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The Show-up

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Aileen was chosen from a bevy of young girls who showed up in a
hotel and was married off to a Korean, more than twice her age, the
next day.

It was Lovi, a co-worker in a cheese stick factory in Fairview,
Quezon City who introduced  19-year old Aileen
to Annie, a marriage broker.

As a single mother, Aileen was at her wits’ end trying to raise a
son who was born out of wedlock from a rape committed by a former
co-worker. Her weekly income of P700 at the cheese sticks factory was
hardly enough for herself, much less for her son and her grandmother.

Aileen, who hails from a province in southern Luzon, comes from
family a of 16 children, so poor and destitute that when she was  six
months old, her parents gave her up to an  aunt who has no family.
Three other siblings live with relatives in Laguna. Four others died
young.

 Like many Filipinos, she dreamt of working abroad to help her family and provide her son a good future.

 “Lovie talked to me. She offered me a job abroad, in Korea. I
asked, ‘What kind of job?’ She said it’s factory work. The salary is
good but before I can go to Korea, I should marry a Korean,” she said.

Aileen dismissed the idea, but Lovie persuaded her and other co-workers at the factory to give it a try.

Aileen recognized an opportunity to get her family out of poverty
and eventually gave in to Lovie’s urgings. In November 2007, she was
introduced to Annie and appeared in her first show-up. She was not
chosen.

But a few weeks later, Annie called her again for another show-up.
Apparently, a Korean wanted to marry her after viewing her video in the
Internet. Aileen remembered the video was taken when she was inside the
van on her way to the show up.

She told Annie she was no longer interested to be matched, but she
wouldn’t hear any of it. When she didn’t appear at the show-up―and the
Korean had to choose among the women present―Annie was furious. Annie
stormed her house and pressured her and her family to pay for what they
had already spent on her. She threatened to call her police contacts if
she didn’t.

“She was telling my grandmother to tell me to appear in the show-up
because they’ve spent so much on me. My grandmother said to me, ‘What
can you do? They spent on you. I said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s just see.
(Sabi ng lola ko, e ano magagawa mo dyan e marami ka na raw nagastos sa
kanila. Sabi ko, bahala na. Gumanon na lang ako
).”

On December 15, Aileen was persuaded to appear in another show up. It was there that she met Ji-Wong.

“Put on some make up, Aileen. How will you get picked? Make yourself
beautiful,.”Annie told her during the show-up in a hotel in Cubao,
Quezon City..

Annie called a girl to work on Aileen’s face with powder, blush and
lipstick. In a short while, she and five other young girls paraded
before Ji-Wong and Mr. Soon and answered the Koreans’ questions.

All five girls, simply dressed in jeans and shirts, were either high school graduates or college dropouts.

 “I felt a bit like a prostitute. I don’t like wearing make up,” Aileen told Newsbreak

“The other girls were all so pretty. They really looked like sales
ladies. They were so excited,” she added. But Ji-Wong had his eyes on
the simple and reluctant Aileen and chose her.

How did it feel knowing she was going to marry Ji-Wong? “I planned
to escape. But I said, never mind. (Balak ko tumakas. Pero sabi ko,
bahala na nga
),” she related.

The following day, Dec. 16, 2007, they were wed in a restaurant.
Aileen’s grandmother, her uncle, and her cousin stood as witnesses to
their wedding vows and first kiss.

Also present at the wedding were two people who played important
roles in the lives of the new couple—Mr. Lee, the Korean contact and
translator and Annie, his Filipino counterpart who made sure that
Aileen would behave appropriately

 “You are very lucky, Aileen,” a delighted Annie kept repeating to
Aileen on her wedding day. Lucky because Ji-Wong, according to the
business card he gave Aileen, is a “manager.”

They didn’t know what business he was engaged in but “manager”
sounded good enough for them. Annie promised her he would agree to
regularly send money to her family in the Philippines.

But Aileen couldn’t stand Ji-Wong. “Ayoko nga mapasubo dyan kasi ang
baho ng hininga. Sabi ko, parang hindi ako natunawan a. Sana umuwi na
sila
.” (His breath smelled so bad, I just wanted him to go home.)

Sabi sa amin ni Ate Celia, pag mag-asawa na kayo wala na kayong
magagawa. Pumayag na kayo kasi wala namang mawawala. Asawa mo naman e.
Sabi ko, kahit na may anak ako. Iba pa rin yun
,” Aileen said. ( My
Ate Celia told me that I cannot do anything anymore because he is
already my husband. I know I already have a son but this just did not
feel right.)

She played along anyway. It didn’t matter how she felt for Ji-Wong.
Annie had her by the throat. If she escaped,  she knew Annie would not
stop hounding her.

Besides, she did want the money.  With the promise of regular remittances to her family, she resigned herself to her fate. 

Ji-Wong returned to Korea four  days after the wedding. Mr. Lee
promised him Aileen would soon join him there. But Aileen reported
Annie’s operations to the Commission on Overseas Filipinos (CFC). The
case is now pending at the Quezon City regional Trial Court.

Aileen admitted she still thinks of her husband Ji-Wong, who
continues to wait for her in Korea. Aileen said Ji-Wong doesn’t know
about the legal case in the Philippines because Mr. Lee, the Korean
recruiter, is supposedly telling him the paperwork is delaying her
departure.

Aileen said she is thankful that CFO saved her. “I could have been
killed and brought home in a coffin (Baka mapatay na lang ako dun tapos
pag-uwi, kabaong na
),” she told Newsbreak.

But Aileen continues to live in fear. Since the case, Aileen had
left her home in Quezon City for fear that the recruiters would
continue to hound her and her family, who had blamed her for dragging
them in  her problems. Her aunt refuses to give up her son. They
wouldn’t even let her talk to him anymore.

“Maybe when I find a good job and be able to help them, they will welcome me again,” she lamented.

While Ji-Wong remains to be her husband, Aileen has started a new
life with another man with whom she already has  a second son. “He’s a
nice guy. He takes care of me,” Aileen said.

At the same time, she feels sorry for Ji-Wong and thinks of him as a victim of the recruiters.

“Sometimes I want to call him. But I am always overtaken by fear. I
want to call him right now (Balak ko nga tawagan na lang sya. Pero
nauunahan ako ng takot. Sabi ko, wag na lang. Gusto ko nga tawagan
ngayon e
).” with research assistance from Victoria Camille Tulad (Newsbreak)

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