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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

“No Money, No Honey”

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | February 16th, 2008 | Comments 1 Comment »

I spent this Valentine’s evening exploring Fields Avenue, the seedy, glittery red light district outside the now closed Clark Air Force Base. Paunchy white men wearing Hawaiian shirts pulled as tightly over their tummies as the spandex skirts that cling to the upper thighs of their young Filipina escorts strut the rutted streets.

The scene is so ubiquitous, I have to get a photo. One man, white pony-tail trailing down his black t-shirt that reads No Money, No Honey, refuses my request and invites me instead to join his date at the Atlantis, where he’ll take my photo. I politely decline.
But Galvin from Australia, positions himself under an overhead light for me, joking, “Oh, National Geographic!” as he poses with his date, Rose. “I have a daughter named Kelly,” he enthuses, putting his arm proprietarily around my waist after I introduce myself. She must be so proud of you at this moment, I think, inching away from him and turning my attention to the beaming young woman holding her wrapped Valentine’s roses like Miss Universe.

Hustling starts early on Fields Avenue. A girl not more than six or seven pursues me for half a block to buy her roses. “They will still be the same color tomorrow,” she says seductively, grazing my elbow. How does a girl so little know how to be so suggestive?
Jocelyn and Sally lure customers into one club with a constant litany of catcalls. It’s still early, only 8:00, but Sally already seems high on something other than the genuine love of her job. She really wants to study Hotel + Restaurant Management, Jocelyn computer science. Both girls say they are in their last year of high school, which makes them 16 or 17.

I am guided tonight by Myrla Bordonaro, a leader in the movement to expose the impact the US military bases have had on Filipinos. She was jailed for two years for her activism. Myrla, 54, has a quick sense of humor and a deep desire to save each broken soul. We’re joined by Jennifer Stephens, 22, whose mother escaped the bars on this street after her own intimate brushes with US soldiers. Jennifer knows these streets too well, and is committed to finding a future beyond them.

We are looking for a girl for me to interview; I am told that girls as young as ten work these streets, and I’m willing to buy one dinner in exchange for her story. The streets are quieter tonight, Jennifer notes, perhaps because the police cracked down in anticipation of a wild Valentine’s Day scene.

A creepy young woman with a gangly head and round face catches my eye and wanders over. She addresses all three of us, but when she looks at me, she shines, her devotion seeping from her dimples, from her wide smile, from her imploring, promising eyes. Her attention feels like a klieg light exposing my mercenary intentions. I lose my nerve and can’t interview her.

Instead, Myrla, Jennifer and I purposefully head into the Tom Kat Club, bypassing the sign prohibiting unaccompanied ladies.

We are met with a chorus of cheerful “hellos” from a coterie of red t-shirted barmaids. The room is surprisingly bright, with a pool table in the back behind a red velvet couch that lines the wall. To the left, next to the bar, is a curved stage with a dozen young women wearing red boy-brief hotpants and polka-dotted bras, dancing languidly to 80s rock.

We order drinks and I ask to speak with the youngest looking woman, the second from the right. The barmaid walks up to the stage, pointing up at the woman she thinks I’ve chosen. “No, the next one,” I gesture, as if I am choosing dinner from the deli case.

Lea positions herself in the curve of the couch, her naked arms and legs tucked in close. Jennifer and I lean in to hear each other over the raucous music. We order her a drink – an ice tea, she doesn’t drink alcohol – and I start my interview, surreptitiously taking notes on a pad at my hip that Lea glances at curiously.

She’s been working there a month, earning 140 pesos a night for a 7:00 pm – 3:00 am shift (about $3.50). Average family expenses run 300 – 400 pesos/day for food and housing, so she still runs short caring for herself and for Ashley, her baby daughter, even though her ex-husband pays child support. She used to work in a paper mill, earning 430 pesos/day for a 12-hour shift before she was laid off. She liked that job better, because it was “more decent.” But, she feels she has no choice because she can’t find another job.

Lea refuses to go out with men, although the friend that got her this job does. The club doesn’t allow her to talk about this, she says, but she freely tells us her friend evenly splits with the club the 1,200 pesos she gets for being with a man. For 600 pesos ($15), her friend spends the night with her patron, if he wishes. Lea is too scared to go out with men, and says it’s her choice, and she chooses not to. It’s not clear how long the club will allow her to work there if she continues to undercut her income potential.

“I’m doing this for my baby,” the 20-year-old says. “I want her to have a better life.”

This whole scene is so utterly sad, both for the very young women hoping for a steadier future and for the aging men hoping to forget a past. In reality, everyone is just making it through the night.
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One Response to ““No Money, No Honey””

  1. John Reinke Says:

    Thanks for giving us this insight into the sexploitation scene.

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