Monday, December 13, 2010

The Clients Change But Sex Trade Remains

Fields Ave, the main pedestrian drag in Angeles City, is a legacy of the time when this row of run-down bars was the romping ground of restless young American airmen stationed at Clark Air Base.

The US base closed in 1992, and the often-randy airmen have gone with it. But the girls, the sex, the round-the-clock raunchiness remain. Only the customers have changed.At a club called Koko Yoko, balding men with bulging bellies sit at an outdoor bar, sipping beers and leering at the young girls who pass on the model’s runway gone wrong called Fields Ave.

Many of the girls weigh barely more than 40 kilograms, their high heels pushing their almost adolescent bodies at perverse angles. There are cross-dressers fooling no one, calling out to men with tattoos, Popeye forearms and gray hair on their backs.

Some men pass by with girls one-third their age, swinging their hands together like a couple on a first date. Others cavort with three girls at once, the women all clutching their client like daughters competing for Daddy’s attention.A thriving sex-tourism trade attracts foreign customers by the thousands in search of something they cannot find back home: girls young enough to be their granddaughters selling sex for the price of a burger and fries.

Most are bused up from Manila, an hour away, on golf and sex package deals. This is no quasi-innocent boys’ night out. Rather, it’s a single-minded realm of weary-looking loners on a resolute hunt that smacks of feeding an addiction.

Many are ex-military men reliving former glories, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper wannabes, some gathering at the local American Legion post before embarking into the night.

There is a one-armed man, a retiree with a walker and another dapper gentleman who strolls along in a dress shirt, twirling an umbrella, whistling a private tune.

Many head to the bars with the red-light special called “The Early-Release”: Buy your girl 10 drinks and she’s yours, no questions asked.

Nobody asks questions here. Nobody gives a name. Credit cards are a joke; who wants to leave behind any economic traces that they ever set foot here?

A young dancer in tight red hip-hugger pants and matching sports bra acknowledges that Fields Ave may not be pretty, but the money is good.

She rolls her eyes at two overweight men who pass by looking like large reptiles dressed in children’s clothing.

Sure, the sex is disgusting, she says. But at least it’s over quickly.

Outside Koko Yoko, the doorman, a 33-year-old paraplegic, perches on a wheeled wooden pallet. He says his father was an American who once served at Clark, his mother a local girl. He contracted polio when he was 11 and has worked here ever since. The street, he says, takes care of him.

Nearby, a saggy-faced Australian lights a cigarette. He’s been in Angeles City for about a month, his last stop on a sex circuit from Bangkok, Thailand, to Manila after getting laid off from his electrician’s job in Sydney.

In Thailand, he says, the girls didn’t speak the language. Manila hookers were too streetwise, the bars too spread out.

But this is Easy Street. He can sit atop his bar stool and ogle hundreds of passing girls fresh from the countryside who perfect the tricks of their trade before moving on to The Show in Manila.

The Australian signals a street vendor and buys some knockoff Viagra. He says he prefers the girls working one street over, who cost only 500 pesos, or about $10, apiece.

“Anything goes here,” he says, lighting another cigarette. He leans over to offer a bit of Fields Ave inside information: “You can get a young girl here to do anything if you promise to marry her.”

All along Fields Ave, the come-on banners with their Web addresses advertise good pay (up to $10 a day) for hostess jobs. But applicants must speak Korean, Japanese or Chinese.

A balding man pulls up on his motorcycle, greeting several other men loudly in German. They already have their catch, and girls jump on the back as the cycles roar off.

At the Tourist Assistance Booth, Odysius Garche says the older customers are better behaved than the US airmen were. “I just tell them, ‘The girls are inside. Go make you own deal.’ ”

Nearby, a chubby American with glasses eats a hot dog. He says he’s a bar manager but offers no details.

He came to Angeles City from California, to follow up on a chat-room hookup. He ended up on Fields Ave, drinking late with the dancers, hearing their stories.

“This is clean fun,” he says. “There’s no sex shows. These girls are not slaves. They have minds of their own.”

Behind him, women call out from the doors of bars with names like the Doll House, Club Lancelot, Treasure Island, Club Cambodia, the Blue Nile and the Amsterdam.

