Friday, December 29, 2006

Up In Smoke

New Year's Eve in the Philippines is a time to reunite with long lost family, ingest copious amounts of local gastronomical delicacies (isaw and sisig to start), imbibe cases of San Miguel beer, and, most importantly, ignite arsenals of large, possibly unstable fireworks that resemble mini-TNT and are just as impressive for their sonic booms as they are for their flourishes of light and ability to set off car alarms.

Every year, in the name of scaring off evil spirits, the Philippines becomes a merry warzone of colorful explosions, rapid fire bottle rockets, and larger than life roman candles that light up the night sky for a brilliant few seconds before leaving a hazy sulfuric trail that wisps away into the wind.

When all is said and done, the streets are littered with frayed, burnt firework wrappings, the sky is a hazy grey, and hospitals are attending to the sudden increase in hand-related burns and missing fingers.

In other words, there is nothing quite like New Year's Eve in the Philippines!

Without further ado, I present to you the actual warning list mailed out to attendees of a New Year's Eve street party in Makati City, the Philippines' version of Manhattan. This is the actual text undoctored for your viewing pleasure.

Have a happy and safe holiday and be glad that restrictions on fireworks exist in the United States!


Security & Safety Reminders:

Pants and long sleeve tops (shirts/sweaters/jackets) and flat heels would be protective.

2) For ladies, a wide leather bag that could cover your head from falling debris would be useful. Keep it light. Hats could also be useful. Falling debris from fireworks (Kwetis) and/or bullet slugs from indiscriminately fired weapons nearby would be most possible from the approach of midnight to fifteen minutes past.

3) Leave valuables and important documents at home.

4) In the event of an explosion from any source occurs, duck and cover your head. Under the table, if available, would be nice. Don't raise your head until blown debris has come crashing down. Possible stampede could ensue following an explosion or the threat of a bomb. Remain calm and don't be the first to start the motion stage. Listen to instructions from the authorities. If people have started to move, try to move perpendicularly or diagonally with the direction of motion and try to seek refuge in a corner or an abutment of a building and let the onrush of bodies pass you by. If you are in the middle of a moving mass, the worst thing that could happen is for you to loss your balance and fall down.

5) Thrill seekers may use tear gas and other malodorous substances (human refuse even). A wet hankie to cover your eyes and nose would be useful. If you could smell it you are downwind of the source. Try to relocate upwind until the smell is contained or has passed.

6) There will be first aid booths and paramedics around to give aid in the event of sudden attacks of illness (nausea/dizziness/breathing difficulties/minor wounds). Ambulances for evacuation to nearest hospital will also be available.

7) Beware of pickpockets and 'salisi' operators. Call the attention of security personnel (MAPSA/Police) to unattended/left behind packages in your vicinity.

8) Park your vehicles in guarded carparks.

9) In the event of a possible bomb, the authorities will try to disperse people in a controlled manner. Head out away from the danger by listening to instructions from the authorities.

10) Anything that could be construed as a deadly weapon will be banned. Hard liquors may also be banned. Try to limit intake of alcoholic beverages (wine/beer). You might need a clear mind in the event of a major emergency.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Manila Survival Guide

This sprawling metropolis has proven to be a land of intense sights, smells, and sounds rolled into a diverse melange of stimuli that smack you in the face from the moment you wake up to the moment you drift off to sleep. The following are some observations and tips gathered along the way thus far.

1. Bring a book to ease the pain of the nearly 24-7 traffic jams on the main streets. Rush hour is from 6AM to 10AM and 5PM to 10PM. During this time traveling less than 2 miles can take more than two 2 hours! If traveling anywhere on the the weekend (Fri-Sat), plan to leave VERY early to account for traffic.

Friendly neighborhood traffic on a Monday afternoon

2. Churches are omnipresent in the Philippines. You can find a morning mass on every block, in every neighborhood, and even at malls. During Christmas week mass is held every morning at 4 AM. Expect to get multiple invitations from friends to family to missionaries (I met some at my gym) to attend.

3. Erase your concept of personal space. Riding the train during rush hour involves nearly riding on the passengers next to you- be prepared to become intimately familiar with your neighbor's cologne/perfume or lack thereof.

The LRT- one of two trains lines spanning a limited section of Metro Manila

4. In the Philippines, texting is king (and cheap). Phone calls are an expensive rarity- machine gun fingers and juggling multiple texting convos will prove essential in maintaining both business and personal relationships. Also cell phones are the norm, landlines the exception.

