Benjamin Adriano and Katherine Chon

Recorded April 13, 2021 Archived April 13, 2021 41:50 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000651


Colleagues Benjamin Adriano [no age given] is interviewed by Katherine Chon [no age given] about his work in the Human Trafficking Leadership Conference, his experience as a survivor of labor trafficking, and his plans for his career.

Subject Log / Time Code

KC remembers the first time that she met BA, and wanting to get to know him better. BA remembers meeting KC, and talks about how comfortable he is speaking with her.
KC brings up the Human Trafficking Leadership Conference, and asks BA what it was like for him to participate. BA says that he was very excited about what he could do for survivors and victims of human trafficking.
BA talks about some of the recommendations that he came up with during his time with HTLA, including an app that can both increase education but streamline reporting.
BA says that when he was younger, he made a list of things he wanted to do before he died. One of them was to get his degree, and one of them was to see the world. He explains that in his third year of university, his parents lost their jobs and he started to need to help provide for his family.
BA talks about making the hard decision to give up his plans to get a degree to help his siblings pursue their education.
BA says that he was enjoying his job on a cruise ship, and he found out about an opportunity to go to the US and work in hotels. He explains that he kept the fact that he had been trafficked to himself until 2017, when he spoke at an event, where he invited his sister to listen.
BA describes his fake diploma that he made to inspire him to continue working towards a degree. He says that it is from the University of Santo Tomas and it was for business management.
KC says that she feels a living hope in BA, and she says that was part of why she wanted to get to know him more when they first met.
BA talks about his plans for further education and his plans for his career.


  • Benjamin Adriano
  • Katherine Chon

Recording Location

Virtual Recording

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 Hello, my name is Benz Adriano. I am originally from the Philippines at today's day is April 13th, 2021. I am currently live in here in Austin, Texas. And my name is, I mean, my interviewers name is Catherine.

00:23 She is my colleague at hdla in my conversation partner.

00:29 Hey. Hi everyone. My name is Katherine Chon. Today's date is April 13th. I'm here in Washington DC and my conversation partner is Ben's and we're colleagues and know each other through the human trafficking, Leadership Academy.

00:50 All right, then. I'm so excited to be on this call with you and to have conversation with you. I remember when I first met you through the human trafficking Leadership Academy, a psycho. I'm so interested in all his thoughts. I would love to have more of a conversation with, with you. And so when this opportunity came up, I was so excited that you were open to having this conversation together, but just out of curiosity. Do you remember when we first interacted and where, where and when was that? Do you have a memory of that? It was actually for saying is thank you so very much because I said that you are going to have that feeling for like 12 people. Plus 3 analysts that time in and out. I wasn't expecting you to be paying attention.

01:50 That makes me feel so special. And yeah, that's the question. I remember it was a new night because it was that you were on the list of who we're going to interview that time and what you do. But I never expected. How sweet in how come and how, how rich is Rick Patton? Wisdom, you have been the first time I saw you was on the screen and I was like, oh, look at that, but, you know, the first memory and I just feel really comfortable to be talking to you. And when they ask me, who should I be partner with?

02:36 I said like any suggestion and then when your name came up, I was like, oh, that's perfect.

02:46 So then when we sow at our office at the Department of Health and Human Services, a few years back, we heard from survivors of trafficking Professionals in the field on what more we could do to develop leadership development programs. And one of our proudest programs that. I remember mentioning when we first met is the human trafficking Leadership Academy. And I was, I was curious when you first heard that you were going to participate and Dad and as you are going through your journey, like do you have any Reflections? Like what was that like for you? Because I wasn't like I only saw you and your fellow your peer fellows at the very end of the process. But what was that like, going through that leadership development program?

03:46 There were a lot of thoughts, beginning with the, it was the refugee services of Texas or actually introduced me to hdla, and I just applied, but I'm at and I wasn't expecting anything positive because I know, it's, it's kind of South Africans on the side of the region and I wasn't expecting myself to be part of it. But then when I got in this like super, super, super excited, what I can do to make things better for the survivors in, in the end of the victim's, I think what matters the most for me used to learn a lot on how to deal with? I don't care if you see what happens. If I never really talked about my experience. What I enter, what my

04:43 My ordeal was I just like to put it in the past.

