The heart-rending story of ‘Annie’
Not her real name, but the story is true as told to Virgie Biala, the CCM social worker responsible for following up ‘Annie’s’ case.
‘I do not know anything about my mother. My father told me that she left when I was still a baby. I lived in a small room with my father and brother.
One day, after playing, I went home, but found that my father and brother had left. I asked our neighbours, but they could not tell me where my father and brother went.
‘I waited and waited for them to come home but no one came back. I decided to leave. But sometimes I would go back to see if my father and brother were home, but I never saw them anymore’. This is how Annie began her story.
She eventually left their room and rode on a jeep. She did not care where it was headed; she just wanted to run away. She found herself at a market. There she begged for money from passers-by or from a bakery or food stall to have something to eat. She would also look in the garbage for food, especially the garbage of a fast-food chain.
While scavenging for food, she saw other children who were also looking in the garbage. ‘What are you looking for?’ Annie asked them.
‘Are you also hungry and looking for food?’ she continued to inquire, ‘No, we’re not. We gather tin cans or empty plastic bottles for our father to sell and buy food’, was a child’s reply.
‘Can I come with you?’ Annie asked, and so she went with them collecting garbage that is recyclable. She happily stayed with the family of her new friends, until they decided to go back to the province.
They could not take Annie with them, so she had to stay and live on her own again. Sometimes she joined other street children, but most of the time she was all by herself. She slept in the market, under the stalls, when all the people and vendors had gone home.
One late evening a man approached her. ‘Do you have parents?’ the man asked.
‘None sir’, she said. ‘Then come with me’. Longing for someone to care for her, she agreed to go with the bald man. They went inside the market to a small stock room and there the man raped her.
In the morning the bald man left the stock room and worked as a scavenger. Before he left, he made sure that no one would know that Annie was there. He tied her hands and feet and put a handkerchief around her mouth.
Sometimes, when he did not want to work, he took Annie out of the stock room and let her beg or made her steal.
While she went around begging, the bald man followed her from a distance, watching her closely to make sure she would not run away from him. In the evening they would go back to the stock room.
One morning, when Annie was in her usual tied position, she heard someone trying to break into the stock room where she was. Annie with bated breath watched and waited to see what would happen.
A man was able to find his way inside. She hoped that this man would help her escape, but to her utter anguish this man also raped her. However he left the stock room door open, so Annie was able to escape.
She ran as fast as she could. She ran away from the market place, making sure that the bald man would not find her again. Annie was now wandering on her own, feeling tired and lonely, but relieved.
She was now free from the bald man. She did not sleep in a room that could keep her from the cold of the night anymore. She had to sleep on the sidewalk, but she slept peacefully.
When she woke up, she felt her stomach grumbling, needing food. Annie as usual begged from passers-by, but this time the money that she earned in begging was only for herself.
A couple noticed her and asked her a question she was asked before: ‘Do you have parents?’ ‘None ma’am, none sir’, was her answer once again.
‘Would you like to come with us?’ Still longing for someone to care for her, she once again trusted strangers and agreed to go with them.
They made her wake up early in the morning to sell bread to the neighbours. She thought to herself, ‘It is fine with me to sell bread every morning, rather than staying with the bald man’.
During her stay with the couple she was also raped by the husband. She still stayed with the couple.
Every morning a certain pastor always bought bread from her. She described him as very kind. After selling all the bread Annie would go back to the pastor’s house and play with the pastor’s children.
She felt happy every time she was in the pastor’s home, because everybody was very kind to her. ‘Can I stay here with you and your family?’ Annie asked the pastor. The pastor willingly welcomed her to his family.
As time went by, she developed a relationship with her new found family and told them about her experience with the bald man and confessed that she was sexually abused.
Immediately, the pastor brought Annie to the Department of Social Welfare (DSWD). They filed a case with the court and an arrest warrant was issued for the bald man.
Annie accompanied the police and pointed out the bald man to them. The DSWD then placed Annie at CCM so that she would be properly cared for.
Annie was 10 years old when she came to CCM. She is very happy to be in CCM, although at times she misses the pastor and his family. She is happy that there are people in CCM who are taking care of her.
She is happy that, although she was not sent to school the first year she was in CCM (for her safety), she thought that the tutorial was like school except that she just stayed at home.
She was so happy when the tutor patiently taught her how to read. At Emmaus, the home where she lives, she was helped by the house mothers in memorising the sounds of the alphabet.
Most of all, she is happy that she is taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. She remembered so well when she first came that Angelyn, one of the children who had been staying at CCM for a long time, told her, ‘You can pray to God and he will be there to help you’.
Annie was smiling while she was relating this. Since then, she was always seen praying on her bed.
There was a time when she was caught stealing a candy from the refrigerator and she was scolded. In the evening she was seen praying and weeping in her bed and was overheard saying, ‘Lord, please forgive me for stealing the candy, and, Lord, help me change this bad habit’.
From details given by Annie, we were able to obtain a birth certificate for her (an important requirement for school enrolment). The municipality where she was born was contacted to trace her parents.
A month later a woman appeared claiming to be her mother. The worker happily told Annie, ‘Your mother is here and she wants to see you!’ The worker thought that Annie would be happy to see her mother for the first time.
‘Oh please, Ate, do not give me back to her’, came the unexpected reply.
‘You told me before that you knew nothing about your mother, so I thought that you would be excited’.
‘I told you lies’, she confessed. ‘It’s not true that my mother left and my father didn’t really abandon me. It was I who left the house because my mother often scolded me. Every time I came home, my mother would ask me to read and if I was not able to do what she asked of me, she would beat me. She did that every day’.
She said that she was often beaten by her mother and her aunt for even the slightest mistake she made. Whenever her uncle got drunk, she was asked to wash his feet, and if she refused she would again be mercilessly beaten.
Annie often tried to run away, but to her dismay she was always found and brought back to the house; she did not know if she could call it a home.
One day, she found a chance to escape again and this time she rode the jeep and went to a place where no one would recognise her and bring her back to her mother.
‘I’m afraid that you would take me back home, if I told you the truth. That is why I lied’, she said.
‘I promise not to give you back to your mother, but we have to see this woman’. She agreed, but continually pleaded not to be given back to her.
When we arrived, we saw two women. ‘Do you recognise any of those women?’
But she shook her head. ‘I don’t know them’.
I was confused, because Annie did not recognise them and neither did the women recognise Annie. The woman who claimed to be Annie’s mother had a birth certificate with her and a picture of Annie when she was four months old.
‘I am the mother of Annie’, the woman said. I asked why she did not recognise Annie and that Annie did not also recognise her.
‘She was only four months old when I separated from her father. He had an accident that resulted in his being laid off from work. I insisted that I should work, but he got mad. We often quarrelled over this matter, which later resulted in our separation.
‘He took Annie with him without my knowledge. I tried to take her back, but the relatives of her father interfered and even punched me in the face. Since then I have never been back to their place. Her father remarried and that is the woman whom she thought was her mother’.
At present, Annie is still staying at CCM. Sometimes a worker will take her to visit her real mother, for them to develop closeness with a view to possible future reconciliation.
Christian Compassion Ministries, Cubao, Philippines