Category Archives: General

Living In Angeles City on a Budget

When broaching a subject like this one, it’s a good thing to remember that there is a substantial cross-section of budgets to be found in Angeles. Aside from the “Two-Week Millionaire” tourists, there are actual millionaires, fellows with great pensions, and men who have successful businesses that run themselves while they’re away playing; there are old boys with decent pensions, guys who need at least some work to get by, all the way down to persons who amaze us that they even survive, and actually leave us wondering why they’re here even bothering.

By its very name, this article obviously can’t be geared to someone who has more money available to him than he knows what to do with, but these fellows are in the minority around here. This will be geared to those who desire to settle in Angeles City, and don’t have that much backing them up, or need to find some kind of work locally to get by. If I outline my personal experience of living in Angeles a little, some might be able to get an idea of what to watch out for should they decide to try to settle here. Some of it just might apply to you.

When I came here as a tourist in the ‘90s, to say I was impressed is an understatement! After six bi-yearly trips, I got so sick of the depression I felt sitting at the airport waiting to get on that damned plane, knowing it would be six months before I could feel this happy again, I determined I had to find a way to stay. My personal life in my own country had gotten to where I was ripe to get out of there and give Angeles a long-term try.

I saved up $5000 and got a plane back to my new “home”, with an eye on finding a way to generate enough capital to stay in Angeles comfortably. I’d made a few friends in my previous trips, and out of these connections I got a room in a house with an American and his Filipina wife for P3,000 a month, all inclusive.

I found my first job at “The Abbey Road” (where “Las Vegas” now stands) as a singer, and helped manage the place, for P1000 a night, six nights a week. I also got into a four-month affair with Elaine, an insatiable 20-year-ol mini-Dolly Parton (giant breasts on a 4’8” frame!) who was the horniest person I’ve ever seen in my life. Night and day I was attacked by this voluptuous little nympho and she’d accept no money at all. As a result, at the end of four months, I had saved money (and was struggling to keep up with this tiny tornado)!

After four months of this affair, Elaine, much to my relief, was off with an Australian she eventually married, and Abbey Road decided they couldn’t afford me anymore. I’d already had an offer to move to Valhalla (now “Coyote Ugly”), and had been asked by the manager of The Swagman Hotel to sing there a couple of times a week, so now I was free to do so. I worked in tandem with Jhun Longhair at Valhalla from Tuesday through Sunday, for 750 pesos a night. On Sunday afternoon I sang at The Swagman for P750 right after Bingo, from 2pm to 6pm, then headed to Valhalla to sing all night from 8pm to 2pm. On Monday night I sang at The Swagman from 8pm to Midnight for 1000 pesos. So early Tuesday morning was the only time I used to go barhopping, right after Midnight. Bars like “Private Dancer” (where the right-hand side of “Insomnia” now stands) and “The Club” were great after-hours spots to meet girls to bring home. Working eight gigs in seven days every week, I was making a grand total of P6,250! I had moved into my own small apartment, In the PG Pawn Shop & Jewelry Complex right by the Balibago Post Office & Fire Station, which cost me only 3,000 pesos-a-month rent. My electric bill was always around 500 pesos, and water was about 150 pesos, so my overhead was very low. I don’t drink alcohol except when I’m drinking with customers, so that was not a factor, either. That sort of outlines my first year in Balibago. I then left The Philippines for three months to close out my affairs in Reno, Nevada, to sell off all of my furniture and band equipment. When I came back I started a pretty long string of various managing jobs.

This is not intended to be an autobiography, so I’ll get more to the point: what it’s like to exist in Angeles on a small budget. The fact is, in my years in A.C., I’ve worked, either as a full-time manager, relief manager, temporary fill-in, or singer, at thirty-two different locations (not counting LaBamba & Rhapsody, where I handled the M.C. chores for “Manic Monday” & “WOW Wednesday” for a couple of months, or Asian Escapades, where I worked for about four months in 2006), working for twenty-five different owners (some were partners), and about thirty-five different mamasans.

The thing I focused on the most was keeping busy. Being in bars most of the time, I didn’t have a lot of urge to hang out in them with what little free time I had. This, in itself, is a big factor in not over-spending on a less-than-tourist budget. You’re just forced to learn to live within your means, or get the hell out of here! I’m not a cheap man, by nature. I’m more generous with the girls that have become part of my life in Angeles City than many of the guys they know. If I can’t afford to be generous, I just go without until I can be. An added bonus of being here full-time, and being relatively visible in the scene is that one will usually get to know quite a few girls who want to visit, quite often more often than I can deal with.

I very rarely go for EWRs anymore. The bars have priced themselves beyond my budget, for all practical purposes. Most managers usually make per day (or less), about what it costs for an EWR, and when you factor in all the rest, like socializing, ladies’ drinks, and tips, it becomes pretty much out of the question to go that route.

Even though I cannot socialize like a I did as a tourist, I still love being in Angeles City. You might find you get more-than-pleasant surprises sprung on you by these young ladies quite often. I haven’t worked in any clubs since I started drawing my Social Security, and even though A.C. is far more expensive than it was when I moved here, coupled with the collapse of the peso-for-dollar rate in the mid-2000s, I’m still loving it. I’ve met some really good friends here who have helped me out in tight spots through the years, when times got tough. I owe a lot to them. I’ve never paid more than 6,000 pesos a month for my rent (often less), I don’t use an aircon except when it’s hot at night to the extreme, and eat most meals at home. All of this is pretty much what I’d do back in The States, except there’s no Filipinas there!

I would never recommend this lifestyle to anybody else, if they asked me, but it’s worked for me. I only need to remain conscious of how life was before I moved here. No matter how few beautiful ladies visit my premises each month, that is the exact amount of memorable experiences I wouldn’t have when I’m back in my own country. And, for me, that is priceless!

In closing, I’ll outline a few impressions I’ve come up with, as far as living on a budget:

1) It helps to acclimate so as to not depend on an air conditioner too much. Electric bills can get awfully high. When I bought a refrigerator, I acted on a tip from a friend not to get a frost-free one, because they use more power per month, and I find it’s very little trouble to defrost it every couple of months.

2) Sharing rent with friends in a house or apartment is a saver. It’s also a good idea to try to find a place that’s pretty close to where you prefer to hang out the most, so you won’t be spending much on transportation.

3) Save up as much money as you can manage to before making your move to Angeles, and look for a part-time manager’s position anywhere (if that’s what you have in mind to try to do), as fast as you can, at least to get your foot in the door somewhere (there are some internet-based jobs here-and-there for the computer-wise, though not plentiful). You really can’t afford to be too fussy if no one knows you yet. You need to get to know owners and people that surround them. The scene can really be quite a “buddy system”, and getting to know people is pretty important. A past resume from your life away from Angeles is normally quite worthless here. Network!

4) This one is pretty obvious: eat at home as much as you can. Eating in restaurants two or three times a day can really chew up your capital. The malls are pretty good for shopping, I have found. I rarely go to local marketplaces, though if you have a fulltime girlfriend she’ll probably spend less money shopping than you would, because she’ll shop places you might not be all that willing to go to. I have shopped for produce at The VFW on Thursdays now and then. They bring fresh-grown fruits and vegetables down from Baguio each week, and the quality is relatively good at decent prices.

5) Be budget-minded. Remember, you’re no longer a tourist! You have to plan out your monthly budget just like you would if you were back home. The better job you do with this, the more you’ll have left to play with the available ladies. Common sense goes a long way in making living in Angeles a good experience.

6) I don’t care what it is you’re trying to buy, it is a good idea to try to get a price for whatever through a local. When they see a foreigner is involved in the transaction, prices can skyrocket!

The Philippine Family

The dreaded Philippine family. How many times have I heard male foreigners bitching and complaining about their girls family. Complaints such as “shit I just bought them a new house what more do they want” or what do you mean your cousin just died and you need help I thought your cousin died last month” or “why can’t your brother or father get a job instead of relying on my money”. These questions and thousands like them are an everyday occurrence amongst foreigners who are supporting a Filipina and as such directly or indirectly supporting her family.

Before getting involved with a Filipina I think it is important to realize the obligation she feels towards her family. The simple truth is if you get involved with a Filipina then 99.9 % of the time you will also inherit her obligations to her family and trust me when I say these obligations normally take the form of financial support and they are never ending. From day one the Filipina has it drummed into her that it is her obligation to support her family and this is a stigma that will generally last most of her lifetime and she will instill the same beliefs in her offspring.

As the old saying goes the best place to start is the beginning and the beginning in this case is why the Filipina feels the need to support her family in the first place. Like in India the concept of the extended family is alive and well in the Philippines and the logic is have as many kids as you can which increases the chances of one of your kids growing up to become affluent and therefore able to support the family. As has been shown in both India and the Philippines this logic is severely flawed as it results in rapid population growth without the ability to sustain it however far from seeing it as worsening the situation the average Filipinos simply look at it as their lot in life and carry on striving to have big families. Another reason for the large families is the Catholic belief that abortion and contraception are bad and thirdly because of simple boredom. As my Filipina wife once said to me hey martin do you know why they have so many kids in the province and when I answered no she replied it’s because there is nothing else to do.

As I stated in my opening premise the pressure on the supposedly affluent child to support the family is non relenting and it is passed down from generation to generation. From a very early age it is instilled into the children especially the females that when they grow up they will support the family financially. This belief is effectively instilled into the girls in a multitude of different ways throughout their developing years. The end result of this is that the girls learn the economic realities of life, they will go to extreme measures to get money and they will even feel a strong sense of guilt when they cannot supply money for the family. This is part and parcel of the Filipinas psychological makeup and when she cannot supply the financial support she will feel guilty because she is not meeting her cultural obligations.

For most foreigners this way of thinking is exactly the opposite to the way they are bought up and as such they will have trouble understanding it but for the Filipina it is totally natural and this is how the world is. I remember when I took my wife to Australia and she could not come to terms with the fact that I never sent money back to them in Australia. I explained to her that my culture was the opposite to hers and that they did not need money from their offspring and certainly did not expect it. I went on to explain that the parents support their children for most of their lives. This was a totally alien concept to her and it took her three days to come to terms with it, at which time she said, “mahal you are so lucky to have family like this, in Philippines we don‘t have. In Philippines it is our job to look after the family not family look after you.”

I also remember my first long term girl friend in the Philippines named Lisa whom I met in Rosies Diner in M.H.DelPilar Manila. At the time I had been schooled by veterans who had impressed upon me the fact that if you got involved with a Filipina you would inadvertently inherit the responsibility for her family as well and as such I was weary and determined not to get trapped. I started off with resolute promises to myself but within 1 month I had Lisa living with me then 1 month later I had her mother as a maid then 2 months after that I had her two sisters living in the house as well and Lisa was sending money down to Samar for her father and two brothers on a monthly basis. When I asked Lisa “how come your brothers or father cannot get a job I was curtly told “don’t be stupid there are no job in Samar”. In response I grimaced and thought to myself , welcome to the Philippines Martin”.

Throughout my years of living in the Philippines I have heard Lisa’s statement expressed in thousands of different ways and coming from girls with totally different social backgrounds and the sad truth of the matter is that she is absolutely correct there are very few decently paid jobs in the Philippines and this is especially the case in the province. I have often heard foreigners complaining about the lazy brothers or idle father who just sit back and wait for the money to come in while playing cards and drinking alcohol. Many foreigners grow up with the so called “protestant work ethic” so for them they see the non working, support dependant family members as lazy unmotivated bums and to an extent they are correct however the sad fact is throughout the Philippines there are very few decent paying jobs and in the remoter provincial areas there is often no job at all. As a result of the lack of opportunity to work and earn a decent wage the Filipinos have developed a sort of support dependant culture where the more affluent members support the remainder of the family.

