[DASH of SAS] 'Mercy' sex in Iloilo

None of their girlfriends – past or present – know about these encounters. Their parents were even more clueless, believing that the new clothes and gadgets were a result of scraping together loose cash and spare change.

They all know about condoms, but none of them know how to use them and none of them used condoms pagmagme-mercy, whether with a girlfriend or client.

“It’s hard to buy. People will just look at us,” said Raj.

“And someone (who knows our parents) might see us!” piped Jep.

'Survival sex'

Cab drivers in Iloilo have observed that passengers they drove to lodges were getting younger and younger. Ma Rosario Victoria de Guzman, a professor at West Visayas State University had heard the rumor from one too many cab drivers and decided to conduct a research study.

Her report, "Survival Sex in Iloilo City," revealed that boys and girls between 12-24, go into sex for pay especially during exam period, holidays, and weekends.

The report included a survey among cab drivers which showed that more than 50 taxi drivers reported bringing an average of about 31 customers to lodging houses every day.

A news article reported that, prompted by the results of the study, De Guzman wrote a letter to Iloilo Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog saying that the “development for the city is not only limited to infrastructure” and must include concrete programs and projects for the youth.

Growing problem

Councillor Dylee Zulueta Salazar acknowledged the growing problem of prostitution among young people in Iloilo. In the coastal communities where the the 4 boys live, prostitution is an open secret.

“Lodges in the area offer quickie stays at a bargain rate of P50,” said Zulueta Salazar.

A regulation ordinance was passed banning street solicitation but realizing that most of the negotiation happens off the streets and through mobile phones leaves officials stumped on how to deal with the problem.

“We’re looking at passing a new ordinance that will ban minors from checking into lodges with an adult,” said Zulueta Salazar who also leads the Council on Moral Recovery.

It will be tricky, she admitted.

“We don’t want to infringe on the rights of a private vehicle owner, but it is the taxi drivers themselves who tell us they have driven many passengers (with minors) to the lodges and don’t know what to do,” she said.

It’s not the only thing that leaves them baffled. Some of the reasons the young boys have for offering sexual favors are not the usual need to eat or have a roof over one’s head.

Boys in prostitution

“They are transitional men. They engage in sex transactionally, on a case-to-case basis, or maybe when the need arises,” said Janvie Amido, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) Program Officer for VisMin, describing the sexual behavior of the 4 boys.

“When we talk about prostitution, what comes first to our minds are women, not men,” said Amido, who added that cases of young boys in prostitution or being raped are more likely to go unreported because of the stigma and shame.

“Maybe we think, they are men, wala naman mawawala sa kanila (they have nothing to lose), but we should be aware that whether it is a man or a woman, it is prostitution. Both (genders) should be given equal attention and intervention.”

“The best intervention," Amido concluded, "is education for both the parents and the children.”  – Rappler.com

Ana P. Santos is a former banker turned public health journalist focusing on women’s issues and sexual health rights. It’s a mouthful and for the most part, she’s simply referred to as a “sex columnist.” She blogs (and rants) at www.sexandsensibilities.com and tweets @iamAnaSantos.

*Names in this article have been changed.