In the Absence of Courage

In the absence of courage the moral fabric of society suffers under the illusion of public relations propaganda that perpetuates the continuance of failed government. Every human being is expected to function as a moral agent that is responsible for their own actions. The cost of cowardice permeates our world.

By Mike Garner

In Exchange for Dollars

By Mike Garner

In exchange for dollars the poor lose their lives as voiceless victims. A few weeks ago I stood in a home where girls are housed by a bar owner (pimp) in Barrio Barretto. His name is Dave Fisher and he is around sixty years old. He is a Canadian and owner of Lips Bar. I stood and told the girls that their lives would be over in five years. I warned them that within five years they would have multiple children by different men. I warned them that some of them would contract an STD. I warned them that some would suffer irreparable damage to their emotions and psyche from sleeping with men that become faceless monsters. I told them that death comes in many forms and pleaded with them to go home. Only one of them left, others stayed out of fear, some from the need to feed their family.

In Lips Bar the girls are required to consume alcohol. The girls are paid a share of the cost of the drinks. In this way their lives and health are endangere by a foreign pimp that is little more than a child molester posing as a business man. Dave Fisher has over 20 girls boarding in the house at #7 La Union St. in Barrio Barretto.

On July 2nd at James Gordon Hospital in Olongapo city one of these girls died. Her name is Myrna Ragaza she was 16 years old. Myrna’s death was a result of neglect by Dave Fisher and the governing offices of Olongapo. Her death is recorded as a severe case of pneumonia. A 16 year old girl reared in poverty suffers the ill effects of malnutrition. When subjected to the consumption of alcohol by her owner (Dave Fisher) it is expected that her body’s ability to fight off illness would be weakened. Further her owner that houses her in these conditions and forces her to consume alcohol, also makes her wear a number on the bra of her uniform so that a customer can pick her out by number and pay to take her out for the evening. The failure of Olongapo City officials to protect these exploited girls makes them complicit in the activity of pimps and molesters.

The bar owners of Barrio Barretto and Angeles City are sexual predators that participate with one another  in organized crime. Many of these men are retired military or the beneficiaries of social security. Why do our governments give them passports to abuse children in other countries? What happens when the men that visit these bars (around 1.2 million per year) return home with a taste for young girls?

Myrna Ragaza died at the age of 16 in the arms of a mamasan at a hospital that must deal with premature and unnecessary death on a daily basis. She had worked at the ‘Pony Tail’ in Angeles City prior to coming to Barrio Barretto.  I wish I had known that Myrna was sick when I was in the house where she and other young girls were/are kept. Myrna’s voice was silenced to poverty and lack of education. Her life was taken by the greed that enables sex tourism in the Philippines. Her life was taken by a system inaugurated into Philippine society by the US military. Her life was taken because the church is to frightened to challenge systemic injustice.

A Report on the Committee for HIV and STD Prevention in Olongapo

By Michelle Madron and Rachel Olson

Several women on our team have been persistently visiting the City Hall these last few weeks in order to establish connections with the health department officials, social workers, politicians, among other Olongapo city representatives. This persistence has paid off in a number of ways. We have been able to gain access to documents about health care procedures for registering girls working in the sex tourist industry.

One opportunity resulting from this was an invitation to the OCAC’s (Olongapo City Aids Committee) quarterly meeting. Michelle and I attended the meeting on Wednesday. The committee is comprised of about 20 representatives from several government departments, led by a City Program Coordinator from the U.N.  This U.N. official is stationed in Olongapo because it has been labeled a “high risk” transit city due to its busy ports and rampant sex tourism. The two hour meeting, consisted of a power point presentation on the most recent stats and information gathered on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. It was apparent that this group did not possess the moral courage to challenge their leaders to enforce the anti-prostitution laws that would end sex tourism and solve many of their dilemmas.

Challenging the Church of the Philippines to Serve the Poor

By Brett Madron

When a man scarred with leprosy approaches Jesus, the man begs, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion for this man that society has abandoned, Jesus replies, “I am willing, be clean.”

Our movement’s mission in Olongapo is to be filled with compassion and moved to action towards those whom Filipino society has deemed ‘unclean.’  Part of our responsibility in this endeavor is to challenge the local church to be willing, as Jesus was, to reach into the lives of the least of these and work towards a just society.

This past Sunday the immersion team facilitated a service at a local church, where we shared of our efforts among communities of need here in Olongapo.  We sought to inform the youth by demonstrating how they can participate in acts of service to improve the lives of those in the slums, advocate for sexually exploited women and provide meals and befriend those who spend their nights on the streets or in the prisons.

These youth have the opportunity to insist the church’s next generation be the liberating body of Christ in a broken world.  They must be filled with compassion and overcome the fatalism that often paralyzes people from confronting the inhumane conditions of their world.  We look forward to opportunities to both educate these eager youth in the Bible and empower them to serve the poor in their own city.

When Jobs are Scarce

By Joel Olson

From our very first encounter with Hanjin employees we learned about the physical and verbal abuse Filipinos endure on a daily basis.  One employee told us, “During work hours Koreans are not our friends. If something goes wrong they will kick us in the side, slap us in the head or spit on us.”  We learned from Junny, a former employee who lives in the slums of Olongapo that retaliation of any kind results in termination.  Junny grimaced when I asked him about the way he lost his job with Hanjin.  “A Korean kicked me in my back, so I pushed him.  Now, no job.”

It is going to take courage, determination and cooperation on the part of the 15,000 (soon to be 20,000) Filipino laborers to stop the whip of Hanjin from striking their backs.   Many of the workers are aware that their rights are being violated by this international slave driver. So they remain silent, for fear of losing their jobs.  Men that have left their homes can be sent away and replaced the next day, with nothing to show for it.  As a result their families go hungry, and they suffer unemployment in a country where jobs are scarce.

2010 Immersion in Review

By Shaun Galford

Below is a concise review of the 2010 Philippines immersion.  The team has successfully infiltrated the "Sex Industry" at both a private and governmental level.  We have visited the "stables" were the girls are housed and observed the fear tactics the bar owners implement to enslave them.  We have witnessed the camaraderie that exists between the bar owners who share a vocabulary and desire for lust, greed and power. However, the fragility of their world is apparent and they fear its collapse. The Olongapo government colludes with the "sex industry." City Hall officials' profit by requiring the girls to purchase a license and weekly pap smears to continue working in the bars. Public health representatives from the United Nations and other organizations lack the moral courage necessary to bring this industry to an end.

Our experience has not been limited to the "sex industry."  We have visited several Aeta villages in an effort to develop relationships with the indigenous population and are becoming more knowledgeable of their needs and how to serve them.  We are gaining more knowledge of the exploitation of Philippine workers by multinational corporations like Hanjin (see “When Jobs are Scarce” above).  In Pag-Asa we are teaching the people to help themselves and believe the slums can become a sign of hope.

This summer the team has responsibly distributed approximately 1,600 lbs of goods. This includes an assortment of clothing, bras, underwear, shoes, manicure kits, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes (over 2,000), antibiotic ointment, bandages and gauze, sterile gloves, thermometers, school supplies, musical instruments, farming equipment, etc.  Also, we purchased over 400 meals.  This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner meals for the children of Pag-Asa market, late night homeless feedings at Rizal triangle, taking street kids in Barreto to Rico's diner, sharing meals with friends in Pag-Asa and taking bar girls and street children out for lunch.