I have often heard people say it is human nature to take the easy way and this is certainly true when it comes to Filipinos and this is a very influential aspect of the support mentality. Filipinos can very easily become dependant on the support and after a period of time they begin to expect it, they see it as their money and regard it as their right to receive it.

When it comes to support it is important to remember an old truism, “the more money you have the more ways you find to spend it“. This logic is certainly true when it comes to money and just as applicable in terms of support. What is seen as a decent amount initially will in a short period of time become inadequate and the demands for more money and pressure on the girl to provide it will increase exponentially. When it comes to support there is no such thing as enough, as the old saying goes “enough is never enough” and the more money you send the more the dependant family expect it and find ways to spend it.

Support can take many forms and it isn’t always a direct infusion of cash. For example when you live in the Philippines you can bet your bottom dollar your girls family will try to move in with you. Most Filipinos believe that foreigners are rich and therefore must have a better lifestyle with many benefits that they would not normally have. Secondly the Filipino family is a close knit unit so for them it is totally natural that they should all live together since this is what they have always done and it may as well be in as good as conditions as possible.

There are many downsides to letting the family move in with you but the two most prominent are the lack of privacy and the fact that you as the foreigner will be expected to pay for just about everything. You will become the support mechanism or the proverbial “cash cow” for the entire family. Having said that, there are also definite advantages to becoming part of the Filipino family and I have met many foreigners who regard themselves as a member of the extended Filipino family and they can often be heard extolling the benefits of this situation.

When it comes to the girls working the bar the support mentality actually becomes a justification for what they are doing. They can often be heard saying they are sacrificing themselves for their family which in turn makes their chosen occupation of working the bar morally acceptable. This is a classic case of the ends justifying the means.

Many people will claim they are supporting the girl but not the girls family however the simple fact is 99% of the time the girl you are giving money too will in turn use that money to support her family so indirectly you are indeed supporting the family. When it comes to support it will always be a balancing act with you on the one hand trying to minimize the amounts sent and them on the other hand trying to maximize the amount sent.

In summation the bottom line is that the Filipina will nearly always be tied to her family and will see it as her duty to support them. This is instilled in her from a very early age and handed down from generation to generation and has become so entrenched in Philippine society that a whole culture of support has developed. Secondly Filipinos see all foreigners as being rich and as an extension to that they see it as the foreigners duty to share some of his wealth with the Filipinos who are less fortunate than him. Thirdly there are several psychological aspects to the support culture including the fact that those receiving it often come to expect it and see it as their money. The Filipino family will often see it as their right to receive the money and your obligation to provide it. In their world this is the way things have always been and they can see nothing wrong with it. Fourthly, there is no such thing as enough, the more money you send the more ways they will find to spend it. Lastly support can take many different forms but in the end it is to some extent inevitable and no foreigner who becomes involved with a Filipina can avoid it.

Fields Avenue Doorgirls

Come inside sir, hey Joe come inside, sexy girls inside, good’ay mate, hi handsome, happy hour sir come inside and so the list goes on. These are just some of the all too familiar lines that will be shouted at you by the bar door girls as you walk down Fields Avenue and whilst they may be passé for those of us who are involved with the bars on a day to day basis there is no doubting that the door girls are an iconic element of the Angeles bar scene. In this article I will examine how and why they came to be, what is their role in the present day bar scene, what makes a good door girl and what are the positive and negative aspects of having door girls.

For as long as I can remember there have been door girls proliferating throughout the Angeles bars and from the few people whom I have talked with who are familiar with the early days, this was even the case back in the late sixties and early seventies when the bar scene first begun to flourish in AC. In comparison to today’s glitzy high tech bar scene the bars back then the bars were a lot simpler being composed mainly of hollow blocks a ‘nipa’ roof or corrugated iron, a juke box in the corner, very basic seating, 5 to ten girls maximum, very limited stocks and 99% of their business was from enlisted personnel residing on Clark Airbase. Most importantly there was very little to distinguish one bar from the other as all were similar in appearance and the only difference was in the signage and sometimes the bars size.

As the number of personnel living on and visiting Clark began to expand so to did the number of bars and with this expansion came competition for the customers pesos. All of a sudden bar owner/managers were scratching their heads trying to figure out how to draw the customers into their bar as opposed to a competing bar and this is when the door girls gained a whole new level of importance. Basically the belief was put your best looking girls outside to catch the customers attention and entice them inside. Of course once one or two bars were successful at this so very soon all the bars placed an emphasis on door girls.
Once the door girls had become commonplace their effectiveness at drawing customers to one bar rather than another was diminished so the door girls had to then develop new tricks to draw the customers. This is when the standard lines which have now become part of the door girl lexicon came into being. For example the ‘hey Joe come inside’ line, is a direct left over from these days.

The verbal virtuosity of door girls was soon not enough to draw customers to one bar rather than another so bar owners and managers then progressed to dressing them up in provocatively sexy clothing or anything that would get the customers attention. In the old days the emphasis was on overt sexuality therefore the door girls were always dressed in provocative clothing. In recent times the emphasis has changed somewhat to simply attracting attention which is why bars such as the DollHouse group have a number of girls standing outside the bars on both sides of the street dressed in uniforms or fancy costumes and wearing colored wigs. Again the logic here is draw the customers attention to your bar but do it by utilizing means other than overt sexuality.

The Atlantis door girls where the emphasis is placed on getting the customers attention through use of large numbers of girls and gimmicks such as colored wigs rather than overt sexuality.

In a recent conversation with DollHouse upper management we discussed the image of the DHG of bars and I was informed that they strive to present an “entertainment package with an emphasis on shows” rather than just blatantly selling sex. This approach is shown by their door girls who try to get customers attention by wearing fancy costumes and colored wigs whereas in other bars they are still selling the promise of sexual fulfillment and as such the door girls who work here try to attract the customers with overt displays of sexuality. The door girls in many ways reflect the attitude of management. In days gone by it was all about attracting customers via the promise of sex but with relatively recent pressure from the city administration and new directives regarding door girls the emphasis is now slowly shifting to means other than displays of sexuality.

The La Pasha door girls are excellent and combine many of the required attributes that make up a good door girl who is proficient at her job.

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to having door girls. As always I prefer to start with the positive so first of all I will outline the advantages. The first advantage is purely an economic one. A good door girl can be a real draw card when it comes to getting customers through the door. Normally the best door girls will be the ones with good looks, a slightly better than average grasp of English and an outgoing personality. Best of all her salary is minimal and if she is any good she can produce far more money for the bar that what she costs.

When it comes to the number of customers in the bar the door girls often have a direct influence. For example in the bars which are upstairs or slightly hidden the door girls play a pivotal role in enticing customers inside the bar. A classic example of this is Golden Nile which is upstairs on the third floor and only accessible by an elevator or by walking up two flights of stairs. If the customers do not have prior knowledge of the bars existence then the door girls are the only way in which they would ever know there is a girlie bar there.

Another advantage to door girls is that they provide a sort of regular contact with the customer. Many of these door girls will get to know the regular customers which in turn encourages the customer to adopt a particular bar as one of his regular stops partly because he is friends with the door girl. When this happens the door girl in question will remember the customers name which equals instant recognition and a feeling of being welcome in the customers mind. For want of a better term this is what I call the “Cheers” effect.

The voodoo door girls literally have the street wired and know many customers by name.

Every girl has what is loosely referred to as her “shelf life “ in the bar. In other words she can only be a dancer for so long and then she becomes past her prime so to speak. Many of these girls who have been working the bar for an extended period of time still retain their good looks, they generally have a good grasp of English and they are not shy to flaunt their sexuality as such they often end up as door girls. The position of door girl in this respect helps the girls extend her tenure in the bar.

The ability to converse in English is a definite advantage both for the door girl and the customers. Many times I have seen customers bring the door girls inside buy them drinks and just engage in conversation. The door girls provide good companionship as well as acting as a sort of host. Often they will give the customer valuable information about the bar and the individual girls working there and on occasions they can even help should a problem occur as a result of miscommunication.

The AC bars for many people represent a social occasion as much as they do a mongering opportunity and here the door girls play an important role. Generally speaking the door girls have the street ‘wired’ and they will know people by name and know where they are. Many times if I am looking for a group of friends and they are not answering their phones I have asked the door girls of their whereabouts and most of the time they have told me exactly where my friends are.

Last but not least for people who are in a hurry the door girls represent a quick and easy bar fine. I have often seen customers pay a bar fine only to be left sitting in the bar for another half an hour while the girl goes to get changed, put on her makeup etc. With the door girls there is really no need to get changed as they come ready to take out.

Of course there are two sides to every story and so it is with door girls. Just as there are many advantages to having door girls there are also several disadvantages and primary amongst these is that sometimes the door girls become possessive and will actually ‘cock block’ you. It is not uncommon for the door girls to form a sort attachment to their customers and once this happens they will often give you a hard time if they see you with another girl, in fact sometimes they will even give the girl you are with a hard time.

Generally speaking there are minimal social barriers between Filipinas and they can form friendships very easily. In some ways this is an attractive feature but in others it is a distinct disadvantage. For example if a door girl befriends your girlfriend she will not hesitate to report your activities to her. There is an old saying which says, “there are no secrets in Angeles and this is certainly the case when it comes to door girls. Whilst a door girl may be your friend if she is also friends with your regular girl be aware that her priority will be to her fellow female and she report on your activities in a heartbeat. To be on the safe side I tend to categorize all door girls in the same boat. Generally speaking everyone of them is a blabber mouth and incapable of keeping a secret.

In terms of the bar there are several disadvantages to having door girls. As stated previously the door girls easily form friendships and this includes with Filipino men. It is not uncommon for the door girls to spend a large percentage of their time talking with the Filipino guys rather than calling the customers. Often the door girls will block the entrance to a bar without even realizing they are doing it and I am yet to see a reliable door girl who doesn’t spend a lot of time eating smoking or chatting in an internet café when she is supposed to be calling customers.

There are several elements that combine to make a good door-girl but the primary one is her ability to flaunt her sexuality and entice customers to enter the bar. Other attributes which are essential for a good door girl are an outgoing personality, the ability to approach customers, the ability to converse in English and of course a curvaceous body. Love them or hate them the door girls are very much part of the Angeles bar scene and will no doubt be so for many years to come.

Bar Girl Recruitment in Angeles City

ust the other night when Shagger paid me a visit in Golden Nile we started to talk about what would make a good subject for me to write about in my monthly column. We bandied around a lot of subjects but without much enthusiasm until I happened to notice that the stage was low on girls so I asked a mamasan where are all the girls and she replied a lot had taken their day off. We had a small conversation and I asked her where are the new girls she had promised to get and she replied, “there are five new girls on the way and they should be ready to work by the weekend”. Unbeknownst to me Shagger had been listening intently to our conversation and when it was concluded he looked at me with a wry smile and said, “now there’s a good topic for your column”. I looked at him and asked, “what topic would that be, the mamasan manager relationship” and he replied, “no I was thinking more along the lines of how the mamasans find the girls to work here”, “ah you mean you want an article on recruitment” I replied and he responded with a vigorous head nod and said, “yeah mate that would make a great article”.

I gave the matter much thought drawing on my years of experience and decided since we are all primarily interested in the fair sex (even gay BamBam) the subject of recruitment and general information as to how the girls come to work in the bar would indeed make for an interesting article, what’s more, since there are so many new bars opening the ability to recruit good looking girls is becoming of paramount importance and is a bigger factor in determining the success of a bar than ever before.

“Recruitment refers to the process of screening, and selecting qualified people for a job at an organization or firm, or for a vacancy in a volunteer-based some components of the recruitment process, mid- and large-size organizations and companies often retain professional recruiters or outsource some of the process to recruitment agencies. External recruitment is the process of attracting and selecting employees from outside the organization”. Definition from Wikipedia.

