By Betty Caronongan (SA 21 – G)
Fields Avenue is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) red light district located in Angeles City, Pampanga. Built beside the Clark Air Base, this kilometre long street (that houses more than a hundred bars) was put up by the Americans years ago to keep their men “in shape.” Now, Fields Avenue is a go-see place for men (mostly foreigners) who are looking for a place to chill and unwind.
During the day, Fields is a peaceful place to eat or drink. Restaurants, cafes and some bars are already open at this time whose patrons comprise of mostly foreigners with Filipina “dates”. There were only a few bar goers at that time and it is common to see families of foreigners who have already settled in the area.
The very same day, I went back to Fields in the evening to experience the night life. The peaceful and quiet street turned into a world full of neon lights and loud music. At this time, all businesses like adult toy stores, bars, salons, sari-sari stores and even cellphone stores were already bright and open. Street vendors fluttered around carrying a variety of goods like stuffed toys, jewelleries, jerseys, cigarettes, flowers like sampaguita (I thought you can only buy these outside the church) or even wood figurines (the ones you display on your coffee tables). With more and more foreigners coming, competition is high among bar girls (or bar gays) who want to attract bar goers. They are all dressed up in their tight skimpy outfits with matching heavy makeup.
After seeing the whole avenue, my tita and I decided to stay in Bistro, a pizza place with enough view of the street. I patiently listened and observed how the men interacted with their dates. The girl nearest our table was just quiet and seemed bored throughout their whole conversation. She would smile and laugh a bit to the jokes of the man she was with. On the farther table was a group of foreigners laughing and having a good time. One of them also had a date who just kept quiet and stared blankly at the table (I thought that maybe both girls couldn’t relate completely with them — can be a case of language barrier). After some time, a man walks up to the guy beside our table holding two boxes. One was labelled Viagra and the other Cialis. He refuses to buy and continues with his conversation.
Just beside Bistro is a bar called Carousel so after eating, we asked the guard if it is possible to enter the bar without an escort (you need to be accompanied by a man to enter). After a little negotiation, we pretended to go to the CR to see the happenings inside. True to its name, Carousel bar welcomed us with a carousel stage full of women (more than 20) in their most skimpy bikini. Some women were dancing to the music while others were simply bored and just stood on the stage. The male customers didn’t seem to care about the women onstage since they have their own dates.
Security was very tight in the bar since police raids frequently happen in these bars in search for minors. Cameras were not allowed and all your actions are being monitored by the mamasans (the caretaker of the girls) and security personnel. I felt so uncomfortable in everything that we decided to leave instantly.
It is hard to judge the kind of people who choose such profession. With the lack of opportunities in this country, one might enter this business just to put food on the table. While eating outside the bar, I thought that there is nothing wrong with these kinds of businesses since it seems that the girls are enjoying what they’re doing but when I entered the Carousel bar, the atmosphere turned differently. The lively environment turned into a gloomy environment. The sight of faceless girls bored and lifeless changed the whole idea of tolerating prostitution.
Despite the high security in the bars, what saddens me the most is the thought of women being abused (verbally or even physically) by their customers. While we were eating, we saw a guy being chased by the mamasan of a crying girl (the people around us didn’t care since this was a common sight in bars). With the kind of business they’re in, these girls have already exposed themselves to danger. Their vulnerable states can get them into STDs or even physical abuse (I have read a lot of articles about women being beaten or even killed by their customers). One would probably say that it is their fault that they have provoked these things from happening to them due to their minimal outfits but if you think again, is it really their fault that there aren’t any good opportunities for them to earn a decent living? With a government so corrupt, a person in need of money or livelihood will be forced into this lifestyle for the sake of survival (“kapit sa patalim” in Filipino).
What also surprises me is that in a place where sex is not a taboo, the selling of such drugs (Viagra and Cialis are prescription drugs) is nothing new. Being a first timer in the area, I responded differently upon seeing the man selling the drugs. In Fields Avenue, everyone seems to be used to the sale of drugs that even the bar guards are not prohibiting them from going to customers offering their products.
Being a sheltered child is one of the biggest factors why it was very hard for me to “stomach” what I saw last weekend. Sure, I have watched films that show a little nudity and have read poems and stories (Fil and Lit class) with erotic content, but my trip to Fields Avenue was something like a see-for-yourself experience. As long as living conditions in our country will not improve, the red light districts will thrive and more women will be forced to put themselves into this vulnerable state.
PS I don’t know how to layout pictures in WordPress.