I have so much to tell you and I’m so emotional about it so I’m not sure if it will come out right. I’m so angry, frustrated and upset that I just want to scream into a pillow for an hour. Have you ever felt like that?
Bear with me. I’ll get there eventually…I just want to vent to you.
First of all – the background to this story is that my Mom is a faithful and loving daughter, sister, Aunt and cousin to all her family members. For as long as I’ve been alive, Mom has been financially supporting her family. I haven’t been aware of how much Mom’s sent because for most of my life growing up – Jay and I as kids didn’t “go without” – we had a pretty house, went on loads of holidays as a family, got loads of presents throughout the year (well…at least Jay did. Lol)…so we didn’t suffer from the money Mom sent to the Philippines.
But it has always very much been part of her life – and therefore, part of ours.
Fast forward to just over a year ago – Mom and Dad had just landed in the Philippines. The plan was to covertly avoid “the family” (sounds like the Italian Mafia. Ha!) in the Philippines (no facebook posts or check-ins for either of my parents) for at least a few months and they would actually ENJOY their retirement by tripping about and spending time enjoying new places and seeing new things. I liked the idea of my parents travelling, staying in nice hotels and swimming in nice pools – ordering room service and going out for meals. My Mom is a chef by trade so it was nice to think that she’d finally worked hard enough and long enough where she could enjoy someone cooking for her.
After a few months of travelling and enjoying (woohoo), my parents would then tell Mom’s side of the family they were in the Philippines and go and visit them. Of course, money would have to be handed out – I guess we all knew it would be expected…but they’d be together and Dad isn’t as emotionally attached and ‘controlled’ by the family as Mom is, so he’d make sure they didn’t get fleeced. After a short visit and gift-giving – they’d take off again into the sunset and go on a new merry adventure. My parents would eventually settle down somewhere in the Philippines, buy a new home – a MANSION with a pool maybe? (The conversion rate is $1 to 42 Pesos so it’s pretty awesome and Mom and Dad had about $100K each from their Super Annuation so they could literally live like rich people for the rest of their lives in a poor country) and live happily ever after.
BUT THEN COVID HIT.
And the whole world…stopped.
Then so did Mom and Dad’s dreams because now they weren’t able to travel about. Instead of avoiding the family, they had to go straight to their house in the Philippines and quarantine for months. Dad was seen as a ‘foreigner’ so he wasn’t allowed to leave the house (1 small house which FOURTEEN of my relatives lived in together) AT ALL until Covid Restrictions eased – which wasn’t for another year.
I can’t imagine how Dad didn’t go completely mental – stuck in a house with 14 family members, ONE BEDROOM and not being allowed to leave.
My parents are troopers and I guess they adjusted. Dad loves to drink so he just ordered crates and crates of beer, watched movies and played games on his phone. Apart from the alcohol (Mom’s not a big drinker), Mom did the same. They wiled away their time (I don’t know how they didn’t both lose it) at home. They were together and they were happy in that.
I ‘Facetimed’ them regularly – seeing the same background on every video call; Mom and Dad sat at a plastic table, smoking (they both love smoking), drinking and keeping each other sane.
I had no idea that at the same time, they were giving away their money to the family.
And not just a bit of money here and there – they were giving away tens of thousands to EACH member. I didn’t know this until Dad died.
It all kicked off when Mom video-called me in a panic about a week ago, saying she didn’t have any money and she had to wait over a week for her Superannuation payment to come through. I have limited financial knowledge (I’m the stereotypical Filo girl – I recklessly spend money and I have no idea about actually SAVING money for a rainy day or being responsible with it) so I assumed the Super payment was maybe a fortnightly payment of like…I don’t know…$500 or something? Maybe a grand?
“It’s okay Mom” I said into the screen “I’ve got you. I can send you money today. How much do you need?”
I was thinking like a hundred bucks or something – maybe just to pay for food and any small things Mom might want. Pssht easy. I could cover that for my Mom.
“I need about $500” Mom wailed, breaking my heart. I hate seeing her cry. Especially as my Mom is a rock and hardly ever cries so it’s a pretty big deal when she does.
