Prostitution, Tourism and Prostitutes

Exhibit A

Let me piece together a few case studies in lawyerly fashion as I establish the foundation for the argument I’m going to make later.

  • The first case was a tragic fire in a small hotel in Olongapo, near Subic Town, that killed seven people, three of them Americans whom I fairly or unfairly suspect of engaging in those activities popular among American visitors and sailors. In the vernacular of the polite, they were cuddling. And possibly their girls were among the other deaths. There are a lot of rooms in Olongapo and Subic that did not burn that night, but were occupied. Subic is what Subic is, and she has a sister named Angeles.
  • The second case was reported in a recent Los Angeles Times story about an FBI agent who is in hot water for arranging for girls for other agents visiting the Philippines, and who admitted to having sex with a girl himself. The trip was paid for by the US government. He met the girls at a karaoke bar in Manila. He said he did not pay for the sex but gave the girl $80 so she could help her family. His fellow agents also “met” girls. The FBI agents were in Manila to investigate gun trafficking operations.
  • Third case. In doing research for an earlier article here, I discovered a Wikipedia report that said there are something like 800,000 prostitutes in the Philippines. That’s almost one percent of the entire population.
  • The fourth case:  US Ambassador Harry Thomas got in trouble in late 2011 for referring to Philippine “sex tourism” and was . . . er, encouraged to apologize by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario.
  • Fifth and final case, Top Blogger Raissa Robles published a recent Department of Tourism video that featured something called “romance”. The ad resulted in considerable discussion about racial profiling. But my point is the boy girl connection in the video, where the boy appeared to me to be non-Filipino. Like, American. I’ve put the video at the end of this blog so you can punch it up and make your own assessment of what it is selling, and to whom.
I am fascinated by the artificial constructs we use as guideposts for life.
What do I mean?

We live in a world of deceits and mistruths. Sometimes for good reasons. If someone has recently experienced a death in the family, we may want to know what happened, but we refrain from bringing the matter up for fear of causing further emotional pain.
But the truth is we are curious as hell. We just avoid the truth.
It is not okay for Ambassador Thomas to characterize a broad, loose, boy-girl industry as sex tourism, but it is okay for the Department of Tourism to advertise romance. And all that it conjures up in the minds of single guys.
Or take politics, where simplistic slogans are used to characterize a whole man’s character, his past and his likely future. “Obama is a socialist.” Or “Romney is a flip-flopper.”
Or slogans to live by “guns don’t kill people, people do.”
Or, in the Philippines, “Americans are arrogant.”
Not to other Americans. What do you make of that?
Libel is a stupid accusation a lot of the time because it tries to make finite and literally truthful that which was intended as something else. Because, you see, the TRUTH is often not the words explicitly, literally, as said or commonly defined; it is in the anger behind them.
“Senator Sotto is an idiot.”
Well, the truth is that Senator Sotto is not an idiot. The truth is “I am angry that he won’t accept responsibility for plagiarizing”.
All words are truthful at reflecting what the writer meant. Maybe just not what the words mean in a dictionary, or what words mean to the reader, but what the words mean between the lines, or what they mean in expressing truthfully the emotions of the writer.
That’s why JoeAm frequently refers to the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, where he can define a word to mean what HE wants it to mean, not what convention says it means.
So our success in dealing with life depends in large part upon knowing who to listen to and who to ignore, who to trust and who to shun. How to read between lines and draw unstated deductions. And it depends on our ability to skate the edges of truth in what we say or write or read. We live in a world of lies and deceits and hidden meanings.
By the way, another article I read says that creative people make better liars than non-creative people. So there is some substance to JoeAm’s warnings not to take anything published here as truth. (Asterisk, unless it is written by Edgar Lores who undertakes the admirable effort to write only truths.)
JoeAm admits he’s blowing it out his pipes half the time. For literary effect. And neither you nor he can always tell which half it is.
Back to prostitution.
This is not a nation of servants. This is not a nation of prostitutes. This is a nation that does not produce enough conventional jobs in manufacturing, financial services, utilities, recreation, agribusiness, law, or medicine.
Exhibit B

The embarrassment, the outrage, ought not be directed at someone who speaks an unkind truth.  The embarrassment, the outrage, ought to be that those who complain about Harry Thomas keep electing the same dynastic zeroes and putting them in the position where their poor sense of nationhood and overabundant sense of serving themselves makes them incapable of getting more “honorable” jobs into the country.

One is inclined to ask if is not a real PROSTITUTION when VOTERS sell their principles for money or to the most famous name or the biggest thug in town.

Well, of course not. Most people vote earnestly if not very deeply or well informed. And the newer, kinder JoeAm, a diplomatic outsider, would not make such a rude accusation “that this is a nation of prostitutes, and they call themselves voters.” He’ll leave that to others.

But I do think that women performing sex for a living are simply doing what they have to do. And it is far more constructive than what a lot of voters are doing. And far more constructive than what a lot of public officials are doing. 

