I debated for sometime as to whether or not to include a chapter pointing out the negatives (more like things to be aware of) of being in the Philippines and in particular AC, but in the end I decided, for good or for bad, it was part of our evolution into a mongerer and should at least be touched on in some small way. Consider it more of a list than a narrative because taken as a whole it could seem to be a bit overwhelming. The list is not in any particular order of importance.
1. Time Consuming Travel. For most of us who live far away, the trip to the Philippines can take the better part of a day (and sometimes more than a day). You may experience long layovers, cramped seating, delayed flights, missed connections, constant disturbances from fellow passengers, mechanical difficulties, weather could play a key factor, bad food, little sleep, insufficient access to the restroom facilities, unforeseen expenses and lest we forget (especially in todays geo-political climate) the possibility of terrorist activities. Then there is the fact that many of us will be crossing the International Dateline. Not that it will have any apparent physical effect on you, but subconsciously we all feel as though we have been “cheated” out of a day of our precious time away, not to worry, on the way back home you will get that day back. If only the reverse were true. I do so envy those that live only a few short hours away.
2. The Opposite Sex??? During your time in AC (and other cities I’m sure) you will no doubt come across what are locally referred to as “baklas”, “ladyboys”, “katoeys” (mostly that is a Thai term). These are men, who for there own reasons have decided they should be women. You may recognize them instantly, as some are just insanely ugly and foolish looking, but you may also be fooled (it DOES happen). It seems that asian men have the ability to look extremely convincing as a female. Usually it is the voice that gives them away. They are a devious bunch to be avoided for sure. They prey on the unsuspecting tourist. Luring, mostly drunken, men to the ever present dark nooks and crannys of a nearby alley with the promise of some oral love all the while “friends” are discretely hidden near at hand for possible ambushes AKA a mugging (or, God forbid, something worse). Although in recent years their presence becomes less and less noticeable, they are there somewhere, lying in wait. Stay on your toes.
3. Freelancers. We touched on this earlier, but I will go into more detail here. These are girls, who for whatever reason do not work in the bars, walk the streets looking for a “john” to have a brief sexual encounter with, normally at a cost that is way less than what the bars usually get for a barfine, maybe P300 to P500 is the going price for a streetwalker. It is still possible to find one who is a diamond in the rough, but why take the chance. They have no mandatory hygene testing, so be aware of that. There has been an increasing amount of scams perpetrated by these women. Some will later claim rape or even worse, stating to the authorities they are minors and that you have lured them to your hotel for the purpose of raping them. When this happens (and pray it never does to you) there will almost always be the proverbial “hand out” of your hard earned cash in order to avoid prosecution, after which the police and the girl will split the proceeds. It is best not to engage any one on the street in a conversation, especially if you do not know them, as the outcome could be exactly what you are trying to avoid.
4. Getting Sick. I am not a doctor or scientist, but it is my opinion that age plays a part in this. It seems the older we get, the more susceptible we become to the viruses over here. In my early years visiting here I would never get sick (except for the one time I drank the water and was grateful I ONLY got the shits), but in later years (closer to mid life) I would always pick up some sort of bug on every trip. Pre dosing yourself with some (doctor prescribed) anit biotics and a regimine of vitamins will certainly help keep your immune system up to strength. Also eating regularly and continuing the vitamins while you are here will be most beneficial. Buy a package of BIO-FLU, you can get it almost anywhere in AC, it is truly a wonder drug (in my experiences). You do not want to be laid up in your hotel room, retching your gutts out and shitting yourself for 7 days and 7 nights, when your supposed to be having the time of your life.
5. Beating up your Body. It is so easy to get caught up in the fervor of a barhop to the point we lose control. You will be drinking and drinking and drinking, add the presence of half naked women all trying to get into your pants and you see how easy it is. You will be punishing your body (and your liver) to the extreme limits of tolerance. Now multiply that by about 14 days (the average stay) and think about what you are doing to yourself. Set aside some time to recuperate, one day here, one day there. Stay home and go swimming, go shopping and see the sites, watch TV, invite a girl to stay with you, but lay off the boozing even for just 1 or 2 days. Your body will thank you in the end.
6. The Girls and Moneybacks. Ok, lets not kid ourselves, there will be times when you don’t get what you expected from a barfine. Perhaps you take a girl home and she fails to live up to the expectations. Perhaps she gets an “emergency” phone call right in the middle of the “deed”. Perhaps she may even just run for the hills while your taking a shower. These things happen, but not very often, and sometimes they are legitimate reasons for the early departure. After all, noone among us is a mind reader, so who knows what they are thinking. There are some simple precautions we can take as “paying customers”. A. Talk to a mamasan before you leave the bar and specify to her (yes be very specific) what you are expecting, so the girls can agree or not to your requests, in front of a witness. B. Sometimes the girls will “bolt” when you are out of sight because they guy is an asshole, lets face it, chances are your drunk and not in full possession of your faculties and have somehow lost the charm you exuded earlier in the evening. Try and sober up a bit before you go home with her. C. In a nice way, ask her if she will turn off her cell phone while she is with you for the night, 9 times out of 10 they won’t belabor the point. If all else fails, return, with the girl if possible, to the bar and state your case to the management. In almost every case, you will get a fare shake from the manager. They didn’t open a bar to cheat people, on the other hand, they didn’t open a bar to be cheated, so make sure your case is valid. “She ran away when my 9 friends showed up to join the fun” is NOT a reasonable excuse to get your money back.
7. Do Not Fall in Love. Unless your looking for a wife or long time relationship with the girls, don’t become caught up in their charms. Anyone who has ever been there can tell you it is so easy to lose yourself to these girls. Normally what happens is you fall for a girl, go back home and end up spending all waking moments glued to your computer waiting for her to get online (usually at an internet café) where at some point she will ask for money (they have literally thousands of reasons) to which you will become a Gold Card member of Western Union in no time. It’s ok to stay in touch with the many friends you have made on your visits, especially if your going to return, just don’t fall into the trap of being “involved” with any one girl. It’s a headache (heartache possibly) you can live without, trust me, they will survive with out you, they always do.
8. Keep Tabs on your Tabs. Nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes. On the odd and rare occasion you will even be cheated on your bar bills. Keep your cups (they use little wooden cups to put your bar bills in) in front of you and make sure no one touches them except the waitress. Occasionally do a quick talley to be sure everything is kosher, and keep it in mind when it comes time to pay your bill. Politely point out any discrepancies to the waitress and your bill will be adjusted accordingly provided you are not the one who can’t add.
These are just a few of the pitfalls that could occur, that’s not to say they will, just be on you’re toes and everything should be fine. When traveling abroad, especially to a third world country, use your good common sense. Keep in mind that the rules that apply where you live will not always apply somewhere else. Keep an open mind as to the customs of foreign lands, and try to adjust your tolerance. A good example would be the “baklas” we talked about earlier; in the Philippines it is sometimes considered good luck to have one in the family. Though they should be avoided, there is no reason to chase them in the night with torches and pitch forks then burn them at the stake upon capturing one.
There is no reason to return home from your trip of a lifetime only remembering the negative things that happened. Learn from them so your next visit will be a little more pleasant. Talk about them fondly and perceive the humor of the situation rather than be disgusted and dissuaded by them. There is no such place as Nirvana, Eden, Xanadu or whatever you think is the “perfect” getaway, so don’t look for it, but Angeles City, in my opinion, is as close as you will come to finding it.