Okay. That was a bit of shock to my own dwindling bank account but praise God, I am slowly learning to save and had put away $550 into my savings account. It hurt for all of 30 seconds to give away my hard-earned savings but that was quickly replaced with joy in being able to be Mom’s hero.
“No worries Mom” I smiled at her and so wanted to hug her close “I’ll send it now and depending on our banks, you will either get it right away or in 24 hours”
Mom sighed in relief “Thank you, my darling”
No worries, Mom. I’ve got this.
I tapped away on my phone the moment we hung up from each other and sent Mom my entire savings.
Go me 🙂
But more ‘facetime’ talks with my Mom revealed very slowly – day by day – that she was starting to struggle financially. Mom said she and Dad had been getting Dad’s Australian Pension AS WELL AS THEIR SUPER MONEY so that every fortnight, they’d sort of come to rely on getting that. Again, I have no knowledge about money so I thought it would be a couple hundred dollars. When Mom told me the Pension payment had stopped once the Government had received notification of Dad’s death (COLD BASTARDS), I started to do the math in my head. (Math is another thing I suck at). I was thinking though, that if Jay, Kate, Alun and I sent Mom $50 a fortnight between us – maybe WE could take the place of Dad’s pension payments and keep Mom afloat.
I had the awesome currency conversion in my mind as well as some far away ‘memory’ that living in Philippines isn’t nearly as expensive as living in Australia is. Also, Mom and Dad had FULLY BOUGHT that house ‘for the family’ years and years ago so it’s not like Mom had rent to worry about – she just needed to pay the ocassional bill and buy food, right?
Dad’s pension payment from Centrelink was $1000 A FORTNIGHT.
How was I meant to cover that???
Mom asked if Alun and I had been collecting their mail from their post box here in Perth. Alun faithfully checks it every month so we’ve got TONNES of mail for them.
“Can you open it all and let me know where I sit at with money?” Mom asked.
I instantly had a terrible premonition about it and wanted to put off opening the mail and having the truth – something bad I thought – revealed to me in official writing.
Alun did the hard job for all of us and showed me with a worried crease on his gorgeous forehead that Mom and Dad had each started out with about $100K in Super funds. THAT’S EACH. Even in Aussie terms, that’s A LOT of money.
But their bank statements had revealed they’d accessed TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK (WTF?!?) and that Dad’s pension had been used up entirely within 6 months.
WHAT ON EARTH, Mom and Dad?!? Where did it go? You’ve not been allowed to leave your house all this time – what have you needed a FORTUNE for.
Dad’s account literally had ZERO in it.
Mom’s super was paying her $10K every 3 months like clockwork.
And like clockwork, the money was being withdrawn in PERSON at the bank every time.
Because it was withdrawn in person, I couldn’t see any transactions so Al and I were still at a loss as to where all the money was going.
That money could have easily bought my parents SIX HOUSES. PAID IN FULL.
Is that what they were doing? Building a community? Because…okay…that sounds pretty cool. I liked the idea of them having loads of houses. Maybe theirs was a mansion being built? With a pool and a 4-car garage? A huge movie room for Dad and a big garden for Mom?
How does Dad’s account have NOTHING in it?
WHERE DID ALL THE MONEY GO?
When Mom called, panicked and upset asking me for help – instead of taking a MUCH NEEDED break to rest, mourn my Dad in my own time – surrounded by the comforts of home, (I really need a break, guys) I took on the first job offer that came through on my phone from a temp agency and spent the week learning a new role. An easy one, praise God. I just data input Property complaints into their database, send and receive emails. I took this on instead of a rest so I have access to money and can support my Mom.
I have a great new boss now – a mountain of a man called “David”. David has a thick Scottish accent, booms his voice and used to be a Policeman so I think he’s pretty hard core. He likes saying “pretty chill here” and has a Fatherly way about him. I like him.
I also like that I’m moving closer to being an Administrator rather than a receptionist because I get paid more per hour AND I can get up and go to the toilet/make a cup of tea whenever I want! Oh the freedom!
(I keep losing the point, I’m so tired!)
I’ve not slept since finding out the TRUE state of Mom’s finances. In a state bordering hysteria (how am I going to manage all of this on my own?) I messaged Jay about Mom’s dwindling finances and he reluctantly agreed to “group facetime chat” with Mom and tell her that once her finances run out – that’s it. She wont have any more money.
