My mom's baby brother lives part time in Miami and part time in Angeles City. Not Los Angeles, but Angeles City, legendary prostitution capital of the Philippines, located a few hours north of Manila. Google 'Angeles City.' I dare you. His wife, my aunt, grew up in the Philippines and still has a lot of family there. Some highlights from my recent visit to Angeles City include:
Hanging out with my aunt's family, who were extremely warm and welcoming
Spending time with my uncle
Relaxing AND frolicking around the city
Angeles City is the home to Clark Air Base, Mount Pinatubo, and was also the last stop of the WWII Bataan death march that left around 5,000 Filipinos and 500 Americans dead. An interesting place to say the least. Being the history nerd I am, I was super excited for my uncle to take me on a tour of the remnants of Clark Air Base.
Old chopper left behind at Clark Air Base is now a playgound
Visiting Clark Veterans Memorial
Scenes at the Baatan Memorial for the death march
When I visited recently, I couldn't help but feel that I was back in Latin America. The crazy electric lines, dirt-covered children running around barefoot, music coming at you from all angles. The Philippines in general are just so much more raw than Hong Kong, which is sterile in comparison.
The downtown district in Angeles City
Some fun events we stumbled upon around town-
Public aerobics classes, dog competition, MMA fights in the street
The local food is SO GOOD
Pork Adobo all day every day please
My aunt is a local so I got to stay on her family's property and hang out at their sari-sari, or convenience store. We lounged around their kubo, drank a shit ton of Red Horse, checked out the local mall, toured some WWII sites, and rode around on my uncle's scooter. My uncle actually hired indigenous people to build a bahay kubo, or nipa stilt hut, in the traditional way using all locally sourced building materials. It's quite beautiful, and he is also building an apartment complex next door with 6 single apartments that he plans on renting out.
The family dog at their sari-sari
My uncle at the construction site of his apartment building
The inside of their bahay kubo-
a little piece of paradise smack in the middle of the city
I thought very carefully about how to approach addressing Angeles City's unique situation. It has a reputation in Asia, even when compared to Bangkok, for being a grimy den of young prostitutes and sleazy old male customers. And it fulfilled every preconception I had. Prostitution is completely out in the open there, as girls walk down the street holding hands with their clients and pretending it's a normal date (the girlfriend experience at its finest). It's hard for me to wrap my head around it. These men are ok with perpetuating a system in which the only chance for a young girl to make something of herself economically is selling her body. The market for young attractive Filipinas is degrading and quite frankly, repugnant.
It was really difficult for my uncle and I to find a bar without bikini clad teenagers where we could grab a beer and catch up. On my flight home, I heard a group of young British guys laughing about how their dicks were gonna fall off if they ever returned, and I couldn't help but wonder how many of them had girlfriends back in Hong Kong. The strangest part of it was how open the whole thing was. Everyone there was there for the same reason, customers and workers alike, and there were no hushed alleyways, no judgments, just acceptance of that way of life as a reality for that community.
Angeles City is a fascinating place by day, but the blatant exploitation of women is going to really make me think twice about visiting my family there in the future. The red light district seemed to center around Fields Avenue, so if you can avoid that one little strip, the rest of the city does actually have some cool cultural sites to check out. It's an extremely cheap direct flight from Hong Kong, so it made the perfect weekend getaway for me, especially since I had a place to stay with family there.
This is my uncle's 'Angry Bee' scooter
Trying not to scream in the sidecar of the 'Angry Bee'