CEBU CITY. Philippines.
—Twenty-year-old Danica (not her real name) looks like a typical colegiala who has a dream of becoming a respected lawyer someday. She is pretty by international standards.
Barely 5-foot tall, she keeps a low profile at a private school in Cebu City, where she is a freshman, as she doesn’t want to call anybody’s attention to herself. It is because she keeps a secret from her classmates: She sells her body to pay her school fees.
Danica works as a GRO (Guest Relations Officer) in a popular night club and offers sexual services to men, who are mostly foreigners.
“I don’t care if I’m a prostitute. I will finish my studies no matter what,” she said.
Danica, who hails from another Visayas province, was left to the care of her aunt when she was only 12 years old after her father died. Her mother eventually abandoned her.
After graduating from high school, the 16-year-old lass moved from Negros Oriental to Cebu to pursue a university degree. Little did she know that school fees in Cebu were beyond reach.
For three years, she did odd jobs—from housemaid to salesgirl—so she could save enough money for her tuition. But the pay was not enough to even cover her basic needs.
She quit being a salesgirl and had been unemployed for a while. In April last year, a friend, who worked as a GRO, told her that their night club was looking for another GRO. Since work was hard to come by for a high school graduate, she applied for the job and got hired.
“I didn’t like it but I had no choice,” Danica cried.
The pay was good though, and that made her decide to stay in the trade. Since then, she had been to nine different clubs, where the tips ranged from P1,000 to P8,000 from her regular “guests.”
“We call our clients guests. A gathering of GROs is called a show-up. I am one of those. Then the guests would choose who among us they like,” she said in the local dialect.
Aside from tips, she receives a fixed salary of P120 per hour from the club and gets not less than P1,000 per customer for “private” services.
Danica goes to school in the morning because her work starts from 7 p.m. and ends at 4 a.m.
Her income allows her to buy food, as well as pay for her board and lodging, and other school fees. She earns extra money to send to her aunt in Negros Oriental, who doesn’t have a clue on how she makes a living.
Danica said she also spent on a new mobile phone, clothes and even shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) to keep her awake all night.
Aside from other clients, Danica is being maintained by her “boyfriend”—a 60-year-old Australian who paid her school fees this year.
Sexually transmitted diseases, including the incurable Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), don’t scare her. She is more afraid of getting killed by her customers without any witnesses inside the hotel than dying of the incurable venereal disease.
What matters to her is to finish her studies so she could become a top lawyer and command the respect she has always wanted.
The lure of easy money is one factor why many student sex workers quit school in the Philippines and make prostitution a career path.