On our group Facechat, Mom kept trying to ‘explain’ that she was 1) “helping” the family with money and 2) paying the builders every week for their wages. I immediately suspected dodginess.
“Mom, don’t you just pay for the entire job up front? Why are you paying every week?”
Even on the fuzzy pixalated screen, I could see the cogs turning in Mom’s head turning quickly get out of having to talk about this any more.
“The men are from around the neighbourhood (GOOD LORD, WHAT?!?) and they wanted to get paid weekly, so that’s what I do. So far I’ve spent $30K on renovations to the house (Mom is getting a 2nd storey added so she can have room/space of her own) and I think it might be (MIGHT??? Mom!!!) another $20-$30 THOUSAND DOLLARS (not Pesos) until we finish.
Jay – who sells houses for a living – was worried.
“Mom, can you get them to give you a date and a definite amout of money? Building houses here in Australia doesn’t run like that and for the money you’ve already spent, they should literally have enough to build that second storey and not keep asking you WEEKLY for more money”
It surprises me to say this, but I am actually proud of Jay and how he handled the conversation with Mom. He was very calm and we both approached the topic of Mom’s finances (or lack thereof) very, very gently so we didn’t upset Mom.
Mom got upset anyway. She burst into tears and wailed “I miss your Dad so much”
I cried too and had to watch Mom cry from such a great distance. It was awful. I so wanted to hug and hold her.
I saw Jay discreetly pull his shirt up over his eyes for a few moments – I think he was crying too.
Dad’s death has been ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING for us all.
I can’t imagine how hard this has been on Mom. We lost our Dad…but she lost the love of her life and her best friend.
We could tell Mom had had enough of the questions so Jay and I were silent for a long time. Mom gathered herself together.
Mom confessed she was down to just $30K now – $30,000 in the ENTIRE WORLD and that’s going to shoddy-ass builders who probably sit up there all day and drink the beers Mom provides.
Yes. Mom provides their meals and drinks throughout the day, too.
WHAT IS THIS?!?
I understand making a workman a cup of tea or offering him a refreshing drink on a hot day, I get it.
But paying for/preparing/serving their meals all throughout the day?!?
MOM!!! What are you DOING???
I am SO ANGRY about seeing my Mom getting ripped off.
Her money is almost gone – the same money that was meant to last her lifetime is now lining the pockets of every “Castro” in Cebu.
Mom didn’t spend a penny on herself.
In just over a year.
As much as Jay and I tried to appeal to Mom to hang onto what she has left, she’s determined (and a bit stuck, I think?) to pay the builders and get the 2nd storey finished.
Lord God…I pray they at least do a good job. Please, God.
“What will you do when your money runs out?” I asked, willing myself not to scream.
“Then I’ll move back home to Australia and get another job”
…and she didn’t say it but we ALL KNEW that when (if?) Mom gets home to us in Australia, manages to get another job (I can’t imagine that will be easy given her age and limited background which only includes cooking – so that narrows down job options really quickly) and starts getting paid (Please God), she will inevitably send that money back to the Phillipines for ‘the family’.
The same ‘family’ that are now rocking NEW CARS (I am not exagerating or joking – Mom literally bought my Uncle a new car. That’s the one she posted about on Facebook. Mom’s money combined with her reckless abandon to spend on any and all relatives – means that a lot of other family got cars too, she just didn’t post about them), new mobile phones (all the latest version from Apple FFS), new clothes, shoes, gadgets, toys, food AND HOLIDAYS (yes, Mom paid for them to stay in fancy hotels) are going to disappear when Mom’s money runs out.
I am so disillusioned, angry, hurt, frustrated and upset. The $500 I sent Mom probably didn’t even last out the day. That was supposed to last WEEKS. Alun – bless his generous heart – sent Mom $700 too. ARGHHHHH!!!
Father God, I am SO P*SSED OFF at my Mom’s “family”.
They took ALL of her money.
They took ALL of Dad’s money, too.
Is it wrong that I want to kill them all?
Nothing Jay, Alun or I can say will change Mom’s mind on giving money to those leeches. It’s so deeply ingrained into her.
While some things change – some things will forever stay the same.