This post does not aim in any way to be offensive towards those whom I am going to talk about it here. I must say that, as it has happened often with the lines that I’ve written in previous posts about several subjects, all of them in one way or the other, are related to my travel experiences and not written based on a genuine knowledge about certain topics; instead, very much based on experiences and opinions that I’ve been through myself.
I am not Google and, as I often say; if you read my posts I hope is because you can enjoy an entirely honest vision and opinion about things as they happen. If are the facts that you are looking for, then please refer to Wikipedia which I am not! With this out of the way, I can now confirm again that this post is entirely based on personal opinions and thoughts that inevitable will occur sooner or later to anyone backpacking or not ain a good bunch of South East Asian countries.
If you are one of them, you have indubitably seen and felt as I have and therefore, got an opinion about the subject yourself. The subject that we are talking about here is pretty common, not unheard of but little discussed on the media or any travellers travel blogs, for that matter; why we see so many older westerner men with much younger Asian women.
What’s behind this? Should still remain unsettling to witness? Why? And most important, why these women do it? Can we judge them? Should we?
I’m currently in the Philippines but I have, to certain extend, travelled extensively through other South East Asian countries before I got here. Since day one of my travels in this side of the world, there is this one sight that I have seen (almost) everywhere; the random older white man with a much younger Asian woman or women.
Unsettling? Very much so at the beginning. Has it stopped being unsettling for me now that I have seen hundreds of them? No, it still is.
Let me refer to my last few days; a couple of days ago I took a transfer through the island of Palawan. On my minivan we were a bunch of tourists and some locals, too. Among all of us, three of them captured mine and others attention; a fifty something big unattractive British man and two very young fragile small size looking Philippine girls that seemed were travelling together.
I was unclear at the beginning of our long car journey of the relationship between them but, luckily for me, the British man found on a young fellow German traveller an excellent partner whom to discuss his life as a broker in London. He spoke through the whole journey about his past job and several other topics. As it usually happens, when you enjoy so much talking about just yourself, you end up talking too much in general and hence, why at the end of the journey, we all knew that the three of them were travelling very much together, that there was some sort of transaction or favour exchanged and that the girls were very dependent on this big man whom they called papa (father) being under his wishes for whatever period of time.
He seemed polite enough, they all seemed much civilised and whatever was going on there, it appeared it was working. The situation was bizarre because it seemed almost normal, almost normal. But when I looked much closer, this normality dissipated. To my eyes, there was something really wrong about the whole situation. But, was there?
The other tourists on the van were two French girls. Out of all of us, only the German guy seemed fascinated with this man and his finance knowledge, the rest of us (all females) we seemed disgusted. Here’s is an interesting point, I think you would agree in how sexes can related more or less to certain attitudes or situations, in this case mostly predominantly used by males.
The German guy (much younger than us three) seemed not to bat an eyelid about any of it. The first questions that arise to me was; by being a male, is there a general consent on this? Do men have a bigger understanding of other men hooking up with much younger women?
The German guy and I shared a dorm in our final destination which was everyone’s else’s, too. I did not see him for almost two days but when I did, he told me he had been spending lots of time with the British man and the two Philippine girls. We talked about the activities they did together and eventually, I drove the conversation to the point where I was interested.
Did he not really saw anything unusual in the situation? Did he know what I was referring to? As it happens, he knew but raised not concern whatsoever. Apparently a few hours with the British man and his girls made him very understandable of what was going on. He told me that he learnt from this man about the extreme poverty that these girls (representing the vast majority of Philippine people who struggle with unemployment, poverty and large families that also struggle to sustain themselves) go through and while he could see something slightly abnormal in the eyes of our Westerner society, he could understand why the situation was beneficial for them all.
I’m going to risk it a bit here and say that if there is one single thing that makes this less unsettling and I could produce an ounce of understanding in our society, is that for everything that is worth; these arrangements seem to benefit all parties.
The random westerner man over fifty, which in this moment of time is alone for whichever circumstance of life, that has produced enough savings to live the rest of his life quite comfortably but has no one to share them with; an older westerner man that lives in a society that values youth and success and subtly ignores and discriminates older people.
A girl, too young to give up freedom but not young enough to still fall in and out of love and have her heart broken a few times until settling; a girl who has been unlucky to be born in a country, family and society that tells her that opportunities, studying and travelling is something that happens to other people. Behind this girl, there is a whole family of broken dreams and struggles.
He offers her money, extensively to her whole family, and the protection, the travelling and the clothes, gifts and small luxuries that she could not possess otherwise. She offers him the company, the support, the sex, her youth. Her love bought by westerner money. Almost, in a sick kind of way, these are pairs made in heaven.
Sadly, my westerner education does not allow me to see normality in this. Contradictorily, I can understand why this is a favourable transaction of favours for both parties.I try hard not to judge, but I can’t. Some days I am upset with myself because I am selfish and extremely lucky that I have been born in a good country with free education and opportunities are available to everyone. I have choices and my choices will allow me to make decisions thinking on my own benefit and growth. But, can these young women choose?
I try to imagine how it feels to live in a country where you see hundreds of white tourists coming and going, hearing conversations where they talk about trips to faraway destinations that can last several months, where they may spend, only drinking, an amount of money that could support a local family for a week. Then, I think to myself; who am I to judge?
The German guy asked me; if you get to an older age and feel extremely alone and isolated from a society that rejects old people and you have the money, would you do it?