How to not be a sex tourist but feel like one.

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Well. It is I Vinny, and I'm back in Manly Australia once again. Which means I survived the Philippines with its sex tourism, murder, election issues and military action. And I LOVED it. Great place, great people, crap food. Well crap may be unfair. Bland and flavourless maybe be a better description certainly not for the foodies out there. Which came as a surprise. A South East Asian country that was ruled by Spain for 400 plus years sounds like a true mouth watering combination.

But not to get ahead of myself.

The two weeks prior to leaving to the Philippines I spent back in Manly. Tom and I went our separate ways in Brisbane, he, also having only two weeks left in the country, headed with Lola to some more Northerly climes I had previously seen, so to save money I returned to Sydney to try and earn a quick buck. Little did I know then but it was the last time I would see that beautiful yellow bodywork........That's Lola not Tom by the way.

I spent a few days trawling round Sydney's hostels putting up signs regarding friend Roger's work agency. Adam the American arrived for some fun before his departure back Stateside. The rains came in a big way. Five days straight of heavy storms and flash flooding. Standing at a main junction in just shorts and my rain jacket, push cars out of the knee deep water that had stalled was a very bizarre. Then Tom returned for his last few days minus our lady Lola... a sad time... but with a fist full of dollar having passed her on to some Israeli chaps.... a happy time..

The day came, Tom had gone, I said goodbye to the American and headed of to the airport. Its been a long time since my last long hall flight and things had changed. There is your own TV screen, on demand films and plenty of new security measures. I was excited. I found some of this out when the spiky check-in lady told me to take the toothpaste and deodorant out of my hand luggage, when I asked why she shot back at me 'Its just the same as in Europe'. I explained politely that I haven't be on a plane in a long time she asked a few curious questions and the ice melted. I asked her if I had my own screen. She cracked into a big smile, looked at me like a cheeky toddler and asked if I would like extra leg room.

The flight was fairly standard to KL with a quick stop in Brisbane, where we all had to leave the plane and go back through security. I got pulled to one side given an 'explosive' check. Also a new one on me, my clothes were swabbed in certain areas then ran through a machine which, I assume, told them I wasn't in danger of combusting. 5 hours at KL then a 3 hour jaunt to Cebu City.

Cebu, Philippines second city, is gateway to the Visayas, Mindanao and the South. For me it was a stopping point before heading to Palawan. The town itself is large and sprawling backed with mountains, With a chaotic dirty downtown and a chaotic less dirty uptown. Pollution was high and not helped by the 35 degree humid conditions.

I was questioned by the cagey cabbie on my way into the city. 'so, you here to find a women?'. After I replied 'no, I'm here to see the country' he warmed to me and we ended up talking about boxing. Namely Manny 'Pac man' Pacquiao the national sporting hero. Now the question didn't come as a surprise. I was already aware that the Philippines has an appallingly large sex trade, though illegal. What I hadn't considered, as the day progressed and the question was asked repeatedly, was me fitting the bill as a sex tourist. A solo travelling white male over 25. Everything reminded me of this. From the receptionist at the hostel informing me that my single room would be comfortable for two or eyes watching from outside bars or eateries waiting for me to finish my meal or beverage to be propositioned. It quite a disconcerting thing trying to eat your lunch under scrutiny knowing sex will be offered as dessert!.

'Do you have the time?' 'What country are you?' or the more direct 'Hey Joe' were how the advances would commence with persistence until you gave a definitive, No. I took to asking 'How old do you think I am?' As far as I was concerned I was 20 years younger than the numerous white predators strolling around. 'Erm, 35 or 40?!!' I took to stopping asking 'How old do you think I am.'

I like to think of myself as a friendly person. I like to smile, mind my Ps and Qs, pass pleasantries and take time before I passing judgment. So, I decided to sit back and not have an instant loathing for all the men who were blatantly there for a woman or women plural. I tried to romanticize in my head that many of these frequently moustachioed men with local in tow tottering along in 10 inch heels were in love and would live happily together. When passing these fellows in the street I would try to catch an eye and nod or a least share a smile. Only once did I receive anything that could even pass as an acknowledgement. Why would this be? I questioned. Did they not notice me? Do they feel guilty about what they are doing and eye contact would be admissions of there own failings? Or are just flawed people who's level I will happily, hopefully, defiantly never reach or want to comprehend.

