One of the most badly affected people of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) are the marginalized people who are doing sex work. With motels and hotels not accepting customers, and people’s movements are restricted by the quarantine and curfew, sex workers are now struggling to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis.
Prostitution in the Philippines is illegal. Penalties can be imposed to all parties involved such as the worker, pimp, and customer. But this doesn’t stop the underground trade as most activities and establishments related to it are often tolerated or are able to exist through loopholes in the law.
According to unofficial studies in 2013, there was an estimated 500,000 to 800,000 sex workers in the Philippines working in different conditions or establishments. Prostitution is often available through bars, karaoke bars (also known as KTVs), massage parlors, brothels, street walkers, and escort services.
The sex industry has always been known to be lucrative and a source of “easy money” for people at the bottom of the socioeconomic classes. But just how are Filipino sex workers doing right now in this time of crisis amid an enhanced community quarantine and city lockdowns?
Turning to online tunnels
In certain online forums and social medias, sex workers who are not able to meet their prospective customers turn desperately to other means of getting income as quickly as possible.
A website that we have uncovered showcases offers and profiles of “Pinay walkers” or “PSP” whose livelihood have been impacted by the ECQ and state imposed lockdowns. Unable to meet their customers, many of these women are now offering camshows and selling their pictures and videos. Some are even asking customers for down payment for their services to be rendered after the quarantine ends.
We have contacted “Lisa” (not her real name), a walker from a certain website we found and asked her for an interview. We asked her about how she and her fellow walkers are able to cope up with the current situation.
“Walang wala na kami. Buti nalang may nautangan pa ako pero hindi ko alam kung hanggan kelan tatagal budget ko.”
We asked her to describe her life before the lockdown and quarantines,
“Bago magka lockdown, maayos pa kami. 2 to 3 times a week lang ako nagwawalk. Umaabot 10k to 15k kinikita ko per week. Pero napupunta lang sa mga bayarin saka sa mga kamag anak din. May yaya din yun anak ko at napapaaral ko pa sa private school.”
But after the lockdown, that’s when things became drastically different.
“Nung nagkalockdown na sabi ko ‘hala!’ Nung una binabaliwala ko pa kasi hindi ko akalain na aabot sa ganito na pahirapan makalabas ng baranggay at saka closed lahat ng mga motel…”
“Naubos din kagad savings ko kasi nagbigay pa ako sa pamilya ko saka pinasahuran ko pa yaya ng anak ko. Siyempre kelangan din niya magpadala ng pera sa pamilya niya sa probinsya.”
When asked about if she is also selling her pictures and videos, she replies,
“Nagbebenta din ako, picture at video, pero hindi ko pinapakita mukha ko. Nakakahiya din kasi baka may magkalat sa internet, malaman pa ng mga kamag-anak ko”
But she is worried because there were only a few who purchased her pictures and videos.
“Konti palang bumibili ng mga nudes ko. Gusto kasi nung ibang GM (customer) pakita ko daw dapat face, pero ayaw ko talaga. Yung iba namang mga GM (customer) nambabarat. Ang gusto nila babaan ko daw yung singil ko sa nudes ko. Kasi daw yung ibang babae binebenta daw nila ng mas mura. So napipilitan din ako dumiskarte. Kunwari, 20 pictures sa ganitong presyo. Okaya 20 pictures plus video, ganito naman ang presyo.”
To supplement her income from selling pictures and videos, she also asks her customers for down payments. Where she promises to provide her services after the lockdown.
“Sana talaga may mag down payment sa akin. Pero mahirap din makakuha ng ganun. Siyempre yung mga GM iniisip din nila na ‘Bakit pa ako magdadown payment kung pwede parin naman ako makapag walk kahit after na nitong lockdown?’ Iniisip din nila na baka lokohin sila nung babae at hindi na uli magparamdam…”
But things are still uncertain for her.
“Yung upa ko nitong katapusan ng March nabayaran ko pa. Pero hindi ko alam kung mababayarn ko yung para sa katapusan nitong month. Kung maeextend nanaman uli lockdown, edi nga-nga.”
When asked if she thinks that there will be more women who’ll be doing this, she replies,
“Dadami pa mga babae na magwawalk, lalo na after nitong ECQ. Siyempre kelangan ng pera. Ngayon pa nga lang may mga newbie na na nagbebenta na din ng nudes. Saka may mga babae na nagretire na dati sa ganitong trabaho na mukang bumabalik na ngayon kasi kapos na din sa budget.”
She also shared to us that there are some walkers who out of desperation still offer the physical service and are willing to meet their customers in person. This, even though the government has suggested the public to stay inside their homes and practice social distancing.
“Mga pasaway yung mga ganun! Madami na may Covid dito sa Pinas! Sige parin sa meet up. Yung iba condo services daw. Yung iba naman car pick up. Ayoko ng ganun. Nakakatakot, madami pulis umiikot ngayon. Baka mahuling nagchuchuk-chakan sa kotse.” (she laughs hysterically)
It is important that people stay mentally sensible in this time of crisis. We recommend you to avoid doing illegal things even in desperate situation and follow suggestions from experts. Breaking the law has its consequences and can cause additional problems for you and for your family.
Avoid physical contact especially with people you do not know. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly. Wear facemask when leaving your home and make sure you’re only going out for the right purpose. This is still the best way to reduce the risks of getting sick or getting yourself into any kinds of trouble these days.
We empathize with people who are marginalized and are left with little or no option. We understand their desperation. But we all must also understand that doing the right thing has a bigger reward.