JENALYN (not her real name) has had a hard life.
At age 15, she came to Cebu from Cagayan de Oro to take up a woman’s offer of a job and a chance to pursue her studies. These seemed like a godsend for Jenalyn, whose mother had given her up to an orphanage and for whom school seemed a remote possibility.
But when she arrived in Cebu, Jenalyn and other girls were brought not to a safe home and the chance to go to school, but to the red-light district in Cebu City’s Barangay Kamagayan, where a woman in a brothel told them they would have to work for her.
Work meant having sex with strangers and no chance of escape. It meant taking illegal
drugs so she wouldn’t fall asleep at night.
“Dili pwede magtulog-tulog kung na’ay customer (We had to stay awake for the customers),” Jenalyn said.
But she eventually found the courage and the chance to flee. After two priests convinced her to seek help, Jenalyn immediately went to a rescue center.
There, she eventually had the chance to resume her studies and to quit the flesh trade.
In her recorded interview, aired before participants of an inter-faith prayer
gathering organized by the Inter-Agency Council Against Human Trafficking (IACAT) yesterday, Jenalyn said her experiences as a human trafficking victim has taught her to be strong.
“I may be a victim, but I am a great survivor,” she added.
After hearing Jenalyn’s story, members of the inter-faith group and government officials urged the public to continue praying for those who remain in the clutches of human traffickers.
Senior Insp. Theresa Macatangay, head of the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RATTF) 7, also asked for prayers for law enforcers to rescue human trafficking
victims like Jenalyn.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, who heads the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), said the gathering was a way to raise awareness on the issue.
She added that the PWC, the International Justice Mission, IACAT and other groups are working together to continue the fight against human trafficking.
Majority of the victims of human trafficking in the Philippines are young women, 23 to 27 years old. In a paper for the United Nations Global Program Against Trafficking, Celia Leones and Donna Caparas observed there was also a “notable number of victims” from Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga, because of easy access to travel in these areas.
They reported that victims of trafficking were often sent to Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East, among other areas, and that the most common way of luring victims was to offer them job placements abroad.