I AM THE WOMAN BEHIND THE STORY
BRITISH WOMAN RUNS HOUSE OF HORRORS
I am Lilian May Thomson Zimmer, the woman ‘featured’ in one of Shay Cullen’s salacious writings in his quest for money, awards, power and fame. Cullen is an Irish, Columban Missionary Priest who has lived in the Philippines for years. He purports that he is the “Protector of Women and Children” and has gained internet fame on his ‘rescues’.
I beg to differ, in my opinion, this man has hurt more people than he has helped.
Cullen orchestrated my arrest, had me thrown into a Philippine jail and prepared cases against me that if I had been found guilty would have been a death sentence. I believe I am one of the few people who has ‘escaped’ from one of his money making ventures.
This website will let you know, who I am, what I did and why I am going to fight this man who has no business calling himself a priest. I never boasted about my work nor raised funds on the internet.
How it all began.
The morning of June 25th 2014 (one week before I was arrested) started out with me getting the children their breakfast, ready for school and the food for their lunches bagged. The baby, Peter Nicholas, had had his morning bottle. Angelina had also had her breakfast and within moments had pooped, put the poop in her mouth and spread it all over her face and the mattress. The challenges of Angelina are described in detail in The Children who were ‘Rescued’.
My workers had arrived to work on the roof with me. The first thing they had to do was put the mattress out in the sun for me to clean it.
When my worker, Tatay Bordoy, arrived he helped me clean up Angelina, get her dressed and ready to go for a walk around the farm which was her normal routine. Tatay Bordoy had been with me on and off since 2005 and was wonderful with children.
Eric Clemente, who would be working with me on the roof that day, was surprised when he came in the house and found me crying and shaking. He had never seen me like that before. I told him I did not feel well and would he please get a tricycle to take me to the San Marcelino Hospital. I was recovering from another episode of dysentery but this felt worse than before and I knew I should get checked out. I figured I was seriously dehydrated with low potassium and sodium – a serious condition.
While Eric was gone and Tatay Bordoy was caring for Angelina I stayed in the house near the baby who was asleep.
I texted one of my sisters in the States and she immediately called me. I told her I thought I was dying and was frightened, she stayed on the phone with me but also got my younger sister on a conference call with me. I remember telling them stories of when we were children and it felt like I was going down a long tunnel. They stayed on the phone with me it seemed forever and I told them that I was going to go to the hospital as soon as transportation arrived.
A white vehicle came into the farm and I thought it was the Barangay wagon. The Barangay wagon is the village transportation for patients to get to the hospital. People got out of the vehicle and started to walk through the farm. There were some men in uniform who were the local police from Subic. Two other people walked towards me as I was sitting on the steps of the house. As they got closer and I could see their faces I realized it was Marie Hebron from the DSWD. I had not seen Ms. Hebron since 2012 when I asked her for help for Angelina. My diary of that time with her and my interaction with the D.S.W.D is in the webpage the Children who were Rescued. I had never been impressed with Ms. Hebron nor the D.S.W.D. but when one realizes the amount of work that they have to do in a country that has nearly tripled in population in 50 years then a certain amount of sympathy has to be given to them for the arduous tasks they have.
I got off the phone with my sisters and very gingerly got down the steps of the house and sat at the little table and chairs that were there for the children. There was a gentleman I had never met before who introduced himself as being from the DSWD in Pampanga. I asked them how could I help them and the man whose name I think was Robert told me that they wanted paperwork on The S.C.O.T.S. Foundation. They wanted to know where I got my funds from, I explained to them that it was my own money and funds from my family and friends.
I asked them why they had come and they told me they had received complaints about me. I was shocked and asked them who had complained and they told me Fr. Shay Cullen of Preda had complained. I think I remember laughing a bit and stated emphatically that I thought Cullen was a joke and that for the last three years I had provided drinking water to the construction workers who were building his Girl’s Home. I also pointed out that I had taken care of some of those workers when they had gotten injured on the job.
I also told them that the culvert bridge that Cullen had erected over the river had caused tremendous damage not only to my farm, during Typhoon Ondoy, but had caused so much damage in the village. I also told them that with the help of 8 Aeta men, we had cleared the tremendous amount of downed trees, bamboo, boulders and volcanic ash which had plugged the culverts and did not allow the water to flow through but only wash out the road.
Ms. Hebron asked me where the other three children were and I told her that they were in school. I found out later, when I read through transcripts from the court hearing, that neither she nor Robert, her boss, had gone to check that the children were indeed attending school. They stated they were too busy.
