Walking Into the Depths of Depravity

Walking into the depths of depravity where girls are bought and sold as commodities, stored like penned cattle and abused like beaten, neglected animals is taxing on the emotions.  We must rule our emotions because we are only observers to the horrors experienced by these young girls. The emotional price paid by trafficked victims causes damage that splits the human psyche into compartmentalized personalities.  Innocence is lost and yet it remains hidden behind an exterior survival mechanism that portrays a false picture of the real human being.  Who buys these girls?  It could be your neighbor that makes trips to the Philippines to visit friends.

by Mike Garner

The Women of White Rock

Where Tourists do not Go

By Trinidad and Mike Garner

Within a few hundred yards from White Rock Hotel where wealthy people come to stay is a village of people tucked away against the hillside in shantys constructed of bamboo, discarded lumber, and cheap concrete blocks. The ravages of the sex industry that has flourished in the area since the inception of the military presence in Subic Bay is pervasive. Generations of women have worked in the bars to gratify the uncontrolled sexual behavior of western males. Mixed children and adults, of all, are to be found living in poverty, without hope, only surviving the ravages of a world where human beings are left to survive off of the garbage of the wealthy.

In these areas where humanity is hidden from the sanitized world of the tourist, women have children from multiple fathers. The various forms of death faced by these desparate people would crush the average westerner in an afternoon. The women suffer various STD’s and must visit the city hall to be tested each week. They cover their pain with alcohol, they hide behind a veneer of smiles that express pain and not joy. The women continue to work in the bars to care for the children that suffer the abandonement of a father never to be known. Many of the women have aged out at thirty years old they look forty. Pregnancies, disease, poverty, children, and the trauma of constant abuse takes their lives away. Within five years these women suffer trauma that is irrepairable. The trauma of their lives is equivalent with that experienced by a torture victim.

We have been teaching the bible to these women, praying with them, hearing their stories and bringing them some food, clothes and health care items. Does anybody really care?

Appropriate Giving Among Communities of Need

By Brett Madron

Two years ago in the Philippines I walked the streets of a small community of relocated peoples in a place called Iram. I was alarmed at the multitude of clothes I saw on the ground soiled from mud and debris.  In a world where children are so often without clothes, I wondered why these clothes had gone to waste.  Over time I have become aware that a significant part of avoiding paternalism amongst the poor is responding to real needs.  As we move about in Olongapo City our immersion team has done our best to offer appropriate resources to those whom we encounter.  Here are a few examples:

I met Orlando, the chieftain of an indigenous tribe, in 2007 and identified him as a man who genuinely cares for his people.  This year we gave Orlando a bolo knife that he and his community can utilize to promote their livelihood, which is primarily hunting/gathering.

When we spent time amongst another indigenous community, we watched them play a homemade guitar equipped with hardware wire for strings.  As they danced to the music of this innovative instrument, we saw their love for enjoying time together through music.  A few days later we brought them a guitar from a music store.  This new guitar will enable them to further enjoy times of singing and dancing together and remind them that there are people who care about the Aeta.

Since working with a local midwife here in Olongapo, we have provided a Doppler, a device that aids in monitoring the fetal heart rate.  The Doppler is used at each appointment and is helpful to mothers concerned with the healthy heart rate of their baby.

To throw piles of clothes at the poor assuming they are desperate enough to make them work demonstrates a failure to consider their needs.  It is vital to offer appropriate resources to people that need them.  In doing so, we demonstrate true concern.

The Children of Pag-Asa Market

By Shaun Galford This morning me and a few team members loaded up the van and headed to Pag-Asa market to buy groceries for the day.  Although it was not quite 7am the streets and market were packed.  Sitting in the van I watched one man butcher a pig and a lady prepare pre-packaged breakfast meals for people on the go.  Before I knew it there they were.  I'm not sure where they came from. It was the children of Pag-Asa market.  They were all wearing the same ragged clothes as the day before.  Most of them only wear shorts and have no shirt or shoes.  As I looked down at a boys cut and bruised feet I tried to tell myself his feet are tough from years of walking on the hot concrete and rocks and they don't hurt anymore.  But I know that is a lie.  The day before I watched the same boy during the midday heat favor his feet and attempt to keep them in the shade rather than walking on the scalding hot pavement.  Another boy looked tired as he rubbed his puffy, bloodshot eyes.  He probably did not sleep well last night.  The likelihood his bed consists of a piece of  cardboard laid upon a slab of hard concrete is high.  Or perhaps he was out really late begging?

As we got out of the van I saw their excitement.  All of them have rotten teeth, yet there is something beautiful about their smiling faces.  Rather than giving them money we gathered them at a table and bought them a meal.  Today, I watched one of the boys eat half his food and put the rest in a to-go container.  Then he ran across the street and disappeared between several dilapidated homes where he would share his food. Although many of the adults in the market chase these kids away, we've taken the responsibility of giving them attention and feeding them.  Others could feed these kids, but they have grown numb to their poverty.  Today, the woman that sells the meals gave a little smile when we fed them.  She seemed thankful that someone is helping the children.