04:48 But I realize that

04:51 Using my experience in this video can help me heal at the same time. I am been out today. I mean through this is a big concern, the survivors can benefit of what I've been through. So yeah, and so went, when I feel like I open up I like to be part of it. I'd like to touch more people in every possible way I can so I can help the community. So in that I know it's tough It's hard. I have a full-time job full-time School in at the same time and you know to be part of a TLA 3 days in a week once a month. So Premier, I'm already going to do it or not. And I said are there or I may be going to quit my job, just to concentrate to hdla of which I did after. Yeah.

05:51 The last two. I think I adjusted it and I'd like to concentrate. I'd like to put more effort and time and concentration to hdla. I did not know that but you made and I know that the experience itself is has so much sacrifice as part of it and you put so much of your time and energy. Do you remember Ben's the recommendations that you provided from your time there and work? Was there any particular recommendation that you gave that you were really excited about that? You that you hope sees that you hope will actually happen in the real world. Any thoughts on that. I have like two very close.

06:51 I am not actually my personal one is I did I did it by myself. It was the apps to the phone. Like I think I've recommended like 9apps.

07:09 To all the telephone user, especially children on Thursday and we searched from Europe from Asia, that is effectively working by stopping. You're working to stop human trafficking. That was my first and then my second, we just I just part of it. Somebody else that I know is a very helpful to each and every people who's coming to United States holding visas, like working visas. I think they were like 6 pieces that I researched that we can utilize my recommendation that they need to undergo training Kyer training or know your rights training before, landing the job here in United States, so it should

08:03 Departing from their own originating country. They should have the 21st and when they got to America, employer should conduct the training as well for their birth certificates, and they need to be certified to undergo training. The third one was like for like, putting up posters like I used to work in hoot owls and I've seen a lot of human resource Foster's like labor laws, labor code to know, but I haven't seen any like if you could let you are a victim of human trafficking, please call this number.

08:51 Very close to my heart and I would you like to see them being adopted a lot of like a common theme through those recommendations is increased awareness increased training increased education on what anyone's rights. Maybe how they can reach out for help. How do you feel that that would have made a difference for you or others that, you know, of having that increase knowledge on on this issue? You see what happened is? I traveled 35 different countries. I thought I'm so smart enough.

09:35 But coming to United States. I've been here many times because of my job but you know, just like cuz they were cuz I work in a in a couch at like a lot of projects that we would travel to United States. I thought I know you're not stick to, right.

09:55 But I think that ignorance about the laws labor laws made me so vulnerable in rest, and I don't know the details about labor laws in America and putting those know your rights training. Can help a person to identify whether she or he is violated or she or he is being brainwashed. Manipulated in an exploded.

10:28 Like in my personal experience, I think what made me so perfect victim of human trafficking. Is that is that ignorant about the law?

10:42 That's the reason why I'm so excited to you. No court for that without federal and state stakeholder. Take that into your put that in so long.

10:55 And and then you are saying that the one that you did a lot of your personal research around was a use of technology. So that apps more people can use apps to understand what their rights are. What the laws are. What what was it about? The app idea that excited, you so much. Was it the technology part was? It's not like, how did you get so interested? In that particular idea on my personal experience in out like way back 2008, not everybody has an iPhone or were anything like that. But

11:41 After realising, that something is wrong. How can I report? How can I get an attention of the authorities without sending a message from the person who is watching over me as my tractor? Now I now I know that he is my traffic, I could before he was like somebody there that's watching for our safety but it's not a technique of human traffickers its base beam bulb according to self. For me is how are we going to fight back. Evolution of human trafficking?

