Friday, April 20, 2012

The Plight of the Filipina Hostess

In 1976, Ferdinand Marcos was the ruling dictator of the Philippines. Marcos had declared martial law and no one was allowed on the street after midnight. I was twenty years old and handing out Bibles on the streets of Olongapo. At midnight the dash back to the base by U.S. soldiers was accomplished by pushing past literally thousands of girls. The bars closed at 11:30 and the masses of people filled the street and the sidewalks. At 4:00 in the morning the curfew was lifted and young soldiers ran down the street and across the bridge to catch an early morning bus and make ‘muster’. These soldiers often wore no shirt and had no shoes because they had left them as payment for their night with a young Filipina.

The girls of Olongapo and Barrio Barreto came from poor families and from all over the Philippines. Some had come with the dream of marrying an American and never intended to live the life that captured them in Olongapo or Barreto or Angeles City. Some had gone to government agencies to seek employment and were sent to Olongapo to be held there in fear. They were threatened with both debt and imprisonment. Some were raped and pacified into cooperating with the sex industry that serviced the American Military. Most of these girls had not gone beyond the sixth grade in an educational system that had inadequate resources.

The first bars to line the streets of Philippine cities were placed near the U.S. military bases. This practice dates back to the Philippine American war as early as 1900. The practice was governed by military officials that sought to keep subservient and disease free women through a process of elimination. The complicity of the U.S. military involved the practice of R & R. The military needed a way to maintain moral and the Filipina was the agent of choice. In 1976 I was told by a military chaplain that no one could live a Christian life in Olongapo. His advice to us was “Do not get any girls pregnant or get too drunk.”

There are entire villages where some of the women once abused by the American Military all live together in poverty. One such place where the former ‘Magsaysay Girls’ live is at the end of Water Dam Road block 27 of Gordon Heights. Magsaysay Dr. is the name of the street in Olongapo that was lined with bars and girls.

I remember when the bases in Subic Bay and Clark Air Force base shut down. My personal feelings were that the Philippines might become free of the abuse and oppression of their youth by the presence of empire. Unfortunately I was somewhat naïve to the blossoming sex industry brought about by the ease of travel via the airline industry. I was surprised to find that sex tourism is an entrepreneurial effort by retired American males seeking to make money. The Internet has provided the ability for these types of people to gather locked, members-only, sites and plan their abuse of young uneducated poverty-ridden girls. Retired U.S. military men living on their pensions are still fathering children with Filipinas in Olongapo and Angeles City and Barrio Barreto.

Most of the men that go on sex tours to the Philippines are old and fat and exhibit their youthful memories with old tattoos. Some are younger and are part of the new sex tourist phenomenon born of global travel and excessive wealth.

For the past three years I have spent the summer in the Philippines. Each year I have witnessed the resurgence of the sex industry. The participants are now older and the girls are still young. The men are American, Irish, German, Australian, Japanese, and Korean. Some of the girls I witnessed to be working in the bars looked to be as young as fifteen. We entered the bars and bought the girls’ time in order to talk with them and share with them our faith in Christ. This type of activity is fine as a starting point, but we must do more. It is my plan to combat the sex industry in the Philippines and to establish recovery programs and educational facilities for the girls captured in this industry. For over a century American complicity has contributed to this evil of bars and sex slavery. It is an industry that is a result of American military practices and the continuing realities of injustice due to global economics.

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