It was way back in 1976 when I was asked by an American bank to manage Visa and MasterCard operations in the Asia Pacific Region. Though I had to live in a suitcase, I thoroughly enjoyed the job visiting neighbouring countries in Asia. But being a Filipino, I was particularly interested in the tourist arrivals in the Philippines. Sadly, the country at that time was struggling to reach the one million mark.
Prior to 1976, there were not too many 5-star hotels in the country. Most prominent then were the Manila Hotel, Manila Hilton, Hotel InterContinental and Hyatt Regency which was not too far away from the airport.
But the good news came! The World Bank-IMF Conference was scheduled to be held in Manila. Almost in a flash, construction of many hotels began. First to be completed was Holiday Inn which was strategically located along Roxas Blvd., right in front of the famous Cultural Centre of the Philippines.
The rationale behind the sudden multiple effort was “how can we attract more tourists in the country if we do not have enough hotel rooms to offer?”
Thus came the Mandarin Hotel, Manila Peninsula, Philippine Village Hotel and a host of others. But the problem continued to persist. Tourist arrivals were not enough to sustain expensive hotel operations. Room occupancy went down as low as 20 per cent. What naturally followed was severe reduction in room rates.
When I contacted the Mandarin Hotel where 20 of my university classmates wanted to hold our 10th year anniversary, I was offered the Presidential Suite for only USD100. Indeed, it was a big bargain ━ too good to be true! So we grabbed the opportunity and divided the cost amongst us. There we were, pampered with a butler and a private outdoor jacuzzi. Today, the presidential suite at Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney costs AUD5,800/night.
Sex tourism in Manila
The primary purpose of my most recent visit to the Philippines was to further expand the growing circulation of Philippine Sentinel. Because of rampant extra judicial killings, the trip was against the will of my wife and children who feared for my safety. But I had to make my newspaper survive because of the decline in print advertising. Many big-time advertisers have shifted to online promotions and my paper is not an isolated case as I noticed the reduction in the number of pages of competing newspapers.
Alas! As I checked in a hotel in Manila, I couldn’t help but notice a young and pretty Filipina clinging to the arms of an elderly Japanese. She couldn’t be older than 22 and the grey-haired foreigner must be at least 70.
At the reception desk, I was informed that the hotel was fully booked but the good news was I had to be upgraded to a corner suite on the top floor.
As the elevator door opened, more elderly Japanese came out, each accompanied by a young Filipino woman. Another door became available but this time, it was full of middle-eastern looking men, also escorted by young Filipinas.
This young girl, presumably a personal service provider, appeared to be impatient while waiting for her customer at the hotel lobby.
When her Japanese customer finally arrived, the pair registered at the reception desk and proceeded to their room. DMC