September 2, 2021

Jona's* Testimony

“Jona” grew up in a traditional family, with both parents and her five other siblings present
throughout her childhood. But because Jona’s family struggled financially, her childhood was
not easy. Her father worked as a cable man for an electricity supplier and her mother was a stay-
at-home-mom caring for six children. Her parents did their best to put all of them through school.
Jona admits to being rebellious in her youth, especially when it came to her studies. She stopped
studying after her third year in high school. Because life was hard and money was scarce, she
travelled to Cebu at sixteen to work as a maid taking care of children.


After a couple of years, Jona left Cebu to pursue similar work in Cavite. It was there that she
developed a friendly relationship with a man she had met through text messaging. One day, she
decided to meet the man she had been conversing with. Jona did not foresee how this decision
would lead to a deeply painful incident when she was eighteen. As she spent time with this man
and his colleagues, they eventually became drunk and convinced Jona to drink with them. Then
everything became blurry for her. She remembers feeling the cool wind on her face when the
man and his friends put her on a tricycle and brought her to a different place. Jona’s wrists and
ankles were tied up as a number of men surrounded her. She then was undressed. Jona vaguely
remembers seeing these men recording her on their phones. She was raped. Jona then lost
consciousness and fell asleep.


When she woke up the following morning, Jona felt her head throbbing and her body aching. She
realized what had happened to her when she noticed that she was naked. She saw the men who
took advantage of her sleeping by the entrance of the empty space where she had been taken the
night before. Hurriedly, Jona searched for her clothes, phone, and wallet but realized these had
been taken from her, too. While the men were still sleeping, she quickly got up and
escaped—even though she was still unclothed. As Jona ran away, tears filled her eyes and pain
filled her heart. She couldn’t understand why this had to happen to her—of all people, why her?
This moment broke her. She began to believe that she was worthless. Jona questioned God and
was angry with Him. Jona wondered why she wasn’t just killed so that she didn’t have to
experience the pain of her trauma. The faces of those men were engraved in her mind.
Jona did not tell her family about what happened to her. After a few months, she met another
man that she cared for and became pregnant with his child. When her mother discovered this, she
insisted that Jona return home. Jona did not hesitate to go home, because she knew that she did
not see a future with the man she was with. Upon her return, her father expressed his anger and
frustration and began to fight with Jona. He began to yell that she did not have a future anymore.
He said that it was better for Jona to work in a bar and get paid than not get paid and get
pregnant. This hurt her incredibly and made her think of ending her life, but she decided to keep
living. Jona gave birth in her province and raised her son until he was a year and two months old.
During the difficult time of Typhoon Yolanda, Jona and her family lived on “pagpag”. This is a
term used for thrown out food that is scavenged, cleaned, re-cooked, and eaten. They had
nothing, so this was how her family survived. It was this experience that compelled Jona to make
another life-altering decision. A pimp approached her family and offered Jona a job in Angeles City, where her sister was already working. At that time, Jona was told that this was just a
waitressing job. Because of her family’s need, Jona decided to trust him and took the job in
Angeles City. She was unaware of what was about to happen, but she trusted that everything
would be alright since her mother knew the truth behind it all.


When she arrived, Jona was in complete shock. She saw almost-naked women walking around to
earn a living. Though at first this was something Jona did not want to do, she decided to be
strong for her family and her son. At the first bar she worked at, she started as a door girl. One
day, one of the clients requested that Jona sit with him. Jona did not know that this man had a
girlfriend. That night, his girlfriend barged into the bar and made a scene. Because of this
disruption and chaos, Jona was fired by the bar owner. She was transferred from one bar to
another. At one of the bars where she worked, Jona experienced a police raid. As a result, she
and the other employees were imprisoned for three days. They had no change of clothes, so for
three days they had to wear the outfits they wore when working in the bars. In addition to this
hardship, some of the policemen said degrading statements to them because of where they
worked.


After their release, the women rested for two days before returning to work. When they returned,
her sister who was working as a door girl approached Jona, now a waitress for VIP clients, in the
middle of the night. Her sister told her that a crowd of foreigners were waiting outside the bar.
They hurried out to see what was going on. Upon reaching the crowd, some Filipino women,
who seemed to be part of the crowd, approached her and explained that they put girls through
school. They told her that they did not have to work in the bars anymore—that there was hope,
freedom, and a future for them. Jona was in complete disbelief. She kept wondering, “Who
would put girls like us through school? Do these kinds of people still exist? Are there still people
in this world who won’t see us as dirty women?” Her sister was persistent in convincing Jona to
come with them in because she wanted to continue her studies. Several questions filled Jona’s
mind: If she studied, how would she provide for her son? And wouldn’t she be ostracized by the
other students? Jona doubted the intentions of the group that approached her. What if this group
wasn’t legitimate? What if the things they were saying were merely lies to lure them into another
trafficking scheme?


Jona’s sister then told her that this group was bringing some girls on a vacation at a beach in the
Philippines. Jona allowed her sister to go but did not want to go herself. When the day of the
vacation came, Jona noticed that for some reason she had the urge to pack her things up. When
her sister saw this, she excitedly asked, “Are we going with them?” Jona was still hesitating
when she answered, “If we go with them, what will we do about our salary?” Her sister then
explained that the group was going to provide them with 500 pesos to compensate lost pay for
the day. Even after this, Jona still had so much doubt and fear in her. She did not know if she was
going to come home alive after this decision. But they chose to go anyway. That day was the
beginning of their brand new life through Wipe Every Tear.
Starting anew was difficult for Jona. She struggled to become free of her former self, beliefs, and
habits. But through God’s transforming love and grace, Jona began to hope again. She started
dreaming of a brand new future, working hard in school, and striving to be a better person in
Jesus. Now, though her tattoos make her stand out from other teachers, Jona is believing that she will still find a teaching job as she finishes her degree in Education. Jona now has hope, freedom,
and future in Christ. She now has the heart and the spirit to reach for greater things. She believes
that this decision, of all the life-changing decisions she has made, is the best so far. Jona chose to
break free.

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