Sex tourism in the Philippines (Angels City)
Angeles City is a well-known destination for sex tourists. There I also have my second residence, where I flee the hamster wheel for a few weeks a year. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy the red light district there. On the contrary. Angeles City is a very diverse location. But read the article and you will understand.
Based on my experiences and conversations over many years with prostitutes in Angels City, I tried to answer Chris’ questions as best I could. Thanks to Chris for this opportunity to shed some light on this critical topic with this article. Everything I write here is my own opinion and is based on my own experiences and reflects my experiences as well as my point of view.
What do you think of sex tourism?
Sex tourism is clearly an illegal business and brings to light much suffering and poverty, brutality and all the bad qualities of the people who earn the big money with it. That is from my point of view to condemn. But sex tourism is not just a sexual service. The business offers many people who work directly or indirectly in this business, a perspective, a job and something to eat on the table.
I visit bars to talk to the women there. Many of these women work voluntarily in the bars. Many simply work as service personnel or cleaners.
A regular income, a regular health check and accommodation is a luxury in the Philippines. As an employee in a bar this is standard. Clearly it is morally reprehensible and clear it is illegal. But it is a fact that for many women it is an “easy” way out of poverty and lack of money. And nothing is easy in the Philippines, especially not to find a job.
And then there are the women who do not work voluntarily in the bars. They are exploited. These women want nothing more than to go home again, have nothing to do with this business. They were lured by “traffickers” with the offer to get a job. The travel and all expenses are paid by these organizations. The women then have to “work through” these debts in the bars, which of course never works. These women are the ones who get into the swamp of the mafia.
There are Caritas organizations that take care of these women. Donations are always welcome.
Volunteer sex workers benefit from sex tourism
The volunteer sex workers have a clear idea of the job and know what to expect. How long they have to work to make a good life possible for their families. Plan the employee relationship exactly and are immediately out when the goal has been reached. Just this year I had exactly this conversation with a woman. She had quit on the next day and went back to Manila to attend the first school day with her daughter in a private school – financed by her employment in the bar.
These are my experiences as a man who has spoken with many of these women who know amazingly well what is going on and what they want. I don’t want to gloss over sex tourism, but especially in a poor country it’s hard to just eliminate this kind of machination. It is better to come to terms with it than to rebel against it.
Have you seen or even experienced it yourself?
My first and only contact during my very first visit to the Philippines – about 20 years ago! I was still very young, naïve and unfortunately I had never heard of anything like sex tourism.
The whole thing went on a mighty hangover and an almost missed flight the next day. Everything after the bar visit until waking up in the hotel sank into a Black Hole. Since the same thing happened to my companion at that time, there were probably drugs involved. But somehow nothing was stolen from us, and we barely reached the flight. Since this experience and the information gained later, I am a burned child.
Sex tourism – Good or bad for the people / economy / reputation of the country?
Tourism is a very strong economic factor in the Philippines and the government does a lot for tourism. This is a win-win situation for the local as well as for the tourists. In recent years, especially here in Angeles City, the red light district was somewhat optically odd as well as the security strengthened. This is also a win-win situation for everyone. The prostitutes are in a secured area. Compared to many European red light neighborhoods certainly better conditions.
The Philippines are always mentioned in the vast majority of cases with the many beautiful tourist sights. It is known that there is something like sex tourism there, but it is not mentioned very much. This speaks for the reputation of the Philippines abroad in the media. The tourist focus is definitely on the scenic and cultural beauties and directed.
Do you as a backpacker have to take a stand on sex tourism or do you ignore it when you travel in the country?
I see people in Angeles City again and again who are either sleeping there with their backpacks, wife and child or on a printing trip. I guess many people now accept that Angeles City is not just about sex tourism.
But it is practically impossible to ignore sex tourism in Angeles City. In every corner there are bars or massage saloons.
But, there is also the other side. good infrastructure and an international airport. When travelling in Luzon’s north it is almost negligent not to make a stop over in Angeles City. Ignore impossible – everyone has to take a stand and form his own opinion about what Angeles City has brought him. I am willing to show everyone the beautiful and practical sides of Angeles City.
Rather sex tourism than drugs and violence?
I have a clear opinion: A world without borders, without violence, suffering, drugs and humiliation must be the goal of all. Anyone who can contribute to alleviating suffering and violence in some way is obliged to do so within his means.
Of course violence is a part of the human being, but sometimes you can achieve a lot with small things. This small contribution here hopefully helps to bring more tourists to Angeles City. With it more money is available for infrastructure. With it schools are built. Well educated children find jobs instead of slipping into the criminal milieu…
Future, fear & hope as prostitutes? What do you really think is important about this topic?
As mentioned, there are different kinds of prostitution. Those who are forced and who do it voluntarily. I know both sides and know what goes on in these women. Those who are forced are naturally afraid, very much on their own and have no hope of ever repaying the accumulated debt. This is brutal and it is more or less hopeless ever to escape from this trap. If I could help, there would be a good starting point. but unfortunately it is in a bottomless pit. Various aid organizations take care of these cases. If you like to donate you can do this here.
It is important not to forget that prostitutes are also people with dreams and plans. You can talk to them quite normally. Most of the time you are surprised by their history. It always gets very close to me and I would like to help right away. But that would be the wrong way. I hope that with my words I have taken some of the shyness away from the red light in Angeles City.
Go there, talk to the women – I know you are always very happy to have good conversations with a foreigner. Maybe there will be a possibility to help?
If my words have created the impression that Angeles City is a single cesspool of sin, the sex tourism zone is limited to a single street in Angeles City. Angeles City, like the nearby American base Clark Airbase, are normal Philippine regions. Angeles City is a small provincial city where there are also schools, hotels, shopping malls, dentists (even good ones) and apartments like in any normal Philippine city.
It is easy to find your way around Angeles City because it is manageable and not a juggernaut like Manila. And if you want, you can go to the “Walking-Street” in the evening to eat a good meal in a good restaurant.