5. Don't use your cell phone on the street or leave it out, say on your table at a restaurant- again to avoid snatchings. This goes for any object of value, expose in public at your own risk! I met an international student from France who has been here for a year and had his wallet stolen a grand total of 3 times, call it a seasonal trend.

6. When attending a social event, be prepared to sing karaoke- basically a requirement of any get together. From the Beatles to 50 Cent to Apo, the list of available tunes can range well into the hundreds. A healthy dose of San Miguel, the local brew, and a willingness to make a fool of yourself prove useful allies in hitting those high notes.

R. Kelly- Ignition Remix

7. Like fried chicken? You're in the right place. From the local Jollibee to KFC, McDonald's, Shakey's, and the multitude of other fast food joints you will never be far from the standard fried chicken, rice, and gravy combo for $1.75 USD. Family-size buckets will run you about $6 USD.

8. During the holiday season be prepared for the incessant, inescapable Christmas songs blaring from every device capable of producing audio. From taxi radios to train music to mall music to television to cell phones to choirs, when it is all said and done you will be intimately be familiar with The 12 Days of Christmas and even the Filipino Christmas remix to Gasolina.

The gangs all here

9. In this basketball-obsessed country, don't expect to find much besides NBA highlights and local team stats on ESPN. Also pay-per-view doesn't exist so any major boxing match will be televised (you can eat breakfast while watching a match when they air on Sunday morning). Big fights, i.e. anything involving Manny Pacquiao, are shown at movie theaters!

10. Sewage, massive landfills, thick car exhaust, and a tropical heat that intensifies all olfactory stimuli make a strong argument for SARS-grade face masks when strolling about town.

Designer face masks are all the rage

Manila is ultimately a city with many hidden gems, undiscovered nooks and crannies, and truly friendly Filipinos. Although plagued by pervasive poverty, hence all the snatchings and pick pockets, the city has many charms which will be covered in future posts.

The Philippines 101: A Basic Primer

Some quick facts to get you started:

1) The capital is Manila.

2) The country comprises 7,107 islands called the Philippine Archipelago, with a total land area of approximately 116,000 square miles.

3) The Philippines is divided into three geographical areas: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

4) The country gets its name from Spain which colonized it from 1565 until the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

5) The United States gained possession of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Philippine-American War in 1899. The U.S. ruled the country for about five decades.

6) Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, and Filipino and English are the official languages.

7) The president is elected by popular vote to a 6-year term. The current president is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

8) The Philippines is a founding and active member of the United Nations since its inception on October 24, 1945.

9) The Philippines, along with the nation of Malta, is one of only two nations in the world where all civil marriages are for life, because civil divorce (for violations coming after the marriage) is banned.

10) The Philippines is a developing country with an agricultural base, light industry, and service-sector economy. Its economic prosperity depends on large part on how well its two biggest trading partners' economies perform: the U.S. and Japan.

11) The Philippines is a significant source of migrant workers; as of 2004, the Philippine government has estimated that there are over 8 million Overseas Filipinos while independent estimates by various Philippine civic organizations estimate the number at 11 million. Overseas Filipinos sent home a record $10.7 billion in 2005.

12) Income inequality remains persistent; about 30 million people, or over one third of the population, lived on less than $2 per day in 2005.

More information on the Philippines

Thursday, December 07, 2006


And so my first week in the Philippines comes to an end...

I arrived in Manila on Sunday, December 3rd at midnight, unpacked in my hotel room, was unable to sleep because of jet lag, and have been racing around the city looking at apartments (I found a nice studio in Quezon City and moved in on Wednesday), opening a bank account, grocery shopping, installing a phone and internet connection in my new place, studying maps, and gaining familiarity with the lay of the land. Needless to say it is a welcome reprieve to sit in an internet cafe and write the first entry of this blog.

My hotel room view in Makati, Manila's business district

My Work
For those who don't know, I am a U.S. Fulbright Scholar working on a research project that will examine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) combating human trafficking (trafficking) in the Philippines. In particular, I want to investigate how NGOs are addressing trafficking in terms of preventative measures and rehabilitative services offered to victims as well as explore opportunities for collaboration between NGOs and other stakeholders.

This project is being conducted to address the lack of research concerning NGO anti-trafficking practices in the Philippines as well as the need for cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders- governments, law enforcement, NGOs, international organizations, the private sector, and the media- to improve existing preventative and rehabilitative efforts.

Please download the following summary for further information:

Research Project Summary

The Human Trafficking Project
The Human Trafficking Project (HTP) is the umbrella name of various trafficking-related projects I am pursuing. From this blog to my research project to a music project to a fundraising project, HTP was created as a way to engage a wide audience on the subject of trafficking by presenting the issue in a fresh format.

