Like in any other country, red light districts are quite commonplace in the Philippines that no one would probably bat an eyelash while passing by a girly bar. Walking Street is a known example of a red light district in Angeles, Pampanga that was reputedly established for the former U.S. Navy base in Clarkfield. Its closest counterpart in Manila is Malate’s Del Pilar street.
Also known as Fields Avenue, Walking Street is notorious for its gaudy magenta-lit bars and sex dens, as some documentaries have explored in the past. Many communities live around Walking Street, and commuters often pass by the area on their way to work, and vice versa.
Although an unlikely tourism destination, Fields is a common stopover for locals and tourists who would like to sample international cuisine in the area. Apart from the tropical-themed sports bars that are quite common in the vicinity, you will come across restaurants that serve Persian, Korean, Japanese and Asian cuisine there. The area is quiet during the day, and it’s safe to wander about. Foreign families can be seen dining at the local restaurants.
There is a grim micro-economy that exists along Walking Street and one that is based on the exploitation of women as a form of entertainment. Some people argue, however, that these women had a choice, although the reality remains that many of them were forced to enter the trade due to extreme poverty.
Work and opportunities are limited in the rural areas of the Philippines, and more often than not, those who didn’t have an education are paid below minimum wage. They are likely to enter servitude, or do blue collar jobs. For most of the sex workers at Walking Street, it is also the opportunity to meet a foreigner, an enabler if you will, who can give them a better life, that draws them to the place. Sex workers or not, the people who have found employment in the area see it as a stepping stone to land a job they aspire for in the future, or to simply be able to put food on the table.
Photographs by Sandy Miguel.
BFOWB is against the exploitation of women in whatever form. Email your thoughts to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.