Suddenly, a group of 20-something men storms past, laughing and arm-punching. The news spreads and girls pop their heads out the doorways to catch a glimpse of boys their own age.

One calls after them with a deal she hopes they can’t refuse:

“Free!” she says, laughing.

Historic Sites around Balibago

Bale Herencia

was built in 1860 and is situated in Lakandula Street corner Santo Rosario Street. It is a picturesque house with the unsavory reputation of having been built for the mistress of a parish priest. The current owners now use it as a banquet hall.

Bayanihan Park

(formerly Astro Park) is now home to a year-round mini-amusement park and it is an ideal spot for sports and recreational activities having basketball and volleyball courts and huge space for jogging and other recreational activities. This is where the famous and historical "Salakot Arch" is now located.

Camalig

was built in 1840 by Don Ciriaco de Miranda, the first gobernadorcillo of Angeles, and was used as a grain storehouse along Santo Rosario Street. It was restored in 1980 by Armando L. Nepomuceno and is now the site of Armando's Pizza and Camalig Restaurant.

Fort Stotsenburg

is named after Colonel John M. Stotsenburg, a captain of the 6th U.S. Cavalry, was the location of the permanent quarters of the American forces in Sapang Bato, Angeles. It is also known as the "Parade Ground," which served as a venue for many important celebrations by the Americans before the Philippine-American Military Bases Agreement ended in 1991.

Founders' Residence (Bale Matua)

is located at the heart of Santo Rosario, is the oldest building in the city. It was built in 1824 by the city founder, Don Ángel Pantaleón de Miranda, and his wife, Dona Rosalia de Jesus, and was inherited by their only daughter, Dona Juana de Miranda de Henson. This house, which is made of high stone and an ornate gate, nostalgically symbolizes the glorious past of Angeles amidst the overwhelming onslaughts of modernization.

Holy Family Academy Building

was once a convent and was served as a military hospital of the U.S. Army in 1900. It was later used as troop barracks, officers' quarters and arsenal by the Japanese Imperial Military Forces in 1942.

Holy Rosary Church (Santo Rosario Church)

was constructed from 1877 to 1896 by the "Polo y Servicio" labor system, a kind of forced labor imposed on Filipino peasants by the Spanish colonial government. It was used as a military hospital by the U.S. Army from August 1899 to December 1900. Its backyard was the execution ground to the Spanish forces in shooting down Filipino rebels and suspects.

Juan D. Nepomuceno's Center

for Kapampangan Studies houses a library, museum of archives and gallery, research center and theater, put up by the Holy Angel University in 2002 to preserve, study and promote Kapampangan history and culture.

Lily Hill

was a strategic observation post for monitoring Japanese movement in World War II. Remains of Japanese aircraft were found here at the end of the war. Along this hill can now be found Lily Hill Duty Free Store.

Old Pamintuan Residence

was served as the seat of government of the First Philippine Republic under General Emilio Aguinaldo from May to July 1899 and the Central Headquarter for Major General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., the father of General Douglas MacArthur. It now houses the Central Bank of the Philippines in Central Luzon.

Post Office Building (Deposito)

is a building that was constructed in 1899 for the purpose of depositing religious statues and carriages of the Catholic Church, hence the name Deposito. It was also used as the headquarter of the 11th Film Exchange U.S. Army from 1946 to 1947 and was then used as a jailhouse for recalcitrant U.S. troops during the Philippine-American War. On February 6, 1967, the Angeles City Post Office moved to this building. It is now the site of Angeles Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Center.

Salakot Arch

is a landmark of Angeles City. From 1902 to 1979, Clark remained a U.S. territory, guaranteed by the Military Bases Agreement in 1947. In 1978, the Philippines, under the dispensation of the former President Ferdinand Marcos, and the U.S. finally agreed to establish Philippine sovereignty over the U.S. bases and thus the Clark Air Base Command (CABCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines came into being, following the signing of a revised Military Bases Agreement on January 7, 1979. To commemorate this unprecendented and bold event, the government constructed a special structure based upon the design of a salakot or native hat, which soon became a widely recognized symbol of this renewed Filipino spirit from the long and archaic tradition of Philippine-American relations and the weaning away from it. Angeles will soon see and realize its full potential as a dynamic might on its own without the American base after the onslaught of Pinatubo volcano.

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