From the Archives: June 1990

I WAS just 15, and as the eldest I had to do something to help my family. When the captain of our local army squadron introduced a recruiter to my parents, I was ready to go anywhere. He made it sound so nice! I would go to Japan and work in a famous hotel as a professional dancer. It would mean lots of money to send home to my poor family in the Philippines. Of course, I would have to go to Manila first to be trained, and I would have to change my name to fit my new life.

So I became Mami! My recruiter was from a Philippine entertainment production group. They “train” their girls mainly in the clubs and bars on Mabini Street in Manila. My recruiter wanted me to go to Japan as a prostitute, but I demanded to go as an entertainer. ... I was told that if I learned Japanese songs and took dancing lessons I could get an entry visa for show business—in six months. He let me work in his bar while I was waiting, but after two months I asked him to get me a fake passport and visa as I was worried about my family. Later on I learned that all these kindnesses were deducted from my earnings in Japan. By the way, the Aquino government claims it prohibits its people from being engaged in “shameful work,” but while I was in Manila, my Japanese recruiter alone interviewed 20 new girls like me—every day! n

Naoko Iyori, MMB, worked with the Japanese Catholic Council for Justice and Peace in Tokyo when this article, a composite of the actual experiences of several women from the Philippines, appeared.

Image: Girl at a window,  / Shutterstock 

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