I’ve been to Puerto Galera’s local tourist destination of White Beach a couple of times but this was my first visit to Sabang beach. Now, Sabang is quite known to be frequented by foreigner tourists and a notorious hook-up place for old men and Filipina girls. But I never really let hearsay precede my judgment so off I went and here’s a snippet of what I saw:
Tranquil scenery abounds in Sabang.
But the rumor, too, I found to be true. On the coast (albeit small area) of Sabang, a few steps from the island’s pier is the filthy beat that thrives day in and day out. Clubs that come alive early evenings are reminiscent of Filipino action movies in the 1990s (patay-sindi scenes without the police raids). Girls on stage gyrating their almost naked bodies on a pole, old white men, not-so-old Asian men. Skimpy-dressed, teenager-looking girls in full make-up chatting while munching on green mangoes, aged women falling into short naps along the sidewalk next to their makeshift stores. And on our way back to the hostel is a staple sight of a forsaken woman talking to herself, her back leaning on a huge stone. Kids flank the shore in early afternoons chasing small crabs, some swimming on the shallow, clear water, and little boys swinging by the locally-made boats’ wooden fins.
After a good snorkel, I seated at our hostel’s bar contemplating Sabang’s prostitution industry over two glasses of mango daiquiri cocktail (happy hour is buy one take one!) when the bartender told me an interesting trivia: prostitution is legal in Sabang. Seventy (70) percent of the island’s population is female and half of that is in the business of prostitution. It is a profession if we mean government-registered for purpose of taxation and regulation; prostitutes are required to have tests for sexual diseases every other week. Jaw-dropping, really, if you take into consideration the backdrop of a conservative Catholic country who couldn’t even pass a decent reproductive bill because the Catholic church thinks population control is immoral and the only valid contraception is abstinence.
Prostitution is a moral issue, I agree, but I doubt one’s disgust has a teeny dint of space in a highly profitable industry that is as old as time. At the very least, the local government’s independence (or escape) from the moral dictates of the Filipino Catholic church is impressive. Liberal, brave, ground-breaking are a few other adjectives I could think of to describe a local government unit in the Philippines. We live in changing times, fellow countrymen!