As Ms. Hebron, Robert and the police were leaving I asked for their business card so I might contact them later. They wrote out their names and titles on a piece of scrap paper. They did not even have a business card.
Adrenalin is a wonderful thing and it has often propelled me into doing the impossible. When the ‘investigating team’ left, I called for Eric, who had returned to the farm, and told him I wanted him and his wife to take care of Catherine, David Joseph and Victoria for a few days. I felt I could manage the baby, Peter Nicholas, and Angelina with Tatay Bordoy’s help but I could not manage getting the other three to school.
Eric and I packed up food and clothes for three days and he went back up to the Aeta Resettlement area and did as I asked.
The three days without Catherine, David Joseph and Victoria gave me some of the rest I needed and to the children it was a wonderful adventure to stay with people they had known all of their lives and play with children they went to school with.
One week later, my life changed forever. It was July 3rd of 2014. It was lunchtime and I had just come back from the home of my worker Albert Antonio and his brother, Anthony. Anthony was the ex-barangay Captain, he had just lost the election to Ernesto De Guzman. Everyone knew that de Guzman had bought the election. De Guzman had paid each of the Aeta families 1,000 pesos for their vote and that is how he won. He bought the votes of many and I believe he may have been given the funds to do so by Shay Cullen. It is called Power and Control.
Catherine, David Joseph, Victoria and Angelina had just had a bath and were eating lunch when two unmarked vehicles drove into the farm. There were no fences around the farm and no gate at the front. Many people would try to park at the entrance to the farm if they were going to the local waterfall. It was my habit not to allow this as it was dangerous for the children. I walked over the little bridge to ask them to park outside. There were about 9 people but because my glasses where on my head I did not recognize Marie Hebron from DSWD. A man who I had never met before told me that he was there to take the children. No one was in uniform, no vehicles were marked and these men looked like thugs to me. I had no idea why they were there and they sure as hell were not going to take the children. One little person who looked like a teenager starting to take my photograph on his cell phone. I yelled at him to stop and he laughed at me and continued. I went forward to grab the cellphone but another man not only stood on my foot but grabbed me firmly by the shoulder. At this point I was scared not only for me but for the children.
I wrested myself away from the man who was grabbing me and ran towards the house where the children were eating lunch. They must have been shocked to see me so frightened. I told them to go into my bedroom. I picked up Baby Peter Nicholas and put him in Catherine’s arms. I was afraid of what Angelina would do so I slipped one of my scarfs through her bracelet and looped it over a bamboo dining chair.
Everyone starting walking towards the house. I yelled at them to stop and then adrenalin kicked in and I pretended there was someone in the house with me and for that ‘person’ to hand me my gun. What is really funny about this is I have never owned or fired a gun in my life but I thought it would frighten these people away.
I grabbed two decorative spears and stood at the front of the house and told them to get the hell away from me. I remember the big guy who had first spoken to me and Marie Hebron were standing under the mulberry tree. I was more than frightened as I could not understand why one week before Marie was asking for paperwork, which I had, and now she was with a bunch of thugs to take the children.
When I heard someone coming through the backdoor of the house I threw one spear straight down into the dirt. The man who came in the back door grabbed me roughly, threw handcuffs on me and pushed me down the front steps of the house.
The next thing I remember was the children being carried out of the house like trophies. They were screaming for me to help them. Angelina, who is mute, was having a grand mal seizure but they still carried her out, she was stiff. The whole thing was a nightmare and continues to be.
My workers were taking their rest after lunch at our Multi-purpose building so they could not hear my cry for help. When Pateneo, my mason, eventually came running, he told the men he knew the family of the children and ran off to their house to bring the family to the farm. The men did not wait for his return or inquire where the family lived.
The children were put in one of the white government style vehicles and when I called out to Catherine I was pushed away. The handcuffs were so tight and my hands were behind my back. I was put in the back of a vehicle between the first man who had spoken to me and the little man who had handcuffed me. I asked them to stop at the house of the ex-barangay captain but they did not. As we passed the house of the Mayor I again asked them to stop. I had no idea where they were taking me but when I noticed a big roll of 500 peso notes in the front of the vehicle, I asked them if this was what they were paid for grabbing me.
At this point I felt I was about to be ‘salvaged’ which is the Filipino expression for being taken somewhere and killed. Eventually, we pulled up at a building in Olongapo which was the NBI Headquarters. I asked for the handcuffs to be taken off but I was told they didn’t have a key. I was in so much pain that the only thing I could do was lay down on a couch, face away from all the people that were staring at me and shut my eyes.
