Friday, April 17, 2009

Observations: Sex Trade Alive and Well

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Philippines, and definitely got the business accomplished that I needed to, I'm guessing that anyone familiar with the country at all is really wondering whether or not I noticed the, um, anomalies (or abnormalities) of the place as compared to, say, Houston. I can answer this one easily. Yes, I noticed.

Although I will spare you the details of my "adventure" I am going to share a few of my observations. But before I do, I thought I should point out that at no time was I uncomfortable or afraid. While my Southern Baptist upbringing has provided me with a strong set of morals and ethics, I have traveled some, have worked in industry, and have not led a totally sheltered life. I have also learned over the years to be comfortable with where, who, and what I am and I have learned to be accepting of many things that go on in the world around me. So, I was able to keep my mind on the business at hand and accomplish what I needed to while in Makati. On the other hand, I was not totally oblivious to my surroundings.

Let's start with me. As a traveler in Asia (not my first time) I know that as a tourist I tend to stand out. First and foremost, I am a tall woman, taller than even most of the men I encounter in that part of the world. Besides that, I am a rather large woman, and never has the word "petite" been applied to me, not even as a child. :-) So, I tend to stand out in an airport, and can, if I need or want to, stand tall, look people directly in the eye, and command notice if I am so inclined. However, I generally prefer not to do this. I find it easier traveling when I adopt an attitude that is quiet but confident, pleasant but not intrusive, and aware but not "nosy".

Now, on to my observations. I think I'll just list them as bullet points instead of ramblings. I'll try to keep them short an concise, although most people know I am not at all skilled at concision.

  • I did not see another European/American (E/A) woman while in the city except at the airport and a few in the green belt (where the nice restaurants are).
  • The streets of Makati were filled with E/A men, most of whom were older and, pardon me for saying so, unattractive to the extreme.
  • None of the Philippine people treated my presence at the hotel or in the city with any obvious attitude beyond being gracious and welcoming.
  • I did endure frank, open stares on more than one occasion by these E/A men.
  • An overwhelming majority of the E/A men I saw who were accompanied by female companions were much older than them.
  • On quite a few occasions these companions appeared to be teenagers.
  • I occasionally saw a mixed couple with a baby in tow although I don't remember seeing a single mixed family (with older children) in the area where I was.
  • One of the men sitting outside of the hotel when I arrived appeared to be in his 70s while the girl with him looked to be about 15.
  • The oddest thing of all that I noticed is that all of these E/A men were very comfortable, very confident, walking out in public with their young companions. They obviously felt no embarrassment about the situation since the streets were filled with such unusual couples. I just can't imagine seeing confidence in such a man with an obvious "companion" on his arm on the streets of Houston.
  • The E/A men tended to be gray or balding, overweight, and almost always scruffy in appearance. (Note: I can't for the life of me reason this observation out!)
  • It was unusual to see one of the Philippine companions without at least one shopping bag in her hand.
  • The hotel staff treated these women with deference and respect and never did I see a hint of any disdain.
  • On my trip home from Taipei to San Francisco, I sat on the plane behind an American man (65-70), his girlfriend (20-30) and their baby boy. The man was not in particularly good health, was traveling with 2 male friends (in their 70s), and did not appear to be married to the girl although he doted a bit on the child during the flight.

So, there you have it. These were my impressions of the area of Makati where I stayed for a few days. I would have no problem going again if business dictated it, but I honestly would not choose to go there again for any other reason. Although I don't travel internationally much, I have been around enough to be able to do so without problems. I have also learned to be accepting of the ways of others and not to condemn others based on my opinion or observation. However, I would be lying if I did not admit to being affected by what I saw. I came home a little sadder and a little wiser. Finally, I mean no offense to anyone with my comments or observations, but don't feel the need to lie about what I observed on my travels. The world is a magnificent place but obviously no longer perfect. I suppose the world is what we make it.

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