Pacquiao – well known for praying before and after fights.  Hope he prays for his opponents too!

Read a nice piece this morning about Manny Pacquiao – arguably the greatest boxer of all time – returning to training after the typhoon.  Soft Morning Drizzle greets Pacquiao as he resumed road work at high altitude for his November title fight (Tempo).  ‘The Pac-man’ – a former street-kid in Manila, is a model of hope and resiliency for many Phillipino’s and a source of hope that allows them to recover from natural catastrophes.  Incidently we are now tracking Typhoon Nalgae (expected to make landfall Sun).

I was out and about on the streets, although not as early as Pacquiao – popped out to get some shopping after lunch and a now-familiar scenario evolved.  Greeted with inquisitive stares and then beaming smiles, I stopped for a chat with some of the drivers of the ubiqutous motorised tricycle.  A small group gathered and within a minute someone had asked me if I was looking for a wife.  I am starting to lose count of how often this happens.  Very few priests in the Phillipines wear Roman collars – and so are difficult to identify – although if I keep on being asked if I am looking for a wife then I think I may need to do so.   Why?  Not because of clerical ambition, but the sad fact that if you are single white male on the streets of Manila, the assumption is that you are here for one thing, sex tourism.  On one end of the spectrum that may mean looking for a wife ( a bit sad but it does happen) – but of course there is the seedier end of the spectrum, the prostitution of vulnerable women and children.

Senator Pia Cayetano – the youngest ever female to be elected to the senate gave a speech on Monday about this plague that affects the Phillipines. I am following her on twitter.

Pia Cayetano, Senator & Triathelete @piacayetano

On Sunday night she tweeted a message –  Do you guys believe that sex tourism is a serious matter? And that most tourists come here for sightseeing?   I replied to her – that having just arrived in Manila it was embarrassing that I had already been asked five times if I was looking for a wife (now seven!).  My point was a serious one – that unless I am wearing a large cross around my neck, if I am on my own that seems to be the assumption people make.  I wasn’t expected to be quoted in her speech to the Senate on Monday!!  The points she made are quite sobering – 60,000 to 100,000 Filipino children and 300,000 to 400,000 Filipinas are trafficked annually. A staggering 800,000 prostitutes working in the Philippines, with up to half of them underage.  And quoting the American ambassador up t0 40% of male tourists are here for sex-tourism.

All this is very shocking. The damage to the church’s moral authority has been significant because of the recent scandals but that should not silence the church from speaking out on these matters – on behalf of the most vulnerable in society. It would be good to see the bishops here putting their considerable force behind a campaign about this. Also back in the West – we should take a long hard look at ourselves and the culture that is fostered and promoted by men’s magazines.  Although this is not just a Western problem,  much of the trafficking and prostitution involves Chinese and Koreans here too…… so what can we do?  A good whistleblowing website for travellers or anyone is here….. Oh did I mention that Manny Paquiao is a congressman too, some think one day he will be president.