12:21 So believe that to those times I can just like if I have an iPhone, I can just like click and put it may be at side and talk.. Technology that I can send can be directly sync to the authorities and I can, you know, Cortana talking to somebody while somebody is listening on the other end, which is, which is an authority must probably. And without notifying, the Metallica that I'm actual reporting while talking to, to my tractor on a canvas easy, like everybody is using iPhone smartphones nowadays, like even the 75 years old. If you think they can report it at any time anywhere. They don't need to dial 911. They don't need secretly were in our modest lady can just like reported any time if they took

13:21 Text or the actual trafficking is happening. Like I said again, also when I was like trying to do my research, not really trying to do my recents a year ago. I've seen two incidents wanted me to take a woman actually traffic from from a neighboring European countries. They came from Croatia flying in an airplane. And then she wrote something on a piece of napkin to the cabin Steward has in the cabin. Steward is so her message is actually sitting beside her.

14:05 So how for me is the thought is how can we counterpart that?

14:13 Evolution of human trafficking is they're taking it to another level, like every year they're taking it there. We as human trafficking African should take it to another level to. We can like go to the street and parking and I'll make a policy, make this and not. We need to evolve the same level that you've also. If they're using the law, like me to use the American law of hiring somebody from the Philippines to bring peanuts, take this worker and then they're going to do their human trafficking crime. In America after taking me out of the Philippine legally.

14:52 Beginning, you know, how do we, how do we, what's the process of us? Like conquer conquer parting. This, this type of crime again. Also when I was doing my research,

15:10 Island.

15:12 I think is the most at the moment, human trafficking carbonation, and they're using it. So using that app and it was pretty much affected the using either using. You know, they're not using the app before, but a college student, actually recommended that to the government. And I think 20% during the first two years of using that, 20% of human trafficking, husband high-quality 20% to 2 to stop in which you are to write down all of those readers in in Europe as well. So, yeah.

15:57 That, that was, that was really helpful. Thank you vent. I earlier you were mentioning. Yeah, you traveled to 35 countries. I, I probably only travels like, a handful and everytime, I think of international travel. I often wonder, like, how am I going to navigate it? I don't know the language the public transit system. So it seems that you are a, you are so comfortable. In traveling all around the world. Did you when you were younger? Did you always want to travel? Like how what led to your decision to see so much of the world?

16:42 That is really a good question. That would believe that would lead me to a story of my life. Now, see what happens when I graduated in high school. Swing out. That way, she writes that day in the Philippines. We have let, you know, do you need to have that everyday with you as a student in the Philippines? So when are you? Let's say this is the whole how do paper, right? So what we do is we divided them not to waste the entire page of paper for freezes. Like so we call them. If that is like a big exam. We're using the entire paper. If that is this like a 10-question items. We only use half of it. So I kind of like dividing them like, like cheering them like that just ate the rest of the papers, right? So we call them whole sheet of paper, a half sheet in a 1/4.

17:42 Sheet of paper. So you know how we back in 1990s, Philippines has one of the poorest countries that thing. So now I only have a 1/4 sheet of paper left.

17:58 You know, I was trying to use all of those yellow paper doing that until the end of that thinking, you know, what is disturbance for. So I thought of like playing writing five. Major thing I would like to do before I die and I wrote

18:22 Birthdays, getting my degree. And then the last one is traveling the world.

18:30 So and then go and see wonders of the world are my very eyes. That's equally and that's how we started. But then I think I was thinking, like maybe he can realize it at the age of 75, maybe, but something happened to my family, my dad lost his job. He used to be the mayor of the town. He worked at the government. He lost his job. My mom lost her child to get rid of them. Are working in the government and then my dad drain his savings from the man. I was on my third year at the University. And so they told me that they cannot afford to send me to University. No more you in the Philippines. I miss you are color of your parents, like you didn't go to, you don't work. You just go to school homeschool home and then finish it in four years, your degree self.

19:28 And that's what happened to me. As I was like, okay, so I'll trade you like work.

19:35 And then go to school, but I have to take care of my siblings to you after couple of after year. I have to take care of my siblings too, because my parents going to send them to school.

