By Dr. Apolinar Tiongson
San Jose, California
In The Belly of the Beast
Author: Marivir R. Montebon
Publisher: USC Press
May 24, 2017
For every dozen enslaved or trafficked immigrants that Marivir has painstakingly given a permanent voice in her book, there are probably a hundred equally tragic secrets taken to the graves. Immigrant’s laments are at times only talked about behind closed doors or even denied by the victims themselves. For every trafficked person that made it here, there are perhaps more who only made it halfway. Some spent a fortune or wanted to leave everything behind but miserably failed but are still willing to risk life and limb for the promise of a better life. I have to say that risk-taking and sailing the unknown seas for landfall is in our genes.
Unlike continental peoples (Africans, most Europeans and mainland Asians), we, islanders, did not just walk to get where we are now. Our ancestors paddled their way to the Philippines and to the remotest islands on earth. From the Eurasian landmass, they started their unheralded historic journey not knowing if there was even a hospitable land beyond the horizon.
In this book, Marivir did not only boldly and capably take us to the dark side of human migration but also made us reflect on our own bittersweet immigrant tales. We all can relate to every minute detail Marivir has documented in her trailblazing book about trafficked persons –the thrill of setting foot in another country because our country borders none, the tears that separation brings, and the things we can finally have that we can only see in the movies.
Being a people consigned to the periphery by the gods of money, the travel money that we all have to raise or repay could amount to months or even years of earnings, trafficked or not.
Who is not familiar with waiting many years before being reunited with family members because getting a visa whereas automatic for some nationals is as rare as winning the lottery for us. Not being able to attend funerals or visit sick parent or child is an all too familiar story. I’m beginning to ask if we are a trafficked nation as a whole. In some sense, we still are.
What makes Marivir’s book special after I read it is it made ask myself what can I do to help stop human trafficking. This book is not your ordinary art for art’s sake stuff. It’s a call to action.
The crusade begins within each of us. If we all lived simply content with small dwelling, home cooked food, radio instead of big TV, hand-me-downs instead of signature clothes, vegetable garden instead of canned foods, raising farm animals instead of pigging out outside often (sorry for the pun), etcetera, maybe there will be one less trafficked mother of young children. That’s one great triumph over one evil trafficker.
Of course, strict laws, educational programs and sound economics have to be implemented. That I have to leave to the experts. Thank you, Marivir for your courage and for putting to good use your talent toward higher good. (Dr. Tiongson is a cosmetic dermatology specialist since 1999 and has offices in San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California.)
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