Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
Children enjoy a good story that makes a difference. The book is a fiction story that is based on real events. It is an adventure set mostly in Mindanao, Manila and Olongapo in the Philippines. It is about the lives of street children and in particular Ricky, Boyet and Julie - all targeted and hunted by the deadly Davao Death Squad that kills street children.
Fr Shay states that the purpose of the book: “is to raise awareness of the human rights violations and social conditions that give rise to poverty. People can read a story and be inspired more easily in a novel form. They can be involved in the characters, understand the lives of the poor and the street children, and know what good people are doing to help them and to expose the evils of drugs, human trafficking, and the sex trade.”
The story is set during the presidential election campaign when the outsider, a maverick law and order candidate threatens to kill thousands of suspected drug pushers and users, and he wins the election. The harsh social injustice and exploitation of children in the sex trade and victims of human trafficking and the suffering and hardship they endure is revealed. The resilience and the resistance of the women and children against their oppressors are told.
The story is centered on a village girl Julie, mother of Ricky. She lives with her parents and siblings in a dirt hovel in a small village on the estate of the Ortega family. The rich son wants her as his sex slave and her family resist. She is abducted by the rich corrupt landowning Ortega family who are involved in crime. She is brought to a brothel and abused by the son of Dom Ortega. Julie becomes pregnant and is forced to have an abortion but she resists and makes a dramatic escape.
The author develops the story based on real life events of intrigue and mystery that he is familiar with through his work with Preda which he set up in 1974. PREDA is active in the rescue and caring of abused children from jails, abusers, and brothels and giving victims of abuse a safe home with protection, education, values formation, affirmation, empowerment and healing therapy to restore their self-esteem. It is engaged in defending human rights and promoting justice for the marginalized, as well as running Fair Trade to support mango-growing farmers.
Fr. Shay, who has received several awards recognizing his work, is an internationally known human rights advocate, popular international speaker, media commentator, and writer. In 2006, he published a book – Passion and Power – with an introduction by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and an endorsement by the Hollywood actor and human rights supporter, Martin Sheen.
Father Cullen has been interviewed by Profiles in Catholicism and is part of the Editorial Advisory Board