Sold Like a Chicken

Fr. Jim Mulroney
October 16, 2013

Jim Mulroney

“I was promised a job as a waitress in a club,” bemoaned a distraught Filipina woman “but on my first night in Hong Kong I realized I had been sex-trafficked.” She explained that along with other women the manager said we could just have drinks with the customers. Another young Filipina said that she had also been told that all she had to do was have drinks with the clients. “I had worked overseas before and going out with the clients was strictly forbidden. In fact, if any of the girls did, they got terminated.”

Sex trafficking doesn’t always involve midnight journeys in covered trucks, but comes with smooth talking job-recruiters promising decent work, moderate wages, a chance to travel and the possibility to help the family. Outsiders wonder how young women from the Philippines are continually sucked in by these promises. But in a country where truth and trickery are difficult to distinguish, it can be hard to smell a rat when business people offer a good job in a foreign country. “We’ve all heard stories of people making money overseas,” one woman explained, “but women caught in our situation — they never talk about it at home.”

Both women gave up calling their families, as they couldn’t hide their emotions. “I was always afraid I would cry,” said one “and give the game away.” The other said she relied on God. “I have learned that you can’t judge anyone. We came to Hong Kong with the dream of a better future, but this is shattered. It’s hard to dream here, but I still have hope. I pray every night. I talk to God as a father. I feel close to Him because of my trials.”

Now back in the Philippines, both say that time is comforting, but the scars of their traumatic adventures in Hong Kong remain raw, even after some time has passed. One said, “I cannot tell anyone here or I will be marked as a prostitute forever. But I must tell someone. I don’t want anyone else to get caught. I was sold like a chicken to satisfy someone’s appetite.”