Eventually, they found a key when it was time to take my fingerprints. I did not sign the card because not only did I not have on shoes but my glasses were knocked off my head at the farm and I refused to sign anything I could not read.
Later I was put in a nasty cell at the back of the office building. It was full of old papers and forms. There was a disgusting toilet. There was one plastic chair which I had to sit in all night. At one point a young woman who was a reporter, came by to look at me. She told the NBI men who had let her come back to see the ‘criminal’ that she knew me. She continued to tell them that I was a good woman and she knew of one case where I had helped the Vice Governor of Zambales with a worker of Hanjin Shipyard who had contracted malaria.
The young reporter was very kind and went out to buy me glasses and slippers for my feet and some toiletries. It was a long night. When the reporter came back she brought me a pen and I took a folder from the pile of papers and started writing.
It was the following day in the late afternoon that I was taken before the Prosecutor. I had no idea what charges were to be filed against me. One week later I was taken to the 164 Detention Center in Barrio Baretto, Olongapo.
It was hard for me to be in jail but the visits from Fr. Mike, a former Columban, were life-saving. Fr. Mike kept in touch with my family, brought me money to be able to buy food and pay for the wooden palette I slept on. He and I have kept in touch since I have been gone from the Philippines and through him I have been able to help one of the other prisoners.
I could write a book on what it is like to be in a Philippine jail, the only foreign woman there and the eldest, mourning the loss of the children and wondering how long I would have to be there. Crying was not an option as it would have shown weakness. One of the prisoners was kind to me especially when all the prisoners were told not to speak to me. Nancy was released from jail in December 2016 after being detained for four and half years, the cases against her were dropped, she was in Fr. Mike’s church two hours later. Fr. Mike told me that he looked up from saying Mass and there stood a Muslim lassie, she knew to go to him and get help and help she is getting.
Cullen has referred to Fr. Mike as a ‘disgraced’ priest which is not a very nice thing to say but all I can say, from my own experience, is that Fr. Mike visited me in jail, brought me food, continues to help me to help another, even though Nancy is not a Christian let alone not a Catholic.
My 126 days in a Philippine detention center were not pleasant. One day I will be able to write what it was like for a foreign woman to be held in a Filipino detention center but at this time I cannot so I leave it to the readers’ imagination.
Up to this point my family was helping me from the safety of the United States. My brother-in-law arranged for me to have local counsel and to meet with my new local lawyers. Those lawyers were kind and considerate and petitioned the court for my release on bail, by showing the Prosecutors pictures of my children and Angelina’s medical documents and photographs of her at the DSWD office in Subic. These photographs can be seen in the webpage The Children who were Rescued.
This was sufficient for the Prosecutor to not only reduce the bail from 500,000 pesos per case to 300,000 per case. I was released on bail on November 5th, 2014.
In late December I flew from the Philippines to the U.S. to see my family for Christmas. I had not seen them since 2007. While in the States I communicated with another American, Alan Dale “Sunshine Kid” Edmunds whose daughter had been raped by Cullen. The case of rape against Cullen is on webpage ‘Shay Cullen’s Rape Case.
On January 17th., 2015, I flew back to the Philippines, against the wishes of my family. I told them I needed to clear my name and get my children back and I had to attend scheduled court cases.
On my return to the Philippines, I stayed with ‘Sunshine’ and his wife. He shared with me over 60 gigs of information of cases and complaints against Shay Cullen going back many years.
I attended all the hearing I was requested to by my attorney. After reading so much information about Cullen’s tactics, I finally had to accept that Cullen was not going to be satisfied with destroying my life or using me as his latest fundraiser. He was only going to be satisfied if he silenced me forever and he would have succeeded had I not been able to leave the country again on April 15th, 2015.
Below is the letter that Cullen wrote in June of 2014 which set the whole thing in motion.
(My comments are in red.)
MS. LENA APOSTOL, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, DSWD REGIONAL OFFICE, SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA.
JUNE 4TH 2014.
This is to bring to your attention our immediate request for assistance and intervention in the so called S.C.O.T.S. Foundation beside the new Preda Girl’s home in Brgy. Aningway, Sacatihan, Sitio Gala, Subic. This is not the correct address, Sitio Gala is the name of the Aeta Resettlement Area which is up the mountain, it is where three of the children went to school. The S.C.O.T.S. Foundation is not a home for children, not licensed or registered nor accredidated(sic) but being run by an individual person from Scotland U.K. The S.C.O.T.S. Foundation did not happen the way I planned. Though it had been properly registered with SEC and the DSWD. I attended the first meeting of the newly formed ABSNET meeting in Olongapo which was presided over by Mrs. Llamas of the DSWD, in 2003. The mission statement of that Foundation is below. There is no mention of babies, children or sick Aeta in that document.
