Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sex, Travel, Prostitution, HIV-AIDS and Olongapo City

Today, the world remembers those who have suffered and perished from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS. joins the commemoration of World AIDS Day 2011 and it supports in the intensified campaign for the prevention and proper treatment of HIV-AIDS.  

The City of Olongapo, once a very flourishing US Naval Base was also home to the biggest prostitution industry in the Philippines. Today, the streets are no longer as vibrant and many bars have since folded up after the last US Naval fleet left  in 1991.

12 years ago, Olongapo in numbers :
home to 300 bars and nightclubs
6,000 registered prostitutes which swell to 16,000 when the fleet is in.

Two million visitors and $68 million a year spending
"Amid the garish bars that cater to American servicemen here, a young prostitute with spiky pink hair greets a circle of acquaintances with the reminder, ''Hey, we're dying.''

The young woman and her acquaintances are among the 26 prostitutes who have tested positive for the AIDS virus among the thousands of women who work the lively streets outside Subic Bay Naval Station.

Many of the 26 remain at work even as they wait for the symptoms of illness to appear. Rather than ban them from the bars, Philippine officials have encouraged the infected prostitutes to have their customers use condoms. The officials acknowledge that many of the women still work the streets."

The sad reality :

''This town is not built on prostitution, it's built on poverty,'' Mr. Dick Gordon said, noting that the earnings of Olongapo's entertainers support poor families throughout the Philippines.

''Who is the real prostitute?'' he asked. ''The girl who is impoverished or the guy who uses her?'' If the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had had a mayor like Richard Gordon, he might have talked something like this.

Over a root beer at the Chatter Box bar, Mr. Gordon mentioned those Biblical cities, which often come up in conversations with officials here. He described them as populated with ''a bunch of sinful people materially oriented and doing all sorts of sexual promiscuity.''

But of Olongapo, he said: ''There are realities here. I have my ideals and I try to get as close to them as I can. Half a loaf is better than none.''

The Mayor was face to face with one of the harshest of those realities the other day as he sat in a small room with seven young women and one man who became infected with the AIDS virus during their work at the bars. They were not yet ill, and the most painful symptom for them so far was loneliness. Fears of Ostracism

None had told family members, and all walked in fear of meeting the prostitute with the pink hair, because she might identify them in public.

One young woman had tried to tell a priest during confession about her infection, but she said the priest had not wanted to hear of it.

Another had traveled to her home in the south to deliver her baby and had been isolated in a hospital storage room marked with a sign reading, ''Beware: AIDS patient.''

A third said she had finally worked up the courage, after eight months, to tell her live-in American boyfriend of her condition. She was waiting for his ship to return. Like the others in the infected group, she said the only men with whom she slept were Americans. The Navy says American servicemen are tested for the AIDS virus before they arrive in Olongapo.

But outside the small room where the victims met, fear of AIDS seemed hardly to have touched Olongapo. A Feverish Rally

After an hour, the Mayor left the small room for a meeting at the local baskeball court with a group of 3,000 prostitutes.

The women, some with their half-American children, greeted Mr. Gordon with the youthful jubilance of a high school pep rally.

They screamed in pleasure as he told them, ''There are no ugly women, only women who do not know how to look beautiful.''

Playing cheerleader, Mr. Gordon cried: ''What does the Mayor not want?'' ''Abortions!'' they shouted back. ''What does the Mayor want you to use?'' Mr. Gordon cried.

''Condoms!'' the young women bellowed in chorus.

During a lively question period, the women voiced their concerns over unregistered prostitutes, abusive employers and overcharging by taxis.

But the most burning of their questions came near the end: ''When are the ships coming in again?''

When the Mayor said maybe next month, he was greeted by the loudest cheer of the day.--lifted from the archives of New York Times

The last few lines make you smile and at the same time send a pinch in your chest.


  1. I have a bit of Olongapo knowledge when it was a US Naval Base 'cause back in highschool we read the novel 'Gapo'.

    On the article, such sad stories. And omg to the last lines. It was sort of a hope but also a feeling of pity for them :(

  2. yes. sad reality.
    i wonder how those who are infected are coping now..

  3. prostitution in olongapo as we know it are still largely infact existing as of now..ive bn there a couple of years ago to marry a local born girl from that place.she's pretty as common friends calling her 'marian rivera" look alike (a famous philippine female celebrity) knowing that she is a product of a former us navy decades ago.. and i shockingly found out that she is just one of many prostitutes that still lingers in olongapo sleeping with some other guy while im not around,,thankfully the so called wedding has bn called off could have bn disastrous!!on the other hand,im still glad that our navy will be finally coming back to their former base to ward off those chinkz who's been harassing those poor filipino fisherman in scs.. long live the US navy..

  4. I married the love of my life in 1970. She is still the love of my life almost 46 years later. I just knew she was right for me. I know many Sailors who are looking for their girlfriends from the past........

  5. I married the love of my life in 1970. She is still the love of my life almost 46 years later. I just knew she was right for me. I know many Sailors who are looking for their girlfriends from the past........


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