That Time in the Philippines

Although I already posted this blog on my own personal website, I thought I’d share it so you can follow the progress of the documentary all in one place.

I spent the month of January in the Philippines. When I came home, everyone asked, “How was it??” And well. Christ. I’m not going to say “fun.”

My friend/coworker/peer/insert additional role here, Cara Gillespie, called me two weeks before we left and asked if I wanted to make a documentary about human trafficking with an organization there called Wipe Every Tear. Because. Y’know. I am me. I realized only after saying “yes” that I should prooobably run this one by my parents.

But holy wow did I go and holy wow did my life change forever.

Also casually using this as an opportunity to promote the premiere of our documentary. Poster design: Elise Anderson (Me)

It was an incredibly life changing, formative journey and the women I met have changed my life forever. Every woman I met is just, so full. Of life, and love, and faith, and hope. I’ve never felt such a profound sense of inspiration and empowerment. I could honestly go on talking (or rather typing) for dayz, but I thought I’d share an excerpt from something I wrote while I was there.

Disclosure: this is pretty intense.

I think more unsettling than anything else, isn’t the girls being trafficked or the bikinis they wear or the looks of discomfort at living this lifestyle. They at least have a humanity to them. You empathize and wish for so much better for them. They’re the protagonists, the underdog, the rags to riches story. They’re J-Lo in Maid in Manhattan.

But rather what’s most perturbing, is the men who frequent these kinds of places. I’ve been trying to articulate the most accurate description that can portray such revolting human beings. There are a couple types of men. But this is the most obvious/common/definable.

He reminds you of your friend Charlie’s skeevy second uncle who lost his job four times and owns a used car dealership and sells pot out the back lot to high schoolers in hope of seeming ‘cool’ and wears white New Balance sneakers and old, baggy, faded cargo shorts and your grandpa’s ugly striped polo that doesn’t match. His slight to prominent beer belly bulges as he waddles drunkenly down the sidewalk with the stupor of a seasoned alcoholic. You notice the faded tan line where there was once a wedding ring (or three) on his sausage like hands and the receding hair line far too premature for his middle age. He’s a Western, Caucasian male that could never afford to be part of the ritzy country club but claims they’re a bunch of snooty high society Socialists anyways. You see through his eyes; glimpsing a childhood where his dad beat his mom growing up and self fulfills the cyclical pattern of broken, unhappy, desperation. The same cyclical pattern that keeps these girls in poverty and trafficking. You get this uneasy feeling that he’s searching for something more than just a night with an attractive woman.

It’s almost like he’s searching, rather, to fill the void that can compensate for years of failed social skills. You realize he’s there because he’s searching for the attention of the girls, to validate that he’s worth something, he’s worth attention, he’s worth his sad existence. He treats these girls as less than human in an attempt to prove the humanity and humanness of his own self. But then you’re hit (like a train) by this overwhelming sense of pathetic pity. He’s just, sad. And he’s sad to watch. What he lacks more than anything in his life is love. So he tries to find it in the only way he knows. But it also happens to be the easiest way.

You stand, sticky and sweaty from the Manila heat, on the sidewalk and watch with a heavy heart as he stumbles out of the bar with a scantily clad woman. He’s laughing and at first it seems like she’s laughing too. Until you actually stare at her and see she’s not laughing. She’s not even smiling. You feel discomfort for her.

If it doesn’t break your heart, maybe it’s because you’re the one stumbling out of the bar with one of God’s beautiful beloved children who I adamantly just want so much better for.

More than 12,000 women are working in the bars of Angeles City, Philippines. On the flip side, if you think about it, that’s more than 12,000 men frequenting these bars.

I’m staring at those last two sentences waiting for the enormity of it to sink in. Hell, I literally saw all of this first hand and it still can’t completely sink in.

I wish you could see. I wish you could see how compellingly stunning every woman’s soul is. I wish you could see how exceptional every woman’s hopes and dreams are. I wish you could see how emotionally poignant it is to step foot in a bar. I wish you could feel the things I felt in Angeles City.

I wish I could change it.

