Child Labor up Close I'm sure everyone has heard about child-labor exploitation by big business. Me too. That's something you hear or read on the news. But when you blatantly see it right in front of you, you can't help but be outraged. It's repulsive and disgusting to say the very least.
San Francisco Town Fiesta I was reveling at the town fiesta in San Francisco, Camotes Islands in Cebu last weekend. I talked to everyone - silk screen vendors selling souvenir t-shirts, food stand vendors and revelers alike.
This is how I met a group of 4 young impressionable high school kids from Cagcagan, Poro, who were hired by Zesto to help man their booths for the fiesta. I thought it was a cool way to make extra income for the kids. In the passing weekend, I would often bump into them and say Hi and make small talk, which is how I was with people I met at the event.
Coming Back for Their Money Monday, a day after the fiesta, the students had to excuse themselves from school to come back to San Francisco to get their pay. I was a little shocked. Why didn't Zesto pay them on the last night? The girls worked for 2 days from 8am and on one day, until 1am! Why did Zesto have to ask the students to come back for their pay the following day? Traveling to San Francisco and back to Poro isn't cheap on a motorbike - not for poor students from the barrio! And missing school for it? Was all that necessary when Zesto could have simply paid them on the last night?
Didn't Get Paid Worse, when they arrived in San Francisco noon as per text message to them, the money wasn't even there. They waited for hours but no money came. They had to go back to school to take an important exam and had to come back again for their pay! Again, they waited for hours until it got dark and still their pay wasn't given to them.
Checking Out the Site It was at this point I went to the site to see for myself what was happening. It was already dark - 7pm (see picture). The students were just standing there by the booth as the staff were loading the truck, preparing to leave. Again, my jaw dropped. Why wouldn't Zesto just pay the students? What good would it serve Zesto to have the students wait until the last cargo is loaded up? I was even wondering....would they actually pay the students? If the intention to pay was there, why not Sunday night after their last shift? Why not Monday noon when the students came back for their pay? When the loading is done, would the truck just speed away without paying the poor students?
Intervening I could not stand it anymore. I interjected and asked for the person who was in charge. I was pointed to a woman in her late 20s (the lady in white beside the girls in the picture). I asked her why the students haven't been paid yet. Her defiant answer was, "Are you their guardian?" I said it didn't matter if I'm the guardian or not. What's imperative was for the students to get their pay. I had to hammer-down the point that the students have already done their job and there was no excuse to delay payment any further. The lady just kept repeating herself, "Are you the guardian?" At this point, I realized the futility of debating with this woman. Before I left, I told her I was a writer and will do what is necessary to put the word out about what's happening. The students looked very afraid as they watched - they had no inkling I would intervene. I didn't want to meddle, but I felt duty-bound not to let that truck leave without those students getting paid.
A few minutes later, I received a text from one of them saying they were finally paid.
Ending Thoughts I'm still wondering. If I didn't intervene, would the poor students be actually paid when the intention to pay was not evident? And how many times does this happen to impressionable young students who are so disempowered to even complain? And what is the recourse for young kids when something like this happens to them? Do they knock on the mayor's door? Go to the police? More often than not, it's just charged to experience, leaving them frustrated, low self-esteem and helpless against a system that's stacked against them.
And what will Zesto say about this? That they hire independent third parties for such events and that they have nothing to do with it? Sure, these companies are clever - they have deniability built into their process. That's like Zesto unleashing a pit bull on you and later deny culpability saying it wasn't them - it was the pit bull.
Perhaps not surprising, at the end of the day, the students didn't appreciate what I did. They got scared. They said they didn't want trouble with the company giving them a job. It's so sad to see how subservient and disempowered they have become. And that's why big business prey on them. At some point, perhaps after college, they'll become too disenchanted with the system that they will join the ranks of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and not come back. It's more fun in the Philippines? This festive slogan sweeps an ugly truth under the rug.
When you buy a Zesto product, you're helping this company continue this abusive child labor practice.
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TheLoneRider (Mar 23, 2017) Since I released this story, I'd been harassed by repeated phone calls. Add to this the FAKE Fafa and Rosemarie replies which suggests these kids are controlled by their handlers. We're not just talking about a band of rip-off artists here but a local mafia...organized crime. Something big is lurking here. To all of my Davao friends who have close ties with President Duterte, perhaps you can call the president's attention on this. These perpetrators need to be stopped from preying on young kids.
Friend(Mar 23, 2017) I read your Zesto entry. I hope you don't get into trouble with locals who protect Zesto there.
Joy Laja (Mar 21, 2017) really? I'll try to check on this with Cagcagan barangay Captain..and why of all places kids from Cagcagan which is far from Sanfran..the green uniform suggests they are from Camotes Hillside Academy, a private school near San Fran
Joji Santos Ferrer (Mar 21, 2017) Wow!! This is just so sad and very frustrating! Thank you for what you did for those children! Worth sharing....
Joanna (Mar 21, 2017) Jim Thai Plum Village (Mar 21, 2017) Wonder if they did their flight attendants same way ...
