Data on Prostitution of Women in the Philippines

Prostitution, as they say, is the oldest profession in the world. But it has grown to an alarming rate here in the Philippines especially with the intensifying economic crisis that pushes more and more Filipino women into flesh trade.


Employment Figures


First Quarter, 1997





Population Aged 15 & above




Labor Force




Labor Force Participation Rate







Employment Rate








Unemployment Rate








Underemployed Rate





< In 1997, the Philippine government was only able to create 1,063,219 jobs; 62% or more than 660,000 of these are overseas deployment

Of the 2.3 M women directly involved in agricultural work, 1.4 M are not compensated
For every P1.00 earned by a male agricultural worker, a female agricultural worker only gets P.09
With 3.1 M hectares of rice and corn-producing lands to be converted for "cash crops", 2.8 M peasant women and agricultural workers will be affected
25,000 workers or 53% of the total workforce of garments and thread industry were laid-off or retrenched in 1997; majority of these are women workers
In Southern Mindanao, 200,000 agricultural workers were laid-off or retrenched due to slackening in the export industry of bananas, cocoa, sugar and rubber; majority of working women are in agriculture
In the first week of January 1998, 10,000 workers lost their jobs when 200 companies shut down

Export Processing Zones

< 60 to 80% of workers in export processing zones are women

< 2,164 workers in export processing zones in Central Luzon were laid off from September to December 1997

< 10% of the total companies in Mactan Export Processing Zones retrenched workers with another 10% putting off expansion programs for 1998

< As of January 7 this year, 34 workers from Samma Corp. In Cavite Export Processing Zone were forcibly dismissed to give way for contractual hiring; this is in addition to the 296 workers who lost their jobs when in October 1997 and more than 26 in November 1997

Overseas Filipino Workers

< The government earned $ 1.48 B (accounting for the 54% of the country’s foreign currency deposits) from OFW remittances during the first quarter of 1997 alone

< There are 4.5 M OFW’s according to Department of Foreign Affairs; some estimates place the number to 7 M; of these number 55% are Filipino women, majority of which works as domestic helpers or entertainers

< 3,000 OFW’s in South Korea had already been dismissed

< 500,000 OFW’s in 5 other Asian countries face the same threat of dismissal

< with the ongoing US-Iraq war tension, 50,000 OFW’s in Iraq will be affected



< The legislated minimum wage in NCR, as of January 1998, is P198/day

< The daily cost of living for a family of 6 is P447.28 in Metro Manila and P348.21 outside Metro Manila

< Price Increase of Basic Commodities



Week Ending
19 July ‘97

Week Ending
21 December ‘97

Week Ending
8 February ‘98

NFA Rice (Local)

P 15.00

P 15.00

P 16.00

Ordinary (35% broken)




Refined Sugar (kg)




Brown Sugar




Cooking Oil (Lapad)




Cooking Oil (Long Neck)




Evap Milk 370 ml




Powdered Milk (Bear Brand) 200 g




Blend 45 Coffee Refill 50 g




Master & 555 Sardines




Detergent Bar




Pork Liempo (kg)




Dressed Chicken (kg)




Bangus (kg)




Galunggong (kg)




Tomato (kg)




Egg (piece)




*Based on the Private Sector’s Consumer Price Watch Survey in 24 wet markets and 10 supermarkets, week ending February 8, 1998, in Metro Manila. Prices have been averaged.



There are 400,000 prostituted women in the Philippines.; this number does not include unregistered commercial sex workers, seasonal prostitutes, overseas "entertainers" and victims of sex trafficking outside the country

during the mid-80’s, Filipino women are being exported as "entertainers" in other countries thus the emergence of the "japayukis"; in the latter part of this decade, sing-a-long joints started to become the craze

the early 90’s saw the transformation of sing-a-long joints to karaoke bars which includes VIP rooms where the male customers can be entertained by "GRO’s"






k Prostitution has reached a stage of being an industry with an intricate network:

a casa (brothel) would include a mama-san, an in-house recruiter, watchers, pimps, runners and, of course, the prostituted women
the recruiter would pay the girl’s parents P3,000 to 5,000 as gratis; the girl would be bound to the mama-san until the girl can pay the gratis and other debts she incurs (the brothels would only provide for free lodging and food, all the rest are considered debts)






k In Pegasus, GRO’s are often accompanied by their mothers, who waits for them at the side entrance of the club

k "Akyat barko" (sometimes refered to as "alupihang dagat"), is a form of prostitution which ferries girls from ports to ships (usually foreign naval ships) ashore

k In Cotabato, 70% of Lumad women are forced into prostitution due to landlessness


