Story of Maria

Maria was born to a family in a slum in the Metro – in a community where violence, drug dealing, and prostitution are daily affairs. Affairs in which her mother was highly involved. At the age of 12, so was Maria.

It started when she was given as a “birthday gift” to a man whom she called her uncle. “At first, I was confused as to why uncle came to our house to fetch me for no reason and my mother insisted that I come with him,” Maria recalled the first time she was sold for sex. As she had been the receiving end of her mother’s frequent tantrums resulting to physical and verbal attacks, she obeyed everything she asked her out of fear. Maria unwillingly went with her “uncle”.

The uncle who was also a policeman came with two other friends. They brought Maria to a nearby motel. It was then when she learned that the man paid her mom 3,500 pesos in exchange for her. Maria begged them not to touch her, but the man just told her to take drugs so she will be relaxed. Amidst fear and confusion, Maria took the drugs and eventually dozed off as the 3 men sexually abused her.

In the morning, Maria was fetched by her aunt from the motel and brought her back home. She cried hysterically upon seeing her mother. “Mama, why did you do that?” she asked. To which her mom just told her to shrug it off and get used to it. She said Maria was old enough to work and needed to help pay the rent, bring food on the table and send her younger brother to school. Since then, it had been the life Maria had to live with.

Every night, her mother got her “customers” either from their neighborhood or from her foreign contacts. There were times when Maria earned as much as 3,000 pesos per customer but there were also times when she would only be paid with fast food.

When she turned 14, Maria was made to work at a Karaoke bar where she was taken out every night by paying customers. She worked there until she was 16. One day, a relative learned about was happening and decided to help Maria. She reported the case to authorities and soon after, Maria was referred to ECPAT Philippines for her healing and rehabilitation.

With ECPAT’s assistance, Maria filed a child prostitution and trafficking case against her mother. It had not been an easy thing for Maria to do.

When she first saw her mother on trial since she was rescued, Maria disclosed her feelings to a social worker. “Deep in my heart, I wanted very much to embrace her and tell her, Mama, I still love you despite what you did to me.  I am doing this so you can put a stop to your addiction and change your life.  I also do not want to have a life like yours.  And even if I win this case, I will still get hurt to see you handcuffed or behind bars.” After 3 years of legal and court proceedings, Maria’s mother was convicted.

Maria is now back to school and eager to finish her studies. She is determined to reach her dreams and be able to provide for her younger brother.