Department of Anthropology

Tryst Troppo sex, tourism, relationships (Puerto Galera, The Philippines)

By Rosemary Wiss (PhD 2006)

This thesis is concerned with the relationships between Filipinos and foreigners and their complex interactions through tourism, sex tourism and expatriation in Sabang, Puerto Galera, Mindoro. Until two decades ago Sabang was primarily a fishing community, until tourism based on scuba-diving (run by foreigners) and sex tourism (run by Filipinos) came to dominate the economy. Today the community of Sabang Beach is inhabited by one thousand Filipinos linked by kinship; three hundred bar-girls who have been recruited from other provinces to work in Sabang's three go-go bars; an expatriate community of Western men three hundred and fifty strong; and a transient population of between five to seven hundred tourists comprising mostly foreign males.

I focus on foreign men as tourists or expatriates as there has been little written on the customers of sex tourism or the experience of expatriation. Some of these men, who originally came to the area for the transient and anonymous experience of sex tourism, have gone on to reside in the area, marrying Filipinas and producing children. This is not a simple mixing between two communities, however, as foreigners marry non-local woman from the bars who are outside of local kinship relations. Thus foreign men, who come for the ideal of the isolated tropical beach, compliant women, and an area free of politics in which to create their own uninscribed island Utopia, enter networks of multifaceted and intricate political and kinship connections and disconnections. Expatriates often state that they come for access to a more 'traditional' life and gender relationships. Inadvertently, however, they enter into complex relationships with Filipinos involved in a sex tourism economy, who aim to keep the industry the domain of outsiders - tourists and 'stranger' women - to keep their own relations of kinship and honour untainted.