The goal is to bring the issue of trafficking into the mainstream through a variety of media: research, music, film, blogging, clothing, and more. All profit will go towards maintaining HTP, creating new awareness projects, and funding educational scholarships for trafficking survivors.

My new apartment in Quezon City

And so my first week in Manila comes to an end...

I am excited and anxious about the challenges and opportunities that will arise from my 10-month stint in the Philippines and am happy that I am able to share my experience with you all.

Until next time!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Beat Down Human Trafficking

About the Album
Beat Down Human Trafficking is a hip-hop album about modern day slavery. It will be released one song a week (each Friday) starting in September '11.

Songs on Beat Down address topics such as sex trafficking, forced labor and child soldiering. The content and subject matter draw on Hakuta’s personal interviews with trafficking survivors, pimps, sex tourists and politicians in the Philippines. Whether examining trafficking through the eyes of a survivor or a sex tourist, whether describing the cultural context or the economic model of a brothel, Beat Down Human Trafficking provides an honest, uncensored look into the world of modern day slavery.

Click here to listen to the single Human Trafficking

About the Artist

During a 10-month Fulbright grant in the Philippines in 2007 to study the NGO response to human trafficking, Justin Hakuta decided he wanted to do something other than write a research report. Hakuta was spending his days interviewing survivors of forced prostitution, domestic slavery and forced labor and learning about the economic, cultural and political factors that allow trafficking to flourish. 

One of the most glaring challenges consistently mentioned by the advocates and social workers he interviewed was the lack of awareness about trafficking across all levels of society including law enforcement, the criminal justice system, government, business and the general public. Wanting to find a personal, accessible way to insert trafficking into the mainstream consciousness, Hakuta started recording Beat Down in the Spring of 2007.

Album Details

  • Artist: J Nice
  • Running time: 12 songs, 48 minutes
  • Price: Free
  • Release Date: One new song released every Friday starting in September '11!
  • Purpose: Raising awareness of human trafficking through music!

    Gimikera (Streetwalker)

    The Problem
    Human trafficking is modern day slavery. There are an estimated 27,000,000 people enslaved around the world today, more than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.

    According to the U.S. State Department, approximately 80 percent of trafficking victims are women and girls and 70 percent of them are forced into sexual exploitation.

    This is the story of one survivor…

    The Film
    Mylene is 29 years old. She grew up in a rural province of the Philippines. As a teenager, Mylene was forced from brothel to bar to brothel in a vicious cycle where escape is difficult, where the only option is prostitution. She has been the sex slave of a policeman. She has been gifted to politicians. She has been forced to board docked ships to service seafarers. She gave birth to her son under these brutal conditions. None of this was her choice.

    Gimikera presents the life of Mylene within the issue of human trafficking in the Philippines. Within the poverty, unemployment, corruption, international aid, media coverage, statistics and hype of trafficking, there are the people that actually go through it all. There are the ordinary people, like Mylene, who are victimized and forever transformed by this terrible injustice. There are the social workers, lawyers, and advocates who tirelessly fight to combat the issue. There is the organized crime and endemic corruption that allow trafficking to flourish and the complex economic and cultural factors that combine to create large populations desperate for work and vulnerable to exploitation.

    Gimikera, or Streetwalker translated in English, depicts the reality of human trafficking in the Philippines through the eyes of Mylene capturing her triumphs and hardships as she struggles to put her life back together.

    • Running time: 45 minutes
    • Directors: Joy Domingo, Justin Hakuta
    • Producer: Justin Hakuta
    • Music: Nikhil Shetty, Pablo Rocha
    • Format: DVD
    • Available summer '09 on the HTP website

    Contact Us

    Disclaimer: We do not provide linkages to trafficking survivors.

    Reach us at
    for questions, comments and suggestions.

    For direct assistance with a potential trafficking situation please contact the
    National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or

    This Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline will help you to:
    • Determine if you have encountered human trafficking victims
    • Identify local resources in your community to help victims
    • Coordinate with local social cervice organizations to help protect and serve victims
    • Begin the process of helping victims restore their lives
    This hotline is run by the Rescue & Restore Campaign of the Administration for Children & Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, visit

    Trafficking survivors at the Visayan Forum Foundation safe house in Manila, Philippines (Photo by Kat Palasi)

    Who is HTP?

