The motivations for travel on a Trans-Pacific flight run vary more than your average domestic flight. Businessmen hammering out last-minute presentations to their Chinese counterparts to your left; a sex tourist that looks, talks, and thinks like a sex tourist to your right. And you, physically in the middle, but not necessarily anywhere along the same spectrum or plane. The sex tourist and small business owner from southern Indiana sitting next to me is 48 and right now is en route to Bangkok to meet up with 25 year-old Filipino girl with a 6-year old daughter he met on filipinoheart.com. When she was 19, she met up with a 50 year-old American who, according to my neighbor, “knocked her up, denied the baby was his, and called her a slut.” He left the country, leaving her with a newborn baby to raise on her own. Now the sex tourist is heading over there for a week of fun in the sun and a proverbial test run, figuring out whether a) she is the one, and b) whether she is currently married, which means an extra $5,000 for an annulment to get her to the US. The fact that she has a 6 year-old doesn’t seem to bother him. I might be giving him too much credit, and maybe he has no intention of bringing her back at all. But she certainly seems to think so. According to the guy, she’s just looking for someone to love her (“they all are”). The good thing for her is that the sex tourist to my left actually seems genuine about bringing at least one of these girls back – his two buddies already have Filipino wives from previous flings.
For the girl, the potential for meeting a husband and a better life for her and her child is real, and strong enough to make the Philippines a gold mine for guys like this guy, who’s been all over the world, but only in Southeast Asia does he feel like a rock star. The Philippines is a poor country, and there are not a lot of opportunities for an unmarried 25 year-old with a child, or a lot of other childless 25 year-olds at that. There are a lot of beautiful girls on filipinoheart.com, and there are a lot of 48 year-old small business owners from the states to woo them. I am not sure if its going to be a match made in heaven, but maybe it will work out between the two of them. But that shouldn’t be the only way out of poverty for some. Manila, in particular, isn’t a big backpacker’s destination, so the majority of white men here are either here on business or to take advantage of the sex trade. Chances are, if you see an old, fat, white man here in Manila, you don’t have to look far to find a young Filipina in tow. The same is true in Thailand, probably even more so. I’m sensitive to coming off as self-righteous, because I am basing my opinions on a single encounter with my sex-tourist acquaintance and, in this situation in particular, both parties have the potential benefit. She gets a better life for her and her child, and he gets her. But creating other opportunities for these clearly entrepreneurial girls to escape poverty in a dignified way is a nice long-term goal, and a collateral benefit of economic development in general.