Important: During my 3 weeks and throughout my life I have met many examples of happy unions between 'western' and 'Asian' cultures . I hope that doesn't need to be said. These men though, these men are different.

Enough of these meanderings and observation. Cebu was great. Three days I spent immersing myself and acclimatizing. Sweating, eating, drinking and seeing the sights. Karaoke is the order of the day. Its everywhere. In the shops, in the bars and clubs, on the parks and at home. On one of my strolls out. I passed a back street bar. Twenty surly Pilipino face stared out at me. This may have been slightly unnerving if it wasn't that one of them was singing Britney's 'Baby one more time' over the PA system. The Basilica Del Santo Nido, home to Magellan's cross and Fuerza Del San Pedro were beautiful reminders of the countries Spanish past and strong Catholicism.

3 days was more than enough however and I boarded the plane excited to be moving on to the island that had caught my eye the most. Palawan, home of the........... well you'll have to go onto the next entry.
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granial on

reply to foolsgold entry
hi,i am a kiwi,i have been to the philippines on 4 occasions,never once have i indulged in sex while visiting here.i think your judgement on the men that u see in the malls and on the streets is very harsh.many of us come here because we like the filipino people and the friendliness,were not all interested in exploiting the locals.i do agree with u about the food and the cleanliness,also i would like to see a rating system introduced for the taxis,so that the drivers that invest in decent ,clean vehicles can charge more and the dirty taxis can charge standard fee son is married to a filipina,i am in relationship with 1 and have been for the last 3 years,perhaps next time u visit the philippines,if u smile a bit more u yourself, may find the foreigeners such as yourself respond with a smile.good luck in your travels.dont be so judgemental on your fellow men

granial on

i found out that many foreigns think food in the philippine is crap,but at least their is the FRENCH BAKER IN SM CEBU who provide good basic food suitable to foreign tastes.i eat there most days when in cebu and u will see many foreigners ,but u must make allowances when traveling in 3rd world countries,the people here are great so patient and kind.

socialbutterfly on

Vinny's Cebu trip
Hi. I did not finish reading through your blog when I saw ur comment on the 'blandness' of Filipino cuisine. I beg to disagree. It really is an interesting blend --- Spanish, American, Japanese, Chinese, and more recently, we have been 'invaded' by Indians, Koreans, and others. So on top of our already spicy and tasty cuisine, we have influences coming from various parts of the globe. Next time you visit Cebu, try Casa Verde. And if I'm not mistaken, there's also a Colasa's there. I really find your comment disagreeable, I'm sorry. You're not giving justice to Filipino cuisine and taste. Go around some more, visit the side streets, do not content your self with seeking refuge in malls and similar places. You have already gone on a trip. Make it an adventure. =)

Cebuano on

Tourist has different reasons in going to Cebu. SOme of them went to cebu to find cebu real estate for investment.

Mom on

I am sad that your experience in Cebu was such that you have such a low opinion of us. How much have you seen of Cebu? Food? Have you tried any of the authentic Filipino restaurants? Presently, just in the two major malls, Ayala and SM you will find a lot of choices, and the widest array of local and international cuisines. Someone mentioned Casa Verde, and my American husband eat there almost everyday bec they are able to satisfy him with his perfect medium (local beef) steak, with mashed potato, veggies, shrimps for $6.00. In Ayala alone, there are a lot of choices Cafe Laguna, Hukad, Jerry's Grill among many other Filipino restaurants. choices on international cuisine is also abundant - there is CYMA, Gustavian, too many to mention. The terraces have three floors of restaurants and choices are so varied. Your description of the streets you walked on seemed like you got an accommodation at the cheap part of town. You also get what you pay for. There are those foreigners that took offense with your judgment but i think while what you described is true to an extent, it is also a generalization. Come to think of it, if no one look for or patronize paid sex, would they be there? And it is not only in the Philippines. It is happening in every country, or can anyone claim with 100% certainty there is a country that is an exception? Some are just so subtle about it. I am not justifying or saying it is ok for us. I just think that someone will have an impression or judgment of a place or people with just a short or few experience/s. You said you survived your visit to our country - with its sex tourism, murder, election issues & military action. Were you in the middle of it? Did you experience or was in a place where murder was happening for you to survive it? Not to say that in one part of the 7,100 islands it may be existing, but to picture the whole country as that seems too much. Media come out with SENSATIONAL news. With your short visit, you reached a conclusion it is true. oh well.