Prior to examining the actual methods of recruitment I think it is important to note that the word recruitment in the Philippines tends to conjure negative connotations and is often associated with human trafficking. In Act R.A.9208 “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” the word recruitment is contained within the definition of Human Trafficking. Because of the link between recruitment and human trafficking and the harsh penalties associated with these activities recruitment for many people, especially those involved in the go-go bar business, is a taboo subject and one they are very wary about discussing.

Human trafficking in the Philippines is defined as follows “Trafficking in Persons – refers to the recruitment, transportation, transfer or harboring, or receipt of persons with or without the victim’s consent or knowledge, within or across national borders by means of threat or use of force, or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of position, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the person, or, the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation which includes at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery, servitude or the removal or sale of organs”.

Personally I see the definition as being fairly general and I can easily see how this could be twisted to suit an individual’s separate agenda especially when it applies to the recruitment of girls to work in the go-go bar environment.

There are several ways the girls come to find out about the bar but by far the most common means is by word of mouth and actual recruitment. For the girls in the province they mostly hear about the bar and life in Angeles through a friend who has experienced it and returns to the province to encourage her friends to join her living in AC and working the bar. Often these friends are sent to the province by the mamasans with funds and specific instructions to recruit girls. This method of recruitment makes perfect sense because the girl has family and friends in her provincial area, she knows the lay of the land and is in a better position to avoid the pitfalls associated with recruitment, she knows the type of girls that will be successful in the bar environment and she knows the families that are in need of money. Lastly but by no means because the girl is seen as a province member she has instant access to certain social circles that would normally be closed to an outsider.

Life in the province is basic and money is scarce so it doesn’t take much to make it look like you have money which in turn acts as an enticement for others to follow in your footsteps.

When recruiting there is an instinctive understanding for both parties that this is all about the money. The girl doing the recruiting will often wear jewelry or other ostentatious displays of wealth designed to draw attention to the fact that she now has money. Of course her jewelry is noted by those who have nothing and their first question is invariably how did you get the money to buy the jewelry followed by how can I get the money to buy myself some jewelry. This of course is the perfect opening for the recruiter to sell the concept of working in the bar. It is interesting to note here that very few recruiters will actually spell it out that the girl is supposed to have sex with foreigners rather it is always couched in phrases like you will be a dancer with a nice salary or it’s a nightclub where you will dance and get ladies drinks or you will be a waitress. The fact of having sex which is where the real money is made is in most cases not mentioned until the girl is actually working in the bar and then it is up to her to decide her course of action. This whole process is done through word of mouth and at times as a monetary transaction but there is never anything in writing due to the obvious ramifications from the various local authorities. People involved in recruitment for the go-go bars run the risk of having their activities misconstrued, misinterpreted and misrepresented to the extent where they are at risk of being charged with illegal recruitment and at worse human trafficking.

Some mamasans when recruiting clearly define the jobs parameters making it clear that the girls will only make the real money by having sex however these mamasans are few and far between and in most cases the more realistic aspects of the job are glossed over with the promises of easy money. Another key factor that recruiters utilize is the promise of security. Many of the girls growing up in the provinces automatically equate foreigners with money and they see foreigners as a means to earn money for themselves and their family as well as offering them security through giving them a means to escape from the grinding poverty most often associated with provincial life. Many girls grow up with the dream of marrying a foreigner so they can escape to another country build a future for themselves and help their families stuck in the Philippines by sending financial remittances back home. The recruiters will often play on this desire by pointing out the best way to meet a foreigner is by working in the bar in Angeles.

A social game of cards, very much part of everyday life in the province and the perfect opportunity to talk about work in the bar.

As I have pointed out this is primarily about the money and it is not uncommon for the girl’s parents to ask for a cash advance in lieu of their daughters salary. In many ways this is common practice and it is not unusual for the mamasan or whoever is doing the recruiting to give up to 5000 piso to a girl’s parents. This money is then taken out of the girls earnings on a regular basis. When you consider that the recruiters pay for the initial trip to the province for themselves this can run to as much as 3000 piso one way, then for food and accommodation, then for whatever cash payouts need to be made, then for transportation back to Angeles the recruitment process becomes a time consuming and costly business with no guaranteed returns.

A good mamasan realizes that she is only as good as the girls she can produce and as such she is constantly engaging in a pro active recruitment program. Some mamasans will conduct the recruiting themselves or will conduct the process together with a friend or some sort of relative. In this scenario they will normally recruit from a provincial area known to the mamasan where she has a social network and knows the lay of the land as well as the power players within the local community. A third means of recruiting is to utilize a professional recruiter. In this scenario the mamasan will give the recruiter a minimal down payment enough to cover the basic expenses and the rest will be paid when the girls are delivered. Normally the money comes from the bar or the mamasan or a combination of both. Most bar owners realize the importance of maintaining the correct level of girls and as such will have a certain amount put aside specifically for the purpose of recruitment. The professional recruiter will normally work on a slightly different level from mamasans and girls and place a more defined emphasis on money. They will promise the girls this is a “good job” with a “nice salary” and very rarely will they mention what the job actually involves, preferring instead to skirt over the means and just emphasize the end result, financial gain.

A proactive mamasan will always be on the lookout for girls to work as part of her stable and many times she will approach girls from other bars when they are bar hopping with their customers. The normal approach will be talk to the girls and tell them what the salary is and what are the other benefits. Typically this will include mention of things such as a higher commission on ladies drinks, or lack of fines or incentive programs for regular attendance or number of bar fines or number of ladies drinks. They will often mention the stay in and things such as a regular supply of food from the staff canteen, they will claim there are more customers in their bar and more big spenders and most importantly they will promise financial help when it is required. One mamasan who works for a well known smaller bar on Fields Avenue engages in an active recruitment by befriending girls from other bars when they come to visit and even lends them money. This works well as the girl feels obligated to pay back the loan and of course the best way she can earn the money is to come to work for that mamasan in her bar.

Another way of recruiting is to encourage the girls to do it themselves and often this will mean the bar conducting an active recruitment program where cash is offered as a reward for recruiting a friend to work in the bar. Typically this will work on an incentive basis, for example, programs I have run in the past give a girl 500 piso if she brings a friend in to work and the friend stays for two weeks if she stays for two weeks more the girl who recruited her then gets a further 500 piso. Programs such as this are common place but will differ slightly in the rules applied and the amount of money offered.

Another way of indirectly recruiting girls is to engage in an advertising campaign. In this case the emphasis will be primarily on salary followed by working conditions. These advertisements can take various forms from small blackboards or paper signs placed on or besides the front door entrance through to massive banners placed across the street.

A typical recruitment banner outside Rhapsody the only difference being they normally mention a high salary

A subtle means of recruiting girls will be to promise an ex dancer who is now too old to be able to compete on the dance floor a job as a mamasan but before she can work she must have a minimum of ten girls. The requirement of ten girls puts pressure on the potential mamasan to actively recruit. Normally these girls will make excellent mamasans because they have been dancers themselves and are aware of all the tricks the girls will try to pull and all the problems the girls will face.

Another subtle means is to befriend people who have regular contact with the girls and are perceived by the girls as being knowledgeable or people seen as being an authoritative figure. A classic example of this is the social hygiene personnel who have regular contact with the girls and are seen as being credible because of their position. I once worked with a mamasan who was strongly connected with city hall and social hygiene personnel and she would actually give her contacts a healthy remuneration should a girl apply to work with her as a result of the contacts recommendation.

Because it can be loosely associated with human trafficking, recruitment of girls to work in a go-go bar is always a risky situation however as the number of bars continually expand and the demand for girls expands correspondingly, recruitment has become an extremely important factor throughout the entire bar business. In fact many bars financial well being can be directly linked to the effectiveness of its recruiters and I confidently state that this will be the case for many years to come.

Angeles City Mamasans

Anyone who has visited a “girlie bar” in Asia has no doubt come across in some form or other the ubiquitous mamasan. Some people hate them and try to minimize their dealings with them whilst others swear by them and see them as a nice people who can help them. In this article I will look briefly at the history of the mamasan position and then examine in detail the mamasans role in the bar as well as highlighting the typical good and bad points mamasans tend to incorporate. There will also be a section on what makes a good mamasan with a spotlight on some of the better known mamasans in town and their effect on the bar they work in.

The term mamasan has its derivatives in the Japanese language and originally referred to the Asian equivalent of a European ‘Madam’ or the female head of a brothel or house of ill repute. In the old days the mamasan would be the connection between the establishments working girls and the customers as well a type of authority figure and mother figure for the working girls as well as overseeing the running the entire operation. In today’s environment especially in the Philippines the mamasans role incorporates all of these factors and even more.

The primary role of any mamasan working in a girlie bar is to create for want of a better word a “stable” of girls that are loyal to her, will follow her instructions and will work in whatever bar she works. As has been noted many times the most important factor in any girlie bar is the quality and quantity of the girls that work there and since the mamasan influences this she is directly influencing the bars financial success. Basically the mamasans determine the quality and quantity of girls and in so doing directly influence the number of customer’s and their enjoyment which in turn influences how much money the bar generates. To create her stable and maintain it a mamasan must have one very important skill and that is the ability to recruit girls or at least have close working contact with someone who can recruit girls. This ensures a regular supply of girls keeping the number of girls in the bar steady and counters the natural rate of attrition as girls leave the bar or stop working for whatever reason.

Mummy Stella at Golden Nile one of the few Mamasans who can actually recruit girls.

Generally speaking there are two types of mamasans. There are those that want to be everybody’s friend and do not enforce bar rules, regulations or policies. This type of mamasan will normally take the side of the girls should there ever be a confrontational situation and her relationship with her girls will be one of an elder relative an aunt or older sister and sometimes she adopts the role of surrogate mother. The other type of mamasan is the one who rules with an iron fist. These mamasans will normally be the older type who have been around a while and rule the roost by fear and intimidation. Basically these mamasans instill fear in the girls and this is interpreted as respect. For these mamasans every whim or command must be obeyed or there will be consequences to be paid. Normally these mamasans will have a right hand lady who enforces her rules this will often be a head waitress or someone in a similar position.

The mamasans relationship with ‘her’ girls is often intricate but in my opinion a very necessary one to understand. The mamasan – working girls relationship is complex and works on several levels. On one level the mamasan is an authority figure who is older and has had more experience in the business as such she is someone who is respected and obeyed by the girls. On this level the mamasan is viewed as the boss and the girls will follow her instructions before anyone else’s. She is the primary authority figure whom the girls will obey. In most cases the mamasan is a lady who has worked in the bar herself and as such is in a position to draw from her experience and be able to advise the girl from an position of experience.

On the other level the mamasan is viewed as a mother figure and becomes almost like a surrogate parent. The surrogate mother role takes on substantial significance for the girls especially when they are new to the business and far away from their family and social network in the province. Whenever the girl has a problem the first person she will normally turn to is the mamasan her surrogate mother figure. A classic example of this is the financial problems that invariably plague the working girls. Normally a girl is working to earn money for the ever demanding family and when she has financial problems she will often turn to her mamasan. In most cases the mamasans are only too eager to loan the girl money as it strengthens her ties with the girls and in turn the girl’s obligations to her as she has to work extra hard to pay back the loan.

Mummy Sheila adopts the surrogate mother approach. She does not have many girls but those she does have are fiercely loyal and tend to stay working with her a long time.

