Friday, February 20, 2009


She said her name is Monique. She’s 18 years old and is from Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon. She went to Cagayan de Oro and lived with an aunt who funded her college education. She wanted to be a nurse and enrolled in one of the city’s colleges while selling health care products in a shopping mall during her free time.

She met the man who became her boyfriend at the mall when she was 17 and he was 43. “We went out on dates for six months before I surrendered my virginity,” she said in Cebuano. For six months they only kissed and groped each other, she said. “The first time was very painful and there was blood.”

She fell in love and forgot about her studies. Her aunt found out about the relationship and literally kicked her out of the house. She lived with a friend and continued with the liaison with the man until she got tired of it and found another lover, a lesbian classmate. “We did not do it,” she said giggling.

A friend introduced her to a gay recruiter of a “promotions” company from Quezon City. The promoter brought her and at least 30 other girls to the city. She arrived in November in Metro Manila and stayed in an air-conditioned apartment unit where her manager fed her, taught her how to dance, dress and entertain men.

Her brown complexion must also change, she was told. “We were given medicine to take to make us white,” she said. She said the cost of the medicines – tablets, injectables, whitening lotions – was listed and charged to their account. They were not allowed to go out the house or to have contact to the outside world.

“I am brown, morena, but now I am like an Amerikana,” she said. “Even my armpits are already white because of all the medicines I was taking,” she said beaming. She said her mother may not even recognize her anymore.

She said she misses her mother and her five younger sisters. “I am the eldest. I just learned that I have a two-month old sister now,” she said. Her mother, who was pregnant when Monique left for Manila, has a small store in their village while her father is a carpenter working in Saudi Arabia.

Once in December she escaped from the house after a “friend” from Cebu came to Manila and brought her to the Mall of Asia, Greenbelt and Libis. “We ended having sex in a motel,” she said, adding that it was her first time after several months.

After three months in her managers’ apartment unit she was deemed ready to be sent to one of the famous videoke bars in the city. She was lent several pairs of underwear, shoes, sexy dresses and a make-up kit. “I don’t know how to paint my face and what to wear, so I was given a yaya,” she said.

Her small bag contains a flashlight, a lighter, her make-up kit, a fold of tissue paper, a sanitary napkin, a small bottle of alcohol, a small bottle of mouthwash, a pen and a small piece of paper. “We don’t carry condoms,” she said, adding that the establishment provides it when the girls entertain clients in a VIP room.

She earns at least a thousand pesos a night on lean days and an average of P20,000 when there are more customers. “I don’t ask for tips or tell the clients how much we charge for sex. They already know,” she said. She receives a minimum of P5,000 for sex and gets at least P1,000 for just talking with clients.

“I made use of my two years of college in my work,” she said laughing. She speaks English aside from Cebuano. It’s hard to learn Filipino, she said. She wants to read newspapers and makes it a point to watch news on television. “Most of our clients talk business and politics here. We must have something to say para dili morag tanga,” Monique said.

Is she not affected by the global economic crisis? She said her friends told her business was better in the past. “They could make P50,000 a night or even for every client,” she said. In the meantime, she said, she has to make do with an average P200,000 monthly income. “I am just new here, the other girls, who have regular clients, are doing better,” she said.

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