Achtung baby - alone in Angeles (Angeles City, Luzon, Philippines)


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Asia » Philippines » Pampanga » Clark
October 9th 2009
Published: October 13th 2009
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(Day 553 on the road)How to write a blog entry about a place that has such an awful reputation as Angeles City in the Philippines? The place is possibly the sex capital of the world, with between 10.000 and 20.000 prostitutes selling their bodies every night. During the time of the U.S. airbase here, as many as 100.000 working girls were offering their services. I had a morning flight the next day from Clark airport just outside of Angeles, and decided to spend the night here instead of crazy Manila and see this place for myself.

I soon realised that accommodation in Angeles is definitely not geared towards backpackers, and after walking around for an hour in the afternoon heat with my backpack looking for an affordable place to crash I finally had to admit defeat. In the end I settled for a hotel far away from the "action", and spent the remaining afternoon enjoying the free wireless Internet by the pool writing the beginning of this blog entry.

And no, before anybody here gets any wrong ideas, I did quite easily resist the temptation all around me, though I do admit that I was curious and went down to the red light district later in the evening. The main road is called Fields Avenue and is pretty much back to back full of raunchy bars with inventive names like "Coyote Ugly", "Pony Tail" or "Dirty Duck". Young female promoters in short skirts, tight tops and high heels are standing around everywhere, attempting to lure lonely customers into their respective bars.

I went into a few of them, somehow feeling pretty nervous. The scene was roughly the same in all three that I visited: There were maybe 50 scarcely-dressed women in each of them, some of them dancing on stages, most of them looking extremely bored. As one fat American guy I chatted to explained to me they are referred to as "Guest Relation Officers", or GRO, not prostitutes. Funny. On the other side of the spectrum there were the old and/ or fat Caucasian men, clinging to their drinks, also looking bored, or chatting with some of the girls.

Interestingly, prostitution is officially illegal in the Philippines, but that doesn seem to bother anybody here. The guy I mentioned earlier explained the system to me: To get around this tiny legal problem, a customer doesn actually pay the girl directly for her services. Instead, you pay the bar the girl is working for to get her released early from her shift. This is called a "bar fine". The girl gets a cut from this money and whatever happens next is then the decision of two consenting adults. Quite a clever solution I would say.

Sitting in another bar having an overpriced mango juice I had to think of a movie I saw a while back. In the movie an NGO camera team went around a red light district somewhere in Asia asking the old men with their 20-year old prostitutes questions like "Hello sir, is this your daughter?". Great question, I love it!

I also wondered what impressions the Filipinos living and working here must get about foreigners. Or, on the other hand, what image does all this give foreigners about the Philippines? I can only assume that most of the girls working here do so out of pure desperation with few alternatives available to them in this impoverished country. Then again, it must also be a cultural thing somehow, as I have been to many poor countries here in Southeast Asia, where prostitution was at a minimum. I guess I will never get to the bottom of it, the issue seems just too complex to comprehend, especially by an outsider and foreigner like me.

In the same bar I asked the waitress how much she earns working there. Her salary is 90 pesos per day (by the way, a value meal at McDonalds costs more than what she earns in a day), plus tips if she is lucky. That is about one Euro and thirty cents for a nine hour shift. The dancers, who have to wear considerably less clothes and dance on the stages, get a bit more, 150 pesos a day, about 2 euros. If a girl goes home with a customer, she gets 600 pesos, roughly nine Euros. Most of the girls apparently send the money they earn home to their families, with many of them being single mothers working here to support their children. The waitress I talked to was 27 years old, had four children who are being raised by her parents, and an ex-husband who left her without giving her her any support for raising their children. She has never finished high school (her parents had no money for that) and she told her family that she is working as domestic helper for a rich family near Manila. I am not sure, but I could imagine that this is a pretty typical story for many of the girls working here.

And to put the above figures into perspective: Before coming to Angeles about a year ago, the waitress I talked to used to work in a factory earning 800 pesos a month, about 12 Euros. This is roughly the amount of money I spent two days ago for a 30 minute boat ride to Taal Volcano and a few biscuits for my breakfast. Here in Angeles, she can make those 800 pesos in a single day if she manages to find a customer who wants to take her home for the night. But even if she only works as a waitress and assuming she gets no tips at all, she still makes about 2200 pesos a month, or 32 Euros, three times as much as she got in the factory. And if she is lucky and finds a customer regularly, she can earn a small fortune compared to her other (non-prostitution) options. Thus is the sad reality.

