It’s night. In the streets of Cebu there is still a lot of traffic on the main streets, and huge promotional banners underline in a strange manner the special character of a world where poverty, prostitution and human trafficking is “normal”.
We do a night walk with a priest in some “poor” parts and the redlight district of the city. Some young children are sitting in groups at a huge place where a few months back still the homeless people of the city had lived under some plastic roofs. Today, the place is empty: the homeless had to leave.
Ten to fifteen children sit there. They are between 10 and 13 years old, even younger and seem to wait – for their mothers who during the night work. When they see us, some of them come closer and start to talk to our priest. They know him well and the priest gives them some biscuits.
The community of homeless people
We proceed: a few hundred meters ahead, via a nearly unvisible small entrance – we enter into a different world of very small streets, a few shops, some people sleep on a house jutty or on some paper board at the bottom. From some angle some loud music fills the air and young girls and women with children in the arms, straight jeans and shirts pass by.
Here, in the this small area with narrow, dark and shabby
lanes the homeless people are living now. There is a small shop where fast food noodle soup is sold and cooked with hot water. Like in many other parts of the city drinkable water can be bought for 10 Pesos, ca. 20 Cents – out of a machine. A woman is just getting a small plastic bag filled. I notice a gambling machine inside a room, someone is dancing and chatting.
The priest stops often and talks to the people. A young lady tells him that she feels bad. He writes her something on a paper and hands it out to her. Probably, it is a support document so that she can go to a doctor. No one has a health insurance. A very smart young woman passes by. She might be 20 years old. Her skin at the arms and legs is full of partly infected bubbles. The priest has a look at it and tells her to go to the doctor. Again he writes the paper and gives it to her. He hands over some biscuits,too. A local NGO project manager explains that these ‘bubbles’ are tipical for HIV infected people.
We leave the homeless people who have set up here a kind of community life. Somehow.
A good roof for rainy days
In the city of Cebu we reach a part where homeless families live at the corner of a main street. Many children and some adults – probably the parents – have built tents with plastic sheets and sticks. Body by body they sleep below. “When it rains we can go to the other site of the street and stay there,” tells me one if the women who has eight children between 1 and 15 years. “Do you see the house with the good roof in front?”, she asks. The homeless people are all underweighted we distribute some more biscuits. Even to the adults.
In the red light area
We are back in the car and drive along some streets in the redlight district: Young girls in high heels, bars and huge establishments. The priest stops from time to time and distributes condoms and biscuits to the girls, and talks a while to them.
Then we arrive at a corner where older prostitutes sits in a kind of horse buggies. The establishments in the back look ugly and old. It is the place where the old prostitutes work for a few pesos a day. “Later on most of them will go back to their villages where they have left from many years ago with the hope for a better life. Others will just stay and live on the streets,” says the priest.
When I ask him how often he does a “walk” like that, he explains: “I try to come here once per week. There are so many people in need. I bring always biscuits and condoms. But it is never enough. Sometimes I tell them about the Good Shepherd welcome house, that’s a place where they can always come. Most of them just stay for some hours and then leave again for the streets. A few stay and dfight vide to change life. If they are really convinced and strong enough we offer them an opportunity to leave the surroundings – often together with their children – and to live for 2 years outside the city to learn , to complete their educational status and to find a job for a new life. Some of them make it and help us also to spread the voice among younger prostitutes to do the same. But the most of them fail. It takes often twice, three times before they really are able to change life.”