The JS Prom last February 15 was held at the Manila Hotel. Last year when Kay was a junior, this is also where the JS prom was set out. But unlike last year, we opted to stay until the event was over. Well, we are on our goal to minimize expenses, and that includes gasoline expenses.Papsie and I hiked along the bay area near the hotel. It was not a surprise to me seeing lovers in almost every nook but the increased number of vagabonds in the area added to my already disappointed impression of my own country. Even sacks (which can be used to be placed on the stone seats or the grasses) were sold to how much I don’t know. Peddlers also increased in number, and even dirty, and barefooted little children wandered aimlessly along the area. We were approached by a boy who introduced himself as a high school student. He talked good but was not able to persuade us to buy religious small pictures which are, according to him, from a church project to help indigent students in their schooling.
Back to the hotel, the crowd at the lobby diminished. My eyes roamed and saw a number of Koreans arriving. For a time, I was caught by the noise of the group which was not even comprehensible. They looked friendly and though Papsie wanted to befriend them, I discouraged him because it was not possible. The language barrier will not make his experience enjoyable and I was really apprehensive how he could not restrain himself from giggling.
At the far end of the lobby in front of the area where the musicians stay, my eyes caught a glimpse of a woman, who appeared to me at first as a child cuddled by her father but came out to be a woman seated on the lap of a big American. Across, another woman, very thin and pale, was with them. It was then I realized that the woman on the lap had thick, permed and highlighted hair and wore low-waisted pants exposing the bony buttocks. When they stood up to go somewhere, I noticed that she was just half the height of the American (probably 6’1”). She was also thin like the other woman but with upper bumpers that jiggled when she walked. She is neither pretty nor sophisticated.
My eyes again caught a pair – another American, which is smaller in height, and a Filipina, which appeared tall to me because she was of the same height with the American. They looked sweethearts to me. Holding hands, they kissed once in a while. Then the first American with the two Filipinas came and greeted the couple. Then it made me wonder if that tall Filipina is also one of those two. But she seemed to be different because of her simplicity – no excessive make up, no frills, nothing to tell that she is a hooker. She was clad in maong jeans and a blouse topped by a dark blue petite green blazer.
Hours passed, and at about past 10 PM, I noticed a group of girls in their teens, with ages that of Kay’s (15-16), who took their seats on the big cushioned sofa. They were dressed simply; almost everybody was in maong and white shirts. Only one had a maong jacket and the prettiest among the group. They don’t appear confident but looked rather timid. Then I thought perhaps they were waiting for their friends from the JS prom. Minutes later, I saw them talking to a group of Koreans their ages older, or probably more. One of them who seemed to be the pimp (it was only then I noticed she’s not a teenager) talked to one of the Koreans. I can’t believe that I was witnessing something like that – young girls being bargained to foreigners – or how young girls appeared to be being sold. Then one by one each Korean had partners.
Though I know that prostitution proliferates in commercial establishments like hotels, it is like a bombshell to be faced with such stark reality. I may be over-reacting but it somehow caused gloom within me. The girls were very young and it was so heartbreaking that it seemed an ordinary scene in an elegant hotel such as Manila hotel.
The music overwhelmed the feeling of sadness and anger at the same time with the truth laid bare and pointing a finger to everybody – the flesh trade which victims are becoming younger as generations pass.