“Hi, I’m Ana” she said in a very thick accent. She extended her hands to me but her scantily-clad young body certainly does not make any effort not to touch mine. “I’m John” I said. I offered her the seat in front of me, but she preferred the seat close to mine. She is Number 112 on the stage and for her, tonight is just all in a day’s work.
Search the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan on the web and chances are you will see more than a couple of addresses in the list that promote the Philippines as a sex-tourism destination. Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, you don’t have to be a detective to find it being practiced. The red-light district of most big cities operates openly and freely and no administration from the Marcos Regime to the present Noynoy Administration could stop them. They are in Manila, Subic, Cebu, Baguio and in Angeles City to name a few.
Oh yes, Angeles City. Angeles is a name synonymous with sex industry in the Philippines. The strip of tacky clubs and bars is strung-out along Fields Avenue in Barangay Balibago. The most popular strip of which is the The Walking Street where rows and rows of girlie bars are located. There is Genesis, Gecko, Doll House, La Bamba and Screaming Eagle to name a few. It won’t even be possible to visit them all in just one night because there are too many of them.
Typically, when you go inside one of the bars, you will see dozens of girls with barely nothing on dancing, errr make it gyrating on stage, each of them has their own numbers and if you happen to like anyone of them to share your table, you just ask for their numbers. Other than the dancing girls, there are waitresses in fancy costumes who will greet you and lead you to your table.
The cost of beer per bottle differs from bar to bar but it usually averages to about One Hundred Pesos per bottle. A shot of rhum or whiskey is about double that. Ladies drink which is usually an iced tea or a juice costs around Three Hundred Pesos.
There is also a bucket of ping-pong balls on each table where you can throw each ball to the stage where the dancing ladies will scramble to get it for each ball is worth Twenty Pesos. In some bars, if you happen to spend a minimum of Two Thousand Pesos worth of balls, you will be rewarded a stuffed toy.
Also, if you happen to feel lavish or just plain crazy and drunk, you can go to an area where a metal bell is located and ring it at your heart’s desire. Once you ring the bell, the girls will cheer for you because that means the next round of drinks for everyone in the club is on you. It will cost you around Five Thousand Pesos and as a sign of gratuity, you name will be permanently written on the wall of the club – a constant reminder of your giving hearts or” wtf did I do last night?”
The Walking Street is closed to any vehicles starting at 4PM until 4 AM. The bars usually opens at 6PM and closes also at 4 PM. The many women working here now are just fraction of what it used to have and is only the vestige of the time before the American pullout, when it was estimated that ten times as many were employed. The dominant foreign tourist now are Koreans and retiring, semi-dead Caucasians.
As for Ana, an hour’s conversation with a customer at the bar is worth Three Hundred Pesos, the price of a lady’s drink. If she got lucky, she’ll get the chance of ordering twice, but of course, it usually comes with the price. She’d rather be picked and violated than dancing almost naked for hours on stage where she will be paid a measly Two-Hundred Pesos by the club.
Ana is just one of the thousands of women who brave the indecent sex trade to provide decent livelihood to their families. Each of them has their own sad stories to tell and it won’t hurt you if you empathize with them for a night. After all, I didn’t come there to judge but to have my bottle of San Mig Lights.