I wish you and I could change the world.


Save the Date!

Save the Date:

Ingram 100. 7 p.m. May 4th. 

Coming (rapidly and stressfully) soon is the premiere of the documentary. Being our first time producing a doc, Cara and I have been learning (mainly through trial and error) the process and many elements to putting together a film. So if you’re reading this and you’ve ever made a documentary, I salute you. (also please contact us with tips)

Ingram 100. 7 p.m. May 4th.

Over the last few weeks, our average To Do list includes transcribing interviews, translating interviews from Tagalog,  writing a script with narration, recruiting a student composer to produce the score, booking a date and venue for the premiere, and designing promotional materials like the poster and a short trailer. Most importantly, it was also deciding on a title. We went with:

More Than A Mission: Stemming the Sex Trade in Angeles City

Because I have bad luck for days, I’ve been incredibly sick since returning home from Manila. Luckily Cara has come in clutch and picked up the extra slack. I’m finally starting to feel better so I’m ready to kick it into hyper-gear and put the film together within the next few weeks.

I guess for some reason I always assumed by the time I had to do my own senior capstone that I’d be on my A game, prepared, hit all the deadlines, probably finish early. Oh how naive first year Elise was. Capstone is an unbelievable amount of work. This project is basically my child, my pride and joy. But also that I’ve inadvertently been low key neglecting. This is already a weird metaphor but I’m about to be the best mom ever. I have no doubt that Cara and I will produce a top quality film, especially with guidance from Dr. Joanne Lisosky.

In other recent news, we were selected to participate in the PLU Undergraduate Research Symposium at the beginning of April. It is then that we will share a short trailer promoting the documentary as well as discussing the process of making the film. The theory behind the film that drives the story analyzes the communication theories of Wipe Every Tear through the lens of Feminist Theory.

While at times it’s difficult to see how much progress we have made on the documentary so far, we are also aware that we’re in for the long haul and have a long ways to go before the premiere.

But save the date! We premiere Thursday, May 4 at 7 p.m. in Ingram. We hope to see you all there!



That time we Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’d in Manila

Someone call Hollywood. We’re the new Wedding Crashers. But the plot line is way more surprising and way more “is this actually happening” and “there’s no way anyone will ever believe this.”

We walk onto the roof of the Skydeck View restaurant and bar and it’s quite obvious that Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 4.02.13 PM.pngwe’re under dressed but totally roll with it. The maitre d tries to refuse us, explaining we need reservations and Joanne jokingly points to the waiting area and asks, “well can we eat there?” The maitre d and restaurant manager exchanged a Jim Halpert eye roll but to our surprise, answer, “yeah sure.” We felt like a group of Jobs from the Grapes of Wrath. Not more than 10 minutes later we get moved and they seat us at a tiny table by the buffet and we’re laughing in awe that this is even happening.

img_1225We sat there, wining and fine dining as we joyously swapped stories of travels abroad and wonder about the future while the city lights and fireworks twinkled around us. It was a comfortably warm night, high enough above the polluted smog line where we could breathe in the beauty of everything around us. I felt less like a student with our professor and more like a normal person, like myself, simply enjoying an evening with two wonderful people.


I decided I definitely needed to take the stage at the rooftop restaurant and ended up singing in front of everyone with only guitar accompaniment and instantly flashed back to my high school musical theatre days as I unashamedly belted out “Put Your Records On.”

We met two Canadians, Sarah and Cody, who were a little tipsy. We took the elevator downstairs and pointedly wandered into a banquet hall where we found the after party of a Filipino wedding.

The odds were definitely in our favor because not only did they let us completely crash, but they offered us drinks as we met the wedding party and sat around chatting and laughing. We got a photo with the bride and groom, Maria and Ryan See, and bequeathed the boutonniere to Cara. We were amazed at their welcoming, kind, and gracious demeanor. I truly love the caring Filipino culture we’re learning and experiencing more and more every day. I don’t think we’ve ever been so excited to crash a wedding.

Today goes down in the books like a Friends episode title. “The one time in Manila.”

– Elise