This is one of three first-person accounts written by survivors of human trafficking. The others, as well as background about the project, can be found here.
I come from a family of teachers: father, husband, sisters, and daughter. I taught for 32 years at an elementary school in the Philippines. Somehow, that added to the shame I felt for being a survivor of trafficking. I not only worried about what my family would think, but my hundreds of students as well. I thought that everyone would lose respect for us.
When I retired from teaching at 55, I went into business with a neighbor, and they disappeared with my savings. I was devastated, but a cousin through a marriage came to my rescue—or so I thought—when she told me her boss was looking for someone to accompany her elderly mother to the United States and take care of her there.
I met with the woman, and she offered me $400 per month, nearly three times what I could make as a teacher. She added that she would petition for a specific kind of visa so my family could come to the U.S. too. I was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. I thought this was the answer to my prayers.
The first sign that something was wrong was at the airport. The Philippines Airlines personnel withheld my ticket because the woman I was supposed to be caring for was not with me. I wondered why the mother had traveled to the U.S. ahead of me, so I called my boss to let her know I couldn’t pick up my ticket alone. She sent her mother back to Manila, and we flew to the U.S. together. In all of my excitement, I didn’t ask any questions about the strangeness of the situation. I trusted my new boss.