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

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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