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Philippines: Sex tourism is big money

Publish Date: 02 Mar 2005

Source: Preda Information Office/Preda Foundation Inc
By Father Shay Cullen

Sex tourism is big money for pimps and politicians

To be left homeless and abandoned at 13 years old with a younger brother to provide for was too much for Angelina. Hungry and hopeless, begging food in a public park and nowhere to go, she found hope and happiness in the offer of two women job recruiters.

Angeles City, two hours north of Metro Manila, is the home of the most organized sex industry in the Philippines. Thousands of sex tourists from all over the world go there to look for cheap sex, much of it with under age minors. Some go looking for children younger than 12. It is estimated that 60,000 children are exploited annually in this business in the Philippines.

These are the pedophiles that come to whet their appetite, have their fill and return with their desires to molest children in their country of origin greater than ever. The international sex industry in developing nations that feeds on the hunger and vulnerability of the poor also increasingly endangers children in the developed nations. The abusers do not leave their habits and desires at the airport.

Why the city authorities of Angeles city or anywhere allow this sordid exploitation of women and children can only be explained by one thing-big money. With all expenses paid, Angelina arrived with the pimps in Angeles two years ago. It was teeming with fat foreigners walking the gaudy neon lit streets with beer bellies as big as a barrel dragging a young girl by the hand and heading to a cheap motel.

The sex industry grew up around the former US Air Force base called Clarke. It was first established at the turn of the century when the Americans defeated the Filipinos in a bloody slaughter and colonized the whole Philippines that once belonged to Spain.

During the Vietnam War, the number of sex bars and clubs increased dramatically, so did the prevalence of HIV-AIDS and many other sexually transmitted diseases. The surrounding communities were devastated, thousands of young girls were recruited into this dehumanizing trade. Here conquest meant something altogether different than what was sought on the battlefield.

After the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, Clarke Airbase was covered with a thick layer of volcanic ash and was quickly abandoned by the Americans. When all bases were voted out of the country in 1992 and the bases were turned into economic development zones, the international sex mafia moved in to the empty bars and clubs and invited sex tourists from all over the world to come and get anything they wanted.

Angelina was now being trained to provide 'anything they wanted.' Having been told that she would be serving drinks, she was put on the bar top with a dozen other young girls to dance in a bikini for the gawking lusting customers.

The 'Mamasan', her handler, saw that she got paid a small percentage for the drinks sold when a customer called her down to sit on his lap and press her again his fat stomach and kiss her with an unshaved face smelling of beer and whiskey. It repelled Angelina but for this she would earn more than what she got for just gyrating around a pole to the throbbing rock music and flickering purple strobe lights. It was more money than she ever had in her entire life. In reality it was a pittance, not even sixty pounds after weeks of this soul-destroying work. In her mind she would help her brother now with a relative as poor as she was.

Then she was offered an increase if she would go 'bar-hopping' with a customer. She was promised that, that was the entire customer wanted, be seen with his trophy girl. She was to enhance his false image of himself as attractive to young women. It gave him a sense of power and domination that he never had in his home country. There he was rejected by women intolerant of his boorish bullying attitude and vice-ridden lifestyle. Now he was parading around with a beautiful young girl, young enough to be his granddaughter.

Soon he would be dragging her against her will into a motel for sex. But for that he would have to make a special deal with the bar owner. Angelina was a virgin, a "cherry girl" and he would have to pay as much as $500. The bar owner knew that after they sent Angelina for a medical check up to test for HIV-AIDS.

The very night when she was to be paid for, a team of child rescuers led an elite team of federal police to raid the club. Angelina and four other children were rescued. Two foreign operators of the sex bar, an Australian and an American, and three pimps were arrested. Angelina and the girls were brought to the Preda Children's Home to start a new life and find their dignity and self esteem.

Fr. Shay Cullen is a Columban missionary: PREDA Centre, Kalaklan, Olongapo City.

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