Talustusan is a little island village in the Philippines, where the American priest resides for decades and allegedly abused the boys who was helping him in church.
Father Pius Hendricks, with his Midwestern accent, was phoned in 2018 to describe the happenings in this small village.
“I should have known better than trying to just have a life,” said the priest on the recorded phone conversation.
“Happy days are gone. It’s all over,” he added.
On the other end, was an ashamed young man who was anxiously asking the old priest.
The accusations of sexual abuse
Later after that phone call, the young man told the Associated Press (AP) that it was only the priest who’s happy on those days.
He had experienced years of misery, telling the investigators that it was not only him who was sexually assaulted by Father Pius but also the other boys.
This young man’s accusations ignited a scandal that would change the life of the Talustusan villagers. It was a revelation of how the allegedly performed the sex crimes in a country that Catholicism is predominant.
A 12-year old boy was just new in being an altar boy, whose family is tenant farmers. Not being able to make a lot of money, the young boy served at Mass, where he can get a $1 (P52.14 today) only.
That was his first in serving in a mass and also the first time Father Pius took him. He then sexually assaulted him into the bathroom of the little rectory in Talastusan.
“I asked why he was doing this to me,” said the now 23-year-old young man in his interview.
“It’s a natural thing,” the priest told him then.
“It’s part of becoming an adult,” the priest added.
The sexual abuse continued for more than three years, according to the young man. It was until an outsider began asking questions about the generosity of the American priest to the local boys that he started thinking of talking out the issue.
He was also scared that his brother will be the next victim of the priest’s abuse.
So, in November, the young man reported everything he knew to the police.
Thereafter, local authorities arrested the 78-year-old Hendricks and charged him with child abuse.
According to the investigators, the old man had been sexually abusing about 20 boys and men, one as young as 7. The allegations may go back for generations, but they believed there were many dozens of victims until the arrest back in December.
The priest’s lawyers insist that he is innocent.
The AP met five accusers of the many alleged victims of the priest’s sexual assault.
Yet, Hendrick had done many things in the village as he rebuilt the village’s chapel and installed rooftop loudspeakers to summon parishioners to Mass. He urged officials to fix the village road, even drove sick people to the hospital, paid poor children’s school fees, and many more things.
“It’s a culture of coverup, a culture of silence, a culture of self-protection,” said the Rev. Shay Cullen, an Irish priest who has spent decades in the Philippines and works with victims of child sexual abuse.
“It’s a silent consent to the abuse of children,” he added.
AP shared that phone call of laments of the priest saying the days have passed where he seemed to be admitting his unspecified regret of doing a mistake, too.
“Well, it’s true. I’m not saying it’s not. Did I say it’s not?” Hendricks’s voice sounded like a combination of self-lamentation and signing off, saying he probably has to retire.
“So I have to learn. I have to take the good with the bad.”