Zonta Club of Makati and Environs


Steel Sampaguitas

(An illustration of resilience and perseverance)

June 30, 2019

According to Gabriela Party List Representative Arlene D. Brosas, at least one woman or child is raped in the Philippines every 72 minutes. This shocking statistic is a reflection of the seemingly unchanging trend on crimes against the more vulnerable members of our society. Furthering the crisis is the ever increasing prevalence of local child pornography productions that have been mushrooming as a lucrative industry in the more economically-deprived areas of the Philippines. So ,what how the Zonta Club of Makati and Environs’ responded to this national issue?

7-year old Mia was rescued from a cyber porn syndicate in a Visayan-province. The syndicate asked her to perform sex acts in front of a camera that was streaming the live feed to thousands of paying viewers around the world. Mia had no choice but to comply. Even at a young age, she sensed that what she was doing was not right. But how could she say no? Her aunt, grand mother and their community leader was part of the syndicate. Her grandmother was in charge of taking the videos.

14-year old Pamela was rescued from a bar in Cavite. She had been working in this establishment for over a year. She had no qualms about her occupation as it brought much-needed income for her family.

Despite being a minor, she was counted on as the sole breadwinner of the family. Her greatest worry now is that without her income, her family would certainly have a difficult time surviving.

18-year old Offie was raped by her mother’s live-in partner for several years. Her sense of self-worth has eroded considerably. She does not understand why her mother did not come to her rescue when informed about the abuse. Instead of helping her, her mother accused her of being morally loose and has now disowned her. Tricia’s rapist has since been incarcerated pending trial.

Mia, Pamela and Offie are all recipients of the various services of ZCME ’s Psychological Center. Although they have gone through great suffering and abuse, they are now hopeful of their future and no longer look at themselves as victims. ZCME Psychological Center is Zonta Club of Makati & Environs’ longest running project. Established in 1997 (22 years ago), the psychological centre has provided continuous psychological care for raped, sexually abused, trafficked girls as well as children who have been involved in sexual commerce and are in conflict with the law.

The centre’s clients are all temporary residents of Marillac Hills, a government institution that has functioned as a haven for sexually-abused/raped/trafficked children in the entire Philippines. At any given time about 200- 300+ children are placed in Marillac Hills as wards of the state while their cases are pending in court. An overwhelming number of these children are depressed and all have experienced trauma.

In recognition of ZCME’s services, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has awarded the club with national citations for the past 18 years and has recognized the advocacy as the longest running NGO-based project in the institution.

The psychological center has a staff of 2 full time psychological therapists and a host of volunteers and has through the years, provided the following services:

  • Group and individual psychological therapy.
  • Family counseling for relatives of the children.
  • Interview and formation of statements to be used in the legal forum in order to effectively prosecute the perpetrators.
  • Coordination and facilitation of Art as Healing sessions
  • Coordination and facilitation of Performing Arts Workshops (Dance, Vocals, Theater)
  • Coordination and facilitation of Cultural Field Trips (Museums, Theater and Ballet)
  • Coordination of English and Math tutoring (group and individual with volunteers as tutors)
  • Coordination and partial facilitation of Workshops on Sexual Health, Children and Women’s Rights.
  • Coordination with psychiatrists for children with serious psychological issues.

In 2018, with the purpose of helping some of the older children establish a means of living independently, the club funded 20 scholars from Marillac Hills to undergo TESDA-accredited training in Good Housekeeping NC-II. The graduates who were eligible for employment were assisted in finding jobs and are presently working in 5-star hotels.

In 2019, ZCME’s esteemed member, Ada Ledesma- Mabilangan, thru the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Foundation, set up an Arts as Healing program.

Through PKL Foundation and the mentorship of Dr. Lourdes Kalaw Ledesma,M.Ed. Counselor Education, Ph.D. Counseling Psychology Head, Ledesma Center for Neuropsychological Services. (Ada’s sister),

the foundation has been conducting once-a-week art classes under the expert guidance of art teacher and psychologist Gilda Garbanzos.

It is the mission of ZCME’s Psychological Centre to give the best psychological/emotional care possible in order to address the various traumas and issues that are faced by the children. ZCME believes that it is possible to mitigate the effects of violence against these young women and dares to believe that with proper care and commitment, the children may come out of their circumstances, stronger and more resilient. It is the goal of the centre to empower the girls with the skills needed to overcome the violence that they have experienced and in so doing the cycle of abuse is broken.

The stories illustrated are an amalgamation of cases retold to ZCME Psychological Center by some of the girls of Marillac Hills. Names have been changed to protect their identities.