On the island of Negros lies the beautiful seaport town of Dumaguete City, boasting some of the best diving sites in all of the Philippines. Known as the City of Gentle People, its inhabitants are innately hospitable. But as with many cities, Dumaguete City has a problem. An area of the “Boulevard” is home to rampant prostitution and sex trafficking, supported by its stop-over location for travelers crossing the Pacific and the economic shortcomings of the area. It is well documented that poverty is a primary driver of girls and young women entering the sex industry in the Philippines.* Many are placed in this situation due to desperately poor rural families who cannot afford to feed their children. Others enter the trade as a means of survival, needing to support children as single parents or even trying to save money for an education and a way out of impoverishment. Many girls of the rural areas do not attend school and then find themselves in a culture that drastically underpays women on every economic level.
In 2014 a small number of girls ages 12 to 16 were befriended by Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries who searched them out on the streets. They came from poor and broken families, some addicted to drugs as early as 8 years old. They slept on the streets at night, warm or cold weather. An MQHM sister convinced them to come to the Home of Love, the sister’s shelter for these unfortunate victims. There they would have a chance to rehabilitate, received spiritual guidance and psychological help and eventually gain an education.
After just four days, six of them ran away, stating they were afraid of being abused and mistreated as had happened before when being picked up and placed in city youth homes. After a day and night of wandering the streets, all six returned and pleaded to be allowed to stay. Of course, the Sisters welcomed them whole-heartedly and encouraged them to stay and change their lives in The Home of Love, promising the future would include hardship and sacrifice, but the rewards would be abundant. Like all young girls, they had dreams too.
Today, three of these girls are still in the Home of Love Reintegration Program, doing well at home, and will graduate high school in the spring. Three lives saved, changed and now with a chance for a decent, happy and productive life. Understanding, kindness, spiritual awakening and education leading to a meaningful trade, is the mission of Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries for the girls of their beautiful country…the Philippines. *Silliman University Medical Center Study 2001