In the last bar I went to, aggressive girls kept coming up to my table asking if I would buy them a drink. As I gathered they get a commission for every drink a customers buys them. But having ventured far enough into this alien and sad world I soon took my leave and walked back to my hotel through the rainy evening, wondering how many other male foreigners were sleeping alone in their beds that night.

The next morning, I caught a jeepney for the 20 minute ride to Clark airport. It was time to leave the Philippines after three weeks, as my visa was running out. Unfortunately, Angeles was definitely not the best place to say farewell to this beautiful country with its wonderful people, but the contrast with this utterly depressing place made me realise what an amazing time I have had in the Philippines. I hope to be back one day.

Next stop: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).



To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).




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13th October 2009

wha ?
Did you just get sprung from some sort of cloistered existance or what ? You seem almost shocked that things such as this go on in Asia. Actually, it goes on in the western world and it's just as prevelant, the only difference is that it's prettied up for people like you who pretend that it's only 'them' that it happens to. That and the fact that it's more hidden and underground over here because of our puritanical history. They make less money over there because the cost of living is less. Is prostitution a new concept for you ? Have you only been staying in 5-star resorts or something ? I further submit that you chose to go there, perhaps not to partake, but because you subconsciously needed a wake-up call. How can you travel the world and still be so naive and ignorant ?
13th October 2009

Stereotypes
Yes ... Philippines is not only about prostitutes like Thailand. It is a beautiful place with lots of nice and wonderful people (who can speak English).
13th October 2009

sad
sense of helplessness so strong it made them blind from decent though toilsome options that do exist, and easy preys for flesh-trade entrepreneurs. grim yet honest perspective. thanks for sharing!
15th October 2009

Amazing post... as always. Depressing though. Good luck with your travels, Ben!
15th October 2009

Why publish the blog?
I don't really understand why you would publish a blog about the sex trade which you don't agree with? By publishing the blog it further promotes the place. Additionally, by you buying drinks in the bars and staying in the hotels there you are adding to their success in business and therefor perpetuating this sex trade that you despise. You didn't have to stay there. You knew what the place was about before you went there and yet you still chose to stay there rather than Manila. Yes, its a sad, depressing place but prostitution happens all over the world for many many reasons. You must have had a sheltered travelling experience to not witness this in other countries but then again some places are just more obvious about it than other places.
15th October 2009

Preconceptions and Own Prejudice
Are you implying that Filipino women like to prostitute themselves ??? ... by saying that it is a cultural thing ? OMG, get over yourself ! And where are you getting your facts that Philippines is the Prostitute capital of the world ? Philippines has higher population living in under the poverty line. The only reason they do it is because they were left with no other options. Your ignorant preconsumption is the same as saying - Promiscuity and Sexual Perversion in the West must also be a cultural thing ?
15th October 2009

You really got me into thinking why prostitution is so bad here. Im really hoping this is not a cultural matter, but somehow you're right. We have been under bitter spanish rule for about 400years, wherein the society was stratified into classes bestowed with different privileges and abuses. Maybe the social trend to copulate with the white race and later on with rich japanese and taiwanese guys started off as a social survival technique during colonial times (???). Historians and anthropologists might be scandalized with this though, but at the moment i could not think of of any other explanation :D Then again its likely a host of more complex issues. It's the reason behind some of the bad reputation that is disturbing. You are right on pointing out that most western tourists here are lonely, fat, old caucasian guys seeking companionship of girls barely out of gradeschool. It seems everyone's blaming poverty for this, when it's mainly lame-duck mentality. And Angeles' city of fallen angels-character has spread to other areas, even though the GIs have left a long time ago. Nonetheless, please accept my deepest gratitude for your kind words on El Nido in one of your previous posts. Have a good trip!
16th October 2009

Quite sad really
Im so glad you took the time out to write about how little these girls get paid (and respected). Its nice that you took the time to find out exactly what their lives are really like and really opened our eyes to just how rubbish their world is. I disagree with posts that you shouldn have published it, it made for interesting reading, particularly for people back home who are unaware of how bad the problem is not only here in the Philippines but throughout SE Asia. Yes it goes on back at home but Im pretty sure it isn as widespread as this, to make matters worse if its so easily accessible at home then why on gods earth do fat sweaty Western men feel the need to go on holidays just to enjoy getting their rocks off with young girls for 2 weeks???
17th October 2009

good for you
these topics need to be discussed.i guess the negative posts are probably from men who have been there and are afraiid their wives will read about this.
17th October 2009

