Three generations of the Timbang family were left partially blind from rare genetic cataract.
For members of the Timbang family, from Tarlac in the Philippines, it’s unusual for the children to reach year 6 at school.
It’s not because they don’t want to learn, but it’s because they can’t see properly.
Layla, son Marlone and family.
Doctors think the Timbang family has a rare genetic form of cataracts and so far 43 members of the family across three generations have been diagnosed with cataract.
“The Foundation became interested in them and we outlined the family tree and found out so many of them had cataract,” said Dr Shelley Mangahas from Tarlac Eye Centre.
“It is unusual because from the grandparents to the children to the grandchildren they all have cataract. So there is a genetic component to this.
“It is not common. For them, even at a young age they have cataract already.”
Family matriarch, grandmother Iluminada Timbang Paculanan said: "The kids are lucky if they can finish grade 6 because they can't even see the blackboard.”
Seven of her nine children had cataracts, and now their children have also been diagnosed with the eye condition.
The cost of surgery was one barrier for the family, but so was the stigma of having eye problems.
For Layla Timbang, her husband's family history of cataracts came as a surprise. "I didn't realise at first, because he made sure it was always night when he courted me, so he didn't squint," she said.
"It was only after I got married that I found out about the family's eye problems."
Marlone (left), had his cataract operation together with his cousins.
The mother of 10-year-old Marlon Jake, who also has cataracts, worked as a housekeeper in Jordan for two years but wasn’t able to save enough money for the operation.
"I approached several doctors but it was too expensive — we just couldn't afford it," Layla said.
When The Fred Hollows Foundation discovered the family’s problems we stepped in to help.
Marlon Jake was one of the first in the family to have cataract surgery and convinced many of his cousins that the surgery could give them their sight.
The operation was successful. “When I was writing it wasn’t clear and I couldn’t read books properly. Now I can study much better because my eye was operated on. I’m so happy because I can see better," said Marlone.
“I could see the pimples on my mum’s face,” the cheeky 10-year-old jokes. “That’s really the first thing I saw really clearly!”
Layla said: “He said ‘mum your nose is so big!’ and I really felt so happy because he could finally see clearly!”
Marlone (right) dreams of being a pilot when he grows up.