Emee and her brother were taken from her rural community with false promises of work for good money but then enslaved in Manilla. Emee was enslaved within the Philippines but an estimated 10 million Filipinos migrate abroad for work, and many are subjected to human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour throughout Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.
My name is Emee. I lived in a small agricultural community in and my father worked in the rice fields. When I was 16-years-old our neighbor and friend had their uncle, Mario, visit from Manila. He approached my parents and told them that, if they would like, he already had jobs for me and my 14-year-old brother in Manila. He said that we would be working for a family and that I would work in their home while my brother would work in one of their factories. He also said that we would be making enough money to be able to send money home and that my parents could expect money after only three months.
It sounded like a good opportunity, five other teenage boys in the area had already agreed to go and he was the uncle of our neighbors, so we decided it would be okay. On the day of our departure, we took a bus to the city and went to the port. Mario left us in the afternoon in a small eatery next to the port and told us to wait until he came for us. Shortly before the ship was to leave in the evening he arrived and told us to follow him inside a truck that would drive into the ship’s hold and that we would wait there until some cargo had been unloaded. Once inside the ship we all got out and were shown, by another man, to an area where we could wait until the ship left. An hour after the ship had left the port we finally were able to go up to the passenger area. Mario had given us some food for the boat ride, so we decided to eat.
When we arrived in Manila the next day Mario introduced us to a woman and told us to go with her. The woman took us by bus to Nueva Ecija. I was taken to the house of our employer while my brother, along with the five other boys were taken to one of the factories. Our employer owned a rice mill, warehouses and other stores where we would all work. When I arrived at the house I asked about my brother and they assured me he was okay, but I could not find out any clear information about where he was or when I could see him. I started work immediately and had no days off. Since I was not familiar with the area there was no way for me to try to sneak out and find him.
I met another young girl at the house from Batangas, Maria, and together we did all the housework for the family of seven. Our employers expected us to work in the house and kitchen, do the laundry, clean the small piggery behind the house and sweep the yard among other details. We would work from 5am until well past sunset. After one month, I expected to receive my first salary but nothing came. When I asked, they told me that I would first have to pay off the travel expenses of the boat and bus fare in addition to other expenses. After three months, I had lost weight from not eating enough and working so hard. I waited until the end of the third month hoping to finally get a salary but still got nothing. Maria told me that in the six months she had been there, she had only received P800 or P900.
I decided I must escape and convinced Maria to lend me some money to go to Manila. I left the house at dawn one day and rushed to the bus terminal. I was so afraid of getting caught and being forced to return that I did not even ask around about my brother.
Maria had given me the address of some relatives of hers in Manila and so I went there and stayed with them while I waited for the reply to a letter I had sent to my parents.
One day the cousin of my mother who lived in another part of Manila came and picked me up. I decided to stay with her while I searched for other work.
Emee told her story to the International Organization for Migration in 2005.