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Philippines’ generation of sex tourism children

March 18, 2015 ·  By Dave Tacon for AlJazeera

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Weekends are busy on Fields Avenue in Balibago. Young women greet meandering men and invite them into the bars that line the street. Known as the “supermarket of sex”, Angeles City’s red light district has fast become a top destination for sex tourism.

Male travellers from Asia, Australia, the US, Europe and the Middle East constitute the bulk of the arrivals at Clark Airport, a former US military airbase. From there, many flock to the bars and clubs of Fields Avenue – and to the impoverished young women who work there.

Acquiring their company for the night is straightforward. For a small fee, the men obtain what is known as an “early work release” that permits them to take the woman of their choice back to their hotel.

It is a trade that thrives in the Philippines, where there are an estimated half-a-million sex workers, almost a fifth of whom are minors.

According to a former US ambassador to the Philippines, 40 percent of all visitors to the Philippines are sex tourists. Although illegal in the predominantly Catholic country, an estimated $400m is spent on prostitution there each year.

But when the sex tourists depart, they sometimes leave more behind than they’d arrived with. A large number of children have been conceived in such exchanges and while some foreign nationals provide support for and, in some instances, even marry the mother of their child, many more children never even meet their biological father and are left to live in poverty.

CREDIT: Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera Peter, 8, and his mother Grace, 35, with a picture of Peter's Australian father, Max. The picture was taken during one of Max's visits to the Philippines. Grace met Max when she was 24 and he was 78, while she was working in a bar in Angeles City's red light district. Unlike many children of sex tourists, Peter's father signed the boy's birth certificate, helped him obtain an Australian passport and bought them the house in which they now live. Grace and Peter have not heard or received financial support from Peter's father in four months. Grace hopes to obtain welfare payments from the Australian government.

CREDIT: Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera
Peter, 8, and his mother Grace, 35, with a picture of Peter’s Australian father, Max. The picture was taken during one of Max’s visits to the Philippines. Grace met Max when she was 24 and he was 78, while she was working in a bar in Angeles City’s red light district. Unlike many children of sex tourists, Peter’s father signed the boy’s birth certificate, helped him obtain an Australian passport and bought them the house in which they now live. Grace and Peter have not heard or received financial support from Peter’s father in four months. Grace hopes to obtain welfare payments from the Australian government.

CREDIT: Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera Robert, 18 months, watches television with his mother, Mylene, 37. Mylene used to recruit girls from Manila for work in Angles City's red light district and met Robert's father, a US citizen, while at Owl's Nest, a Go-Go bar on Fields Avenue. After a 20-month relationship with the 55-year-old, a three-time divorcee who lives in the Philippines on a tourist visa, he left Mylene for another woman. Although the father signed Robert's birth certificate his new girlfriend convinced him not to get his son a US passport. He occasionally sends money to Mylene and his son.

CREDIT: Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera
Robert, 18 months, watches television with his mother, Mylene, 37. Mylene used to recruit girls from Manila for work in Angles City’s red light district and met Robert’s father, a US citizen, while at Owl’s Nest, a Go-Go bar on Fields Avenue. After a 20-month relationship with the 55-year-old, a three-time divorcee who lives in the Philippines on a tourist visa, he left Mylene for another woman. Although the father signed Robert’s birth certificate his new girlfriend convinced him not to get his son a US passport. He occasionally sends money to Mylene and his son.

CREDIT: Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera Renz, 8, (left) whose father is believed to be Norwegian, and his mother Nelcy, 30, with his two half-brothers at their home in the Hadrian 3 slum. Nelcy says Renz's father, Frank, who is in his 60s and lives in the Philippines with his Filipina wife, was a regular at the Dirty Dog Go-Go bar where she used to work. After she became pregnant, she was unable to contact Frank. At one point Nelcy saw Frank on the street after her child was born and approached him. He refused to believe he was father to her child. 'Sometimes he's bullied by other kids because he's different,' says Nelcy about Renz. 'But he always fights back.'

CREDIT: Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera
Renz, 8, (left) whose father is believed to be Norwegian, and his mother Nelcy, 30, with his two half-brothers at their home in the Hadrian 3 slum. Nelcy says Renz’s father, Frank, who is in his 60s and lives in the Philippines with his Filipina wife, was a regular at the Dirty Dog Go-Go bar where she used to work. After she became pregnant, she was unable to contact Frank. At one point Nelcy saw Frank on the street after her child was born and approached him. He refused to believe he was father to her child. ‘Sometimes he’s bullied by other kids because he’s different,’ says Nelcy about Renz. ‘But he always fights back.’

See more: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2015/03/philippines-generation-sex-tourism-children-150305120628971.html

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