The relationship between the girls and mamasan can be superficial or it can be quite deep and long lasting based on genuine friendship and mutual respect. Some girls develop a loyalty to their mamasan which verges on dependency and the same can be said for the mamasans when it comes to their special girls. The deep relationship is understandable when you consider the girls situation. The Mamasan will feed and house the girl when she first arrives often paying for it out of her own pocket. Of course the girl has to pay it back and it is often at exorbitant interest rates but this is besides the point as the mamasan has helped her when she was alone and nobody else was there for her. In most cases the mamasan will demand and receive a portion of the girls income beyond the regular commissions earned, as a form of respect or through intimidation. The logic is keep the girls poor and in so doing keep them working hard for you.

The relationship between a mamasan and her girls will normally over a period of time evolve and change. What starts out as surrogate parent – offspring arrangement will develop into a sort of casual business relationship where the girl and the mamasan work together for each other’s financial gain. This can occur in many ways for example I have often seen girls find a good spending customer and then introduce this customer to their mamasan who will then also receive some ladies drinks. Often the relationship between a mamasan and her girls is long lasting and it is not unusual to see a girl who has quit work some years previously return, together with her husband or partner, and spend money ringing the bell, partying and buying drinks for her former mamasan.

The famous Mummy Rose in Blue Nile. This lady is one of the few who strikes a balance between being the voice of authority and a mother figure.

Another important part of the mamasans job is to facilitate effective pairing between the customers and the girls. To do this the mamasan must know her girls and what her performance is like and she must also know what the paying customer is looking for. In my opinion very few mamasans can do this and they prefer to simply introduce the girl to the customer with introductory lines such as “she is a good girl” or if they know the customer well enough they will subtly raise the subject of sexual performance with lines like “this girls knows everything”. When it comes to facilitating interaction between the girls and the customers it is important to remember that for the mamasan this is a financial proposition as she will get a small commission on any ladies drinks you buy the girl and a bigger commission if you pay for the girls EWR or buy her a personal ladies drink. The entry of money into the process does to some extent make the process one of prostitution but it is a very understated form of prostitution and highly contestable in any court of law if it should come down to that. It is important to remember that selling or renting out the girls company and their implied sexual services is the mamasans primary source of income so when customers sneak the girls out they are affecting her income and as the old saying goes hell hath no fury like an angry mamasan.

The relationship between the mamasan and the bars customers is also multi layered. For example on the surface level the mamasan will simply treat you as a customer and see how much she can get from you in terms of ladies drinks but as she gets to know you she will often recommend good girls who she knows will meet your sexual requirements. Some mamasans verge on being famous whilst others verge on infamy. Some are well known characters around the Angeles bar scene and are actually a draw card for customers to come into the bar. Others are a reason for customers not to visit the bar. On many occasions I would see customers come into Neros specifically to see Mummy Perla and buy her a drink but on the other hand I would hear of customers who no longer visited Neros because they felt Perla had ripped them off. Some customers use the mamasan in an advisory capacity to help solve problems in their relationship. The logic here is that the mamasan being female and with similar experience to the bar girls, will be able to advise the customer on the best course of action to take with his girlfriend or wife.

The infamous and always colorful Mummy Perla.

For the frequent bar customer a mamasan can be your best ally or your worst enemy and when it comes to having sexual relations with good looking girls working in the bar I have always found it the best policy to befriend the mamasan. Some mamasans become attached to the customer and come to regard him as their own. On many occasions I have witnessed minor spats between mamasans and often the cause is access to a particular customer or as the cynics would say, access to his wallet. The mamasans sometimes become possessive and treat the customer as THEIR private customer. Remember if you are friends with a mamasan your spending gives her credibility and respect and most importantly FACE amongst her fellow bar workers. The working relationship between a customer and a mamasan can take varying degrees from virtually nonexistent and simple acknowledgement through to her being the customers’ advisor or the customer having her number on his phone and remaining in communication with her so she can advise him when she has new girls. Keep in mind also that should you anger a mamasan she has many means at her disposal to block your moves when it comes to the girls in the bar.

Some mamasans are invaluable to the bar because of the relationship they form with certain customers. An example of this is the mamasan from Lancelot who has a contact amongst the Korean community and this contact regularly feeds busloads of Korean tourists into Lancelot. More often than not the Korean customers will bar fine the girl and then return to their hotel as they are not into bar hoping but rather the sexual experience with the girl of their choice. Whereas many professional mongerers will tell you never bar fine from your first bar these Korean customers who visit Lancelot seem to have the opposite approach. They will visit one bar bar fine from this bar drink from this bar and then out the door in a group and back to the hotel room together with girls. This is not huge money but it is regular money and it is all because of the mamasans connection which she has maintained over several years.

Some customers dislike mamasans because they feel the mamasans exploit the girls and treat them more like ‘slaves’ or ‘pieces of meat’ than human beings. A classic example of this was the old mamasan in the Red Rooster bar in Pasay Manila. Here was a dinky little bar hidden in the back streets of Pasay and yet it had a steady clientele of foreigners and Filipinos alike simply because the mamasan stroke owner had that unique ability to get good looking girls. This lady would three times a year go down to Ormoc city in Leyte which is where she came from originally. Whilst there she would talk to her contacts and find some people who were struggling financially and were willing to literally rent her their daughters. The mamasan would then turn up at these peoples abode and dripping with jewelry would pay up to 5 thousand per girl to the parents and then after gathering about 5 to 8 girls she would herd them onto the ferry for the trip back to Manila. Once back in the bar the girls would start work as soon as they arrived and they would receive the massive salary of 60 piso a day. This was not exactly a substantial salary but for people who were used to having to scrounge for their next meal this was big money. Things would progress well for the first week as the girls learnt the ropes and earned money by going bar fine and making ladies drinks. Then on the second week the deductions would start first she was told she had to pay back the money that was given to her parents then she had to pay back the transportation fee then for the food then the accommodation (normally a sub standard “stay in” with rudimentary comforts only) then the new clothes and new shoes etc, etc.

This is the type of exploitation many customers dislike intensely but unfortunately to this day these practices are still engaged in by many mamasans and form part of the bars operational procedure and are part of the recruiting proceedure. The logic here is keep the girls poor then they will work harder and more often simply to get the money they need for themselves and their family to survive. In short the exploitation forces the girl to become productive and make money for herself and the bar. Whilst I admit I have seen this exploitation on many occasions I have also seen many times when the mamasans have genuinely helped the girls for reasons other than financial gain. For example I have seen mamasans help girls when they have an unwanted pregnancy and I have seen on many occasions the mamasans offering advice on various situations that are way beyond the girls experience. As someone who has worked in the bars for close on 18 years I find the behavior of some mamasans and their relationships with their girls dislikeable but at the same time I also realize this is to some extent the nature of the bar business and I doubt if it will change in the near future.

Mummy Grace adopts the authoritarian approach and utilizes the microphone to control the girls.

In the bar it is a mamasans job to control the girls and this includes making sure they are dancing on time, making sure there is enough girls on stage at any one time, making sure the girls are on stage when they are supposed to be and not taking a break or hiding in the dressing room, making sure the girls are wearing the right uniforms and shoes, stopping fights between the girls, encouraging interaction between the girls and the customers, intervening between the customer and the girl should any problem or misunderstanding occur, looking after intoxicated girls, facilitating the EWR process wherever possible, drinking their ladies drink at a reasonable speed so they are not nursing it just to avoid having to dance, conducting negotiations between the girls and the customers (for example cherry girls who want to sell their virginity or customers who wish to pay a permanent bar fine), making sure neither the customer nor the girl are organizing a sneak out, organizing bar staff and a host of other duties. In many ways a good mamasan is all important to the efficient running of a bar and she has a direct effect on a bars income.

For the bar one very important aspect of the mamasans job is to make sure her girls regularly attend work. On the surface I realize readers will be asking am I serious, surely a simple task like making sure the girls come to work cannot be that hard. To these people I will simply say you would be surprised. The average Filipina will always exhibit the temporarily rich syndrome where they have a small amount of expendable income and suddenly all ideas of work fly out the window and it’s full on party mode until the money is gone and it’s time to go back to work again. A good mamasan accepts the responsibility of keeping tabs on her girls and will always keep current contact details so she can communicate with her if need be. These so called good mamasans in my experience are few and far between but when you find a good one she is worth her weight in gold not just because of the work she can save you from doing but also because of the money she can create for the bar.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in the Philippine bar business and of course this includes the various government agencies that enforce the rules which all bars must adhere to. In the case of the Angeles bar scene this organization is called social hygiene and they initiate various rules and regulations that govern the bars. To instigate these rules and regulations there is regular correspondence between social hygiene officials and the bars representatives which in most cases is the senior mamasan. The mamasan in this role acts like a bars representative and an intermediary between the government organization and the bar. For example all girls working in a bar must display a license which is issued to them by social hygiene and another card which is issued them by City Hall. To get these cards is often a long drawn out process and will always involve the mamasans who know exactly what is needed, how much it will cost and the right people to expedite, or fast track, the procedure.

Mummy Rio runs a tight ship and is known for her sharp temper.

The mamasan is also responsible for making sure hygiene’s rules are instigated in the bar for example the girls wearing their ID and the girls attending social hygiene for regular checkups. For example each girl has a pro book which is basically a record of her appearances at hygiene for smear and check up. These pro books are handled by the mamasans and whenever city health officials visit the bar performing an inspection the mamasan is the first point of contact and it is she who provides the officials with all the information regarding the working girls. In short there is an extensive system in place all of which is overseen by the mamasan and the various public officials. To this end the mamasans even have their own organization which is called LACSOM and its primary purpose is to deal with any issues that may arise between the social hygiene agency, the bars and the girls that work in them. The social hygiene side of the bar business is very important as the social hygiene department are empowered to close a bar indefinitely should their rules and systems not be adhered to.

The Philippine mamasan is a unique breed and is some ways a mother figure, and an authority figure, she can be a customer’s best friend or a customer’s worst cock blocking enemy. The mamasans have a range of duties all of which are designed to support the bar system and help the bar as well as herself make money. Personally as a customer I quite like mamasans and find them useful in providing information about their girls but as a bar manager, I find them a valuable asset on the one hand and an annoyance on the other. Most mamasans in my experience are weak in the key areas of getting and keeping good looking girls and controlling their girls making sure they reguarly attend work. Most mamasans inadequecies become annoying for example the mamasans tend not to care about the quality of girls they hire because they are not paying the recruitment costs and they are not paying the girls salary, so even if the sub standard girl makes one ladies drink or goes bar fine just once in a year, the mamasan has made a profit. The mamasans are vaguely aware or in some cases completely unaware of a girls performance or productivity.

In most cases the mamasans activities are not confined to the guide lines of her job description. Most of them have side line businesses that run in conjunction with their duties in the bar. Typically these sidelines will include loan sharking (5-6 as the Filippinos call it), selling food, selling Avon products, perfumes, jewelry, lotto tickets, Jueteng (numbers racket), cel phone loads and more. The thought behind these activities is get a little bit every day rather than go for the big hiest in one big swoop.Throughout my years in the bar business I have heard many customers and bar managers complain about the mamasans and wish that there was an effective way to run a bar without being so dependent on them however, for me the mamasans are here to stay and I am yet to see any bar run effectively without them so it perhaps best to learn how to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses as in most cases they are a necessary evil.

The Filipina Double Standard

Previously I wrote an article titled “Understanding your Filipina” and in this article I tried to give a small generalized insight into how the Filipina thinks as well as a short critique of Philippine culture that shapes her world and personality. This article is almost like an addendum to the first article in that it deals with a unique aspect of the Filipina bar girls behavior, and that aspect is the infamous double standard or as I like to call it the butterfly effect.

In the so called Western world there is a famous sexual double standard which states that if the male has numerous sexual partners he is a stud, he is seen as virile and masculine however if a woman has numerous sexual partners she is seen as a slut or a lose woman and in some cases incorrectly labeled a whore. In short one type of behavior is acceptable and even encouraged for the male but is unacceptable for the female. For the same act one sex is praised and revered while the other is reviled, and judged. This is the classic sexual double standard.