19:46 So when my other brother, is she got booted from from high school. She told me like a Big Brother Band. I like to finish a degree. I can I don't like to stop and I said, now, I think I had to sacrifice my personal feelings about this. I said, just less is going to go to the brain.

20:14 So I stopped going to school instead. I said maybe I can take on to the last wish that I have on this list and this is the second thing I have to do for the first thing. I've had to accomplish. So I targeted of going abroad for me to be able to make more money and bring home dollars instead of working locally in the Philippines at the finance. Requirement for myself is increasing. I have an eight-year-old sister going to school under my care. I have my brother who just graduated in high school who would like to get a degree right away and then I have another one coming up in two years. So I feel like my income would not support all of them. So I found a job.

21:03 So that's when everything started. So I went and then from then on, I was just like traveling countries to countries like eating breakfast and get delayed eating dinner in in in Townsend.

21:26 We did amazing experience, but that's how it all started.

21:30 How do you use your last quarter sheet of paper to write down your dreams? Dream number five, became dream. Number one, and what it was. So your dream number one, to finish your degree. We're we're here with that. Yes, finally. So, yeah. I'm graduating in May 15th. I just had my graduation picture, you seek.

22:08 From that night, that I decided I'm going to start working. I'm going to start going to school. I had to sacrifice my, my dreams for my sibling. I was crying all night. It's my education comes first, but then I said, I have no choice and I but then after that night, every single day not a single moment of my life. I will get about getting a degree every day. I was always thinking of like, what am I going to wear at the graduation? Regalia? When I when I saw it in the Philippines, I think of your graduation pictures to be on the wall, on your living room and then delota Easter like your degree a diploma.

22:59 I don't have one and then wherever I go to my friend's house says they have a Bachelor of Science in engineering and then what did this to Justice just to let you know, make me so happy. I actually created a fake diploma.

23:20 And I put it in my own room.

23:23 Just for me to stick with it. Like, you know, I'm going to have a real one very, very soon. And I still keep that I still keep that Faith diploma.

23:33 Just for me to encourage myself and motivate myself. That one, it is going to come one. That is going to come Bend. You know, what the age now? I'm 47. So, and just what, in two weeks and then I can't believe that, you know, I'm almost there. I'm almost there I can. And so you are the, you're the oldest son and your family. The third, my first brother is not so responsible enough. Time. My second brother. She's got to be seen with. He was actually the one who pushed me. He goes. Like I'm not going to college to go to college. I'll support you. He's the one that he is not really a big fan of of school. And my dad has a big farm and he said I'm going to take care of the farm and you go to school, you go to the big city and then go, you know, you're smart. You're intelligent than me. So, you know, I never

24:33 My family is the first born, Chico first, if everybody would not be able to go all together in the school.

24:44 1st Street Phillipsburg, and then comes the second comes to the third, but during that time were, we might, my parents will be able to send us all in the school, but when my dad and my mom lost her job, here comes the second pilot second policies. We cannot afford to send you all together. So who goes first? My big brother doesn't like to go to school. I love going to school and my third brother. I mean, second mother doesn't like to go to school. So I went to school.

25:13 But then that happened in. Yeah, but the good thing now is I have a sister. That is a an RN.

25:24 I pushed her to go back to school and get her empty or nurse practitioner degree, and she's just about to finish it. Like I think in a year.

25:35 And then I have a brother both of them. The other one has a degree in criminology and the other one is only one semester left for him to finish the criminology degree.

25:49 That was I think that's the best. Your brother can get there. It was your siblings. I think the gift of education for life.

26:00 Yeah, so I'm so touched by your story Ben's and I know how important education is.

26:11 And how much sacrifice that takes for family members and the sacrifice? You like all along the way but especially for your younger siblings.

26:23 And that's also the main reason why I fell into the human trafficking.

26:28 I was working in a cruise ship. I have a great job. I was enjoying it. I was I was providing for them comfortably and then when I saw

26:42 An agent looking for a job.

