Raising Consciousness of the Church

We hope that through these stories we might raise the awareness of the church and challenge her conscience.  As long as one human being suffers the effects of injustice then we all suffer. The injustice suffered by the ‘bar girls’, or by the invasion of global economics upon a nations economy, must be responded to by those that know God and his love for the world.

Angeles City

by Rachel Olson

Angeles City is one of the international sex industry hubs here in the Philippines. Men come from all over the western world to partake in the sexual exploitation of Filipino girls. Most of the bars in Angeles city have a hundred plus girls on display. This overt show of power (the women number 10 to one in most bars) is in order to appease the men’s fantasy of ‘choice’ and sense of superiority. The girls themselves come from all over the Philippines and are coerced by recruiters into thinking they will only be ‘waitresses’. The poverty that these girls experience makes them desperate so that they jump at the opportunity for a ‘job’.

Our team visited Angeles City a few days ago.  We spent the late afternoon driving and walking around observing during the daylight hours.  Watching old white men walking around and perched at outdoor bars was nauseating, knowing that they were waiting for dusk to once again satisfy their unbridled, fleshly, perverted cravings. As dusk drew near, the darkness permeated the city.  The flashy lights and carnival like atmosphere attempted to mask the slavery and pain that exists behind the eyes of each girl.

My personal experience consisted of walking the main strip with my husband and kids. We were quite the spectacle: a white family just walking the streets, stopping at the doors of the bars and conversing with the ‘door girls’ (several girls stand outside of each bar, switch on their bubbly, flirty personality, and call for men to come inside). These girls just lit up when they saw our children.  It was an immediate icebreaker.  We asked questions about their life and tried our best to show them we loved them.

One of the saddest realities I left that night with was the false hope these girls have to meet an American man that will rescue them from their bondage.  We probably spoke with over 30 girls, and their hopes were the same.  The irony of this was crazy.  The very men raping and dehumanizing them are the ones they remain hopeful for. The girls have been victimized through the propaganda of western affluence and Philippine assimilation to western culture.  We have little to be idolized for with our culture of war and materialism.  Their dreams will not come true yet they continually sacrifice themselves for the one in a million chance.

Several of them had children by western men who had abused them and left.  These women do not get the chance to raise their children.  They must send them home to a relative or their mother.  The children suffer the loss of both mother and father because of the system that turns women and their bodies into merchandise.  They work the bars to send money home for their kids.  We truly felt what it meant to be ‘light in the darkness’.  This place needs more people who are willing to risk their comfort and reputation, and bring about the presence of God to permeate and replace the presence of lust, slavery, false hope, and deception.

The RENEW foundation is an organization working in Angeles city to help these women.  We visited them and introduced ourselves.  Sadly, they are understaffed, under supported by the church, and unable to tackle this endeavor alone.

The Aeta at Bangka- Bangka

By: Ty & Meg Mathews, Chris Cameron, Megan Jarreld, & Sarah Mascaro

On Friday morning, the five of us set out from Waterdam Road for an hour-long hike to an Aeta village called ‘Bangka-Bangka’.  Along the way we picked up four Filipino friends we met on a different endeavor the week before.  We arrived at the top of the mountain and found eight bamboo huts and quickly learned that we were the first foreigners to make the trek.  The Aeta men are farmers who walk four hours into town carrying a hundred pounds of food or charcoal strapped to their back in order to survive.  The women typically take care of the children.  We did encounter one midwife who had learned indigenous methods of childbirth and delivered nearly a hundred babies without any neonatal or maternal deaths.

During our twenty-four hours on the mountain we enjoyed a few meals with the families, participated in an Aeta tribal dance party, and slept in the homes of the Aeta families.  We met one couple named Jimmy and Rosemarie.  They were some of the many people we shared coffee with and had the privilege of learning about their lives.  They were married when Jimmy was sixteen years old and Rosemarie was thirteen.  This was in accordance with the cultural practice of an arranged marriage.  Jimmy is now twenty-six and Rosemarie is twenty-three years old.  They have been married for ten years and have been unable to have children.  They are unaware of the reason for their barren state and medical assistance is not an option for them as poor mountain people.  In addition, we learned that Jimmy has had malaria for the past two days.  In the past, malaria has not been a prevalent problem in the regions we have visited in the Philippines, but according to the Aeta from Bangka-Bangka fifteen people out of their tribe of one hundred currently suffer from the sickness.  The recent outbreak of malaria is confirmed to be prevalent in this area by various reports from reliable sources for local news.  Jimmy and Rosemarie’s hospitality was common among all the Aeta families we visited.

After sharing a short Bible study with the families on Friday night we learned that they were all raised as Christians but have no church or Bible study to attend.  The women asked us if we could return and teach them the Bible and how to read and write.  We look forward to our team’s efforts at continuing our relationship with the Aeta families at Bangka-Bangka.

Sa Ang Palengke (At The Market)

by Sarah Mascaro

My weekly trips to Sam’s and Kroger in the States have been traded in for daily trips to the Gordon Street City Market.  Every morning we arrive at the bustling market, where we are greeted by the smells of sweet mangos, fresh fish, and the calls of “Good morning Ma’am!”  Mrs. Garner and I weave through the mass of fruits, veggies and bustling Filipinos as they get ready for their day, we walk down the aisle of flopping fresh fish and make our way to visit our regular vendors for our staples of eggs, vegetables, fish and chicken.  We have also been taking advantage of the fresh mangos as well as pineapple, bananas, and sinigwelas.

While there is a joy to visiting the market, I am often reminded of the difficulty of providing nutritious meals for families.  With a dozen eggs costing about a sixth of the average daily income (about 300 pesos), it is easy to see how quickly a person’s income can go towards food to feed their family.  It is a part of the detriment of living in the city where people are limited to buying food from the market instead of growing it themselves.

My Ministry Efforts

By Trinidad Garner

I have been visiting a number of the young women trafficked into the sex industry of Barretto and Calapandayan.  There have been moments when we have been blessed to speak with, pray with and give clothes and other necessities to as many as twenty of these women at a time.  All of the girls I have spoken with desire to have a different job, but they have multiple children to feed and will do what they have to in order to feed their kids.

My personal connection with these girls allows me to meet them at a level that other persons cannot.  My age and the spirit help me to be received by these girls as a mother.  They all hug me and want to talk with me; they come up to me on the street and greet me as ‘Mama G’ and I do not even know them.  Maybe they all talk about the white kids and the ole man and his Filipina that enter the bars and want to help them.

One of the younger girls shared how her virginity had been sold to a seventy year old American man.  The girls all confess that their drinking enables them to endure the forced sexual encounters they are required to submit to by the mamasan and the bar managers.  I wonder why America does not identify these men that own bars and sell girls and stop them from coming to the Philippines.  I wonder if these men have families and if they know what they are doing?  I wonder if anyone will ever help us, help these girls?