Well guess what, in the Philippines a country where masculinity is alive and well and the women, especially the bar girls, are supposedly exploited, it is the women who have the double standard. In the bar scene where foreign men pay for the sexual services of women it is ironically the women (bar girls) who have the double standard, not the men. This double standard is where the bar girl considers it acceptable for her to have numerous sexual partners but unacceptable for the male to do the same thing. What is good for the goose is certainly not good for the gander. This double standard is normally expressed by the girl saying “you big butterfly” hence my term the butterfly syndrome.

The Filipina bar girl is in many ways a unique species with a way of thinking that for us foreigners is totally alien or as one AE member expressed it, “totally out of wack” and perhaps the best example of this is the butterfly syndrome. If you have more than one sexual partner then the girls will call you a butterfly. This term is an analogy that likens the practice of having numerous sexual partners to the behavior of a butterfly when it flitters from flower to flower sipping at the pollen.

The term ‘butterfly’ does imply a certain amount of moralistic judgment and it does represent a classic double standard but at the same time there is an element of humor in the term and it is meant more as a flippant observation than a severe moralistic judgment. If the bar girls call you a babaero ( a playboy) or a balakero (literally translated “a man who uses women”) then you know she is more serious than if she simply calls you a butterfly.

The butterfly analogy is delightfully feminine and typical Filipina, yet at the same time for us foreigners, blatantly hypocritical. Why is it that in the bar girls mind it is ok for her to have sex with numerous different partners but it’s not ok for the guys to do the same? The answer is very simple MONEY and SURVIVAL. In most cases the Filipina grows up with a conflict between moral beliefs and day to day reality. For example she is taught prostitution is bad but in reality prostitution is one of the few ways a girl can earn the money she and her family needs to survive. In her mind the Filipina bar girl justifies having sex with multiple partners by thinking, ‘this is the only way I can earn the necessary amount of money myself and my family need to survive’. This is why you will often hear them saying “it’s just my fucking job”. When they say this they are acknowledging the fact that they are having sex for money which is a morally bad thing but at the same time an economic reality if they are to survive. Because of the lack of decent paying employment opportunities in the Philippines, financial remuneration becomes a valid justification for having sex with multiple partners.

Whilst the money itself is a justification for having numerous sexual encounters perhaps a more important justification is how the money is used. 99.9% of bar girls have pressure from their family to supply money and their primary reason for working in the bar is to support their family. To support the family is seen as perfectly natural in Filipino culture and it serves as a sort of moral justification for having sex for money.

When it comes to having sex for money the Filipina is in what can only be called, a moral dilemma. As in all countries on the surface level prostitution is frowned upon and seen as morally wrong, however, if the earnings from prostitution are spent helping people who cannot help themselves (in most cases this means the girls family) then having sex for money is morally condoned. For the Filipina bar girl having sex for money is on the one hand morally wrong but on the other hand morally acceptable.

In most cultures the act of having sex for money is vilified but in the subculture of Filipina bar girls the money and how it is used becomes a justification rather than a vilification. In the bar girls mindset it’s ok to be a prostitute if the money you earn is spent on your family or on your own survival. It is important to remember that in the majority of cases the act of prostitution becomes a means of survival for both the girl and her family. Personally I find this situation the ultimate in bitter irony. The Philippines is a country dominated by Catholicism and yet it is these very same Catholics who have found a way to morally justify prostitution.

In the bar girls world it is acceptable for her to have sex with numerous individuals because it is her ”job” and it is one of the few ways she can make the necessary money for her and her family to survive. On the other hand in the bar girls mind the male customer has no such justification. For a Filipina bar girl the foreigner male has sex with multiple partners for no other reason than to satisfy the male ego and hormonal urges. In her mind these are not valid reasons to have many sexual partners and as such she will apply moralistic judgments whilst neglecting to apply those same judgments to herself.

Another thing to consider is the peer group pressure the Filipina bar girl is under. For example many subconsciously feel they must have the latest cell phone or the new fashion shoes or clothing. The world of the Filipina bar girl is a competitive one, albeit on a subconscious level, and to be able to compete successfully a bar girl must have money and the best way she knows to make money is to have sex with men.

Once working within the ‘bar system’ the girl has various pressures exerted on her and one major pressure is the mamasan pushing her to go out. Basically the mamasan’s receive a percentage of the bar fine money as their commission so it is in their best interests to push the girls to go bar-fine. Many times I have asked some of the more high profile bar girls why they go bar fine so frequently and invariably one of the reasons they will cite is pressure from the mamasan. As such this pressure acts as a sort of justification for them to go out with numerous different people however there is no such pressure on the customer and consequently no justification for you having numerous sexual partners.

Earlier in this article I noted the classic sexual double standard between men and women of the so called more affluent western countries. In this scenario if the man “fucks around” he is a stud but if the woman does it she is a “slut”. I have already discussed the implications of this double standard and the important thing to note here is that the existence of double standards in nearly all societies throughout the world. The widespread existence of double standards in totally different societies would suggest that they are a natural occurrence of human existence and as such will inevitably be found in the world of Philippine bar girls.

Often the Filipina bar girl will try to discourage the foreign male from having sex with multiple partners simply because of her ego and a natural urge to control the male. There is also a large element of competitiveness involved. Amongst the bar girls there is a strong sense of competitiveness and all of them know that to snare a man and his support they will have to compete with other bar girls and the best way of competing is to stop the male from having sex with other women. By calling a man a butterfly and exposing the judgmental implications behind this term, the bar girl is in fact exhibiting competitiveness. In a nice lighthearted way she is trying to discourage the male from having sex with other bar girls and in so doing keep him too herself.

When referring to bar girls many people have stated ,“it’s all about the money” and indeed, once incorporated into the bar world, a girl learns very quickly that the objective is to find a man who will provide them with the necessary economic and perhaps less importantly emotional support. To achieve this end the girls will adopt several methods not the least of which is to make the man fall in love with her. There is a common belief amongst Filipinas in general and especially amongst the bar girls that if you make the man fall in love you will gain a lot more from the relationship, including financial benefits. To be successful in this endeavor they must try to stop the man from having other sexual partners. The Filipina bar girl instinctively knows that if the man ‘fucks around” with other girls then her chances of securing financial and emotional support are drastically reduced. This is one reason why in the Philippine bar scene you can find the Girl Friend Experience (GFE) which is not available in similar scenes in other countries. Contrary to this is the logic they apply to themselves which states, it is all a numbers game and the more men they meet and make love with, the better their chances of finding the man who is right for them.

One unique aspect of the Filipina bar girl is her ability to develop genuine feelings for a sexual partner and believe it or not in some cases they will use these feelings as a justification for them fucking around. The bar girl logic goes something like this: when she is in love with a man she feels ashamed to ask money from him so as a result she will take on other sexual partners just to get the money she needs to survive and avoid ‘using’ the man she loves. For foreigners this logic seems bizarre and twisted but for the Filipina bar girl it makes perfect sense and she does not see any contradiction between professing love for one man and having sex with a number of other men.

The bar girls learn very quickly to compartmentalize their sexual activities based on varying criteria. For the Filipina bar girl there is a clear line between having sex for the reason of love and having sex for financial remuneration. The two are very different concepts and yet in the bar girls mind by no means mutually exclusive. Unfortunately the girls seem unable to apply the same logic to their male customers. They see the foreigners as paying for sexual services rather than getting paid and this in itself is not a strong enough reason to justify having numerous sexual partners. Once again we have the classic double standard where it is acceptable for the girl to be sexually promiscuous but not for the male.

Most girls after a period of time working the bar have, "been there done that", as the old saying goes and as such to some extent they will always keep their options open just in case the man they thought was their passport to a better life turns out to be a failure. The girls in their mind see it as perfectly normal that they would wish to keep their options open but they will not expect the man to do the same thing. On the contrary most bar girls will try their very best to get the foreigner to fall in love with them as this way the relationship will last for a longer time and the girl will get more out of it.

There are probably many more identifiable reasons why the double standard exists and yet ironically knowing the reasons behind the double standard does not help you combat it. For example many guys have said, ”when a girl tells me it’s her job I simply reply, well it’s my job as well” but invariably this will not make sense to the Filippina. For her it is basic, she receives payment for offering sexual services whilst the men do the paying. For her it is a job and in her mind the men are customers who pay her to do her job.

Perhaps the best way I have found for combating the double standard is to sit them down and explain to them that bar fining different girls you are actually supporting the system and helping them keep their job. Secondly I am helping the girls financially which is why they are working the bar in the first place. This logic works well but only up to a point because at the end of the day your average bar girl couldn’t care less about the system or the welfare of other bar girls, all she cares about is what’s in it for her.

Last but not least I think it is important to ask how does this double standard effect the customers enjoyment. The answer is in most cases it hardly has any effect at all. Granted there is a certain amount of moralistic, judgmental overtones implicit in sayings such as “you big butterfly” but on the whole sayings such as this are light hearted with a certain amount of humor and will not significantly impede your mongering activities.

This article represents my thoughts and experiences after having lived in the Philippines and worked in the bars there for the last 18 years. It is designed primarily to help foreigners understand the Filipina bar girl and in so doing hopefully foster more harmonious and successful interaction between the two. I do not claim to be 100% correct or by any means an authority on subjects such as this and please note these are just my opinions garnered from many years of experience. I welcome any discussion or sharing of opinions that this article may elicit. At the end of the day we all have an interest in Filipina bar girls and it is my hope that this article will help members gain a better understanding of these girls, their world and how they think.

Angeles City & Subic Bay Beauty Pageants

No matter what country we come from the chances are we have heard about or seen a beauty pageant. All over the world beauty pageants are common place but when it comes to the amount of pageants and the importance attached to them, no single country can rival the Philippines. From the smallest Barrios’ in the remotest provinces through to localized events in metropolitan centers, then onto national and international events, beauty pageants are commonplace and form a significant part of Philippine culture.

To understand the importance of beauty pageants in Philippine society it is first necessary to examine their history. It is generally accepted that beauty pageants harks back to the 600 years of Spanish occupation in the Philippines. Within Spanish culture it was common place for the Spanish women to be paraded down the street in a sort of beauty parade. This parade would always feature lavish costumes, sumptuous food and generally celebrate the joy of life and femininity. From these elaborate beginnings it was not a big step to develop into the modern day concept of a beauty pageant.

Miss dreamland beauty competition.

The Spanish influence also defined the characteristics of beauty and these characteristics are still ingrained into Filipino society several hundred years later. For example what the Filipinos think is beautiful is often very different from what the foreigners regard as beautiful. The Filipino concept of beauty can be directly traced back to Spanish influence where they find beauty in characteristics such white skin, long aquiline noses, tall stature and even body hair. All of this is often accompanied by lavish ostentatious costumes and dresses. Foreigners on the other hand will mostly prefer the Malay look with darker skin and smaller bones. It is always interesting watching beauty contests judged by Filipinos as compared to those judged by foreigners. The two will normally have totally different results.

The frequency and importance of beauty pageants in the Philippines can be explained in many ways but I think the most generally accepted explanation is that women in the Philippines outnumber the men. When it comes to the ratio of women to men I have heard various statistics ranging from 5 to 1 down to 3 to 1. No one seems 100% certain what the ratio is but all seem to agree, here in the Philippines women outnumber the men. It is my personal belief that the greater number of women than men creates a sort of insecurity factor and as such Filipina women are well aware of the competition and at the same time relatively insecure about their looks. Entering a beauty pageant and obviously winning one offers great reassurance to anyone feeling insecure about their looks.

Traditionally contestants will parade in several categories including evening wear bikinis, casual wear etc. Pictured above are some contestants from the Maganda Filipina competition sporting their tropical attire.