26:46 I'm looking for somebody who can work to not stay working in a hotel and then the promises like cool, golden opportunities and listen and mad at that. I don't, I will not get a chance to get in the cruise ship. So I was like, okay, you're not like I was using my technique of advantages disadvantages. Should I go to tonight? I am picking my stable working a cruise ship and and I was like, okay, I think it's time for me to stay even one country in one place because in a push it like I said, you have a chance to eat breakfast in Naples next, you know, the same day and then you get to get a dinner in a kind of like that. So I was like, okay, I'll take the chance and then I sign up. And then

27:38 I wake up one day and said of the hotel's, you know. What, what did I do? What did I do to myself? What's going on? What happened? I am. Now, I am human trafficking. I lost everything. I lost, Liberty of freedom, and all of those things back until 2017. My sister is here, in Austin. I had given a chance to, to share my story for the very very first time. She would like, 500 people.

28:19 And then I invited my sister and I said, I would like you to be there. I'd like you to be my guest by guest of honor and my sister and my brother-in-law were like, what is this for? And if it can you just like, please it's,, you know, and it's part of my healing as well. So I think it was during the national human trafficking.

28:42 Celebration.

28:45 States. So I was at the station telling my story.

28:52 No. Before that, we have like a favorite recording storytelling first. And then when my when my sister enter the building, I was in the video and my story, what's playing?

29:06 And then my sister has no idea what's really going on. And then she asked me, she said like, is that you talking over the speaker? And it said, yeah and goes like what are you talkin about? What is this? And I don't like what I'm talkin until we've been called to go to the stage in metaphase. Just write down the stage, like a final me. And I told my story and I broke down and my sister was like, no one knows in our family. That you consider this.

29:45 And if they do. You don't need to know and she does like you mean you were eating food out of the trash. Can you getting food from the trash in and you eat?

29:56 Rotten food and money for my education and it's it.

30:02 Technically, yes, and the scanner and it said, all of you guys for all of you, so you don't need to know that I did, but I think

30:12 What is the purpose of me? Keeping it from you? And what is the purpose of me? Telling it to you? I think for you is to realize that you need to bother you, but you haven't not take things for granted because that's what we did. And that's what I want. And she, she felt so sorry, and I don't like her to feel sorry about, but I think that's one of the things when you tell them stores like my story.

30:42 And then she shared my story with my mom. And my mom could not believe it up to this time.

30:48 Because from my mom is

30:53 I know you and this is not going to happen to you that's impossible. Like, you know, it's not true. So that's the reaction of my mom.

31:03 The only thing is that my dad passed away and, well, it's a good thing that she did not know about it because

31:14 When I left all the pins in 2008 and my mom and my aunt brought me to the airport and kiss me. Goodbye. It's a different goodbye because I would always like, every year I would go abroad and it's a different. Goodbye for some reason why it's different. But

31:33 The only one thing that she told me is.

31:37 And you need to make a promise that you're going to go home.

31:41 Cuz he said, there's a lot of people who go to United States and never been able to come back, and then lost communication with our family back here in the Philippines, and he said, you know, when your pathway back, I mean, you know, your pass to go back home.

31:58 And we're just here waiting, but promise me. You're not going to go home because you

32:04 Are going to send me to my trailer. You're going to go home because you were successful, you need to way back home and nothing happened to United States, and I told him that you talkin about.

32:29 And keep us away. And when I went home in 20, I think 2019 I went home.

32:37 I definitely Drive.

32:39 And I will find over there, and I told him that that

32:45 I'm here.

32:55 I'm sorry, if I.

33:03 I know, it's the two of us on this call right now, talking to each other, in this conversation. If your father given all his dreams for you and his service, if he were in this conversation today, what do you think? He would say?

33:24 My dad is a World War II veteran and he he was 17 last time and he works with American GIS in the Philippines.

33:35 Every time we have a conversation, she would always say good things about American people. And she would always tell me that Americans are our Liberator Americans would not do bad things to you Americans Americans. Good people.

33:54 But let's say if my dad is going to be here and I'll tell him this story. I don't know how he's going to react, but

34:03 I don't know. That's a question that I would like to ask him as well. Like, hey Dad, you told me that, you know, and I grow up believing you but it was an American, actually, epic me and made me.