Interesting
I just want to let you know that Im enjoying your travelblogs. Im planning a career break in a couple of years and its nice to be inspired by other travelblog members for ideas. Your blog is interesting and paints a sad and realistic picture of how these women really live (not just in Angeles City but in many other places). Anyway, happy travels, Dawn.
17th October 2009

Prostitution is NEVER a cultural thing !
No woman would want to prostitute themselves in asia, maybe yes to some women in countries where they can make quick big bucks ! I just hope readers are smart enough not to believe everything you write because your thoughts are toxic. But then again, there are a lot of stuckup ignorant people like you and will believe everything they read in blogs and the internet.
18th October 2009

The truth
Tell the truth nothing but the truth. Love your blog, especially this one. Keep it up.. and stay clean, God bless you.
19th October 2009

Interesting entry
A fair, non-judgemental entry. A very sad story, whether in Philippines, Thailand or anywhere else. Good on you for publishing this for all to see. Why should this be kept quiet? I never went to Angeles, but saw enough of the fat, sweaty westerners with poor young girls in other places around the islands.
8th January 2010

great job
thank you for publishing this. i am Filipino living in the philippines. the sex trade in Angeles does not get enough attention from the media. and not doing so is denying the reality. people need to talk about this so that we can be more aware of the suffering of our countrymen. i do not know their stories. and hearing about their lives now makes me sad. people need to hear this so they can do something about it. not talking about this would be denying the reality, pretending that everything is ok when it is not. im sure that most of the haters here are Filipinos whos pride got hurt. Kabayan, this is our reality. dont deny it, do something about it.
19th January 2010

More to explore
Your story is common. It is unfortunate that you were not able to see the other areas of Angeles. There is a beautiful landscapes and country side just a short distance from where you stayed. Cheers
3rd February 2010

Got Bored with Soho & Amsterdam?
Its ok to blog about whatever but exaggerating and attempting to distort the images by making outrageous statements like "possibly the sex capital of the world" is simply demeaning and reflects badly on your character. I guess you want to psychologically give your readers the impression that this trade is an accepted norm and the women deserve their fate so you can justify and erase the guilt of your patronage in taking advantage and johnifying yourself with them all the while making hyprocritical pretenses of being morally upright. Such a mouthful huh, well guess what? Judging from your looks, I guess we shouldn't be surprised at all coz you do fit the profile of lonely men bored with ageing prostitutes in their own respective countries and stocking up on Viagra to regain their lost manhood on young girls in the Third World. I'm sure you've come across a ton of your kind all across SE Asia.
25th April 2010

What is wrong with these people...?
I recently visited the Philippines for the first time and LOVED the place. I stumbled across your blog - a very interesting and realistic look at a small but very real aspect of the country. It's nice to see that I am not alone in my desire to see ALL parts of a country when I travel - the gorgeous, the fun, but also the not so nice. But I'm shocked at all the negative comments!! Yeah like you buying a drink or staying in a hotel in Angeles is "perpetuating" the sex trade. Give me a break! Your doing that and writing this is better than ignoring it and/or the women, or God forbid looking down on them. People are so stupid and defensive. If any of the responders are actually interested in learning something about the sex industry and HIV/AIDS in SE Asia and not just spewing vehement bullshit they should absolutely read "The Wisdom of Whores" by Elisabeth Pisani. Get informed before you attack people! Anyway I'm sure you don't let things like these comments get to you but I just wanted to say I for one respect this entry. Keep enjoying your travels!
11th June 2010

You hit it on the head
My wife and I are in the planning stages for a 2 month stay in the Philippines and we really enjoy your posts. We have traveled extensively in SE Asia and have found your descriptions of the red light bars in Angeles to be on the mark. What you described can be found all over Thailand and Nam and India and Pakistan and, hell, it happens all over the world.. An economic fact of life that tends to bring out the irrational in some people's comments. It happens. At least the women you described had the option of leaving the profession if they chose. Most of the poor prostitutes in India and Pakistan are not as fortunate. I read a book a few years ago entitled - Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia by Louise Brown. An objective report on the economics and personal costs associated with the sex trade. I recommend that anybody offended by your story read this book. It'll give you a whole new perspective on the business. Here in the States we dress up our version of the enterprise by hiding it behind closed doors or in dark parking lots in truck stops. Call girls work Craigslist for clients and live in constant fear of getting arrested or forced to pay bribes to 'officials' so that they may work unmolested. For all the candor of your description of the Angeles scene I think that the way we conduct business in most of the United States is exponentially dirtier. Thanks for a great read.
15th June 2010