It is my personal belief that mankind or in this case woman kind is competitive by nature and beauty pageants are a manifestation of this competitiveness. What better way to show your superiority over your fellow female than by being judged as more beautiful. In the eternal feminine jousting between females, beauty is a major factor.

The Filipinas have always been renowned for their beauty and femininity and these two factors are both emphasized in beauty pageants. Looking as an outsider it seems to me Filipino society like many others is obsessed with physical looks. Right from the start you will hear people commenting on a baby saying it is handsome or beautiful. This is a form of social conditioning and kids grow up inherently understanding the importance of physical appearance. For the women beauty contests are a chance to display their physical appearance and be judged against their fellow females. The beauty pageants in this regard provide a definition of female beauty as well as providing an affirmation that a certain person or a certain look meets the criteria of what is considered beautiful.

Beauty and feminine appearance have always represented big business and the acquisition of money. By far the most products sold in the Philippines even more than the basic food stuffs are female beauty products. From skin whiteners and nail polish through to silky shiny shampoo the latest fashion and women’s shoes the beauty industry is big business all over the world but particularly here in the Philippines. Beauty pageants are on one level a cultural event and on another level they are just purely a means of making money, they represent an entrepreneurial venture as much as they represent a cultural event.

Little miss no nose as she cleaned up in the Miss Blue Rock competition.

As a general rule of thumb the bigger the pageant or the more high profile the pageant then the bigger the money involved. On the small level the money will often take the form of a sobre collection. For example in many local schools a beauty contest is a means of raising revenue for the school. The children will be given a “sobre” envelope which is then passed around for people to put whatever extra or whatever spare change they have into it. Often the child that raises the most money wins the beauty contest.

In the bigger competitions such as Miss Philippines and Miss Binibining Pilipinas which are nationally televised the money aspect becomes very much more pronounced and the acquisition of funds goes to a whole new level. In the upper echelons of beauty pageants it is all about the sponsorship funds and these can amount to considerable amounts. Also it is not uncommon for serious amounts of money to be raised for charities. Like in America the charity business is big business especially when it comes to beauty pageants.

Contestants in the Miss Binibining Pilipinas Beauty Contest an event designed to raise money for charity.

As previously stated beauty pageants in various forms are a regular occurrence throughout most of the Philippines and on the lower level there are various cultural implications associated with each contest. For example they are nearly always political with the Barangay Captain his wife the local mayor and his wife all becoming involved. They represent both a chance for economic gain and a festive occasion. The beauty pageants give a sort of identity to a certain Barrio and the important people within that Barrio. All beauty pageants will have an organizing committee which is normally composed of the local power players and their various spouses. For the contestants the pageants represent both an affirmation of their physical appearance and a reinforcement of the cultural definition of beauty. The pageants also represent a chance to gain public exposure and maybe get an opportunity to move onto bigger and better things, the possibility of financial gain or perhaps just the simple enjoyment that comes from wearing a special dress for a special occasion.

Pictures from Miss Philippines 2008 beauty pageant

On the national level the bigger more prominent beauty contests represent the definite chance of financial gain and of course very valuable public exposure. In fact winning a beauty contest such as Miss Philippines is seen as a launching pad for a range of different careers including showbiz, politics, advertising, marketing, modeling, community leadership or even a career in big business corporations. Just as in the smaller local level the bigger competitions are intertwined with politics. For example there will be a Miss tourism and a Miss earth beauty contests.

Gionna Cabrera a contestant in Miss Philippines 2005 had her own web site.

As is clearly obvious the beauty pageant and its associated implications go right to the roots of Filipino society. They are off huge cultural and economic significance. In fact some enterprising foreigners have conducted their own beauty pageants with varying degrees of success but one thing they all have in common is economic gain. Two of the more successful pageants conducted by foreigners are the Miss Blue Rock contest and the Dreamland Leather and Lace competition. In both cases the beauty contests result in increased occupancy rates in their respective hotels and they provide the perfect social venue for foreigner men and Filipina ladies to mingle and have fun. Last but not least they represent a perfectly legal means of presenting available Filipinas to available foreigners. This is not prostitution and cannot be construed as such, this of course makes the girls a lot more at ease and if the truth be known many of the men as well. Another big event is the Maganda Filipina event which has even branched out into using other mediums such as press and the internet.

Contestants in the Miss Atlantis beauty pageant competing in the swim suit section.

Just like in American society beauty pageants work on several levels and are always a popular event. In the Philippines they are important on a cultural level as well as an economic level and when this is combined with the fact that women outnumber men in this country then beauty pageants take on significant importance which influences all levels of Philippine society.

Valentines Day in the Philippines

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So another February has rolled around and with it comes another special Valentines day. Having lived in the Philippines for the last 18 years I have become all too familiar with their somewhat unique brand of Valentines celebrations, however, this was not always the case. On my first visit to the Philippines in 1991 I was quite literally amazed by the extensive celebrations Valentines Day elicited. Many Valentines Days have come and gone since then and over the years I have come to realize that Filipino culture is very different from the one I grew up in and a major part of that difference is the cultural significance of events such as Valentines day.
To understand what are the popularity of Valentines in the Philippines and why it is such an significant day in Filipino culture it is necessary to briefly examine the history of Valentines day.

The roots of Valentines day can be traced back to Ancient roman days where February 14 was a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. At that time young boys and girls would grow up separately however on the eve of Lupercalia the girls would have their names placed in a giant urn and each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and the young couple would then be partners throughout the festival. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and later marry.

Modern day St Valentines day can be traced back to the time of Claudius II or Claudius the cruel. The most generally accepted theory is that Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome in an effort to force men to join the Roman army. According to legend at this time Valentine was a Christian priest who defied Claudius and secretly married Christian couples. Valentine was eventually caught and was sentenced to a lengthy jail term culminating in being beaten to death by clubbing and beheading.

Yet another theory suggests that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

Legend further has it that during his jail term many people would come to visit the popular priest and one of these was his jailers daughter who it is commonly believed Valentine fell in love with and left a farewell note for signing it, “from your Valentine”.

Valentine was killed February 14, 269 A.D. and then in 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius named him a martyr and a Saint setting aside February 14 to honor him. As time marched on many cultures adopted February 14 as the official Valentines day and Saint Valentine became the patron Saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems, love messages and simple gifts such as flowers or candy.

In modern day western societies, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings and in the 1840’s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines cards in America.

The standard Valentine Day card depicting red rose’s which symbolize true love.

The Valentines day legend is an intoxicating mix of historical mystery, religious connotations and the most powerful of all human emotions, love. Given these factors it is only natural that this day should be so popular in Philippine culture.

The Filipinas are renowned worldwide for their capacity to love and care for their men folk and they have a reputation as incurable romantics who are very much in touch with their emotions. Given this, is it any wonder that in a country where women supposedly outnumber men 3 to 1, Valentines day is so popular.

Filipinas are also recognized as being demonstrative and indeed the Philippine culture recognizes public displays of emotion as being totally normal as well as recognizing the importance of emotion as an influential factor in determining behavior. Given the Filipino acceptance of displaying emotions, Valentines day with its various products depicting love, and simple demonstrative acts such as holding hands and kissing, is virtually guaranteed to be a significant day in Philippine culture.

The predominant religion which is infused into nearly all aspects of Filipino life is Roman Catholicism. Religion is a key factor and a corner stone of Filipino culture and a major influence on peoples beliefs and behavior, as such, Valentines day with its religious overtones, was by definition, always going to be an important day on the Filipino calendar.

As is clearly demonstrated by their movies and by incidents that occur every day Filipinos have a natural flair for the dramatic. The most popular movies in this country will always have a certain percentage of drama and this drama nearly always takes the form of an emotional outburst. Valentines day primarily deals with love the most powerful emotion of all and as such it will always have a sort of dramatic element to it, very attractive to Filipinos.

Valentines day combines emotional mythology and religious mythology two very influential factors in Philippine culture.
What’s more this combination of religion and love is
expressed publically and in a slightly dramatic way thus
guaranteeing Valentines day a place of preeminence in
modern Philippine society

Last but certainly by no means least there is the commercial factor. Although Valentines day has its roots in Ancient Roman tradition Valentines Day has been appropriated by commercialism and today’s version is among other things, very much a commercial enterprise representing a chance to make money. Every year there are vast amounts of symbolic Valentines day products produced in many countries throughout the world and the Philippines is no exception. Here in the Philippines the whole gamut of Valentines day regalia is represented there are plastic hearts on a stick, heart shaped cushions and red Valentines day balloons with special love messages, through to valentines candy, valentines cake, roses, valentines greeting cards and of course Valentines jewelry.

Heart shaped candies and chocolate the classic Valentines day gift.

All of these products are important both in their symbolic value and also in their commercial value and to be honest Valentines day is traditionally a huge day for retailers across the Philippines directly bolstering the national economy. With the inundation of Valentines day related products, especially here in the Philippines, one could be forgiven for thinking Valentines day is purely an exercise in crass commercialism however if one considers the history and its true meaning together with how it relates to the Philippine culture, Valentines day, takes on a much more profound perspective, which goes way beyond commercialism and the power of the piso.

In short the St. Valentine’s Day story combines elements of religious myth, an emphasis on love and the chance to display ones love both mentally and physically and sometimes even dramatically. Given all these factors which are key to Filipino culture, Valentines day will always be a significant celebration in this country.
Ok, now we have established the importance of Valentines day on a cultural level the question must be asked, what does this day mean to the average Filipino.
During Valentines Filipino couples indulge in a number of quaint and simplistic practices designed to mark the spirit of the day and demonstrate their affection for each other. For example, during Valentines day, you will see many couples walking in the park and sneaking a lingering kiss or taking part in a group kissing competition. In Angeles every Valentines day they have a group kissing competition in Astro Park and in Manila they have a giant kissing competition where they strive to break the world record for the longest kiss.

As in other cultures during Valentines day Filipino lovers will exchange simple gifts designed to demonstrate their affection for each other. Mostly these gifts will be something symbolic and inexpensive like a box of candies or a bunch of flowers or a simple Valentines day card. Most Filipinos are hampered by financial restrictions and it is these restrictions that have to some extent made the Filipinos creative and inventive when it comes to giving gifts on Valentines day. Many Filipinos design their own jewelry utilizing whatever materials are at hand or purchase a Sampaguita flower or a cheap paper heart which they then decorate with romantic symbols and a special Valentines Day message. For those who have a bit more money at their disposal they will celebrate Valentines Day more lavishly. For example you will see them going out to an expensive restaurant or attending a special Valentines Day concert performed by Filipino celebrities.

The single rose which in many cultures symbolizes love but with the Filipinos 3 is the love number. This means a symbol for each word in the sentence, “I love you”.

Basically I think Valentines day relates on two levels in Filipino society. On one level it represents the mythology, religious connotations and a celebration of love, on another level it represents a chance for Filipinos to express their emotions in a fun and creative way and of course a massive bolstering of the Philippine economy. From a simple kiss in the park and the giving of inexpensive gifts through to lavish dinners at expensive restaurants and mammoth kissing competitions Valentines day in the Philippines is something truly special and an event enjoyed by all.

Filipino Street Food

Every country has its own culture and quite often the local food is both a reflection of that culture and a reflection of the physical environment that surrounds and influences the people. Such is the case with the street food available in the Philippines.

Throughout the Philippines, from the biggest cities to the smallest most remote provincial areas, there are street vendors and stall operators plying their trade. These vendors and the produce they sell invariably reflect ready availability of commodities from the local environment – specifically, anything that has a low initial purchasing price and the opportunity for a significantly marked-up end sale price. These vendors and their produce will to some extent reflect as well as create certain cultural aspects of Philippine society.

