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America's two mighty bases in the Phillipines, Clark Field and the sprawling naval base at Subic Bay, are surrounded by bars and brothels. For half a century now the raging hormones of countless thousands of young American military men have been quenched by prodigious quantities of alcohol and sex-for-hire. The U. Armitage, among other U. These resentful sentiments sound awfully much like the angry protestations of a sailor unable to get a price he's willing to pay for a bargirl in Olongapa, the seedy town just outside the Subic naval base whose dominant economic activity is the "entertainment industry.
Jan Lugibihul, who works in Chicago for the Christian Urgent Action Network for Emergency Support, a humanrights organization, spent four years as a Mennonite missionary working with the bargirls of Olongapa. She offers a unique perspective on the American military presence in the Philippines, and how it has sustained the brutal economics of prostitution.
They're drawn by the American dollars, and they come thinking they'll get jobs on base to help support their families back home," she said. These illusions are quickly shattered. The women, ranging in age from 16 - 22, lack the education for the few clerical jobs that are available. Although half this money goes to the owner of the bar where the woman works, the money is a fortune compared to the grubby earnings from scrubbing T-shirts.
Even so, many women wind up as virtual indentured servants to the bar owners. When the mighty warships drop anchor at Subic, the women "on the beach" see the crews as the way out of debt. Indeed, the women would rather spend their time with visiting sailors than servicemen assigned permanently to the bases. The situation is a veritable hothouse for the spread of venereal disease and for risky back-room abortions. Navy ," said Lugibihl, who added, "The men don't have to carry such cards.
Just as the Spanish conquistadors brought smallpox to the New World, the U. It cannot be proven directly, but the first three reported cases in were found in Alongapo prostitutes. The Navy now freely issues condoms to its sailors, and there is a more vigorous shipboard lecture program about the dangers of venereal disease and AIDS, but for the women who get the dreaded disease now over 70 cases , there is virtually no help from either an impoverished Philippine government or from a U.