October 12, 2021

*Clara's Story

“Clara” grew up with wonderful grandparents who took good care of her. They were able to put her through high school, where Clara loved studying and was active in her classroom. When she turned seventeen, Clara wanted to help her family financially, so she left her province to work for a clothing factory in Manila. When Clara turned twenty-one she returned to her province and learned about the work her cousin was involved in. Her cousin told Clara that she was working as a dancer in Angeles, Pampanga. At the time, Clara did not understand what that meant and thought her cousin was dancing professionally as a cultural dancer.


At the age of twenty-three, Clara called her cousin and said, “I want to go to Angeles to work. But I don’t want to be a dancer because I don’t know how to dance. Can I be a waitress instead?” Her cousin told her that she could. When Clara’s two other cousins learned of her plan, they decided to go with her. But they did not understand what they were getting into. As they travelled to Pampanga, Clara realized they did not have enough money to pay for bus tickets. In a moment of panic and worry, Clara sold her cellphone to the passenger next to her for 300 pesos (about $6)—just enough to pay for all three of their tickets.


As they entered Walking Street, Clara immediately sensed that something was wrong. Her fear sent chills down her spine. Clara’s cousin took them to one of the mamasans (woman in charge of the bar girls) standing outside of a bar. Clara and her cousins were brought inside, and what Clara saw left her speechless. She saw girls like her dressed in their underwear dancing on stage, walking around, and chatting with customers. She looked at her cousin and said, “This is what you do? You stand there and dance in front of these foreigners?” Her cousin replied, “That’s really how it is here, Ate (older sister). If you just stand in a corner, you won’t earn anything. You won’t get your money. You need to entertain the customers, to hug them.”


Clara was so confused. She did not know what to do. She and her cousins had no resources and could not go home. In a state of shock and confusion, Clara and her cousins agreed to work there. They brought their things to a boarding house owned by a mamasan. Right away, Clara and her cousins were sent to the bar to start working. When they entered the dressing room, it was busy. Girls of varying ages from different provinces were all getting ready for work that day. Clara saw the girls in underwear-like“uniforms” doing their makeup, dressing up, and fixing their hair.


When the mamasan saw Clara’s and her cousins’ fear, she yelled at them and said, “Stop standing there!” She threw several“uniforms” and heels at them to choose from. Clara was crying when she saw the reality of her situation. She was not used to that lifestyle or wearing that type of clothing; she was just a simple girl from the province. Clara begged the mamasan, “Oh no—can I just be a waitress instead?” The mamasan refused and exclaimed “No! Your looks qualify you to be dancer. So go and be a dancer!”


Other dancers began to make fun of Clara andher cousins. But she kept her head down, got ready, and stepped onstage. Clara prayed to God, “Is it okay that I do this? God, I know that what I’m doing is wrong. Because of the evil of this place, I know that you won’t be here. I worry that you won’t be able to hear me. I feel that I will begin to forget about you. I’m sorry. I just hope and pray that you understand why I’m here and that you will never leave me.” Clara never thought of herself as a religious person. She believed in God and what Jesus did on the cross, but she never envisioned herself having a relationship with Him. But as she stepped onstage that night, she knew that she needed God more than ever.


Clara was categorized as a “cherry girl”, a virgin. Customers pay more money to “have” cherry girls for the night. During the three months Clara was working at the bar, she distanced herself from God because she felt like she was too much of a sinner to have any contact or relationship with Him. Even though she felt that her connection with God was lost and His goodness could not reach her anymore, Clara saw His faithfulness shine through the darkness. The boarding house she lived in was located in an area filled with syndicates, drug users, and pushers. At night when she would have to go home alone, Clara would be so consumed with fear. In the midst of her fear, she knew that the name of Jesus had power. So as she walked, she declared His name. In the darkness, Clara recognized the power of the presence of Jesus.


As she continued working in Angeles City, a number of men tried to “buy” Clara for the night. Whenever this happened, Clara would secretly burst into tears. She would question herself, wondering why she had to do this. She was going to sell her body—her purity—just for money. She would then cry out to God, “Lord, what will I do? Guide me to what I need to do. I really don’t want to do it. Please. Please let it not happen.” On the days of the scheduled “appointment”, the men who had requested her would back out. God protected her, and this happened the whole time she was there. During this season, Clara also noticed that the men who asked her to sit down with them never tried to touch her. They just talked to her, asking her about her life and why she was working there. Then they would give her generous tips afterwards, which is very rare.


