Gone were the days when vendors and porters of the Port of Batangas could give a decent life to their family and send their children to college. Losing their main source of livelihood after being ejected from their homes because of the privatization of the Port, they turned to sex trade to earn a living – making this a “family business.”
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
BATANGAS CITY – Prostitution, known to be the world’s oldest profession, is new to the people who once lived along the shores of the old Batangas Port in this city, some 111 kms. south of Manila.
Amanda (note her real name), 48, a mamasan (pimp) born and raised in Barangay Sta. Clara, a village just beside the old Port of Batangas (part of this village has been turned into the port’s expansion area completed in 1999). Her parents were port vendors, she said, and life near the port then was strenuous yet profitable. “Dati, basta mauido ka, kikita ka” (Before, if you were aggressive in thinking of things to sell, you would earn.), she recalls.
As a teenager, Amanda helped her parents earn a living by selling pork barbecue after school. This was her family’s source of income when she started to raise a family of her own. She said she used to earn at least P400 ($8.28 at today’s exchange rate of $1=P48.305) a day then.
Following then President Corazon Aquino’s Executive Order No. 431, a part of Barangay Sta. Clara was demolished on June 27, 1994 to give way to the expansion, modernization and privatization of the Batangas Port.
The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) opened two relocation centers: Barangay Balete (about seven kilometers from the Batangas Port) and Barangay Sico (about 15 kilometers from the Batangas Port). A study made by Dr. Emma Porio for the JBIC (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) in 2000, “Demolition and Resettlement of Sta. Clara Residents: Policy, Politics, and Personalities in the Batangas Port Development Project,” revealed that Balete had an unemployment rate of 53 percent while Sico had 43 percent.
Amanda’s family was one of 192 families relocated in Sico, a vast and hilly relocation center near a dump, overlooking the Batangas city jail. A trip to this area takes at least an hour from the port. There are no factories or commercial centers in the area. The row houses looked dilapidated and dim. It was deafeningly quiet when Bulatlat visited the area on Jan. 18.
Resettling at Sico spelled doom for Amanda’s family. With no jobs available, Amanda said, her family set up a small convenience store. In a year’s time, their small business went bankrupt because of unpaid debts from neighbors and relatives.
With no other means of income, Amanda started trading girls for sex. “Bumaba uli ako sa pier. Dun ako humawak ng mga babae,” (I went back to the pier and peddled prostitutes.), she said.
She said she gets a cut of P50 ($1.035) from a girl who, in turn, gets P300 to P500 ($6.21 to $10.35) for every. With the port turned from an inter-island, domestic port to an international cargo port, they began to cater to foreign seamen.
At first, she said, the girls she handled came from the provinces of Samar, Cavite, Iloilo, Cebu and even Manila. But as poverty spread among the former port dwellers relocated in Balete and Sico, Amanda said girls from the relocation sites started working as prostitutes as well.
One of those lured into prostitution is Sandy (not her real name), Amanda’s niece. A former barbecue and balut (boiled duck eggs) vendor, Sandy, now 42, started “going out” with her patrons barely a year after their community was demolished. “Bata pa ako nun, may itsura, kaya ayun” (I was still young then and pretty.), she kidded.
She said she only catered to foreign patrons, “kasi hindi sila maarte kausap.” (Because it is not difficult to deal with them) Sandy said she earns $50 to $100 for every customer but would only get half of it because she had to give a cut to her mamasan, to the ship operator, and to Customs officials. “Naku, ligal na ligal ang pagho-hostess dito. Biruin mo, pati Customs nakikinabang,” (Prostitution is legal here. Even Customs officials benefit from it.), she said.