Drawing for the angels – Suset, a helper at work, a painter at heart

Meet Suset. Suset is a painter and a domestic worker in Hong Kong, but I believe her greatest source of pride is being a mother. She left her four kids in the Philippines when she came to work in Hong Kong, but she has never stopped drawing for them. Read Suset’s story and take a moment to thank your parents if they too have made sacrifices for you. If you have children waiting for you back home, think about them as you read this story.

“Let your children be your inspiration. If you are down and hopeless, just look up.”

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Suset and her family

My name is Suset Belasa Castro. I am happily married and blessed with four kids, Angel Cashiel, Angela Casxandra, Angelie Cassie, and Angelo Casper. I come from Taran Subdivision, Kidapawan City, the Philippines.

My family is a big happy family. Though we are not rich, we are rich with the love of each other. I am one of six siblings, and I’m the third child. My mother is a house keeper. She’s a very caring and thoughtful mother. My father is now in Heaven. He was a great hero, a policeman, a bomb expert, but on a fateful day, while detonating a bomb, he was hit by the explosion. He eventually died three years later. He was my idol.

When my father died, everything changed – we did not know where to start without him.

I grew up independently – I never asked anything of my parents. I graduated from a vocational college with a Technical Drafting degree. Since my father was disabled at that time, I did my best not to rely on them during my studies. Since I knew how to draw, I made art projects for my classmates, who paid me with a pencil and Oslo paper, which I could not afford. When I graduated, I decided to join a band in Cebu as a vocalist. When my band was in Samar Catbaloga for a month, I met my husband.

One of Suset's colourful pieces of art
One of Suset’s colourful pieces of art

Our first child, Cashiel, was a fighter baby from the moment she was brought into this world. She could not breathe after being born, and the doctors did their best to bring her back to life. Then, when she was three years old, she got sick with dengue fever and had to be taken to ICU. There was only a 50/50 chance she would survive, but I was so thankful to God that my daughter was saved.

Three years later, I was pregnant with my second child, Casxandra. She is a very smart and talented child. Then, I became pregnant with my third child, Cassie. She’s so sweet and very independent – after just seven months she had already stopped drinking milk and had started eating rice! My last child, Angelo Casper, is sweet and lovable. Very talented, all of them, and I am so lucky to have them.

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Suset’s daughter shows off a picture of her father

I decided to come to Hong Kong when my youngest child was 1 year and 3 months old. It hurt for a mother like me to leave them because they still needed my love and care. My typical day when I was in the Philippines started at 4:30am and ended at 2:00am – I had two jobs and needed to take care of my children. A very long and tiring day for a Nanay* like me. So, my mother said to me, “Why don’t you go abroad to work?” That moment was a turning point. My mother borrowed money and I landed on a job in Hong Kong.

Three months into my job in Hong Kong I received bad news from the Philippines. My eldest child had been suffering from a tummy ache, and when she was brought to the hospital, the doctor had to perform an operation on her colon. I didn’t know what to do at that time. I felt like I was going crazy. I couldn’t do anything. I was too far away to take care of my child. All I did was pray, pray, and pray some more. The operation went well, but she had to have another operation to finish up the procedure. My child was so brave – she was 8 years old at the time! She could cook her own food – congee and fried egg. But I was drowning in debt afterwards.

When I was a child, I loved to draw in my notebook. All the pages in the notebook were filled with lots of drawings, like what my kids also did to their notebooks. When I went to elementary school I always participated in painting contests, but I always lost because I just used ordinary crayons with ordinary colours. When I was a kid, my school bag was just a plastic bag you get from the market. I was not ashamed of that, as long as I could go to school. That’s why I always think to myself: As long as I can do something about it, I don’t want my kids to experience the life I had before. I also don’t want my kids to become materialistic; I trained them to be independent.

Some of Suset's pencil drawings
Some of Suset’s pencil drawings

My paintings help me. If I am lonely or if I miss them, I just get my sketch book, pencils and colours, and paint whatever’s on my mind. I paint after I do my household chores, only if I have free time though. I’m too busy taking care of a four-year-old child here.

Sometimes I cry when I think about how I took care of my own children when I was with them. I really want to go home to be with them, but I can’t, because I don’t have any savings and I still owe the bank. That’s why I always tell them, “My child, don’t worry, one day Nanay will be there for all of you forever. Maybe this year will be our lucky year. Just be patient and wait for me my child.” Sometimes my second daughter asks me, “Nanay, you don’t have money? I have money in my piggy bank. I will send it to you. Please come home.” What a thoughtful and mature child she is.

Some of my friends here asked me how I handled my situation. I said I don’t know – all I did was pray, take a deep breath, and surrender myself to the Lord, asking for a better life. Let your children be your inspiration. If you are down and hopeless, just look up. And I’m not giving up.

*Nanay means mother in Tagalog.