Perhaps the most famous or should I say infamous of all the products sold by street vendors is Balot. Balot is basically a duck or chicken egg with a semi formed fetus inside. For the uninitiated taste buds this tastes vile, and even the Filipinos whom I know that eat this do not claim it tastes nice.

The balut is normally sold by a vendor on his bicycle. The vendor will pedal the streets squeezing a little air horn and crying out Balut. Vendors such as this are a common site in most communities throughout the Philippines.

The vendor will have a basket with anywhere up to two dozen balot inside and there are two types of balot. Firstly there is ballot sa puti which is the egg with the line on it. In this balut the fetus is less developed. The ballot without the line is a larger ballot where the fetus is more developed to the extent where the nails feathers and hair are present.The basket serves to stop the balot from moving thus preventing breakage and also keeps the balot warm.

It is a commonly held belief amongst the Filipinos that eating balut is good for you and it will enhance your strength as well your virility. They believe that there are numerous vitamins and minerals inside the egg which are good for a person’s health. Whether this is true or not is hard to say without actually analyzing the egg but it is interesting that in nearly all cultures there is some sort of natural product that is believed to increase the male sex drive and general strength.

Male virility is an important aspect of Filipino culture and it represents an intriguing mixture of Spanish and Chinese influences. The ‘machismo’ and extroverted masculinity aspects come from the Spanish influence whereas the belief that a man’s potency can be increased by what he eats, is more of a Chinese concept. In fact I would hypothesize that the practice of eating of balut has Chinese origins and is a classic example of Chinese influence on Filipino culture.

Another food sold by vendors which clearly demonstrates the Chinese influence on Philippine culture, is chicken feet. I can distinctly remember the first time I saw these being served in a Chinese restaurant in Sydney and my reaction was much the same then as it is today, YUCK. However my reaction is far from common place in the Philippines as many Filipinos seem to consider barbecue chicken feet, barbecue chicken intestines along with barbecue pork as part of their staple diet.

Prior to arriving in the Philippines I always associated chicken feet with Chinese cuisine and upon first arriving in Manila in 1991 it was quite a shock for me to see them being sold on a street side barbecue stand. Over time I have gotten used to seeing them on a daily basis and upon reflection I realize chicken feet are another example of the Chinese influence on Filipino culture.

Paa ng manok. Chicken feet and example of Chinese influence on Filipino culture.

Apart from deep fried and boiled foods much street food is cooked by utilizing a barbecue grill. This is a very effective and cheap way of cooking but does not have the advantage of portability.

Pork along with chicken is very much the staple meat source in the Philippines. Again most parts of the slaughtered pig will be used for consumption including what is referred to as Tainga or pigs ear.

Where I come from it is common practice to pigs and chickens but only certain parts of the animal. Here in the Philippines nothing is left to waste as was clearly demonstrated by a visit to my local barbecue stand in New York Street Vila Sol.

Balat ng manok – chicken skin and puwet ng manok – chicken anus, just two of the many parts of the chicken that are sold at the barbecue stands. Other parts include the chicken intestines, chicken bowels, and the chickens neck.

Chicken neck and intestines. Virtually every part of the chicken is used in the barbeque stalls.

When it comes to street cooking the grill or barbecue is the qucik, portable and an inexpensive means of cooking. Best of all the raw produce can be readily purchased from the local market at very low prices and resold incorporating a significant mark up. These are high profitability items. The barbecue produce can vary in price anywhere from 5 piso through to 15 piso and it is often consumed in a social situation along with alcohol. When the food is served in this way it is referred to as Pulutan.

Chicken and pork are by far the most common sorts of meat consumed by Filipinos not including fish. The problem is pork and especially chicken are mostly fried which is not exactly the healthiest means of cooking. Upon walking the streets of Angeles you will often see street vendors with their portable stalls selling fried chicken. Normally this will be a piece of chicken wrapped in flour and a wok with cooking oil heated by a gas flame very much like an enlarged portable bunson burner. Each piece of fried chicken costs 20 piso and as you can see by the amount pf chicken he has pre prepared this is quite a popular snack and probably quite profitable.

The eggs of various birds and other animals seem to be considered a viable food source throughout the Philippines. For example you will see many vendors selling Pugo- quail eggs. These eggs are sold either hard boiled in a plastic bag of 4 or 24 together with rock salt or as quek quek where they are deep fried and covered in flour which has been dyed a light orange color. The Pugo are considered a light snack and sell for approximately 12 piso for a bag of four or fifty piso for a bag of 24. These are a very much sought after item by the Filipinos when traveling, as such, you will often see vendors plying their trade on the many buses that crisscross this country.

One part of the pig that is considered a delicacy is the pig skin or crackling as foreigners would call it. The pig skin is basically cut into thin strips then deep fried in oil. This is called Chicharon and served in a plastic bag with a vinegar and chili sauce applied liberally. The Pampanga area is renowned for its quality Chicharon and it sells for 20 piso per bag.

As you get into the poorer more provincial areas you will find both portable stores and stationary stores. For example on a recent bike ride we found this store which was almost like the Philippine equivalent of a local soup kitchen.

Again the primary meats were chicken and pork but utilized in a sort of soup concoction. Chicken joy would normally be a piece of fried chicken but when I asked the stores owner they replied with the by now standard phrase so common amongst the Filipinos, “aye sorry sir out of stock”. What they did have was a pork soup and a chicken broth soup with noodles. Both being composed of mainly the animal fat rather than any actual meat.

Pork fat soup

A chicken broth soup with noodles and pieces of chicken

Moving away from the meats and on a slightly healthier level, many tropical fruits and nuts can be found in abundance throughout the Philippines and often these will make the perfect produce for vendors as they are easy to find and cheap to purchase with a good end sale profit margin.

For some reason Filipinos seem to like a lot of their food stuff either raw or unripened. A classic example of this is the Green Mango. Vendors will mostly utilize a push bike with covered side car attached.

Some of the green mango are cut in half, skewered on a stick and placed in a jar of water. Accompanying the fruit there will be a jar of Bagoong (Shrimp paste) and or plain salt. A portion of Bagoong is served separately or applied to the top of the mango slice by the vendor.

I have often pondered why Filipinos like to eat their fruit raw and the only reason I can come up with is that in this country food can be a scarce commodity so if hungry enough you do not wait unti a fruit is ripe to eat it, on the contrary, you consume it as soon as possible. Secondly competition is fierce in this country and if you don’t consume the fruit when you have the chance, someone else will.

From eating raw fruit out of necessity I hypothesize that what started out as a necessity has slowly crossed over into mainstream culture to the extent where eating raw fruit is now considered totally normal. A second factor is that when eaten with the shrimp paste your taste buds are assaulted by totally opposite flavors which makes for an interesting eating experience.

Very often the Mango vendors will also have other types of fruit to sell including a local orange called dalandan which is picked and consumed whilst still unripe. Depending on the time of season there may also be oranges, mandarins and even apples.

One very popular and versatile fruit amongst the Filipinos is the banana and once again it is often served fried. When it comes to the vendors many will sell the raw product simply by having a bunch of bananas hanging of their cart or they will sell it as a type of banana fritter.

To make the banana fritter the banana is fried in a wok with raw sugar and cooking oil. The banana is very sweet and naturally filling which at ten piso a pop makes it a cheap way of taking the edge of your hunger.

The humble peanut is grown and sold just about everywhere in the world but here in the Philippines it takes on a special significance as it provides a food source and an income for a large number of people.
Depending on the season you will see street vendors with a variety of fruits ranging from Bananas and Mangos through to pineapples, oranges, mandarins and apples.

Slowly but surely as the Filipino taste buds become exposed to outside influences a number of different fruits are finding their way onto the streets of Angeles. For example on my way home after work I stopped at my favorite fruit stall on Fields Avenue only to be confronted with a variety of fruit including Kiwi fruit. Coming from New Zealand originally this was somewhat of a pleasant surprise for me and I asked SWMBO to ask the vendor if they were grown here and she received a definite yes. Somewhere around Angeles there is a kiwi fruit farm or maybe it’s in Bagiou, either way the point remains it is now finally possible to get a greater range of fruits in the Philippines.

The peanut is cheap, in abundance, easy to cook and an easy to transport food source which can generate a healthy profit margin when sold. The Filipinos have a number of ways of cooking the peanuts but the most common are steaming and deep frying in oil.
The vendors who steam the nuts normally have a bicycle with a large iron pot in which they place water. A wicker tray with holes in it is then placed on top of this and the nuts are placed on top of the basket to cook by steaming.

The nuts are sold in small paper bags and will cost 20 piso per bag.They also come sprinkled with fresh rock salt.

Steamed peanuts are also sold by the plastic bag full for 20 piso and these are also mostly sold by vendors using a bicycle with attached side cart.

Another way of selling peanuts very common in most of the bars is to sell a plate full of deep fried peanuts for 20 piso. For this the vendor will go the market buy the peanuts and other merchandise in bulk then resell them as smaller portions.

Being composed of numerous islands it is only natural that a major component of the Filipino diet is seafood and fresh water fish. In terms of the vendors this will normally take the most abundant and therefore easily accessible and cheapest product to sell. For seafood this will normally be a small fresh water fish called Tinapa. These fish are about the size of a sardine and are smoked by the vendor who then sells them raw and smoked. The cost is 25 piso for 3 pieces. Once the smoked fish is purchased it is then stir fried in cooking oil and eaten with rice.

In most cultures there is the stable starch based type of food group. Here in the Philippines the dominant form of starch type food is white rice, however, there are also a number of bread based products which are popular especially among the vendors. Of these the most popular is siopao

The closest equivalent I can think of to Siopao would be a dumpling. The siopao was originally a Chinese delicacy but is now very popular in the Philippines. It is composed of cooked meat wrapped in a sort of white bread bun and the meat is flavored by a special source.

It took me a long while to try siopao because the Filipinos used to joke that it was cat meat inside. I have since cottoned onto the fact that this was a joke and now quite enjoy it on an the occasional basis. I am still not quite sure what the meat is inside but I am leaning towards pork.

As you get into some of the more provincial areas the food types and the means of selling them become more basic. In many cases for the older and more traditional Filipinos you will not even use the bicycle but instead they will balance the food on their head and sell it like a door to door sales person.

Often these foods will take the form of a delicacy but always the emphasis will be on ease of preparation and low production cost with a decent sales profit margin.

There are many other products sold by the street vendors so many in fact that it would be impossible to mention them all in this article. What I have tried to do here is present the most commonly sold products and examined their link to Philippine culture and explain why these particular items are selected by the both the vendors and the customers.

A lot of street food are products which come from the immediate surrounding environment. Generally speaking these products are cheap to grow and can be sold for a handsome markup. One example of this is corn or maize as the Filipinos call it. The corn is sold on roadside stalls and also by mobile vendors who trail it around in a hot tub. Normally the corn ears are precooked and sold to purchasers with butter and a sprinkling of salt. The corn ears cost twenty piso each.

Some other items commonly seen being sold by the vendors are pusit barbecue squid, fried squid balls, taho which is soybean curd with caramelized sugar, buko, green coconuts which are supposedly very good for a persons kidneys and ice cream served in a bread bun.

The Philippine street food is both basic and diverse as well as being a direct contributor to, and reflection of, Philippine culture. It is nearly always plentiful, cheap, and ready to be consumed with minimal preparation. For us foreigners there is literally a whole new world to be explored complete with some very nice and some not so nice, taste experiences.

Angeles City Showgirls

Part of the changing face of the Angeles bar scene is the prominence of more and more show girls. In this article I will examine the concept of show girls, both the good and bad aspects, citing specific examples along the way.

