Poverty and Desperation Among the Urban Poor

A world in need of transformation requires people of courage that are willing to stand with faith and vision against the many forms of death. Apostolic obstinance refuses to bend to the whims of the status quo. Prophetic speech refuses to compromise with political ploys for time. Social justice is not a political concept it is at the essence of God’s reign on earth.

By Mike Garner

Poverty and Desperation Among the Urban Poor

By Brett Madron and Mike Garner

I stood there with what I’m certain was a disturbed stare on my face, he responded with a dejected look on his face.  His despondent look of helplessness helped me understand why he and his friends were willing to climb a foot deep into a drainage ditch reaking with the smell of stagnant water and garbage. Bill simply replied, “no work, no food.” These men are paid a pittance to dig out the ditches and must save every plastic bottle and search for any object of value in order to survive in the slums adjacent to the economic zones yacht filled marina. Bill and his friends are not lazy.  They work in the heat of the day doing strenuous manual labor all the while knowing their families will continue to live in conditions unfit for human beings.

With heavy rains pending this Summer and Fall in the Philippines, poor drainage and waste management systems are certain to further complicate health concerns.  The band-aid solutions offered with jobs like Bill’s are a failure of the Filipino government to invest into its greatest resources, its people.

In most cities the drainage systems are dug by hand, lined with block and do not maintain a downward grade. Nor do these drainage systems consist of pump stations to facilitate the complications of draining off torrential rains in a world filled with concrete. A walk down any street is treacherous due to the crumbling covers that are placed over these drainage ditches. The smell of rotting garbage washed into the ditches is a constant for city dwellers.

America rebuilt Germany and Japan, yet we left our friends and allies (Filipinos) to fend for themselves amidst the aftermath of World War II. During the Philippine American war of 1898-1902 American soldiers killed over 250,000 Filipinos. The American military promoted the largest sex industry in the world in Olongapo and Angeles Cities.  The wealthiest nation on earth owes a debt to the Philippines that needs to be paid. The globalization of the world requires that we care for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

Profile of Liminal Male Tourists in the Philippines

By Shaun Galford

Shortly after entering the bar "Frankie Ringo" sat beside me.  Starting a conversation with him was easy.  I only had to say "hello, what's your name?"  He was over 50 years old and originally from the Czech Republic, however he had lived in Florida for the past 20 years.  Frankie Ringo answered my questions without hesitation, thinking that I was a sex tourist (like him).  He told me that most of the bars were owned by Americans and Australians.

Frankie lives in the Philippines 4-6 months out of the year.  He confessed to me that in America the "girls he wants" would not give him the time.  But here in the Philippines he can basically purchase a "girlfriend."  In fact, he admitted to having a 20 year old Filipina "girlfriend" back at his apartment.   Yet, this doesn't stop him from "bar fining" other girls, which he takes to hotel rooms.  He went on to say that some of the men like "younger girls" who are under 18 years of age.  There are "pimps" that get them these young girls from outside the city in the province. Frankie told me that he traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines to buy women.  And when I looked into his eyes there was no remorse.

A Look Into The Vocation Of A Midwife In The Philippines:

By Michelle Madron During my time here in Olongapo I have spent a few days a week observing Christina Orario, Registered Midwife, at her birthing home.  She has worked in Saudi Arabia and a local hospital in Olongapo for almost 30 years now.  This experience has allowed her to succeed in running a very busy and growing birthing home.  The need for trained midwives is overwhelming in the area.

After an entire day with Christina, I witnessed the lack of rest she gets in her passion to serve the poorer women of Olongapo.  Her office is filled with women all day that  come to receive their monthly prenatal check-ups and bring their babies in for newborn screenings.

Her work continues throughout the night and early morning hours in order to attend to births that do not occur during her office hours.  Christina averages 20-30 births a month.  Her age and the emotional toll of working with poverty stricken women is taxing on the strongest personalities. The excitement of new life and the burdens of women without husbands are drastic circumstances to connect with from moment to moment.  Christina’s responds like a mother to her children as she cares for her patients and guides them through these vulnerable moments.

