|"She was just, seven-teeen, you know, what I mean..."|
The disease didn't originate in Asia, in fact it was brought from the Western world much like smallpox, and its effect on the population has been almost as devastating. Most all of the carriers are from Germany, although you will also find those transmitting the illness who are Dutch, Austrian, or Swedish. The unfortunate victims are teenage Thai or Filipina women, that is the age at which they suddenly become very susceptible.
The method of inoculation is as follows: the German man, usually about the age of 65, will go to a designated German-style bar in the Philippines. Local teenage women will be sitting in the bar, they have been brought here by their families, pimps, or friends who are already in the business. The German man will get quite a few beers in him, and then begin talking to one of the 16-year olds. If the teenager shows any interest, the German man explains that he would like her company. The teen already knows this, but the German man also explains he will pay for everything. If the girl behaves according to how the man likes, he may even give her the privilege of upgrading her to a "girlfriend." A girlfriend has extra benefits. On top of meals and drinks paid for, a girlfriend will get some extra "shopping" money. And special girlfriends may even get extragavant perks: paid accommodation in a house and maybe even access to a vehicle.
The economics of Oggtag (Old German Guy, Teen Asian Girl) Disease are quite simple. Most Filipinas make about $2 - $3 a day, and that is if they have a good job working at a resort. These girls will never be able to afford tuition at a University, never be able to travel, never have money to spend on themselves. They live the hard life, as my bartender explained it to me. I saw the lines in her young face, the brown skin from spending all day in the sun, the tiredness in her eyes. If they marry a Filipino man, they may have love, but they will live in a simple shack without running water, working seven days a week, grinding out a meager existence.
A girlfriend, on the other hand, may get a stipend of up to $10 a day and doesn't have to work at all. They simply have to be there when the geriatric boyfriend flies in for a couple weeks, listen to them talk, smile, do whatever else must be done, and then go back to their lives. It ends up being a simple choice, and the family may even support it. Some of the extra boyfriend money goes directly back to the family. It is almost a status symbol.
I sat on the floating bar with Tomas, only 40, from Germany. He worked at one of the dive shops. I nodded behind me at an old man holding hands with a very young girl. He smiled, "Yeah its a great thing! You can come here on vacation and have a beautiful girlfriend waiting for you, and it barely costs a thing. Who knows, when I am a little older I may want to do it myself."
"Yeah, but isn't it a horrible thing for the poor girl? She could be his grand-daughter... it gives me the creeps."
"Hmmm... I don't know. Maybe they are in love! Its hard to say what is going on there. And even if she is not in love, she might be happy. She is probably getting plenty of money and supporting her family. Its really not so bad."
I thought about that one. You see various forms of Oggtag, sometimes the man is younger, only in his 30's or 40's, and the girl sometimes is a little older, maybe even 21. In these cases I could imagine there might really be love. But when I glanced behind me at the wrinkled old man, squinting through his glasses and pawing at the little girl, I could only shake my head. It was pedophilia, there was no way other way to spin it. Maybe I am ignoring "cultural differences." One girl I spoke to had just turned 21 and was lamenting to me that she had no children yet. Everything happens much sooner in the Philippines. But in the end, there are some things that are universally wrong.
I didn't matter, I could do nothing. Every day, on many islands in this country and throughout Asia, the same thing was happening.