Despicable, appalling, and convoluting, three words I would use to describe child sexual abuse.
In one estimate, there are 800,000 women in the Philippines who works in the sex industry. Outside of Metro Manila, both Angeles and Olongapo are notorious for prostitution.
I think it was around three years ago when I went on a 2-week road trip to the north. After visiting Baguio, La Union, and Tarlac, I had a stopover in the city of Angeles.
Let me share with my impression then that lasts to this day.
Angeles City and Prostitution
It was late in the afternoon when I arrived in the city. As I drove along the main road outside the former Clark Air Base, I took in the sight of bars, pimps, and prostitutes.
Earlier during the day, while I was in Tarlac, I booked a room in one of the many hotels in Angeles. Unfortunately, the location map was not accurate. Suffice to say, it was evening by the time I arrived at the hotel.
After checking in and leaving all my things, it was time for me to go out and look for a decent place to have dinner.
Unfamiliar, I did what tourists do, and that is to go to the reception counter and ask for tips.
There were three young women at the counter. “Where can I go to find good food?” I asked one of them.
“Sir, you can walk out to the main road,” she replied. “There are a lot of bars there.”
“Oh, no. I am looking for food,” I clarified.
“They have a lot of food in the bars,” she said. “If you want to, you could also take out and bring someone you like here.”
I did not know how to react and was about to walk away when she added, “If you bring back someone, there is no extra charge.”
They started laughing as I walked away.
Because I was alone, they assumed I was there for prostitutes.
The more I thought about that, the more it made me upset and fuming mad.
On that day, I swore never to return to that pathetic city.
The sad reality of Angeles City is that there are many women bearing children without fathers. Due to poverty, these children end up becoming prostitutes too.
One Horrible Afternoon
This is not the first time I am writing about child sexual abuse and there is a reason for that.
One quiet afternoon four decades ago, there was a kid walking home from school. Unknown to the little boy as he turned to enter the apartment building, there was a man following him.
Like most apartment buildings in those days, the entrance is a driveway leading to the stairs.
As the kid approaches the stairs in the dark driveway, the man grabbed the boy. After forcing the kid to turn around and face him, he pulls back the hair so that the kid’s face is looking upward.
Without warning, he started kissing the boy, pushing his tongue inside the child’s mouth.
Trembling with fear, the boy acted on instinct.
He struggled to get free and kicks the man before running up the stairs.
He ran as fast as he could, never looking back, never stopping, until he reached the third floor where he lived.
No one knew, even after forty years, not even his parents who had died years earlier.
For four decades, the kid carried the stigma of that shameful experience with him.
Do you want to know what happened to that kid?
He is the one who wrote this post.
I was once a victim of child sexual abuse.
For decades, I have tried to suppress that horrible experience. But no matter how much I tried, there are times when it comes back haunt me.
Such was the case after I saw a video of child sexual abuse committed by a member of the Catholic Church.
To be clear, I remember the face of the guy who jumped me and he was no priest. But I can relate to some of the victims.
Mothers Prostituting Own Daughters
“Do you know why the families in Polangui prefer to have daughters rather than sons?” A man asked me.
“No,” I replied.
“Because daughters are good investments for them when they are old enough to be prostitutes,” he explained.
This was a conversation I had with a sales agent back when I was a teenager.
Years later, the first time I went to the town of Polangui in Albay, I could not shake the thought off my mind.
Everywhere I looked, I wondered if the women I saw were in the sex trade.
I would learn later that this was not true, but even the untruths may have some truth.
When I worked for my dad, my job was to visit our customers in Bicol region.
In Legazpi City, the first hotel I stayed at was the old and cheap hotel for traveling sales agents.
One night, I returned to the hotel after a day of visiting customers in the city. At the lobby, there was a group of women there waiting for hotel guests to pick them up.
Some of them had been working there for more than ten years, a hotel staff told me.
Going up to the second floor, a woman approached me before I opened the door to my room.
Standing beside her was a teenage girl.
“Sir, maybe you would like to spend some time with my daughter,” she said. “She is young and this would be her first time.”
“How old is she?” I asked.
“She is only 13 years old,” the mother said. “She is fresh and still a virgin.”
I ignored them and went inside my room, unsure what I had just heard.
Mothers pimping their own daughters, the same thing continues to happen.
PREDA’s Mission to Stop Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
Cyber pornography is a big business for the operators.
Because of poverty, poor children are the easy targets even by their own families.
Child sexual abuse is both a crime and a social issue that resonates with me.
The horrible experience I had four decades ago is nothing compared to what many others had to endure.
Do those fools realize how they are destroying these children by becoming active participants?
For the life of me, I cannot fathom how parents could abuse their own child, in flesh or online.
Perhaps for these offending parents, could they be once victims of child sexual abuse?
But all hope is not lost.
In 1974, Father Shay Cullen, an Irish member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban founded the People’s Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation (PREDA).
Since its founding, PREDA has saved hundreds of children from sexual abuses and illegal trades.
I believe in their sincerity and they have done a lot of good for the helpless innocent victims.
Inspired by their dedication, I wrote this post as a contribution to raising awareness.
Duterte in the early months of his administration has waged a war of words against the United States. On more than a few occasions, he had dared the U.S. government to stop donations.
Does he realize that one agency, USAID, has made a significant contribution to PREDA?
Success stories are inspiring.
So, take away the help of U.S. government, it is like taking away future PREDA success stories.
Do you know what else inspires me?
It is knowing that some of the children they saved are now also the ones saving others.
From Child Abduction and Rape Victim to Inspiration
One of the things I like doing when I am done writing is to watch YouTube videos.
Sure, I watch movies and TV series sometimes, but I prefer watching documentaries. I think that explains how I found the videos I embedded here for you to watch at your convenience.
Besides documentaries, I love watching TED Talks.
There is a lot to learn from listening to people around the world sharing their knowledge. But more than that, it is also listening to the incredible experiences of people who try to make a positive change in the world.
On June 2002, then 14 years old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home in Utah and held in captivity for 9 months before her rescue.
In her testimony, she recounted how her captors raped her 3 to 4 times a day.
If I had seen the news of her rescue years ago, what would my thoughts be?
In all honesty, I have no idea, but I would have serious doubt on her recovery.
The body can heal, but the mind is another story.
So, it came as a surprise to me when I saw a TED Talk video where she talked about her experience.
I thought being thankful for her experience as it brought a new perspective to her life was inspiring.
The point is that there are people helping and inspiring others in spite of their experiences.
They only needed to be given a chance.