Child Prostitution

There are now 100,000 prostituted children in the Philippines. It is estimated that every year, 3,266 children will be forced into prostitution.

k "Prosti-tuition" is an open secret among schools (especially private colleges); this phenomenon is common not only in Metro Manila but in other cities as well such as General Santos, Davao City, Cebu City, Iloilo City and in Cabanatuan City and includes major colleges and universities

k In Davao, "buntogs" or children aged 9 to 18 who enter the flesh trade (usually initiated by their gang mates) is increasing; there are communities where as much as 80% of children become "buntogs"

k Majority of prostituted children can be found in major tourist destinations like Angeles City, Olongapo City, Cebu City, Pagsanjan, Puerto Prinsesa, Baguio City, La Union, Boracay, Metro Manila and recently, in Davao City



The massive and regular presence of "foreigners" in a situation where women have very narrow opportunities for other forms of livelihood, almost always spawn prostitution. Prostitution in the Philippines, as it is known today, started during the Spanish colonial time especially when the Philippines was opened for foreign trade. Early famous prostitution district was Binondo, where most of the clienteles were Chinese traders. Prostitution flourished in Angeles and Olongapo during US military exercises in line with the Korean War.

In the late 70’s to early 80’s, "sex tourism" in the Philippines flourished with tour packages, mostly for Japanese businessmen and workers, which includes "hospitality girls" as part of the rest and recreation package.

Tourism remains as one of the highest dollar-earning industry in the country. In 1996, the government garnered $2.7 B from tourism alone


Major tourist destinations in the Philippines and number of registered and not registered commercial sex workers (CSW’s) and entertainment establishments:

Cebu - in 1992, there were only 1,500 registered CSW’s, in 1997 the number increased to 4,500 (excluding informal sex workers); entertainment establishments rose from 70 in 1994 to 154 in 1998 (70 bars, 51 videoke bars, 52 cocktail lounges)

Davao - the number of entertainment establishment rose from 80 to 135 from 1993 to 1996; presently, there are 2,000 registered commercial sex workers and an estimated 2,000 freelancers

Zamboanga - the number of entertainment establishments rose from 40 to 55 from 1993 to 1997 and the number of registered CSW’s from 286 to 370

General Santos - from 14 entertainment establishments and 334 registered CSW’s in 1994, the number increased to 37 entertainment establishments and more than 600 CSW’s in 1997

Iligan City - from 27 entertainment establishments in 1994, this increased to 95 in 1997

Cagayan de Oro - from 21 entertainment establishments and approximately 300 CSW’s in 1994 this number increased to 67 and 600, respectively

Angeles City - Within 3 months, registered entertainers rose from 1,214 to 1,794 from January to March, 1997

Mandaue City - local government are alarmed over the increasing number of "live shows" and spread of pornographic materials

Lingayen and San Fernando, La Union - several beach resorts are being investigated and some were closed down for serving as fronts for prostitution

Baguio City - an increasing number of "entertainment establishments" can be found along the streets of Magsaysay, Abanao, Bonifacio and Session Road

Angeles City - the number of entertainment establishments dipped slightly after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the withdrawal of US military forces but increased ) once more (and included other nationalities such as Australians, English, Germans and Japanese especially with the establishment of the Clark Special Economic Zone


k Many golf courses are replacing male caddies with female caddies claiming that girls are more "service-oriented"; some even have requirement i.e. young, tall and with pleasing personality (same requirements for GRO’s)



It is common practice, all over the Philippines, where prostitution thrives for local governments to issue health cards (more popularly known as "pink cards") among prostituted women and to require weekly health check-ups. Without such clearance and license, establishments will be raided and closed down and the women arrested.

f In Cebu, a foreign-funded AIDS Program teaching entertainers to encourage clients to use condoms targets establishments whose customers are primarily foreigners

f In Iloilo City, Councilor created TF Prostitution raiding establishments where women are without "pink cards"; there is also an AIDS program being funded by John Hopkins University; the local government launches "on the spot" pap smear in public toilets among pick-up women along Fort San Pedro

f In Angeles City, the local government’s TF AIDS is funded by US AID; another NGO AIDS program is funded by Australian AID; USAID-Path also funds AIDS programs together with Japanese and Australian official development funds

f In Metro Manila, the solution proposed by local government’s over the increasing number of VIP rooms, where GRO’s are vulnerable to abuse, was to make such rooms transparent

f In Angeles City, the local government proposes that lodgings rooms of women above entertainment establishment should have no divisions

f According to the Department of Labor and Employment, there are nightclubs in General Santos which features nude dancing of minors; local government action was to arrest "commercial sex workers" without permits to avoid the spread of the dreaded AIDS

f The Department of Labor and Employment issued an order requiring groups of dancers to take qualifying tests in the form of a production show.

f Of all the raids done by local governments, owners were usually spared




POEA Chief Felicisimo Joson: "Precisely because of our OFW’s, we are not as deep into the currency problem as the other countries."

