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Dunesa Saraga Hesser grew up in the Philippines

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Dunesa's Family

“Growing up in the Province was wonderful, and I enjoyed my very young childhood days with friends and neighbors, living a laid-back life. I miss those days hanging out in a mango tree eating the fruit with friends. But at a young age, my parents died, and I learned the necessity of hard work. Nothing comes for free.”


She and her seven siblings then had to live with her grandmother in a two-bedroom house and the life became difficult. There was no city water so daily they had to fetch water from the only deep well in the area to bring home. Each year after the sugar cane harvest, they would gather up empty rice sacks. The family would then go to the fields and rake up all the sugar cane waste. This was burnt and used for cooking, since we did not have a stove. Meals consisted of rice, with small bits of fish or meat once or twice a week.

Her grandmother was elderly and poor so Dunesa not the only had to take care of herself, she also had to provide for her grandmother and seven siblings to survive. They experienced many hardships in life. Growing up, they all had to work hard to put food on the table.

She only had one peso ($.02) as her “baon” (allowance) per day in Elementary school. Her clothing consisted of hand me downs, and she had to use the same shoes and flip flops year after year. She sold bread and ice candies in school, in order for her to starve off hunger.

She decided that the only way she and her family could rise above their circumstances was through education. Dunesa studied hard and worked hard. She became a capable, independent woman and continued to work hard until she could move to the United States and took her brothers and sisters with her. They were lucky as Dunesa’s father was a Hawaiian/American so they had dual citizenship.

Even though her childhood was not the best, she could see that her circumstances were much better than the children of illiterate parents. Wages could be as low as Php13 ($.26) a day and never higher than Php 200 ($4.01). Children of illiterate parents could not afford to send their children to school. If they did not go to school, they were expected to work 10-hour days for 100 pesos ($2.00 US) to help the family. They were often abused.

Some of the illiterate children would also want to rise above their circumstances. Once they are educated, they will not only take care of themselves but also their family.

Giving the Children School Supplies

Dunesa now is involved with Hesser Entertainment and The World Series of Fighting. But even though she is busy with her own husband and children, she has never forgotten her life in the Philippines.

This is why The Hesser Foundation was started. She wanted to see that other children could have the opportunity to be educated. If you give someone a fish you will feed him a meal, teach him to fish and he will not starve!

One of our Classes

Every child is not born with the same rights to a healthy start, an education and a safe, secure childhood.

“I have so many things to be grateful for in my life. I have been blessed and I want to be a blessing to others. I will never forget my roots; I will never forget where I came from; and I am proud that I am still Filipina at heart.”

Dunesa Saraga Hesser

The Hesser Foundation

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