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.