    Justin Hakuta
    - Founder, President
    A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in 2004 with a B.S. in Decision Science, Justin has constantly sought to combine his personal interest in human rights and his professional skills by working at organizations such as the Center for Court Innovation, Honest Tea and Seventh Generation. Hakuta researched the nonprofit community's response to human trafficking in the Philippines in 2007 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. Justin created the Human Trafficking Project, a blog that documents trafficking worldwide, with Elise Garvey after witnessing the need for both increased public awareness of modern day slavery and additional resources for survivors of trafficking during rehabilitation and reintegration into their home communities. Hakuta is currently attending Harvard Business School where he is learning how to create innovative, sustainable solutions for social change.

    Elise Garvey- Founder, Executive Director
    In May 2007, Elise graduated from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. with her B.A. in Political Science, International Relations, Spanish and European Studies. During her undergraduate work, she focused heavily on international organizations and forced migration issues by working and volunteering for multiple refugee resettlement organizations. After receiving her B.A., she carried out a Fulbright research grant on the response to human trafficking in Ukraine in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration Mission to Ukraine and the International Women's Rights Centre "La Strada - Ukraine." Afterwards, she served as Program Assistant to the Trafficking Victim Services Program of the International Institute of Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

    Jennifer Kimball- Director of Content

    Jennifer Kimball is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri. She plans to pursue a career in public service working to fight human trafficking. Currently, she is working in DC with the Truman Fellows Program, and she is a 2008 Harry S. Truman Fellow. Jennifer is the co-founder of Stop Traffic Now, a student anti-trafficking organization that started in April 2007. She is also the co-founder of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition.

    Meg McGill- Contributor
    Meg McGill is a recent graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, where she completed coursework in both domestic crime victims’ rights law and international human rights law. Meg also worked as an intern and volunteer for the National Crime Victim Law Institute, and as a volunteer for the Volunteers of America Home Free restraining order program. McGill is currently working as a law clerk. She worked on a student-run law review for three years, but this will be her first experience blogging. Meg wants to ultimately pursue a career in human rights, specifically human trafficking, and/or crime victims’ rights law.

    Amanda Gould- Contributor
    Amanda graduated in 2007 with a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Evansville majoring in Political Science and German. In 2010, Amanda received her M.A in International Development and her M.A. in Economics focusing on human trafficking and statistics from the University of Denver. Her research examined the quantitative aspects of human trafficking including how organizations estimate the human trafficking and what might predict slavery throughout the world. She had the opportunity to intern with the International Organization for Migration in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Anti-Trafficking and Assisted Voluntary Return Intern during the summer of 2008 and helped establish the Human Trafficking Research Clinic at the University of Denver. She will focus on consumerism and human trafficking/modern slavery and what the average person can do to hold companies accountable with regards to slave labor.

    Molly Bryant- Contributor
    Molly hails from the great state Oklahoma. She recently graduated from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri where she obtained a B.A. in History and Non-Profit Leadership. During her junior year, Molly studied abroad throughout Central America listening to stories and struggles of the Latin American people both historically and currently. She fell in love with the culture and has since decided that she would like to focus her anti-trafficking work toward Spanish speaking populations, especially women who are forced into prostitution. In 2009, she traveled to Europe to research the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in women who have been trafficked into the sex industries in the Netherlands and Hungary. In October, she will hop a plane to Ecuador where she will teach English, eat her weight in avocados, and continue to research and report on human trafficking issues in Latin America.

    Bia Assevero- Contributor
    Bia is a French-American freelance journalist. She is fluent in French, English and Italian. Bia believes very strongly in the need for action and awareness to combat human trafficking and modern day slavery and hopes to contribute to both through her writing.

    Get involved, join the team!

    About the Human Trafficking Project

    Mission Statement

    The Human Trafficking Project is a New York-based non-profit organization that utilizes art and technology to raise awareness of modern day slavery, connect those working to combat the issue and support trafficking survivors. Art has always been a powerful means of conveying a message and moving people to action. Combined with the technology to connect people, provide timely information and channel resources to support victims, the HTP's goal is to blend art, information and technology to create awareness of modern day slavery and take action to stop it.

    The Problem

    Human trafficking (trafficking) is modern day slavery. It is forced prostitution, domestic slavery, forced labor and more. It is a brutal and thriving problem that generates an estimated 32 billion dollars annually according to the United Nations. Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. Trafficking in persons is the third most profitable business for organized crime after drug and arms trafficking.

    An estimated 17,000 victims are trafficked into the United States each year. According to the U.S. State Department, up to 800,000 people are trafficked around the world annually. Free the Slaves, a Washington D.C.- based nonprofit, estimates there to be up to 27 million active slaves in the world today, more than at the height of the Transatlantic slave trade. Although trafficking may seem like an exotic issue that only affects Africa or Asia, the reality is that it exists in every country, whether as a source or destination country for victims.

