasn’t easy, until one day I was sent home by an inconsiderate employer. I thought that was the end for me and for my children’s future. I felt devastated but I never gave up. I kept searching, asking every friend that I had known in Singapore, if they knew anyone who needed a nanny.
One day a friend of mine contacted me and offered me a job. I was so happy and took the job without hesitation – no questions asked. I flew to Singapore and started working for the Yates family – Elena, Neil and their two children Julian and Jamie.
Years went by, our relationship getting better and better. The children grew very attached with me. Julian, the first born child couldn’t took his eyes from me, the same as Jamie, the second child. I fell in love with the children and treated them much better than my own.
2019 – more change
When the COVID pandemic began to shake the world and drive people crazy, Elena and Neil decided to move to Australia. I felt heartbroken. I cried and couldn’t imagine myself for the second time being away from children that I had fallen in love with.
One day, Elena and Neil offered to take me with them to Australia. They became my immigration sponsors. I was bewildered at the time. I asked so many questions, like the weather in Australia, the lifestyle and so on.
March 2022, we flew to Australia
In 2022 Elena and Neil planned to search for a perfect place to live, and to show me around.
Australia is stunning, I didn’t expect what I’d seen. Right at that moment I fell in love with Australia and since then I felt excited to move.
After we went back to Singapore, the Yates started to gather information on how they could bring me to Australia. The process wasn’t easy. They spent lots of time to know all the possible ways to bring me in. Sometimes I lost confidence, as it took a few months to wait for my visa approval.
I was astounded the day we received an email to say my visa application was positive. I couldn’t believe that my application was granted for the second time!
August 20th 2022 – we return to Australia
My first day wasn’t good. It was winter and I wasn’t aware what winter was all about! I was shivering, even though I wore my thickest winter clothes.
In the first month I felt isolated, so I had to figure out what else I could do for myself to ease my home sickness. I began searching for Filipino communities in Sydney but I am not so confident meeting people whom I don’t know. So, I search for the church instead. I knew that if there’s a Catholic church, there’s a Filipino! I never got disappointed when I went to the church. I met a few Filipinos and felt happier.
A chance to learn English in Australia
Days come so fast, my tourist visa would soon end. Elena and Neil spoke to me again and offered me to study English in Australia. With no doubt I said yes and our search for a school started!
Neil help me to submit all the requirements needed. We applied for bridging visa at the same time and a day before I had to fly back to Singapore, both my visa and school application was granted.
“On my first day at school I felt nervous and shy. I was the only Filipino and all of my colleagues were younger professionals. They had degrees back in their countries. So, I focus on my studies instead and, without knowing I’m making friends at the same time!”
I had accepted two different schools and one of them was LEXIS ENGLISH. I’d chosen LEXIS ENGLISH SCHOOL because it’s near to where I lived and very convenient for public transport.
On my first day at school I felt nervous and shy. I was the only Filipino and all of my colleagues were younger professionals. They had degrees back in their countries. So, I focus on my studies instead and, without knowing I’m making friends at the same time!
Special thanks to my sponsors Elena and Neil who have given me so much. Also, to my teachers and the whole of Lexis Sydney school – the admin team, my friends and to everyone that I know there. Everyone has been so helpful to me.
I have been inspired to pursue my dreams and to continue striving. Studying in Australia is not even in my dreams, but here I am! I couldn’t believe myself that it happened.
Thanks Lexis for helping me to gain more knowledge and wisdom that I can use to achieve my dreams. I hope one day I come back and learn more.
GOD BLESS US ALL!!
Marinel B. Banez
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