34:19 And I'll as a slave and I don't know. I don't really know what this is going to be sweet action.

34:27 But,

34:29 During my years in America.

34:33 I have full of hatred.

34:38 I have full of hatred but it's all gone now, and I'm so hopeful. I think my dad would say that go home and marry Baron 4f that person to get it to you. I think what I'm going to tell him.

34:54 That I'm hopeful and now he's only one American or did it and now it's not, it's not all American. And now and I'm hopeful. There's ho and in America.

35:10 Are you giving me all of these opportunity? Even though I have been through a lot and that she caught me this. But look at me now. I'm getting out stronger in and I can use the last thing. There is a purpose. Why.

35:28 Out of curiosity pens, when you when you drew up that diploma as a placeholder for a future real diploma. What what did it say? What what was on it University of Santo Tomas and you like,

35:55 What's the second season of the degree of business management?

36:00 So, it's a big one, and I spend like, it looks like real. It looks real. It's not, it doesn't look like fake it, so it looks real. And, yeah, I have it. I have it. Still, I have it.

36:18 Yeah, right. Not here. But me and my sister's house on keeping all of those there. So but I have it and my sisters noted.

36:26 Yeah, I think that I'm so excited for you that you're so close to achieving your number one dream on that quarter sheet of yellow paper. So soon and that in many ways, the goals that you set for yourself when you drew that diploma. So many years ago. It's just as real just as much of a treasure because that's what you were working towards and I when I first met you I felt it was I think the reason for the connection and desire to know more was because I really felt that Living Hope in your words for things to be better for other people for other survivors, and it's it's been an honor to meet you to work with you. I look forward to the work together ahead. I'm so

37:26 Excited for your own aspirations to get this diploma. And do you think there's going to be another one afterwards? What's what's next for? You know, I'm get my my astrology. The reason I wasn't aiming sociology at first but because of HD of a lead me, let me to get some solid for me to be able to understand more and to help myself. I will help you out with him is an inch, you know, victims of social, injustice, racial, Injustice in this country and not. So yeah. Now that's my second thing. And I'm actually working to get into the school. And I'm also going to finish my certification from University of Pennsylvania for another course and the culture diversity.

38:26 Equality and Equity certificate from University of Pittsburgh. I'm going to finish it next week. So I'm going to have that certification to end up going to end up on my wall or a diploma or certificate. Your wall is going to be very completes with markers of your dreams, coming true. Well in the making

38:56 You, you are an inspiration and a hope. I'm so glad that we had this opportunity to have this conversation. And now it's just burning me to like one or more of the parts of your story and somehow that's driving you as we work together to bring more freedom to people and Ben's. Is there. Any other thing you would want to close out our conversation out with, if anyone in the future 2015 hundred years from now, I were to hear from you any final words of advice of flight for life.

39:41 Yeah, I think you, I think it started all of it all started with the rapper. Just asking Leadership Academy have me to actually

39:56 Find really who I would like you and how I'm going to help people. And I learned a lot from them. I think I I was at, you know, my my are you coming? I'm on this position now to to take responsibility.

40:14 Thanks, eating out like what opera or Oprah? Winfrey said?

40:20 You see wins in to Weston, and that's what I did. I use my own wins two with them and to raise awareness for love for peace in the world. And I only for myself and yeah, it took a lot, but I think your resilience in invest my own experience and thank you for a CLA for for taking the lead in the show, me the way in the past and because I have HDL a, you know, I have the marker at the end, like you're the best. I'm here right now and then HDL. I told me like work with that. You want to go and they put a Mark that again, and that's what I'm on the way. So yeah, it's b l a, Texas.

41:10 And thank you so much for having this conversation together. Today. I'm, I'm very grateful to learning more about your story and your dreams, your continued dreams, and thank you for your time to pick teams and survivors in. I am I'm sure she'll be mad at me.

41:41 Thank you. So grateful for that. Thank you pain. Thank you for having me. Thank you.