The Trip Overview is here
Details for the send off are here
After a few hours of sleep and a delicious breakfast, we loaded the vans for Angeles City where we would spend the next three nights. (Humorous side note: We stopped for a break on the drive to AC. Most of us made our first purchase in the country…at Starbucks. We’ve been in the country less than 24 hrs and are flocking to the familiar.) Our “home base” would be in Manila at the OMF House. The Wipe Ever Tear safe houses are also located in Manila. And there is plenty of trafficking and prostitution that happens there. But in Angeles City, there is a place called “Walking Street”. During the day it is unremarkable. It is quiet and nondescript. There’s not much to draw the eye.
But at night, this mundane 1.5 mile bit of road transforms into the “Third World Vegas strip”. Neon signs light up the sky advertising clubs that line both sides. Vendors selling everything from flip flops to dresses flood the corners and alleys. Guys with trays hawking cigarettes and laser pointers and glow sticks wander every few feet jostling for attention of potential customers. And approximately 15,000 girls dress for glitz and glamour with high heels and short skirts (or less)…to be sold for the night. And those girls were the entire reason for our trip.
We arrived in Angeles, checked into our hotel (just down the road from Walking Street) and went to exchange money before getting lunch. And this is when we got our first taste of what we were getting into. It was the middle of the day but the signs were still there if you were paying attention. Actual signs reading “Wanted: Lesbian waitresses” and “Wanted: Mamasan with girls…”
Two long term missionaries for Wipe Every Tear had been in the area for a few weeks, preparing the way for the Girls Getaway. They had spent their nights on Walking Street, meeting girls, forming relationships, inviting them. They met us at the mall for lunch (at Pizza Hut no less) with three “bar girls” that were planning to go on the Getaway with us. It was awkward, all these American girls fresh to the country and bubbling with energy surrounding these three quiet Filipinos who, I’m sure, didn’t quite know what to think of us. I wondered how overwhelming it must be for them and hung back, letting others love on them. I was still surprisingly unemotional. As we went out in groups to explore the area after lunch, I felt like I was walking in a bubble, insulated from everything. My group was walking down the street, getting a feel for the area & a Filipino guy strolled over casually and tried to hold one of my teammates hand. She jerked away and moved to the other side of the sidewalk. I watched him start to move up towards another teammate – a teammate that was carrying a camera and unaware of what had just happened behind her. I didn’t really think, I just reacted. I immediately sped up to insert myself between the two of them, looked directly at him and simply said “No.” He quickly left. But even during that incident- which should have at least mildly unnerving – even then I was completely unemotional.
But later. Later I watched as a white guy got out of a tryke* and walked off leaving his female Filipino “companion” to pay the driver and scurry after him. She did not run, she did not walk quickly, she scurried with her shoulders hunched and her head down. She scurried like a abused puppy that is still trying to please her master. She scurried and he never once glanced back at her or slowed to wait for her. That scene triggered my first emotion – a flash of white hot fury. At that moment I saw stars from the intensity of the anger. The couple was out of my sight quickly but for the rest of our time in Angeles, any time I saw a non-Filipino male, my stomach immediately clenched.
Tomorrow: the evening of the 28th – aka our first night in the bars.
*Trykes are a form of public transportation. They are motorcycles with a side cars that fit a various number of people depending on whether those people are Filipino or American and how comfortable they are with a lack of personal space.