This is the story of a three-year old turned sex slave. His name is Michael Angelo. The two little feet in the picture above are Michael's. He was sold for $60 US Dollars to a pimp.
Michael lives in Navotos, a community of 10,000 people who live on top of tombs in a graveyard in the Philippines. His home and those around it sit about 12 feet off Manila Bay's polluted waters. All nine of his family members live in a two-story makeshift squatter home.
Most of the bottom level is rotted out and can't be used. You get up to the top floor by climbing a slippery ladder and once you get up to the top, you realize that this family literally has nothing.
Each child has one shirt. Some don't even have pants. The baby's bottom is diaperless. He has a severe rash that makes his skin look like a thick crust. Michael spends all day alone in the house with the baby and his other two-year old brother while his father and mother go out to try to find work so that they can eat. His older siblings also spend their days trying to find work.
When the pimp came to the door with a picture in her hand, the family thought they were in luck. She promised them that by giving Michael to her they would become rich. She said, "At the age of 20 Michael will come back to you with a million dollars and you will not have to struggle like this anymore." She also promised that Michael would be taken care of and treated like a king at his new home in Japan.
The exchange was made. A child for $60.00.
One of the teachers in a nearby school found out about Michael Angelo and notified the social work department at the school. Three of the social workers decided, despite their fear, that they were going to do something about this tragedy.
They worked tirelessly to find out all the details. They discovered that the pimp worked for a couple who live and own a bar in Japan. They also sell children undercover.
The pimp became pregnant herself about four years ago. Her boss decided that she would pimp out her own child when he was around three-years old. When the time came for her to give up her son, she could not bring herself to do it. She took a picture of her son around the Navotos village to find a child that looked like her son - to sell him instead. When she found Michael Angelo, she found a way to save her own flesh and blood.
The social workers called the mother into the school, sat her down, told her the adoption was illegal and that she could be put in jail if she didn't get the child back.
The conversation lasted hours. When she finally understood that her child would be used for sexual pleasure by a man many times his size, tears streamed down her face. Still, it took her another hour to find the courage to go to the pimp's house to retrieve her son.
On June 15, 2008 at 12:00am, mere hours before the child was scheduled to leave the country and fly to Japan, Michael Angelo was back in her arms. The social worker, when asked if he might be sold again, shrugged her shoulders. "We will notify the police to arrest her is she does. She is still thinking about that million dollars."
Marisa said, "Last week I had the pleasure of photographing Michael Angelo. His face was severely bruised because he had fallen through one of the cracks in the floor. The dark color around his lips is not chocolate, it is dried blood. I don't know how he survived the fall a 12 foot fall. It's as if the Lord's hand is on this child."
"When I left the rickety house I turned back and saw his little head peaking out of a make-shift window. Through his swollen check and black eye he surprised me with a smile that radiated joy into my entire body. I saw a glimmer of hope. He waved his tiny little hand goodbye."
When Marisa left, Michael was alone in the house with his two other siblings."