Loss Angeles

A now decommissioned US Air Force base outside the Philippine city begot a sex industry and thousands of children who will never know their father. Words and pictures by Stephanie Borcard and Nicolas Metraux

Princess Ann, one, is the daughter of a 60-year-old Spanish man who spent a week in Angeles City as a tourist. He does not know about Ann.

Angeles City, 80km north of the capital of the Philippines, Manila, is known for its red-light district. From 1903 until 1991, the Clark Air Base - once the largest US Air Force facility outside the United States - was located 5km west of the city.

Many brothels and girlie bars opened to cater to the American service personnel stationed at Clark, turning the city into one of Asia's most popular sex-tourism destinations - a status it has retained long after the GIs packed up and shipped out.

Today, about 12,000 women are working in the bars that line Fields Avenue, in the city's red-light district. Unlike in Thailand, where customers pay by the hour or night, the international clientele of Angeles City tend to seek a "girlfriend experience", which can last for months.

Each year, thousands of children are born from such paid relationships; in this Catholic country, abortion is a criminal offence. The men often abandon their offspring, and many of these children grow up searching for an identity with no knowledge of their father's name or his background.

Exact figures are hard to come by, but in 1992, the number of American-fathered Filipinos born to sex workers in Angeles City numbered 10,000, according to NGO Preda Foundation. It is estimated that more than 250,000 children have been sired across the Philippines by American soldiers since 1898, when the US colonised the country.

Journalist Jarius Bondoc, quoting a study prepared for the Philippine Amerasian Research Centre at the Systems Plus College Foundation in Angeles City, says 200,000 children have been born to Japanese fathers in the country - mostly during the 1970s and 80s, when sex tours to the Philippines were openly advertised in Japan - and 30,000 to Korean fathers, mostly students who come to study English.

Kayla Jolie, six years old, was financially supported by her Irish father for 10 months, before he vanished. Kayla and her mother haven’t heard from him since.
Mary Lerace, 16, grew up with her aunt. She has never met her father, a Swiss citizen, but she does know his name. Mary had a picture of him but it was destroyed by the humid climate.
Eilsy, 11, and Shaggy, 16, were adopted as babies. Eilsy's father is German and Shaggy's dad is from Canada.
Benny, three, and his mother - who still works in Fields Avenue - are sent 10‚000 pesos (HK,725) every month by his Australian father.
John Peter, 12, received financial support from his British father until he passed away in Bangkok last year.
Angela Paula, four, was not allowed to meet her Korean architect father, aged 47. Her mother feared he would take Angela to Seoul.
Josephine, 58, is one of the oldest offspring of Fields Avenue. When she was seven years old, her mum died. Her father, who was in the US Air Force, refused to acknowledge that she was his daughter, so Josephine was adopted by her mother's best friend.
Mark Anthony, 29, got called "peke" (fake American) at school. He has no contact with his father, a Latino-American US Marine who came to Angeles City on holiday and had a one-month relationship with Mark's mother, Rose. She refused to have an abortion.
Samantha Elise, six, and her half-sister Briana Louise, three, are raised by their aunt. Samantha’s father is from India and Briana’s dad is from Canada.
Mechelle, 19, works in a bar on Fields Avenue. When she was nine, her mother pointed out a man in the red-light district and said: "That's your dad." Mechelle cannot recall his face but she knows he is a doctor from California, in the US.
Azumi Rain, one, and her mother, Angelica, 24, at the Renew Foundation shelter, which helps women leave the sex industry. Azumi’s father, a German hotel manager in the red-light district, does not believe she is his daughter and refuses to take a DNA test. He cut all ties with Angelica.
Christian Jayson, 11, seen here in the Ipil-Ipil neighbourhood of Angeles City, knows only that his father is American.
Jeremy, 26, lost the only picture he had of his German father a few years ago. He finished Grade 3 and wants to complete his education but has no savings and survives by doing odd jobs.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Loss Angeles