"...there is a continuing demand for entertainers in Japan..."

Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon: "We can send workers in Algeria..."

Philippine Ambassador to Germany Romeo Arguelles: "...come to our country and marry our women"

House Speaker Jose de Venecia: "...mobilize tourism industry to help minimize the damaging effects of the ongoing currency crisis..."

President Fidel V. Ramos: (on his 34th foreign trip to Europe) "There are still great investments, trade and tourism opportunties (out there)".


KAMAGAYAN: Community-based Sex Industry

Kamagayan is a district right in the heart of Cebu City. At daytime, the place looks like any ordinary urban poor community.

But when the sun starts to set, the neighborhood of shanties transforms to a community of flesh trade. Fully made-up young women in skimpy clothes hang around the community’s foreground waiting for customers. Alongside the women are the watchers, pimps and runners.

Prostitution in this area had grown to a full-blown sex industry with a complex web of network. Watchers are the mama-san’s trusted assistant. Customers hand out their payment to the watchers. Pimps are the ones who scout and screen customers. Runners are those who run to the brothels, should any customer walk by. The usual charge is P300 for short time (50% to the mama-san and 50% to the women) at the uptown side of Kamagayan. The downtown side is cheaper – P200.

Inside the uptown part of the community are 10 brothels. From among the clusters of shanties, the bigger houses made of concrete are the brothels. A small-time karaoke bar is also located within the community beside the basketball court. A sari-sari store also has 2 video game machines. At the downtown side, more brothels can be found. There are also cubicles for rent (P60 to P70 per short time), for the customers who cannot afford motel rates.

The vicinity within this area used to be a residential district of the affluent families in Cebu. Prostitution had been present there even before the 2nd world war. But from being a high-class, covert sex industry, it had deteriorated to what it is today. Around 150 prostituted women can be found in this small community alone. Some of these women were recruited from far away provinces by either an in-house recruiter (of the brothel) or the mama-san, herself. A gratis is given to the girl’s parents (P3,000-5,000) as a sign of goodwill which the girl, later on, will pay through her sexual services.


BGY. MONAY: Central Market After Dark

The Central Market in Iloilo City sells different kind of "meat" when nighttime comes. The "carinderia’s" within the periphery of stalls would turn to beer joints at around 9 in the evening as most of the market’s gates close.

Compared to other establishments outside the market beer and "pulutan" is much cheaper here. So does the women. Women comes in horde. The number has reached such an amount, it constitutes a whole baranggay. Thus, the place is aptly called "baranggay monay". Any local resident of Iloilo City knows this. Aside from this is the Bgy. Hita and for the gay clienteles, Bgy. Ture and Bgy. Tarogo.


A Labyrinth of Flesh Trade

The AREA : Purok 1 of Bgy. Sta Teresita

This whole labyrinthe of a community is involved in a systematic organization of pimps, gatekeepers, and brothel managers, profiting from white slavery. Girls and boys, as young as 6 years old, girls in their pubescent stage, along with young ladies aged 16 to 18 years old are readily available. Most of them are "recruited" from different provinces through a very intricate network operating all over the country.

According to Angeles City residents, this has been around for as long as they can remember. They cater mainly to the CDE block of Filipino men, coming from nearby cities and provinces. But recently, when the local police started rading bars and clubs along Fields Ave., foreigners also started coming here in trickles. Local government officials don’t have the guts and the will to even attempt to rescue the girls and young women who are locked up here, forced to serve 20 customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.




1. GABRIELA March 8 Campaign Paper

2. Documentation: Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) Focus Group Discussions in Davao City, General Santos, Iloilo City, Cebu City and Angeles City

3. Documentation: National Consultation on Prostitution, February 23, 1998

4. CWR Term Ender, "Globalisasyon sa Taong 1996: Tumitinding Kahirapan; Tulak sa Pagkilos ng Mamamayan at Kababaihan", 1996

5. Draft CWR Term Ender, 1997

6. IBON Features, Vol. 2 No. 25, June 30-July 6, 1997

7. "Crime, Society and the State in the 19th Century Philippines"

8. "Prostitution in the Former Bases Areas of Angeles and Olongapo", Findings of a Research Trip (February to March, 1996), Suzanne Baustad

10. 1997 Report, Ing Makababaying Aksyon (IMA) Foundation, Angeles City

11. GABRIELA Newsclippings, Public Information Department