ken cebu resort on

I admire your honest opinion and it shows that poverty has a face.... what can you do about it ? whether you are a FILIPINO or tourist.... help save the poor and deprived..

kamran on

i reached boracay today after spending a week in cebu. where i come from (dubai) non on the philippines city can get closer to the variety of cousine offered there, the cleanliness, the infrastructure, rule of law etc. etc. but come on, if you visited philippines for the above reasons then it is your mistake. most tourist visit this country for beautiful beaches, wounders of nature, lovely people and all that a very low price. we come here to seek refuge from all that modern stuff that is taking away the calmness of life from us.
what you are looking for is not here, when you made a mistake do not blame anyone else.
and by the way, food, after my mom, no one can cook better that my wife, this is how happy i am. but this does not give me right to claim that indians stink because that eat food full of curry that smells from their sweat.
please do not feel offended by this as i assume you are an australian with indian name.

foolsgold on

Please, please, please, for the love of all that is good and sweet in the world, please stop e-mailing me about this.

I didn't write it, I wasn't there, I've never been to the Philippines.

For the 62nd time, it was written by my travelling companion Vinny who went on a holiday.

Any comments can be made directly to him, at I am sure he will get as much pleasure out of replying to them as I have ignoring them.

And as an afterthought, not directed at the comments here but some of the more colourful e-mails that I receive... well, get fu*cked, basically.

PilipinoAko on

Filipino food is not a "crap", i wonder where you got your food? Is that really a "Filipino food"? Vinny, the next time you visit the Philippines go check-out if the food that they will serve you is truly a Filipino food.

Try to ask for "classic adobo", "sinigang na hipon/bangus", "sisig", calderetang kambing, "inasal na manok" then get your outback steak and compare!

I live here on

Original poster

Actually your observations are 100% correct, I have lived here for a few years and can't wait to leave, when I can afford to.

You only scratched the surface - it get's worse.

Isabella on

This guy is absolutely an idiot Australian! I have lived in Australia and people are courteous and refined there, maybe this author is an exception. Remember Philippines got thrice of your population so people comes in different classes too. Obviously you are in the low class who are also suited to the lowclass and might have been in touch with low class people like you.

You are so obnoxious, Vinny!

Arseve on

I am from Cebu and I must admit most of the things said in this blog are TRUE. But there is no place like home. As a tourist one must be prepared to accept what might come their way once they are on a foreign land. One must have read about Cebu before coming so most of these experiences are just confirmations. I am sure that if there are tourists also in your city they would have good as well as not so good things to say relative to their experiences.

So tourists, enjoy your stay and blend in if you can. You are in Asia, totally different from where you came from if you are not ethnic Asian.

Qheiyla on

sorry for what you've experienced. If you think that the Filipino cuisine is a crap that is because you are a foreign and not used to the food. The same for Filipinos that goes around the world or OFW's, but somehow FIlipino people learns how to appreciate and get used to the food of the country they're in. Have you tried LECHON DE CEBU? If not then you're a gonner. You should 've atleast going south or up north cebu go to beaches or the mountain side of cebu, it's mostly where i can find peace of mind. however, Filipinos are more likely to be hired for work aroung the world because of their passion and devotion for a certain job. have you also been to Ayala Malls? Casa Verde in Jones? Moon Cafe? Bob Cat? Jollibee? We, Filipinos, have already adjusted to your food and other country's food, although there are some cuisine that we don't like (eg. Kimchi) we somehow got used to the food and have learned to live it, love it, and embrace it.

bogart on

well said vinny.. it's your opinion. i'm from cebu and have travelled around the globe. our food is indeed crap, but that makes us misses home evrytime were away. we value more on family more than anyone in this planet. we welcomes guest and take care of them. Even for guys like you who only talks as if you know everything in the Philippines. Try going to other places, such as pakistan, libya, nigeria.. and continue with your intelligent opinions.. good luck

Dennis M on

Guys if you hate the Cebu so much why not leave? No one is forcing you to live there! All countries have their problems. Why not focus on the positive stuff rather than dwell on the negative things.

Barlow on

Dennis? You a newbie thats just landed .. Please update us in say 6 months or something when youve done some solid yards ...