    The Need

    The December 2000 signing of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children by 88 countries in Palermo, Italy signaled the recognition by the international community of modern day slavery as a serious global issue. Additionally, over the past several years there has been an increasing global movement to combat trafficking spanning all sectors of society involving the creation of anti-trafficking legislation, the development of law enforcement task forces and the mobilization of resources and manpower from diverse sectors of society to address modern day slavery. Despite these efforts, however, there is still much work left to be done.

    Complex issues need to be addressed such as the coordination of stakeholder efforts (government, law enforcement, criminal justice systems, intergovernmental organizations, the civil sector, businesses) and the development of a reliable global database to effectively monitor trafficking. At the same time, basic but integral challenges still remain, such as raising the level of awareness and providing opportunities for the public to get involved.

    Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been instrumental in combating trafficking and have proven their effectiveness in increasing public awareness, pushing for legislation and assisting in the rescuing, rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficking victims among other achievements. Many NGOs have been working on the issue of trafficking for over a decade and have the networks and know-how to make a difference, yet they often lack sufficient resources and manpower to fully execute their programs. By leveraging the collective economic power of concerned citizens around the globe, much can be done with comparatively minimal resources to support those NGOs that have proven track records of effective work, yet are in need of additional funding to solidify or expand their programs.

    Many trafficking survivors are young girls who look for work instead of attending school to help support their families. Poverty and unemployment, among other factors, create a large population of young people desperate to enter the work force who are easily seduced by the lies of traffickers. Even when rescued, many survivors return home to the same situation of poverty, unemployment and instability they initially fled and continue to be vulnerable to exploitation. Some survivors are even re-trafficked. Resources are needed to provide opportunities for education and livelihood skills training to trafficking survivors that will decrease their susceptibility to future exploitation and provide the opportunity to find stable employment and rebuild their lives.

    The How (coming soon)

    • Raising awareness- The HTP utilizes art, innovation and technology to raise awareness of trafficking. Upcoming projects include a hip-hop album, a documentary and a photography project. The goal is to provide a multimedia body of work that will convey the facts, emotions and complexity of human trafficking and insert the issue into the mainstream consciousness. The HTP website will feature trafficking facts, downloadable songs, streamable video, photographs, links to relevant news stories, and original articles and insights.
    • Creating action- The HTP's online database of trafficking-related news articles from around the world will be an easily accessible resource for researchers and others interested in learning more about trafficking. Further, NGOs and other relevant organizations will be able to post jobs and volunteer opportunities on the HTP website. In this way the HTP seeks to bridge the critical gap between organizations that need help and the individuals who want to help but don't know where to look.
    • Supporting survivors- The HTP will work with NGOs and other stakeholders to develop innovative programs to ensure that trafficking survivors receive the assistance they need to rebuild their lives and minimize future vulnerability to exploitation. Projects such as the upcoming hip-hop album and the documentary will be used to fund raise for survivors. Currently, the HTP is finalizing a program to send trafficking survivors to school in partnership with the Visayan Forum Foundation in the Philippines.

    The Bottom Line

    Human trafficking is a product of many factors including poverty, unemployment, political instability, war, globalization and gender bias- it is a complex problem with no simple solution. We need a holistic strategy that involves the coordination of all sectors of society to truly end slavery once and for all.

    Because of the massive scope of trafficking, it can be difficult to think about and connect with the actual people who are victimized. It can be hard to imagine the real people who are enslaved and forced into prostitution or forced to work in a factory or beg on the streets. Although the issue itself raises eyebrows, if people cannot connect with actual victims it makes it easier for them to disengage and forget.

    One of the HTP's goals is to use art to bridge this gap between the public and the victims, pierce the veil of hype and humanize trafficking. At the same time, people need to know how to find opportunities where they can channel their energy and talent to combat trafficking. With this in mind, the HTP will provide an easy to navigate database of trafficking news articles for researchers, connect people to organizations that need help
    and develop partnerships with trusted organizations to support trafficking survivors.

    Let's Get Free

    We, ordinary people around the world, hold an immense amount of power and influence to end trafficking.

    Whether it be by volunteering at an NGO, creating an organization, putting pressure on our governments, law enforcement and criminal justice systems to pay attention and take action, or the numerous other ways to contribute, never underestimate our power as individuals and as a group to make great change and to end modern day slavery once and for all.

    Here's to a world where all are free, none are exploited,

    - The Human Trafficking Project staff

    *For more information on the Human Trafficking Project and how to get involved email