The concept of show girls acting as an individual specialized dance group separate from the bigger body of normal go-go dancers has been around for a long time however the first bar to actually make their dance troupe prominent and try to attract customers utilizing a dance group, was Jools in Makati.

With their emphasis on show girls and specialized dance troupes, Jools was singlehandedly responsible for the emergence of showgirls and professional dance troupes into the mainstream girlie bar industry. The shows came about primarily because they saw the opportunity to cater for a sizeable niche market, that of local business men and their international clients.

Secondly the shows were perceived purely as entertainment. Rather than selling sex, the bar was seen as selling entertainment.The issue of bar fines has always been contentious in Makati and the shows basically took the emphasis away from bar-fines and placed it on entertainment. Lastly the shows were professionally choreographed and offered something different from the norm. At this time the majority of bars simply offered rows of bikini clad girls standing on stage hardly moving or the old fashioned Filipino style where a solo dancer would perform one or two numbers either removing articles of clothing or at the very least gyrating her body in a sexually provocative way. When Jools came along with their emphasis on professional dance troupes they raised the level of the bar so to speak and developed a whole new facet of the girlie bar industry.

The second stage in the evolution of dance troupes particularly those composed exclusively of female members was the emergence of the “sex bomb dancers” on mainstream television. In approximately 2003 -2004 the “sex bomb dancers”, who performed on a local afternoon show “eat bulaga”, suddenly became famous and a role model for every female from age 5 to 45. The sex bombs represented a celebration and the public aggrandizement of female sexuality. This was a sort of girl power movement taking the form of a dance troupe and complimented by a hit single. The Sex Bombs represented the slightly naughty and sexually provocative aspects of femininity as such it was only a matter of time until they became role models for females across the country. With their constant exposure through a national television station and airplay of the sex bomb song, it was in some ways inevitable that they should come to define certain aspects of femininity in the Philippines. Indeed, it was not uncommon to see female kids in the slums of Manila and in the remotest provincial areas gyrating their hips to the sex bomb song and directly mimicking the sex bomb dancers. Their popularity was to some extent ground breaking and it wasn’t long until rival groups such as the Viva hot babes came into existence and between them they paved the way for the emergence of all female professional dance troupes within the girlie bar industry and even within everyday Filipino culture including in the provincial fiestas.

Over my years of working in the bars I have seen numerous dance shows and so called professional dance troupes. I have made my own observations and talked to numerous customers and as such have formed definite opinions regarding dance groups. Basically I see more disadvantages than advantages but for the purpose of this article I will simply highlight both and let the readers form their own opinion.

(Picture of Blue Nile showgirls)
Angeles City bar show girls

The Blue Nile show girls during their seventh anniversary show.

In AC bars the Blue Nile Group was the first to introduce an individual group of dancers and they were called the Blue Nile Executive Cultural Dancers. Initially this group performed cultural type dances which reflected aspects of Filipino provincial culture. In the beginning the cultural style dancing was somewhat unique and was seen as different from the show girl groups that were later to dominate the scene. This however is no longer the case and now the only difference between the cultural dancers and any other group of show girls is the name.

One major advantage of a separate group of show girls, or cultural dancers, is that they break up the monotony of just more bikini clad girls standing on stage looking bored. When they first started in AC they were something different from the norm and helped distinguish the Blue Nile Executive from its competitors.

A second advantage was how the Cultural Dancers were perceived. As in the case of its Makati predecessor Jools, local business men would take their friends and business clients up to the Exec and watch what was perceived as a politically correct show. There could be no innuendo or allegations of sexual impropriety bought against cultural dancers whose dance reflected the cultural values of Filipino society. The cultural dancers helped the owners position the Executive so as to appeal to an affluent niche market and a more up-market clientele in general.

(Picture of Blue Nile showgirls)
Angeles City bar show girls

A third advantage is that it appeals to the guys who are already committed to a relationship with a girl and are looking for someplace acceptable to take her. Basically Filipina wives and long term girlfriends do not appreciate the girlie bars where bikini clad dancers make eye contact and flirt with their husband, however a show bar where the emphasis is on entertainment via a professional dance group, is a lot more acceptable and less threatening to them.

A further advantage is that when done properly a dance group can create an energetic atmosphere in the bar. In Neros it was not uncommon for the majority of girls to gather round and cheer on the show girls especially when they had a new dance routine. The newness of the routine was not necessarily appreciated by the customers but the atmosphere created by the girls cheering on the dancers, certainly was.

For every girl there is always a limit to her bar life longevity. All girls go through what I call the “barizing” process and after a while they are either too old or jaded to be dancing in a bikini however these same girls will often make excellent show girls because the emphasis, in their mind, is on dancing and providing entertainment, as opposed to dancing so as to attract a man for sex.

One major advantage is in terms of the image the showgirls portray. The professional show girls take away the emphasis on bar fines and sex for money replacing it with an emphasis on professional entertainment. This is a particularly relevant point considering the political environment at the current time.

The saying states, competition is a wonderful thing, and when it comes to show girls this is certainly true. Now that there are several different groups of bars providing show girls and competing for the same market, the standard of the dance routines has risen considerably and a new level of professionalism has come into being.

(Picture of Neros showgirls)
Angeles City bar show girls

The Neros cultural dancers in one of their constantly changing formations

Another distinct advantage is that show girls attract the better looking girls. Generally speaking the better looking girls, or the class A girls as they are often referred to, will work in the bar as a show girl as they see this position as being above the normal dancer. These same girls will not work in the bar as a normal dancer as they see this as being beneath them.

A final advantage is that when the show girls are on stage this gives the normal dancers a chance to mingle and communicate with the customers. It allows them time to approach the customers on the ground level and talk to him rather than having to make eye contact from the stage. When communication occurs between the girls and the customers everyone wins.

Perhaps the major disadvantage of having show girls is that it creates a division between the girls who work in the bar. As already discussed it is often the show girls who see themselves as being better or more important than the normal dancer when in fact the opposite is true.

The Filipinas who work in the bar often have what I call a clannish mentality where they like to form their own little gangs and in my experience having a separate group of so called show girls very much panders to the gang mentality.

(Picture of Bad Influence Dancers)
Angeles City bar show girls

Traditionally the showgirls see themselves as being better than the normal dancers and this falsehood is reinforced by the bars that try to charge more for the show girls to go bar fine with the customer or for her ladies drink. Indeed many times I have seen customers ask the showgirls to go out with them only to be told the bar fine is significantly higher because the girl is a show girl not a normal dancer. A perfect example of this is the Dollhouse spotlight dancers. In short I think the concept of show girls is often misused by the bar owners as an excuse to charge higher prices especially in terms of the bar fine and ladies drinks.

In many cases there is an over emphasis on the showgirls and a classic example of this is the Bad Influence Dancers. They are now being promoted as a major attraction supposed to entice the customer into the soon to open Golden Nile. The Golden Nile is a rather large building which will incorporate two floors of poker machines and other gambling activities with a large show bar on the third floor. In this bar there will no doubt be numerous dancers and yet the promotional banners outside the club only feature the Bad Influence dancers. Personally I think an advertisement stating that they have over 100 beautiful dancers would be a much more powerful enticement for me to visit the bar than an advertisement for the Bad Influence dancers.

Angeles City bar show girls

The Bad Influence dance group. They are performing in Cambodia but being advertised outside the Golden Nile.

In economic terms the show girls do not make sense. Basically they cost the bar more because they draw a higher salary and yet they do less wok than anybody in the club. Take for example the Neros show girls who get paid more than the normal dancers and yet they only dance for five to seven minutes out of every hour. The normal dancers in Neros get paid less and have to do a solid 25 minutes of dancing every hour for a nine hour shift. The showgirls on the other hand only have a 6 hour shift and are on stage for a maximum of 7 minutes every hour.

One big negative for me is the fact that the so called show girls often exist at a cost to the normal line up. A classic example of this is Tropix Bar. Here the mamasans have created a showgirl group by taking the best girls out of the normal dance lineup. As a result the normal dance line up is severely depleted of good looking girls.

The lack of variety in the shows is a big problem. Most often they will have a bakla dance instructor and the dance moves are just so obviously choreographed by a male trying to look feminine. When the real females copy these moves it tends to look ridiculous. What’s more most of the baklas have very similar dance moves so it looks like the different groups in different bars have all been choreographed by the same dance instructor. Here I must give credit to the Bad Influence at least their show is original and different from the show routines that exist in other bars.

The lack of variety is also a problem for the all female professional dance groups such as the Bad Influence. The Bad Influence originally came from Makati the spawning ground of professional showgirls and even though they have been working in the Blue Nile Group for over one year, I am yet to see a new dance incorporated into their routine. They are doing exactly the same dance numbers as when they first started.

Angeles City bar show girls

Far from dying the Bad Influence group is in fact expanding.

One very negative aspect for me regarding the showgirls is their lack of friendliness and interaction with the customers. Too often show girls develop an attitude that they are better than the normal dancers and this attitude is passed on to the customer in the form of aloofness. It is almost like they adopt a different perspective and see themselves as above going bar fine. In their minds they are now professional entertainers as opposed to normal dancers that have to go bar fine to make enough money. Indeed this attitude is reinforced by the bars who pay the show girls substantially more than their normal dancers. To often I have found the show girls attitude is one of aloofness and superiority. They think they are better than their fellow dancers and it is rare for them to smile at customers make eye contact with customers let alone interact with them in a friendly way. Lastly and perhaps most importantly these shows often become almost A sexual as the emphasis is placed on so called professional dance moves rather than flaunting female sexuality.

(Picture of Atlantis showgirls)
Angeles City bar show girls

From the bar operators perspective shows are not actually profitable because it is a well established fact that whilst the show is on the customers do not spend as much. Rather than drinking themselves or buying ladies drinks the customers tend to simply watch the show and not spend any money. Having said this Cambodia bar is persisting with the Bad Influence dancers and by all accounts they are the top money earners within the bar. So much so that management have now started a second Bad Influence group composed of local Angeles girls.

Personally I cannot see how groups such as the Bad Influence make money but obviously there must be an angle here that eludes me because if they were not a profitable option they would no longer be in existance. At the end of the day they like everyone else working in the bar are part of a business and as such are there to create money for that business.

For the customer who wishes to date a lady from the bar the show girls represent a major inconvenience. In most cases their bar fines are more expensive and even then the girl cannot leave until after a certain time as she is part of the show group. For example the Neros show girls are encouraged to wait until after midnight before they can leave with a customer. To me this is clearly a case of placing an emphasis on entertainment at the cost of customer satisfaction.

Because the show girl position is seen as being a better position than a normal dancer it is valued and a much sought after position amongst the girls. Because it is valued, so too is everything that goes with the position, including the dance moves. These girls literally see their position as a source of pride and whenever they get the chance they will revert to the dance moves they have learnt. In the local disco Skytrax it is not uncommon to see groups of show girls actually dancing to a particular song utilizing their dance moves incorporated in their show. The same scenario can be seen when a customer takes a show girl bar hopping, many times the girl will be in another bar and when she hears a song which is incorporated in her show she will start doing the exact same dance moves as she would when performing a show. Personally I find this slightly annoying and inconsiderate.

(Picture of Atlantis showgirls)Angeles City bar show girls

The Atlantis showgirls.

Overall it has been my experience that people like to see a large volume of girls on stage and that a large quantity of girls generates a much more positive, festive and fun atmosphere. The point here is that the show groups by definition are composed of fewer girls which will in turn influence the atmosphere in the bar.

There are some advantages to having showgirls and professional dance troupes however there are also many disadvantages. As the Angeles bar scene evolves I can see a much greater emphasis on show girls and professional dance group type of entertainment. Could this be the future direction of Angeles bars, are we looking at a future scenario where the bars are strictly entertainment like in Vegas? I guess only time will tell but I certainly hope this is not the case.