Rural work was the family’s only source of income. From a very young age she laboured as an agricultural worker to help her large family and was rarely in school. She says she had a difficult life but felt happy and blessed when she was offered a place with the Sisters of Mary. She says: “It was during the cataclysmic 1991 Eruption of Mount Pinatubo when our batch entered the Sisters of Mary School. We were strangers coming from different provinces but over time we got to know each other well and I spent four happy years there and made friends for life.” Merlie graduated from the Sisters of Mary school near Cavite in the Philippines in 1995. She proudly wears her ‘Batch 95’ t-shirt when she reunites with her fellow classmates every six months.
With her school graduation certificate in hand, Merlie found work, and started supporting her parents and siblings with her wages. In her spare time she pursued a business degree and finally she qualified to work as a recruiting manager supplying crews to the maritime industry. She has since worked her way up to team leader and there she met her husband. She has a happy home-life with her husband, and three young children. “Every now and then we go out to see the Sisters on Sunday and spend the whole day with them and the new children at school. This is good for all of us because my children better understand the values that are important to me. I am proud to be a Sisters of Mary graduate.