This is a very popular blog Ben
Wow 2287 views so far.. I remember when you published this blog Ben and it immediately captured the interest of many, and it looks like it still is. Keep up the good work my friend. Dale
18th June 2010

Angeles is the prostitution's world capital??? omg man u should go out a litlle more. The city has many more to offer.....
26th June 2010

Bolang!
Bolang ka ne? Before you say anything against Angeles City make sure that you know everything about that place. On the 1st place kayong mga KANO ang mga HORNY PEOPLE and correction.. Angeles City is not a SEX CAPITAL. haha! Stupid you! Amsterdam is the SEX CAPITAL of the world, correct me if I'm wrong. So shut the that FUCKING MOUTH of yours man!
10th July 2010

one street does not make one city
You visit one street in the whole city, the red light district at that and you label the whole city as the sex capital of the world? Well I've been to New Orleans, it's a lot worse. The streets smell like pee, prostitutes, shemales and females walking the streets as early as 3PM, vagrants sleeping on the street, people eating out of trash bins. and that was even before Katrina struck. These kind of places exist in many parts of the world.
12th July 2010

Study your facts
I hate to say bad comments but your stupid blog about our beautiful city if UNFAIR... First of all, these girls are not from our City. as you mentioned, they are sending their hard earned income to the provinces. obviously.. they are not from our city. SEcondly, know your facts, ANGELES OR THE PHILIPPINES IS NOT THE SEX CAPITAL IN THE WORLD! HELLO!!!! gago ka
16th August 2010

get off ur white horse
I read ur blog and all I read was a person on a mission 2 tell people about all the horrible things in the Asian countries especially the Philippines and in ur blog u said nothing about the beauiful things like the friendly people the beautiful places like the historic churches, the scenic waterfalls the different cultures in each province, the differentf cultural foods etc. All I read is ur complaints and ur wining about how bad things like prostitution and corruption this country has and yet u stand around and do nothing 4 the people but take food out of uneducated peoples mouths ! GET OF UR WHITE HORSE AND HELP THEM OR SHUT THE HELL UP ! There is prositution every where u look even in ur home town. I met my future wife in the Philippines and she was a escort like u mentioned in ur blog and I help her out of this situation. I suggest u look deep in the culture instead complaining about the surface of it. Thats the problem ur kind always think that the culture has 2 adapt 2 u, rather than u adapt 2 it. So the next time spend more time with the people rather than spending more with the tourist who want something more than the beauty of the country . SO GET OFF UR HIGH WHITE HORSE ! And meet the people of this beautiful country u ass wipe !!!!!!
6th October 2010

i love angeles city
hello,i am a 49 year old man from italy,i travel to angeles city 3 times a year for 3 weeks at a time,i have been doing his for the last 9 years,and i happy there,the girls are not like in europe where all they want is expensive clothing,and shoes,ect,yes in A/C they are hookers but it comes down to the same thing,i prefer to do 3 somesome,and 4 somes, (me and 3 girls) all togehter in bed same time,all are over 21 and they are so hot,and i treat them all with respect,next morning i pay them all breakfast,give them all a good tip,and then i sleep,play a little in the casino,and find another 2,or 3 girls to spend the night with,and i enjoy every minute,important is to have fun in life,then i return home,work a few months and go back,i see all my married friends with their pain in the ass fat wives always fighting,and no one is really happy,sorry but i dont need that crap,i need angeles city a few times a year,and i recommend you stay at the abc hotel,take care,ciao,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Alex
15th December 2010