DennisM on

6 months! I have lived in Cebu for more than a year when I opened a business there and lived in Manila for almost 17 years. I'm based in Australia. I have seen the worst and best things of both countries. All I'm saying is that no matter where you are there are positives and negatives. If you focus on just the negatives it will blur your perspective in life. When I was in cebu I met a lot of fellow Australians sayin " if I have the money I will buy a ticket home and leave this dump!" well all I can say to them was "what kind of st---p c--t goes to a city with no means of going back home?' maybe a bit harsh but makes you wonder what kind of mentality this guys have.

DennisM on

My last comment was directed at you : I LIVE HERE

asitejust4u on

Ok Dennis..
Pity locals cant see what BEAUTY they have in beaches, the mountains. What resources they have in sunlight and gorgeous weather and fresh water and abundance of tropical fruits and vegetables. The country has a SIGNIFICANTLY better community structure, spirit and environment than anything in the west has to offer. Thats why i choose to live here.

I guess you need to see the negatives to make them positive. I would love to join forces and provide more education/programs about the rubbish on the beaches, burning rubbish next to the ocean and dynamite fishing. Its a pity to be swimming around ladies sanitry pads, plastic bags and the like on beaches and seeing people just carelessness throwing rubbish onto the beach and into the ocean.

Yes, and your example. Theres some grubs that come here ... i see it .. they dont even say boo to the guys that open the doors and the waiters. Thats what i said to a friend. Imagine you dont have people to greet you at the store, where someone doesnt say peekaboo in the shop when you are being served... make the most of it... say HI back and be nice :)

DennisM on

Hi asitejust4u!

Thanks for your insight . I guess you are right, we need to see the negatives and be aware that they exist and try to make them possitives. You are also right about the locals not protecting and not taking care of their environtment enough. It's a pity. But the problem is deeply rooted the mindset of the people, the lack of guidance and leadership form their Governement and their Church.

The Philippines had been and are still being "raped" by corrupt officials with no interest in change because they know that change for the better will affect their wallets and that goes for the Churches as well.
It is well percieved in the West that the Philippines is a very poor country, but they dont't know the truth. The Philippines is a rich country. They have a lot of natural resources, gold & minerals and some oil and of course the millions of Filipino workers abroad sending billions of dollars to the Philippines each year. But then again those resources are just being stolen by the people that are supposed to be running the country.

Environmental care comes with economic status. If a society is pre-dominantly poor then the casualty will be the environment.

DennisM on

With regards to food in the Philippines, we need to remember that the restaurants there adapt their menu for majority of the market which are the locals.Only a small number or restaurants do cater for westerners and are mostly in financial difficulty.
Just because Filipino foods are presented and prepared differently doesn't make them crap, it only means you are not used to it.
If someone only likes to eat healthy stuff then they should eat raw fish and vegies all the time. Chinese cuisine which is so popular here in Australia are not so healthy as well but people do enjoy eating it, so as the deep fried chckens from KFC! Its all about growing up with them and getting used to them.
Kimchi which may be a shock to most people is a staple in Korea, it may be pungent but that does'nt make it crap. Its all about culture.
I guess If someone likes his bangers & mash exactly the way he want's it then he should'nt leave his country.

Calignee on

I have been to Cebu 8 times and i feel sorry for you because you never discovered the real Cebu, sure the food my be a lot different to what you have tried before , but if you explore real Cebuano eateries you will discover real gems of local tasty foods
especially fish and vegetable dishes. I have visited many parts of Cebu and circumnavigated it by car and stayed at many nice resorts and also some very fine hotels with rock bottom prices the Diplomat in ramos street comes to mind with superior rooms for 1300 pesos for 2 people or about $30 aus for a good 3 and a half star hotel within walking distance of uptown Cebu City.
The people of Cebu are the friendliest people you are ever likely to meet, i have never been threatened or robbed and have always tried to ride in jeepneys and trycycles because its what locals do, the locals always chat to me in the jeepneys even the lovely women, and the sex trade is considerably more low key than in Kings cross in sydney. I walk around freely at night and in the daytime even in areas like Alaska Mambaling which is a squatter area and all the people say hello and ask where i am from, i am seeing a mature philippino woman who is my girlfriend and i really like the climate and the prices are so cheap its riciculous and i try to tip generously any and all who give excellent service , which is most people
The service in the philippines is outstanding and extremely curteous even to philippinos and is the4 best i have encountered anywhere in the world. I hope other people will take your comments with a kilo of salt and go and see Cebu for them selves and enjoy exploring and eating and drinking on a shoestring budget . Cebu is a wonderful place to visit and i am going to spend most of my time there when i retire

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