A new lease on life for Glenda
Jason recently returned to The Philippines, flying in from his new home in north Thailand to catch up with people like Marlene Alastra of FOCUS Inc, Dr. Paulo Fuller and Diane all of whom appeared in Street Dreams and continue to play a part in the trafficking world. Here are some thoughts of his recent experience as he went to show the film to everyone there for the first time…
All my trips to the Philippines are best summarised by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers in the song “Aeroplane” – pleasure spiked with pain. The pain could be better described as heartache. Hopefully the following account sheds some light on what I’m talking about.
NIGHT ONE – ANGELES CITY
I have arranged to visit Dr. Paulo Fuller, the English expert from Street Dreams, to show him the documentary. Pretty straightforward, right? But this is the Philippines we are talking about here folks…
We meet late in the afternoon but he tells me that at about 6pm he has to meet up with a French film crew who are going to film him delivering some sort of official documentation to a German guy. The documentation is informing the German that he has to front up to court the next day so that he can start taking responsibility for the Filipino child he has conceived, and is also rejecting. He said this showdown would take an hour. I thought: Sounds great! On meeting the crew, I am informed that this guy might get violent therefore could I please come along and stop the German from beating the Englishman (this is how America must have felt during WW2). I’ve never bashed a German on camera before, so hey, why not? We then spent the next 8 hours going in and out of clubs (brothels), housing estates and 5 star hotels.
Many of these clubs we filmed in Street Dreams, but then there was one that was definitely different. When we walked in the door, it was the usual fare: bored and embarrassed half-naked girls swaying to the music, praying that no ugly white guy would seek their company. But then suddenly one of the girls leapt on stage with microphone and sung with all the gusto of Christina Aguilera. The girls around her immediately broke into a syncronised dance routine. Is this a girly club or a cabaret?? Only in the Philippines.
The night for me finished at 2am when it seemed our German sleazebag gave us a slip. I found out later that they caught up with him and the German man, and, upon receiving his documentation, proceeded to bash the French crew (again, just like WW2).
NIGHT TWO – MANILA
This time it was Marlene and Diane’s turn. We sat down and watched Street Dreams together. Diane was blushing but I could tell she was rather pleased. We then decided to head out to see what the other girls from the Street Dreams doco were doing. First we hit the Cabao street side intersection where we found Glenda looking quite happy selling candy and girl’s headbands in an alleyway. Her children were playing nearby on a cardboard box. Obviously this was not ideal, but it was certainly better then seeing her selling her body. I bought some candy for the kids. However, just around the corner was a mother with a young baby. She should have had a young son with her as well, but the 3 year-old had recently died from tonsilitis. How does a child die of tonsilitis in this day and age? Marlene showed me the photo of the deceased boy who was the same age as my little boy. I am not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears over that one. It hit home pretty hard.
After catching a bus and a few jeepneys, we arrived back at the infamous row of brothels along Commonwealth Avenue. I thought we would return to the dingy dive that inspired Remember Seven’s Red Lit Stage song and music clip, but we went to a bar that was worse. I didn’t think that was possible, but it honestly looked like a shed that a farmer would keep a tractor in – no joke! As we sat in this barn, we looked across the room and saw five young horrified faces staring up at the stage. These were 16 year-old girls who had just wandered into the bar seeking work and they were beginning to realise the reality of what they were getting themselves into. I asked Diane whether these girls got any advice, training or support from the older girls or mamasans before they were to get their first customer. Nope, they had to figure it out the hard way. Looking at their young faces, Marlene and I were heartbroken at the thought that this dirty, ugly environment was the place they would lose their innocence.
I wasn’t going to let this den of sin have the last word. The DJ starting playing “Gangnam Style” over the speakers and since the joint was empty, I grabbed Diane, jumped up on the vacant stage and got her to teach me this dance in front of the girls. Frowns turned to smiles as the mighty Braytrain displayed for the first time in a long time why he was the joke of Mansfield High school dances. Okay, so I was bit uncoordinated and I embarrassed Diane to death, but I hope I bought a bit of laughter to a place that doesn’t see much of that.
– – O – –
So there it is, pleasure spiked with pain in my first trip back to the Philippines since we completed Street Dreams. Amongst the smiles and the tears I left those islands realising that Street Dreams was just the beginning, and that there are a lot more stories worldwide for Red Earth Films to tell. Some of those stories are about despair, some of them are about the human spirit, sometimes it will be about both. Either way, the challenge is before us and all our supporters to get out there and make it happen.