Superhero series: THE VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION, MTV EXIT, and quite possibly, YOU.

From time to time, I feature some people or groups that I think are pretty awesome. It’s called the SUPERHERO SERIES!

I finally got to watch Taken with my father. As entertaining as it was (I thought it was a great action flick–awesome plot and script), the trafficking scenes really hit me hard. They hit me hard because those scenes and situations are very real, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for women my age (or younger) to be deceived and taken away from their homes and families and drugged so bad that men can rape them multiple times every day of their lives.

Deceived. Drugged. Raped. Every day.

And we thought we had problems.

When I was still working at MTV, one of the campaigns I worked on was our global pro-social campaign called MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking). That was my first time to really study the issue. We worked with the MTV Europe Foundation and USAID to create and publicize a localized documentary to raise awareness about human trafficking. In 2007, we launched the documentary, which was hosted by Christian Bautista, at a press launch at Hard Rock Cafe. Dicta License (they were still intact at that time) rendered a couple of songs, including Tinangay, a special song (scroll down for the music video) they wrote for the largest anti-human trafficking organization in the Philippines, the Visayan Forum Foundation. US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was there, as well as Cecil Flores-Oebanda, the Executive Director of the Visayan Forum Foundation.

Prior to that launch, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mrs. Oebanda for a meeting at our office. My first impression of her was that she was a soft-spoken and kind woman, who was incredibly passionate about the fight she was leading. That’s when I learned all about the Visayan Forum Foundation and what they’ve been doing over these past years. Hearing her tell us about the work they do, I realized how real and how pressing the trafficking problem really is. The Foundation has people who stand watch at the ports, doing their best to interfere any trafficking attempts. They have halfway homes where trafficked women can stay to be safe and get treatment, counseling, and even training to be able to stand on their own feet once again. They’re doing such good work.

I learned a lot about human trafficking at that time, but I had regrettably forgotten most of what I’ve learned. Watching this movie brought me to look into this issue again.

(Do click on the link below and read the rest, I’ve got important stuff to say in the end of this post! :))

Some facts to look into (from the Visayan Forum Foundation website):

Extent of Global Trafficking
Trafficking in human beings is a critical global problem. Next to trafficking in money, drugs, and guns, it is among the most profitable underground businesses worldwide.  The US Government estimates that during 2003 around 600,000 to 800,000 people were trafficked across transnational borders worldwide. Of those, it is believed that more than 80 percent are women and girls, 70 percent of whom are forced into sexual servitude. Actual trafficking figures are believed to be much higher – in the millions – because trafficking is difficult to monitor and is therefore underreported.

Trafficking in the Philippines
The Philippines is known to be among the leading sources of migrant workers worldwide. The economy is heavily dependent on the eight million Filipinos working abroad, as are the economies of the countries where these migrant workers are employed. Tens (even hundreds) of thousand of these migrants are trafficked, lured by promises of a better life in the urban centers.

Traffickers clandestinely organize their transport operations via different ports and land routes in the Philippines. Internal trafficking is the springboard for international trafficking. Worldwide recruitment relies on intricate processes that start in far-flung communities. Traffickers operate in underground networks with strong connections to corrupt public officials and transport operators. Every year, thousands of Filipino women and children are trapped through the cycle of trafficking into a life of slavery, sexual exploitation and human rights violations. (Read more here)

As I mentioned earlier, my friend, Pochoy, together with his former band (Dicta License), was commissioned by Visayan Forum to create a song that reflected the plight of trafficking victims. More facts on trafficking in this video:

VERY REAL FACT: Young Filipinos are hot targets for traffickers because a lot of young people are looking to study or work abroad and can be lured by enticing offers that may seem legit but actually aren’t. Like some of those job opportunities for nurses. Some of those are fronts for traffickers. For real.

If you’re a young person looking to work, study, or travel abroad, here are some helpful tips about protecting yourself,  which I grabbed from the MTV Exit website:

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Be informed! Check the MTV Exit site because there’s a wealth of practical info to be found there.

But apart from that…do something. And it may or may not even be related to human trafficking.

Here’s what I know to be true: there are so many causes in this world to fight for. A LOT. Abortion, abuse, alcoholism, disabilities, drug abuse/recovery, education, environment, ethics, families, health, homelessness, human rights, hunger, justice, poverty, violence…the list can go on and on. Some of us will be fighting for certain causes, and others will be fighting for the others. No one says we have to fight them all. Even Jesus didn’t command his disciples to go and do all the work. This is what he actually said: The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Reality check: There are a lot of well-meaning people out there, but some of of them feel the pressure to juggle all these battles but end up feeling burnt out. There are some who get too fanatical when it comes to fighting their causes and they judge others who don’t fight the same causes that they do. There are also some people who tend to paralyze themselves, thinking that they’re not good enough to do anything noteworthy, so they just don’t do anything at all.

Know this: our callings and involvements will differ. Some will devote their whole lives and some will devote some of their resources; some will fight at the frontlines and some will be working behind desks. Some will be leaders and some will be followers; some will be loud and will speak before crowds, some will be quiet but will be fighting fiercely nonetheless. One will not be necessarily be better than the other–these things don’t make anyone more or less special (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). Each person has a unique calling, and each one of us–when we obey that call–can make a difference.

In one of my favorite books, S.H.A.P.E., author Erik Rees posed these great questions that got me thinking, and I’m going to close this post with these questions for you to think about, too:

What cause do you feel God wants you to help conquer? What cause or issue makes your heart race? If time, money, or resources weren’t an issue, to what cause would you donate yourself?

* * *

If you liked this, you might be interested in these related posts:

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One response to “Superhero series: THE VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION, MTV EXIT, and quite possibly, YOU.

  1. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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