Baguio: Day 1
It was now four in the morning. I had just finished up working my regular shift, and my co-worker Francis and I were jumping into a car to drive a few hours to Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines. In a few hours, we would begin filming and photographing the people and the work that is happening in the city concerning abused children and education.
The road there was winding and steep. For most of the trip getting there, and then while in the city, you never drove straight for more than five seconds. Making the journey on an empty stomach is ill advised.
When we finally arrived in Baguio, however, we were greeted by the priests there. As a precautionary measure, names will be left out and pictures will not include faces due to the cases of some of these abused children. After having a short breakfast, we meet up with our videographers, from Split2nd Evolutions, who were local to the area. They were a great group of guys who were very helpful, not only in terms of the language but also just by knowing the area and its culture.
After talking with them and giving them a brief background about myself and what we were trying to accomplish, we set out to begin filming. Our priest, who I'll call Fr. John, led us to a house that was located on the nearby university's (Saint Louis University) campus. There, he told us that this house was dedicated to giving abused boys in the area a safe place to live and recover. This home was originally designed to be a "halfway home" for boys, or a place where these boys could stay for a time until they were ready to return to their families. It was a home that was supported by the nearby university, where many of them dreamed of going when they graduated high-school.
As many of the boys continued to live there, they let it become known that they didn't want to leave. What was originally designed to be a halfway home, now became a true home for these boys. Everything is provided for them, from food to education to dance classes. When we first arrived at the halfway home, many of the boys were actually in a dance class (they had a recital at the end of the month that they were practicing for). We were able to walk over to the class, which was also hosted on the university, and watch them practice. Though they were a little camera shy at first, many of them warmed up to it and began to get into the swing of things.
After spending around an hour or so at their dance practice, we left, only to realize that they were heading to another dance practice. We followed them to their second one, taking some more photos and videos of them in action. After half an hour, we left to go back to the house for lunch. Right before lunch, we were also able to talk to some of the older boys and interview them about life at the home and life before it.
After lunch, we hopped in the car and drove over to another work by Fr. John and Saint Louis University (SLU). This was the SLU Sunflower Children's Center. It was created to provide psychotherapeutic assistance to abused boys. Some of the boys who were treated at the center were sent to the halfway home. While there, we were able to interview Fr. John and some of the employee's there. Many of them had worked under Fr. John during their college education and were now providing these psychological services in an area where it was desperately needed.
As I learned, many of the artwork and colors used in and around the building had various purposes. Due to the nature of the work being done, many of the colors used were light and soft. This was done to help relax and make the children feel at safe when they entered the building. Going hand-in-hand with the colors were all the drawings and artwork scattered throughout. All the corners in every room were covered with paintings of trees or animals. All the birds, for example, went about in groups. These groups represented families, so you would never see a bird by itself.
Also scattered throughout the building were tiny ladybugs that were glued to the walls. Many of the children would make a game to try to find all the ladybugs hidden around the facility. One of the most noticeable drawings was the train at the top of the stairs. Right as you stand at the foot of the stairs and look up, you immediately see a train, the train tracks and a red and green light. Many of the children are encouraged just to stand by the light and put their hand on either the green or red light to signify their feelings.
While there, we were able to interview Fr. John and his co-workers and here about the conditions that they all have to deal with and what it looks like to provide these services to these children. In these interviews, we learned that services were being provided to babies and girls in the area, but there was no dedicated place that helped boys. Once Fr. John learned this, he decided that he needed to begin a work that catered to this population.
After finishing up at the Sunflower Center, we headed back home, had some dinner, and continued to interview the kids in the halfway home. I can't really remember much else, as my other trips are starting to blur together and I am currently trying to keep myself awake.