“Tita Chari’s” Story in AthensDec 7th, 2009 | By staff | Category: Features
The story of Charita ‘Tita Chari’ Bataan: Another of our series on Filipino lives in Greece and Cyprus
By Yoko Ramos-VingnoOne of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Philippine Embassy is the president and founder of the Philippine Overseas Society, Mrs. Charita Ballalo Bataan — and this is her story.
Charita Ballalo Bataan’s life seemed smooth and easy, she felt she had it all having been blessed with 7 nice children from a loving husband who took very good care of her and the children. Sadly, this all would change when a sudden and severe attack of stroke would snap the life out of her husband at the age of 53.
Charita’s husband Leonardo was an officer of the Philippine Constabulary. The marriage produced 7 children – two boys and five girls. Raising 7 children was not much of a problem as Leonardo was a good provider who had hired a helper for Charita to assist in her daily household routine.
So it was then until Leonardo’s fateful demise that Charita ceased to live in her comfort zone. Reality and the feeling of helplessness stared her in the face: no husband, left without a work and seven growing kids who needed to go to school were too much for Charita to bear. She composed herself and took matters into her own hands. Having the future of her children in mind, Charita set aside her pride and accepted the invitation of a cousin working abroad who found her a job as a domestic help in Greece, a work she had not even imagined when her husband was alive.
Chari arrived in Athens in 1980 and found employ with a Greek diplomat couple. She learned her way around from this kind and generous couple who taught her the basics of household routines in a diplomatic household.
Chari took her day off on Sundays – where she went to church and was able to meet other Filipinos. Kind and approachable by nature, Chari went out of her way to extend assistance to fellow Filipinos who had asked her for help concerning various kinds of problems. She recalls bringing food and other necessities to Filipinos who were imprisoned due to overstaying in Greece. Her group of Filipino acquaintances grew – and her newfound friends started to call her Chari.
For nine years Chari stood by her diplomat employer and when the latter was deployed in France Chari opted to stay in Greece. She fell in love with the country that had welcomed her and had given her the means to provide for her children. Also, Chari found it difficult to leave behind the friendships she had developed over the years with the other Filipinos. Again on her own Chari, was fortunate to find work and a decent place to stay that she would call home – the same place where she currently lives. Work was aplenty – and she took advantage of this. She put in long hours – accepting a lot of part time work that netted her easily Two Thousand Three Hundred Dollars a month. This is a tall order for a single mother who had to immerse herself in work to overcome her homesickness and lingering thoughts of her children.
Chari’s solace was the Filipino community. She joined Filipino organizations and became very active in community undertakings. Many Filipino friends joined her when she formed the “Integrated Barangay of the Philippines” and was voted its president. Shortly after she left the group and in 1998 during the Philippine Centennial Year, Chari founded and was voted president of the “Philippine Overseas Society.” This organization of 11 years has received several citations and recognition for its efforts in promoting Philippine culture in Greece and, helping less fortunate students in the Philippines through the organization’s “Tuloy Aral Program”. For her tireless and selfless efforts, Chari was twice nominated for “Ang Bagong Bayani Award”.
“Tita Chari”, as she is now fondly addressed in the Filipino community, has been staying in Greece for the last twenty nine years. Chari was able to help about seventy Filipinos to find work in Greece. She helped her two sisters-in-law, her four children and a grandchild plus friends and other relatives to stay and work legally in the country that had been so kind to her and welcomed her with open arms.
Chari already has two houses in Antipolo and proudly – at 64 – she plans to travel a lot and, enjoy life with family, grandchildren and friends – and still live here in Athens!
(Originally published in the the April 2009 issue of “Buhay OFW,” a publication of Atlas Publishing Co. Inc. Contact us for suggestions for future features.)