By Mike Garner
The systemic abuse of young women in the Philippines finds its roots in the expansionist powers of empire, that empire being the United States. I recall arriving in Subic Bay aboard the USS Tripoli in the 70s. At that time, the sex industry was flourishing and the clientele were young military men. Thousands of girls lined Magsaysay Drive and Rizal Avenue in Olongapo City. All were poor and looking to marry an American. Today the US military has left, but the industry that flourished under the complicit eye of US officials has not shut down. International sex tourism is a growing trend across Subic, Angeles, Cebu and Manila. A number of bar operators are retired military men that have become little more than pimps and molesters. The Australians have also made their contribution to this group of maladjusted men.
The clients of the young women are now (mostly) old men seeking some "macho" image of enduring virility amidst their failing health and impotency. They have no future to offer these young girls and their inability to govern themselves speaks to their mental illness. Morally, they lack the fiber to see past their false sense of self as the macho male amidst the over-sexed Polynesian woman. This unfortunate and damaging stereotype of the Asian or Polynesian woman contributes to the illusion that the girls actually like them.
If I could take you with me to enter into the darkness that is the life of young women in the Philippine sex industry, you would find girls that, in many ways, are no different than the ones that line the halls of high schools and colleges in other parts of the world. Yet, their lives are very different. Very few girls are fortunate enough to marry a foreigner that will love them and aid them in the transition from a traumatic past of abuse and lies to become healthy functioning human beings. Usually, these girls have at least two children within five years (often four). Some of them contract STDs that endanger their health and AIDS is a growing concern in the Philippines. I know of a number of young women sent home to the province to die of AIDS.
Most of these girls are ‘recruited’ from the poorer areas of the Philippines. The recruiters allure them with the promise of legitimate employment and paid boat fare to the supposed location of their new job. However, when they arrive they are locked in a room, often chained, stripped nude and raped (unless their virginity is intact, for then they can be sold). Through a process of building fear, humiliation, and false claims of indebtedness the girls become pliant victims ready to be managed by a mamasan (an older woman who manages younger ones in the industry). In the areas where sex tourism abounds, signs for mamasans with their own stable of girls line the streets. Business for the sex mafia is booming.
The organized business of selling Filipinas functions at various levels. First, there are recruiters that work for the men that dehumanize the girls and prepare them for the mamasan. These men ensure a constant supply of women to the bars that line the streets of sex tourism areas. The bar owners are dependent upon this system to supply them with the women that are used and discarded at an increasing rate, due to the cost paid in the soul and psyche of these young women. The final person to ‘purchase’ the Filipina does so under the guise of a ‘bar fine.’ Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines this system is not regulated, for its simple rewording of the bordello jargon. A 'bar fine' is paid to the bar and the girl is allowed to leave with the customer. Girls are not given any choice; they go with whomever they are fined. It is not uncommon for bar owners to have their own rooms or small motels adjacent to their bars. The monies from the bar fine is usually divided between the bar and the girl. Often the girl receives nothing due to the bar manager’s claim that the bar is not making any money.
These girls live in constant fear of the bar owner or manager or mamasan. Often when we have gotten the girls away from the bars for a meeting, the owner or manager will show up at the place where we meet. The girls are the property and livelihood of these persons that prey upon the weaker sex. The mind of these girls is a complex maze of culture and abuse.
The damaged psyche of the female personality is a result of the constant abuse experienced by the girls that work in the bars. As the guardians of life, women naturally tend towards kindness and self sacrifice. When these attributes of the feminine personality are damaged by the abusive life experiences of a bar girl, she suffers disorientation and lapses back and forth from gentleness and weakness to deception and anger. This contradictory behavior is perceived by the male predator as a mental deficiency due to lack of education and not understood to be the effects of the male’s abuse. The male desires the feminine attributes of kindness and nurturing. They typically tolerate the deception and anger as a 'defect' in the female, which justifies the abusive activity of the male.
Women are the mothers, daughters and life-bearing members of every society. When they are not protected by the laws and moral obligation of society, then that society is guilty of the sins which the women commit as victims. In the Philippines, women are for sale.
We entered one of the most dangerous areas and one of the most dangerous bars. Our purpose was to rescue a girl from the imprisonment of the bar. At the last moment her fear would not allow her to cooperate with our plan and we were unable to secure her freedom. During our effort a girl came off the stage completely nude. My wife smiled at her and said, "hello sweetheart" and spoke to her in Tagalog. My wife embraced the nude girl, and then she threw on some strings for covering and sat down by us to talk. We purchased a very expensive Sprite to ‘pay’ for her time. Within a few moments she was weeping profusely and I and my wife longed for some way to be able to help her. Perhaps in time we can purchase property and build a place to educate these girls so that they might live whole lives. Perhaps in time we will be able to share in the efforts and concerns of men and women across the Philippines and the world to stop the selling of the Filipina.
In the past few days our female team members have met with over thirty girls in various locations. During these times they have given them clothes for themselves and their children. They have shared their love and concern for the mental and physical health of these girls. These meetings have had to be done with caution and without the knowledge of the men that own them.