Walking Street is a known example of a red light district in Angeles City, Pampanga, if not the rest of the country. It was reputedly established for the former U.S. Navy base in Clarkfield, and is in close in proximity to the Clark Air Base. 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 Fields Avenue, and commuters often pass by the area on their way to work, and vice versa.
Red District Pampanga Restaurants
Although an unlikely tourism destination, Fields Avenue is a common stopover for locals and tourists who would like to explore 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 visit many restaurants in the vicinity.
The Dark Side of Angeles City, Red Light District
There is a grim micro-economy that exists along Fields Avenue and one that is based on the exploitation of young girls and 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 finish school are paid below minimum wage. They are likely to enter servitude, or do blue collar jobs. For most of the sex workers at the night clubs in Fields Avenue, 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 restaurant 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.
Is Walking Street Really All that Bad?
Can you enjoy Walking Street as a tourist, even if you’re just an average tourist?
We lived in Angeles City for about six months back in 2014, and since there were not a lot of places to hang out there at the time, we went to Fields Avenue from time to time on weekends. That was where we met with my husband’s coworkers for a drink, play billiards or chat with locals and expats. Honestly, the food and drinks were great (although expect to pay touristy prices there), and many fellow locals go there to shop for cheap clothes, trinkets and whatnot. There’s also a grocery store in the area selling foreign food and snacks. There’s also a PAGCOR casino nearby where we’ve played a game or two.
During the Clark Balloon Festival, we also stayed at a hotel near Walking Street and it was a decent hotel. It wasn’t fancy but it had clean beds, a working air conditioner and the price was a deal as well. We were no stranger to the hotels near Fields Avenue and there were actually good hotels at the far end of Fields Avenue close to the market where we stayed for our previous work/business trip. The last time I checked there were newer hotels and Airbnbs in Angeles City, so the area is slowly transforming.
With that said, it all depends on your perspective. Of course, not everyone will be pleased with what they’ll see, as with any destination. But for me, Fields Avenue is a place where you can get a glimpse of local life in Angeles City.
If you’ve been to Fields Avenue, let us know about your experience in the comment section.
Photographs by Sandy Miguel.