Up on the mountains, in the beautiful valley of Nagano which is popularly known as the “roof of Japan”, our Shepherd God leads us, every step along the way as we 'tend His flock'. We, the Filipina Sisters were invited by the late Cardinal Hamao who was then the bishop of Yokohama diocese to take care of the Filipino parishioners in the different parishes of Nagano Prefecture.
Most of these came to Japan as licensed international artists like singers, band members and cultural dancers but ended up as hostesses because this was the need of the Japanese industry. A small percentage of them were victims of syndicates who were forced into prostitution. During the bubble economy of Japan, yen, a strong currency was like gold shining in the dark which attracted them. They didn't realize that they were exploited, trampled upon and traded like commodities.
We, as Good Shepherd Sisters almost literally 'climbed every mountain and crossed every stream' looking for these precious jewels, the vulnerable women. We went to the train stations giving out information sheets to let them know that we are around to serve them and attend to their needs. We visited them in their dormitories to pray with them and even entered the bars to observe their working conditions. The most common case was breach of contract between them and their managers. They felt that they were pushed against the wall because they could not refuse if the demand was for them to do sexy dancing like strip-teasing or to have a 'date' with the customers which can end up in the hotels. With some Japanese volunteers, we helped them escape from this abusive situation. Some of them even had nervous breakdowns because of substance abuse like drugs and alcohol. We asked the assistance of the Philippines Embassy for their repatriation and for medical assistance and rehabilitation when they get home to our country.
Poverty in our country drove them to seek 'greener pastures'. It was too late when they realized that they were in the midst of wolves. Their dream of comfortable lifestyle for their families back home was somehow fulfilled but at the cost of their dignity and even personal integrity. After a long time of hardships, loneliness and loss of reputation, many of them face their midlife with broken dreams and uncertain future.
I would like to share the story of Jinky (alias). She was an unwed mother with a daughter in a remote rural area in the Philippines. She is the second child in a family of eleven children. Her father died at a young age leaving their mother to support all of them.
As a pretty young woman, she was recruited to work in Japan as a singer. She didn't realize that she would be singing in bars and entertaining customers by hostessing. Her work demanded that she drink hard liquor and smoke a lot in order to bring additional income to the bar. She did everything that was expected of her because she had to send a lot of money to her family and to her daughter. I had seen her in different bars. She never stopped working. We even had prayer together in her home when she got married to an elderly and divorced Japanese man. As time went on, I noticed that she was losing weight and was physically weaker. One day she called me up and asked me to visit her in the hospital because she was diagnosed with cancer and was given three months to live by her doctor if she did not undergo surgery. Our merciful Shepherd God gave her a chance to live longer. It's already almost a year since her surgery but she feels that going home to our Creator is inevitable and she's expecting it anytime now. The biggest consolation is that she asked for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick from a Filipino priest whom I brought to the hospital.
Our Shepherd God makes all things possible because of His mercy.
Comprehensive overview from the GSAPP team - how Good Shepherd Partnership for Mission is developing in this region