One day, Clara saw a group of foreign men with two women—one of them a Filipina—enter the bar where she was working. They approached the girls seated beside her and a man from their group said hello. Clara thought they were customers until they started talking to her about her studies. It was then she knew that these people were different: it was an outreach team from Wipe Every Tear. They asked Clara if she wanted to study and offered her an opportunity finish her education. Clara was in disbelief—she could not believe that people would offer strangers the chance of free education. But Clara feared that the Filipina with them was actually a mamasan who would sell her and send her to other countries.


The following day, Clara’s papasan (bar manager) asked her what the group of foreigners were telling her. She covered up for them and said that they were just inviting her to a party, keeping the fact that these people were missionaries a secret. The papasan then said,“Don’t ever go with them. Don’t ever believe what they say. There have been girls here in the past that never came back because of them.” Clara was so frightened; she did not realize that those girls never came back because they were finishing their studies. Amidst all her confusion and doubt, the team was persistent in reaching out to her. Around the same time, a couple from the team was scheduled to be married in Angeles City and Clara was invited to attend the wedding.


After the wedding, the Wipe Every Tear team continued visiting her. It was only then that she believed what they said was true. Clara saw that Wipe Every Tear was sincere in caring for her and wanting her to reach her dreams. She visited the hotel the team was staying at and talked to Mommy Becky (PH Director). Clara wanted to come into the care of Wipe Every Tear, but first she needed to escape from her mamasan and papasan. One of our girls,“Sally”, accompanied her back to her boarding house. As they rode a tricycle,Clara explained, “Sally, I’m not just simply leaving. I am going to escape my mamasan. When we get there, stay in the tricycle and I will go into the house alone because my mamasan and papasan are there sleeping. I will get my bags quickly and when I run out and yell ‘let’s go’, tell the driver to go fast.” Sally nodded in agreement.


As Clara ran in to get her things, she went straight to her room. Because she feared getting caught, she took only the important items she needed and left her toiletries, shoes, and extra bags. Clara’s heart was racing as she tried to move quickly and silently. She ran out and signaled to Sally. As they rode to the hotel, Clara worriedly glanced behind them to see if she would be caught. When they arrived at the hotel, a rush of peace overwhelmed her and her heart was completely joyful. Clara knew she was finally safe.


Today, Clara is a Business Administration major studying Marketing Management. She is deeply thankful to Jesus for being so good to her; she still cannot believe how God has changed her life. When Clara looks back on her life, she sees how she knew from childhood that God was always with her. Today, because of the magnitude of God’s love in her life, Clara’s dream is to become a missionary. She desires to help women, like her, experience God’s truth and love. But first, Clara wants to graduate. She is not worried about her future because she knows that God has everything laid out for her.


Clara says, “Even if I’m alone and I don’t have anything or anyone, I know that God is there and He completes me. When there’s pain, He heals me. Many people say that I am such a happy and joyful person. I always say that it’s God’s joy in me. I’m here right now because God saved me.He fixed me. He’s the one that makes me strong and steadfast. He shows me His heart of compassion. I want to please and honor Him. This is why I am joyful.”


Before coming to Wipe Every Tear, Clara asked God, “Why am I still alive if this is just what happens to my life?” She heard Him answer, “You are alive because you bring joy to people. Your life is so important and that’s why you shouldn’t give up. Continue. You will inspire the people around you. Because you’re strong, they will be strong too.


Clara continues to see God move in wondrous ways. When she prays, He answers. For example: when Clara was younger, her father was unable to walk. They brought him to the hospital, but the doctors said nothing was wrong with him. At the time, Clara did not have a close relationship with God. She still cried out to Him, “Why is this happening? I’m the bad person here. My father is good, why not let the pain be mine?” But one night, Clara prayed healing over her father. The following day when she woke up, she saw her father walking, carrying pails of water, and doing household chores. She rejoiced, knowing that God healed her father!


Clara is experiencing God’s power in such mighty ways! She is deeply and completely in love with God. She lives her life in pursuit of Him. Today, Clara’s life is completely restored and made brand new in Jesus. Clara is a wonderful woman who lives in total surrender to the Father’s heart!


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