13 Responses to “Prostitution, Tourism and Prostitutes”
  1. It might be quite challenging to bring one's girlfriend thousands of miles away from home and propose. I have seen ads from other countries like Korea, – This one is also about 30 seconds long – and it says a lot more about Korea.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Or why sex tours in Bangkok are more…don't know the right word…open than here?DocB

  3. Yes, lots of visual impressions in that ad. It is competitive, this angling for the international tourist's attention and money. I do think the Philippine campaign and program is well done. The Philippines is certainly being recognized in international tourist magazines. The Philippines does have first class resorts and I hope the campaign succeeds.

  4. Open, yes, or accepted for what it is.

  5. Edgar Lores says:

    1. “We live in a world of lies and deceits and hidden meanings.”1.1 I will grant that we live in a world of hidden meanings, but not in a world of lies and deceits.1.2 To accept that we live in a world of lies and deceits is a desecration of the sanctity of life.1.3 I do not deny that the world is full of lies and deceits but it is also full of beauty and kindness. We are warned not to see the world as a dichotomy of light and dark, good and evil. I believe the best wisdom is to see it as process: evil is the cocoon that metamorphoses into a butterfly. And there are many types of cocoons and butterflies. It is a continuing process, but hopefully not an endless one.1.4 Christianity and the other Abrahamic religions see it as a battle between the Prince of Darkness and the Prince of Light wherein light will triumph. Buddhism sees it as aspects of suffering – from which we can be released.2. In a world of lies and deceits and beauty and kindness, there must be truth-sayers.2.1 To a certain extent, we are all truth-seekers and truth-sayers. We all discriminate. The extent of our discrimination is bounded by our conditioning and our ability to rise above our conditioning.2.2 How do we tell who is speaking the greater truth and who the lesser truth? If I knew the answer to this, I would be a genius. But there are partial answers: objectively, there is science and Wikipedia; subjectively, there is intuition and reasoning.2.3 But no amount of discernment will bring humanity to a common understanding. We are incorrigible. There will always be Christians and non-Christians, creationists and evolutionists, whole pots and crackpots. That does not mean that we should not try to arrive at a common place.3. Most of us do not attempt to rise above our conditioning. And most will exchange their integrity for favour. Those last two statements define prostitution in a broad sense. So prostitution is a girl who sells her body for money; it is the voter who changes his vote for money; and it is the senator who accepts public money for the comfort it brings and the votes it will buy, beyond the services he has performed or likely to perform.3.1 In those 3 scenarios, who is the greater prostitute? Supposing the girl is free of STDs, she harms no one except herself. The voter harms his integrity and the nation’s future. And the senator harms his integrity, the public, and the nation’s future.

  6. andrew lim says:

    The DSWD actually supports decriminalizing prostitution. Note that this is not legalizing it. Only the organizers can be jailed for it.

  7. Yes, an important positive correction to the negative drift of this article, influenced by the political cycle, which, of course, is not normal life at all. I agree, most of us aspire to the good.The politician acts by choice, the voter by ignorance or sloth, the prostitute by need. If I were Saint Peter, I know whom I would kick out, whom I would consign to purgatory, and whom I would welcome. (Just finished reading Robert Heinlein's "JOB: A Comedy of Justice")

  8. That is actually consistent with current law. The fine for prostitution is P200 and the fine for pimping or operating a house of ill repute is P1 million. The police arbitrate between the two, getting paid appreciation fees by the bars for doing nothing.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why is Bangkok accepting of its sleazy image, but the Philippines isn't? Why do people get offended when others point this out?Meanwhile, we're doing all we can to "rehabilitate" the country for 2015's ASEAN. Probably going to erect walls to cover up all the shanty towns littered in the capital. Rebuild the bumpy-ass roads of EDSA.Ahh….. My head hurts.Why do we have to hide our true nature behind false conservatism??? This shit has gone on too long!-patrioticflip / confusedflip

  10. I find it helpful to think in terms of eradication of poverty being a 50 to 100 year job, and eradication of prudery being a 15 to 25 year job. Then I can put today's two main developments, the Aquino good governance overlaid with economic progress, and the enlightenments brought on by internet/text communications, as being good pushes in the right direction.So I don't think it is a static situation. It is just one that will take time.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If the boy looked American so did the girl. Actually who knows since we do not see their passports. So maybe we talking about white people? Is skin color the tell in this commercial? But they both have the same skin tone. Maybe it's the shape of the face or the prominence of the nose? Who knows from a nose? But the proposal is typical Hollywood fantasy. That's what gives the commercial the western feel. So the question is why is the DOT selling the Philippines to bankrupt westerners when money is now in Asia? – MB

  12. Ha, good question. Plus those bankrupt westerners are a long way away. I don't know the expectations for the ad. Maybe it will just reside on you tube or the tourism web site to do whatever it does, fairly cheaply. I do know that Asia is the focus of a lot of the tourism work. Malaysia specifically.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Prostitutes should be allowed to form a union and their own sectoral political party so they can be represented in Congress. That's what will transform them from being exploited service providers to becoming independent service providers. Seriously. Besides if we allow communists to have seven different political parties in Congress, why can't we allow one for prostitutes? – MB

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