Philippine 'sin city' loses lustre after transgender murder

2014-10-17 12:44
Filipino transgender resident Jeffrey Laude. (Jay Directo, AFP)

Filipino transgender resident Jeffrey Laude. (Jay Directo, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Olongapo - Standing beneath shimmering red lights, bar bouncer John Bunsoy bemoaned the loss of free-spending US military clients who have vanished from his Philippine "sin city" after a marine was accused of murdering a transgender sex worker.

The killing in the northern port city of Olongapo, which hosted thousands of US troops who participated in joint military exercises last week, threatens to test longstanding defence ties between Manila and Washington.

The case sparked shock and anger in the city and the victim's relatives are demanding that the accused marine, currently held on a US warship anchored off Olongapo, be jailed in the Philippines.

But it also cast an uncomfortable spotlight on Olongapo's Magsaysay quarter, a sleazy "sin city" of nightclubs, bars and hotels, much to the dismay of local business owners.

"There's nothing like the Americans", said Bunsoy, a bouncer at the popular Ambyanz bar where the victim was last seen leaving with the accused marine.

"Last night we had zero customers. Right now we have four, all locals", he told AFP one recent evening.

Bunsoy was interviewed about the murder by police, who concluded that 26-year-old Jeffrey Laude, well-known as Jennifer, died of suffocation in a hotel room after checking in with the suspect.

Magnet for prostitutes

Magsaysay is only a short walk from the US Navy ships anchored at Subic Bay in the northern Philippines, floating fortresses which house 3 000 military personnel while on joint exercises.

The city's sex trade flourished during the Vietnam conflict and Cold War when Subic was a giant naval base hosting tens of thousands of servicemen, but suffered a huge downswing after 1992 when the US military withdrew.

These days, the place comes alive each time Americans, seen as a magnet for prostitutes disembark from warships coming in for provisioning or for exercises.

"When they're off duty the street outside is packed with Americans. Their presence draws many other tourists", said Elvie Mose, manager of the 40-room Jade Hotel and Restaurant.

But the streets are deserted after the murder, with 3 000 US servicemen, including the murder suspect, ordered off the strip and back to their warships.

While prostitution is illegal in the Philippines with penalties of up to six months in prison, it is openly tolerated in a socially conservative Catholic nation that also bans divorce and abortion and does not recognise same-sex marriages.

Prostitutes charge about $45, about five times the minimum daily wage, and authorities mostly look the other way.

"The entertainment [sex] industry is an important means of livelihood for many people here", said Michelle Ubuta, women's and children's desk section chief of the police precinct that includes Magsaysay.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.