Learning and Serving at PREDA

By Kristin Bennecker and Sarah Mascaro

We have met many of the girls that work in the bars of Olongapo. We have visited them in the bars and in their shanties and in the stables where they are kept. We have met some of their children, listened to their stories, taught them the Bible, and given them care packages. We have witnessed first-hand the debilitating effects of sex tourism on their lives and how the world around them has turned a blind eye to the abuse they suffer everyday. All this has prepared us for our volunteer work at PREDA.

At PREDA we have been aiding abused women and girls in the recovery process. We have facilitated group activities and individual literacy tutoring. We have met ten girls who are now living at PREDA undergoing rehabilitation for sexual exploitation and abuse. In this safe environment, the girls are free to laugh, play, and be themselves, but the scars of their past cannot be hidden. They were robbed of their childhood and education when they were trafficked, neglected, and abused. In turn, they have frequent emotional outbursts, struggle with their self-esteem, and have difficulty building trusting relationships.

We have been working with two girls that never went to school. Now at 12 and 16 years old, they barely know their alphabet. They see themselves as less than because they don’t know how to read. Through our tutoring sessions we have begun to teach them the alphabet and told them that we believe in their ability to learn.  We recognize that when the world looks at these girls they have lost hope in their ability to become whole human beings that contribute to society. We choose to be different. When we teach and spend time with them, we tell the world that they are wrong and fill the girls with hope and confidence.

The people of PREDA are courageous persons that seek to raise the awareness of their society to the abuse suffered by the sex industry. The problem is immense and the Philippines needs a thousand more PREDA organizations.

Olongapo City Jail

By Rachel Olson

Jennifer is a woman in her 40’s and was arrested for drug possession. She has been awaiting trial at the Olongapo city jail for 5 years now. Though she has family, they have only made the trip to see her 3 times in those last five years. Every day, Jennifer wakes up, puts on her yellow shirt labeled with ‘Olongapo city Detainee’, and dreadfully passes the time in the small fenced area where over forty women are jailed. When I asked Jennifer why she took drugs, she said ‘Well I’m depressed of course, my life has been hard’.

With Mrs. G leading the way via her Tagalog and managerial skills, we entered the jail this week to share a few moments together with these incarcerated women. They immediately gathered together and we began to sing songs, share some encouraging truths from Gods word about mercy and love, and finally we left them with some much needed hygiene products.

The moment I will never forget that day was the connection I felt with those women, as we sang together. Leafa played guitar and sang a familiar Tagalog worship song “Pupurihin ka o’Diyos”.  At the first strum, the women leaped to their feet, threw their hands up in worship to God and sang joyously. Though convicted and incarcerated, impoverished and desperate, I saw in them the only freedom they had left, the power of a song, a song sung to God. The toothless grins they covered when talking with us earlier were now exposed unashamedly before a merciful God.

Kapit Bahay (Neighbor)

By Joel Olson

Every week that passes we learn more about the neighborhood we call home.  You can see the effect our presence has on this neighborhood.  As we become a fixture in this middle class neighborhood of Olongapo, shouts of “Hey Man!” turn into, “Hey Joel,” or “Where is Ethan!”  Our daily run to the gym creates quite a stir as children walking to school cheer us on.  The small market next door appreciates the late night soda routine adopted by a few of the team members.  And as we continue to make friends, curious looks and stares are now smiles and waves.

Personally, I look forward to furthering our relationships with people like Jojo, an unemployed middle-aged man, who has shown himself to be willing to help, and welcoming of our presence. Nerio and Delia helped my wife and I locate several potential schools for our daughter.  Boyet offered me neighborly advice about the floods coming this rainy season.  There are many more wonderful neighbors who have made this foreign land feel a little more like home these last 9 weeks.  It is my hope that through our continued presence we will be a blessing to those in our neighborhood