Buy a damn drink!
Interesting blog entry. It does come across a little smug though. Coming from a small, New England, liberal artsy educational background, I am definitely familiar with your point of view. Women are to be respected, not bought, ect.... Fortunately I have overcome this to the point that I can enjoy Angeles City. Yeah, I wish these girls had a better way to make the same money but the fact is that they don't and there is no quick fix to their situation. Working in a bar is simply the most lucrative way to support their families and that is exactly what they are doing. While I was staying there, I made friends with a few of them and gave them money to buy some pigs to raise as an alternative. After a while, they asked if they could go back to work in the clubs because the pig thing simply was not bringing in the same kind of income. I could have done the moralistic thing and told them they need to make and honest living, AIDS, repspect, Jesus, etc.... but in the end, I have no place telling someone less fortunate how they are allowed to handle their situation unless I can provide them a complete fix (in this case something like a university education). You did even less. You didn't even want to buy them a drink so they could make their measly little commission. You just came and judged them and the customers that are in fact doing more to help these girls than you. Prostitution is not the real problem here, poverty is. You are just attacking the solution to poverty these girls came up with because you don't like their solution. They are not stupid. If there was a way for a 20 year old girl with a 4th grade education to make the same income somewhere else, they would do it. If you have a solution, let me know and I will pass it on to my friends. Finally, despite your assertion that you "did quite easily resist the temptation all around" I do not find this credible. Maybe you have low sex drive or are really that crippled with guilt and self-abnegation but would you really come to Angeles just to poke around in a city that you find morally repugnant? Protip: if you ever go to AC again, indulge. You will have a great time and you will be doing more for these sweet young girls than you will by blogging about how awful what they do is. Also, it is generally not nice to post face pictures of bargirls on the internet.
28th February 2011

Distorted
Your blog was so distorted l could barely read it. Angeles City is a city with a population of around 400,000 people it is a very big city with so much to see and do In Angeles and on Clark. You went to 1 street in the whole city and you try to judge a whole country on one street. You use the word Auchtung that is a German word l lived in Germany for 12 years. So if l went to the red light district in Frankfurt or Hamburg and wrote a blog saying that Germany must be the sex capital of the world you would probably think that that was unfair. Trust me it is as many women working in the brothals of Germany as it is in the Philippines. Next point you didn't have to go out and visit the bars while you were here. You could have stayed in your hotel room and watched TV. You went out on your own and patronized these bars no gun to your head. Yes it is true that a lot of the women working in these bars are here to go out with customers and make money but you can easily find Virgins (cherry girls as they are called) working in these bars and yes they get their commission by asking for drinks but never leave the bar with a customer. So if you want to call her a prostitute to make your story sound so dark and grim then go ahead but it is plenty of girls here that work in the bar and still have morals and the respect of their friends and families by not going out with customers. Every girl here wears an ID badge with their name and age on it signed by the mayors office so if you find a girl here she is not underaged and if she is a cherry girl she will have a red V on her badge as well. Stop trying to exploit the already exploited with your distorted blog honestly l think you owe Angeles and the people who live here an apology.
14th April 2011

really bad
It's very dissappointing that you had a negative impression about our country. It seems that you saw only the negative side of it. I am a Filipina so it really hurts me that the blog you've written actually suggests that Filipina women are just sex slaves, prostitues or something. Really bad...TT
26th December 2011

Thanks for Nothing
A boring blog about such an exciting city. What a naive, soft, uneducated, boring, lonley little brat you are.
22nd September 2012

The Article is Very Realistic!
I agree with your perspectives about Angeles. I have been to the PI many times and now live here. There is a cultural component to the prostitution. It is more accepted in the PI as a normal thing. Most of the people replying to your blog seem easily offended for some reason...oh well. I like living here for the beer, the women, and the cost of living.
10th October 2012

Well done - nice post
Good for you making this website and allowing posts commenting on your findings; everyone is entitled to comment on their experiences. You could have gone deeper and focussed upon the fact that not all Pinay's are the same - it's not all but just a few rotten apples that spoil the good name of the majority wanting to earn for themselves and their families. The majority are decent poor girls but some are dedicated career scammers with real jobs who take space from those who need to work.
27th March 2018

Small minef
Listen you small minded asshole. Their culture is completely different Then western soicity and working as a bar girl ( not a prostitute, very offensive) is the best option to keep from starving over there and they get to chose who they go with. Not like over here where there beaten, have pimps and are drugged out. Activity’s like that are always around but instead of pretending like it doesn’t exists Philipines bring it into the day accept it and it becomes safer for the girls that will do it anyways and give them an option to make money gets better life in the future of pay to finish school.
29th October 2018

Puzzled
I am puzzled at the judgemental attitude you display towards prostitution. Many countries like this in SE Asia are very poor. There's no welfare system, like most of us Westerners have. If they don't "work", they don't eat, or have shelter. If there were no punters, they would also not eat. What's so difficult to understand about that?

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