With the name Sherina Zimmer and having 5 children of unknown origin there. The name Sherina is being introduced at this time by Shay Cullen as an alias to imply that there is something not quite right going on. Some do not even know their own names or where they came from and how they came to this place. Angelina is mute, therefore, she would never answer, no matter how many times she was asked. Catherine, Victoria and David Joseph have always lived at the farm and have no knowledge of the S.C.O.T.S. Foundation as they are children. The children speak English as a first language. They are learning Tagalog in school and with their playmates, the children at the compound of the ex-Barangay Chairman, Anthony Antonio. I can imagine they would think that anyone who asked them where they were from or how they got there would be met with a blank stare. To them it would be a silly question.
They are held without proper supervision or care. There are 3 girls and one boy and a two month old baby. The baby was a healthy 6 month old. This wee baby was referred to being “as fat as butter” by an Irish friend of mine who saw Peter Nicholas at the Gordon Hospital. Photographs of this baby taken at the Gordon Hospital show an alert, bright eyed, well fed baby not the ’severely’ malnourished baby that Cullen refers to on the internet where he claims to have ’saved’ 5 children in a House of Horrors and also asks for donations. Please read the enclosed report of the Preda staffer who by chance, went the S.C.O.T.S. Foundation on June 1st 2014, and gave assistance to the so called ‘clients of this place. There was no ’by chance’ and the children have never at anytime been referred to as ’clients’ — they were my ’grandchildren’ and they referred to me as Lola (Grandmother).
Also from time to time, it has been observed that foreigners drive there and spend time in that place and then drive away. Of course there are foreigners who drove to the farm. I was a foreign woman who had foreign friends and Filipino friends who drive. Some of my friends also walked or came by tricycle. In the past there are allegations of illegal child adoption and the Provincial SWD office was informed but we did not see any action taken but apparently nothing changed. Who are these allegations made by or is it just the imagination of Shay Cullen?
The social welfare development officer will need assistance in any investigation to be conducted this time since we believe the ……. Officer has failed to help the children in the past days and seem to favor Ms. Zimmer. The reference to ’favoring’ me is supposed to malign Marie Hebron from the DSWD who had visited the farm at my request in 2012.
The children need to be taken into care and a police officer and immigration officer ought to join the team as the children appear malnourished, naked and semi-naked not going to school and in a …………… dangerous, unhygenic environment. The children are running to Preda looking for help and are always hungry and crying. Please see pictures of the children on the webpage “The Children who were Rescued” — they were in no way malnourished or unhygenic.
Before Preda brought their ’clients’ to the area, the children often wandered down to the ’beach’ created by the bridge of Preda. An environmental problem caused by the wrong type of bridge.
This woman, Sherina Zimmer is about 56 years old, herself ungroomed, dirty, unwashed and a heavy smoker and drinker. She is prone to violent acts when the builders at the Preda were running a cement mixer last year she went there inside the Preda property and confronted the foreman and boxed him in the face. This was reported to the barangay.’ Again, I am being referred to as ‘Sherina’. I was not 56, I was 65 years old. I am often ungroomed and dirty but never ‘unwashed’. I was both a farmer, a mason and was quite happy on a roof. I designed the farm without help from an architect and taught many of my friends and workers how to measure and make cement properly.
Being prone to violent acts is also libelous. It would be a foolish, foreign woman who would ’box’ a Filipino in the face while his men were standing around.
I recommend that you request the Bureau of Immigration to join a team of social workers when going there because she may be an undocumented alien without visa we reported this situation in the past but no action was taken of the provincial level. This is the second reference to involving the Bureau of Immigration. My papers were correct and I was not an illegal alien. I had a Permanent visa.
The provincial social worker seems to know the lady and mentioned our previous complaint to her that is why Ms. Zimmer has a criticism of Preda and myself (see enclosed report). The provincial social worker did know me and so do the DSWD officers in San Marcelino and Castillejos.
I urgently ask you to act on this with the Regional team at the Regional level as our previous reports to the responsible provincial SWS office was not satisfactory.
Your immediate help to these children is urgently requested.
So what did Shay Cullen get for having a Scottish born, American woman put in a Philippine jail and why did he do it?