The Streets of Olongapo

By Kristin Bennecker

In the middle of Olongapo City, next to City Hall is an area known as the Triangle. During the day it looks like a typical city park, but at nighttime its cracked cement steps and dirty floors become the beds of the homeless. This week we brought meals to the people who sleep on the streets and tried to learn more about their lives and what circumstances had led them there. The first person I saw was a pregnant woman curled up on a piece of old cardboard. All alone, her protruding belly was completely vulnerable to the dangerous environment that surrounded her. Then I saw an old man who slept on a rice sack with his worn flip-flops barely hanging on his feet. His expression revealed his discomfort and even as he slept he seemed to wince. I imagined how his bones must ache without the proper padding or support under his aging body.  At the top of some stairs I saw a couple sleeping on bare concrete. They slept facing each other and held hands and secured their few belongings by stuffing them between their ankles and under their arms. Huddled in a corner I noticed a woman sitting in between her sleeping children. I wondered if she was too afraid to sleep and leave her children without someone watching them. When I gave her some food she immediately woke her child up to eat. I learned that this was only her third night in the Triangle. She and her husband had recently moved to Olongapo in hopes for a better life, but his job doing door-to-door cell phone repair had not provided enough money for them to find a place to stay. She looked tired and scared. As she told me her story she smiled, but tears welled in her eyes.

The people who call the Triangle their home are those who have been rejected by the world. They live in the filth of the city and suffer its dehumanizing effects. Our gesture of bringing them some food is a small way for us to show them they are not forgotten. Rather than being people that step over them without giving them a second glance, we offer them a meal and fellowship. We sit down to talk to them, learn their names, find out what their story is, and remind them that they are human.

Held Captive

By Breann Bennecker In our efforts to help the girls held in the clenches of the international sex industry of the Philippines we have visited them in the shacks where they are housed, we have taken them to lunch, we have brought them health care items and food and clothing. We have searched out a number of addresses given to us by the girls. They do not always give us their address because they fear the bar owners. However, on occasion a girl will give us the correct address for one of these ‘stables’ where the girls are housed.  Another day, another address, will the address even exist, will we locate where these girls are kept?

Prepared with some clothing for the women we might find, we approached a dilapidated half opened wooden gate. We entered the dark alley way with unpainted concrete walls completely enclosing the walkway.  We tapped on the doorway and began to enter their home. Inside, the house was dark, damp and in worse shape than the local jail. The walls were stained with mold and dirt, and the rooms were bare with only one piece of furniture. The girls sleep on thin foam mats, with suitcases as their personal storage space. There are no pictures on the wall of either family or children. They are allowed no reminders of the families they have in other parts of the Philippines. There was no joy, no laughter or bustling activity like a normal home. The dungeon like building was lit by harsh fluorescent lights that hung uncovered in their rooms. The windows in their house were facing the dark alley way. By our observation these women are starved of light and life in this holding cell. These 7 women all work at the same bar and together they wake up in this place only to return to work during the nighttime.

This home is another indication of the enslavement the women experience because of 'jobs' in the club. They wake up to a hot dismal room where they can expect to be  watched by the bars' Mamasan throughout the day. During our visit to these women we gave them care packs  containing undergarments, feminine health items and toilitries.  In Tagalog Mrs. Garner reminded them that we have no condemnation for them, only love.  Some of them were moved to tears as we hugged them goodbye.

Our entrance to this place was on account of a desire to seek out the trafficked women that are held captive by the bars in Barrio Barretto. As we continue to work in the Philippines we will  find the houses these women are kept in hopes to help them forge a life free from slavery and oppression.

Streets of Barretto

By Clark Miller Walking down the streets of Barrio Barretto, one will cross two kinds of people; those who have money and those who want money. Those with money are identified by their white skin and foreign accents, while those without are the impoverished locals who sell whatever they can to get money, whether it be cigarettes, a trike ride, a bag of peanuts or sex with teenage girls.

During our time in the Philippines, we have had the opportunity to share meals with some of these victims of poverty. We bought food for a woman we found sleeping on the street. Her bloodshot eyes and dreary face lit up as some of us sat with her and ate, giving her a moment of dignity. We made friends with the children who sell peanuts into all hours of the night, and have numerous times bought them meals. We also buy peanuts from them so that they can help support their families. On one occasion, we had the opportunity to take some girls who work in the bars out for tacos.

However, it is not money that will bring light to these dark streets, but rather the word of God that we can bring. Without the order that God's presence offers, these children will grow up to be trike drivers who drink away the pain of poverty or pole dancers who sell their bodies to support their families. Though it is only God who can make straight this crooked path we seek his aid by being people that do justice and love kindness and walk humbly. We bring God into the darkness of Barretto.