Kalyetista Mia (Mar 21, 2017) Thank you for sharing this story, Git... Thank you for intervening in behalf of the kids. Namaste!
Jackie (Mar 21, 2017) Will share this, Git. More people should be aware.
Viveca Boracay SandCastles (Mar 21, 2017) Shared this with a friend/client who works in another company owned by same Zesto owner, who is a former Philippine ambassador, so he may teach a thing or two to people who sell his products. Certainly not the way to treat our future workers. Thanks for writing about it, Git!
Camotes Islands, Cebu, Philippines
Lake Danao Park - inland twin lakes in San Francisco
Santiago Bay Beach - stretch of fine white sand with a cluster of beach resorts
Buho Rock - dive boards perched from a high rock outcropping, Poro
Tulang Diot - white sand beach on a tiny island just 10 minutes by boat from the main Camotes Island
Busay Falls - groomed plunge pool, dirt trail walk with 2 stream crossings, Tudela
Capasanan Spring - crystal clear open spring water source in San Jose, Poro. Free
Hagnaon Spring - clean drinking water coming out of the rocks, dipping pool you might share with carabaos in San Jose, Poro. Free
Camotes Islands is a group of islands composed of 4 municipalities:
San Francisco - this is the biggest municipality covering the West major island. Its town center is the busiest with the market, eating places, live music and the Baywalk. The beach resort clusters, however, are concentrated in Santiago Bay, Mangodlong and Esperanza
Poro - Poro is on the other big island to the East. It has its own port and the town center is likewise busy
Pilar - this occupies the small north east island
the busy area where most of the social gatherings take place, eating places, is located at the Baywalk area of San Francisco, 30 mins by motorcycle from the Consuelo Port. Travellers usually stay in their resort outside the Baywalk
the resorts in Camotes Island are scattered around the island. There are none around the Baywalk area of San Francisco
perhaps the only downside to Camotes Island is the inescapable deafening sound of karaoke - it is played very loud and it's everywhere. In Baywalk, there are 3 karaoke bars beside each other going full blast all at the same time
Camotes Island Cost Index
(US$1 = Php 49.82 as of Jan 15, 2017)
PHP 100 habal-habal ride from Consuelo Port to San Francisco
PHP 55 Pale Pilsen beer
PHP 10/pax regular fare for habal-habal within San Francisco
PHP 500/tour habal-habal rate for island tour up to 2 pax
PHP 800/tour tricycle rate for island tour up to 4 pax
Cebu City to Camotes Island
via Poro - from Pier One in Cebu City, take the Ocean Jet for Poro, 2 hours, daily trip - 6am and 3pm (0936.823.8762 |0956.270.6610 | 0999.889.9999).
via Consuelo - from Cebu City, take the northbound bus passing through Danao and get off at the Danao Port. At the Port, take a Jomalia Shipping boat for Consuelo (San Francisco, Camotes), P220/pax, a/c, 2 hours, daily trip - 5:30am, 7:00am (special trip), 8:30am, 12:00 noon (express), 2:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:00pm (express, Fri/Sat/Sun only).
Camotes Islands to Cebu City
Poro - Cebu City (fastest and most direct) - go to Poro and take the 8am or 5pm Ocean Jet to Pier One in Cebu City, P380/pax/aircon, 2 hours
Consuelo - Danao - Cebu City - go to Consuelo (San Francisco) and take the Jomalia Shipping boat to Danao, P220/pax, a/c, 2 hours, daily trip - 5:30am, 7:00am (special trip), 8:30am, 12:00 noon (express), 2:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:00pm (express, Fri/Sat/Sun only). From Danao, take the Ceres Bus to Cebu City
Cebu City to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental by Boat
George and Peter Lines - Mon/Thur/Sat/Sun 10pm, (035)225.4337, 0922.557.1023
Oceanjet - via Tagbilaran, daily 6am, email@example.com, 0918.898.2188
Cokaliong - Mon/Tue/Wed/Thur/Fri/Sat 7pm, Sun 12pm, 6 hours, (035)225.3599
Danao to Camotes Island
via Consuelo - at the Danao Port, take a Jomalia Shipping boat for Consuelo (San Francisco, Camotes), P220/pax, a/c, 2 hours, daily trip - 5:30am, 7:00am (special trip), 8:30am, 12:00 noon (express), 2:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:00pm (express, Fri/Sat/Sun only).
via Poro - at the Danao Port, take the Super Shuttle Ferry for Poro (Camotes), P?/pax, 3 hours, daily trip - 9:00am and 5:00pm (0936.823.8762 |0956.270.6610 | 0999.889.9999).
Camotes Island to Danao
via Consuelo - go to Consuelo (San Francisco) and take the Jomalia Shipping boat to Danao, P220/pax, a/c, 2 hours, daily trip - 5:30am, 7:00am (special trip), 8:30am, 12:00 noon (express), 2:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:00pm (express, Fri/Sat/Sun only).
via Poro - take the Super Shuttle Ferry in Poro (Camotes) for the Danao Port, P?/pax, 3 hours, daily trip - 5:00am and 1:00pm (0936.823.8762 |0956.270.6610 | 0999.889.9999).