It is very simple, he got donations from all over the world. It is estimated that he received between half and one million dollars. Cullen reported to the media that he had saved 5 children from a House of Horrors where the children were used as workers in her whorehouse. It certainly sounds terrible and anyone who loves and cares for children would be shocked. Shocked enough to push the Donate button.
How could an innocent person get charged and incarcerated in jail, if they are innocent?
The law in the Philippines is different from American or British law. In the Philippines you can have charges taken out against you by anyone and you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.
Did Cullen know this? He most certainly did and he tells how to do it in his book, ‘The Power and the Passion’ – a book that cannot be sold in the Philippines for his fear of being sued for defamation. Cullen writes;
“In the Philippines, to initiate the legal proceedings, a complaint has to be filed with the office of the public Prosecutor. This is an uncomplicated procedure. The complainant can make a statement to the police or to a lawyer or directly to the Prosecutor and swear to it there and then. It must be filed in the Complaints Receiving Office.
The Public Prosecutor will hold a preliminary hearing in his office and call the complainant and the accused to hear arguments, ask questions and receive a sworn counter statement from the accused. This can be responded to by the complainant and eventually the Prosecutor will set the matter for his study and resolution. The outcome of the Prosecutor resolution is to either dismiss the complaint as having no solid evidence or declare that there is prima facie evidence that is sufficient information about the alleged crime be elevated to the court. It is then sent for trial before a Judge.”
What this really means is quite simple. Take out cases that are so horrendous that the person has to be detained.
Why did Shay Cullen send this letter?
The reason is really quite simple but at the same time complex. Simple in that he wanted the foreign woman, who is well known in the area as a Good Samaritan, especially to the Aeta and the children of the barangay (village), to be gone from the area. I was a thorn in his side, I walked the walk but I did not preach. He had no idea I was a Roman Catholic with dual nationality, he had no idea what motivated me.
It successfully removed me from my Mission of taking care of the children of workers and my friends and neighbors, the Aeta of Zambales.
It has allowed my reputation and my name to be maligned all for the sake of raising enormous amounts of money, on the Internet, for Cullen’s projects and buildings.
It has traumatized Catherine (7), twins, Angelina and Victoria (7) and David Joseph (6) who were taken from me, a woman who has taken care of and loved them since they were born. The farm was the only home they had ever known.
The God of Cullen is money, maybe he was afraid that his donors might wish to help the woman who apparently helped many.
I lived in the Philippines for 13 years, I took care of babies whose parents could not or would not take care of them. As self-appointed medical advocate for the local tribe of indigenous people, the Aeta, I was able to save the lives of many. All of this was done without promoting myself all over the internet. I wrote no stories against the Government of the Philippines nor their elected officials.
With the help of friends and family I had medical missions at the little farm, Christenings, parties for the indigenous people. Everyone was welcome to join in whatever celebration was held at the farm. The Philippines is a beautiful country and my little organic farm with beautiful Filipino children was a ‘showcase’.
This website has been harder for me to do than take care of children. Technology has changed and having to learn how to do all of this has been unbelievably difficult. Looking at all the pictures of the children and the farm has reduced me to tears on so many occasions. Reading what Cullen has done to other people is frightening.
I am determined to clear my name, I didn’t go the Philippines to find a mission, my mission came to me in the form of unwanted babies and sick folk. The Aeta came from faraway and there was nothing else to do but take care of them all.
Many times I would tell friends that if they wanted to see the eyes of the Virgin Mother they should look into the eyes of a baby whose life they had saved..it’s that simple.
I firmly believe that God has now sent me another mission.
There were so many nights that I could not sleep but I would remember the following poem.
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
This poem which was written in 1936 has always given me a lot of strength and so when it was difficult to sleep, I would shut my eyes and re-enact the poem, snuggle up to Jesus’ neck and believe it or not…I would fall asleep. I recommend doing this to anyone who is going through difficulties, it works for me and maybe it could work for you.
Pope Frances has recently made many comments stating he will listen to people abused by priests and I have faith that he will listen to my story and the stories of others, stories that I have brought back from the Philippines. I don’t care if Cullen is defrocked as I don’t believe he is a priest. No decent priest would do such a thing.
Mark Twain wrote “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting its shoes on.”
Well, it has taken me a while but only by telling my truth and the truth of others can I show the donating, awarding public what Cullen has done to me and others.
Please read the rest of this website and, if you care, would you please send it on to others.
Before you move to the other pages of this website maybe you would like to take a short drive into the farm. You will hear me complain about the sign, outside the new Preda Girl’s Home, because it states a “Home for Sexually Exploited Girls.”