Sampaloc: The first red-light district of Manila

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 Sampaloc: The Prostitute

The cartoon above depicts the town of Sampaloc, Manila, as a lady (to be more blunt, a prostitute) drinking beer from a huge mug. This American colonial period cartoon reflects the fact that from around early 1900’s to 1918, Sampaloc had the distinction of having the very first officially sanctioned red-light district of Manila.

As early as June 30, 1903, Manila officials issued 157 licenses for selling liquor to various establishments of which around 63 were so called second-class bars. Of the 63 second class bars, around 57 were located in houses of prostitution in the district of Sampaloc (see Homer C. Stuntz, 1904). These houses of prostitution were typically visited by health inspectors on a weekly basis and the ladies paid a certain fee for the medical check-up. Those found positive for venereal disease were sent to the San Lazaro Hospital for treatment.

In one report, it is estimated that there were around 210 Japanese women, about 80 natives (Filipinas) and a smaller but undetermined number of European and American women (Henry Parker Willis, 1905). One may wonder why there was such a huge number of Japanese women. Well, partly because the clientele were mostly American troops stationed in the Philippines. Furthermore, as stated by W. Morgan Shuster, Collection of Customs for the Philippines (of which the Philippines was a colony at that time),  women entering the Philippines on their own volition, even if there were some evidence that the woman was a prostitute, could not be prevented from entering. Given this immigration law, Japanese women were free to follow the American troops to Manila.

Around 1910, there were about 17, 370 American troops stationed in the Philippines, and about 3,700 soldiers were confirmed to be afflicted with the venereal disease. By 1917, around 3,388 troops were infected out of 16, 338 American soldiers.

By 1918, the newly elected mayor of Manila, Dr. Justo Lukban (the first Protestant mayor of Manila) ordered the Sampaloc red-light district closed. Since this red-light district was popularly known as Gardenia (the name of the street where the prostitution houses were located), we can say that the beer garden of Sampaloc has been closed.

 

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~ by Martin Gaerlan on November 21, 2006.

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