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Dec 03rd
Home Sections Literature and Fourth Estate A Book Review of “Let the Good Times Roll: Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia”
A Book Review of “Let the Good Times Roll: Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia” PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Literature and Fourth Estate
Written by Maximo P. Fabella   
Saturday, 09 January 2010 09:09


LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia. By Saundra Pollack Sturdevant and Brenda Stoltzfus. NY: The New Press. 343 pp. Technical notes on photography.


Let the Good Times Roll: Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia by Saundra Pollack Sturdevant and Brenda Stoltzfus (Paperback - Jan 1993) –


By Maximo P. Fabella (exclusively for the


C amp followers have been in existence since recorded times. The armies would have their women, who would cook for the soldiers. Prime examples are the women of the Mexican Revolution. They became popularized in the song "La Cucuracha." I did not know that it meant “cockroach” before I read the book.


The three countries covered in the book are the Philippines, South Korea, and Okinawa. There is a common thread that binds the three countries, speaking of the "hanggang pier lamang" (up-to-the-pier) generation. Or the words of a son: "Maganda si Neneng, bihag ng dilata" (Neneng is beautiful although she has been captured by imported canned goods).


The co-authors are feminist activists, who exposed the U.S. military’s exploitation of local women. Olongapo, with its bar-and-entertainment industry, is a classic venue of such exploitation. It tells of the life stories of six Filipino women. It is a compilation of stories of their adventure, rather misadventure, from Rural Philippines to the metropolis where they hoped to be gainfully and decently employed. And all of them came to the city of Olongapo, then the site of an American naval base. Filipinos called them “kalapating mababang lipad" (low-flying doves), the “dove” (kalapati) being the Filipino colloquial word for “lady of the night.” In many cases poverty made these women from the Visayas or the Bicol Region come to watch the overwhelmingly-bright neon lights of Magsaysay Boulevard in Olongapo City. This area is right outside the base, where the night clubs are located. The music is loud, raucous, and sweaty, at full blast. If the combo goes on a break, there is the substitute machine-fed music or jukebox.


The book tells of the young marines and sailors gyrate to the beat and the sounds that pass for music and the cigarette smoke. But, then the following day, they were all shipped to Vietnam, where they served as cannon fodder, or in colloquial Filipino, “pambala sa kanyon.”


Whether in Okinawa or South Korea or in the Philippines, the system was the same. The ladies were housed in dormitories. GIs had to pay the bar operator to take the ladies out. Some were housed by American "husbands" who for the duration of their station, the women remained faithful to their men.


Olongapo and Angeles City (Pampanga, where the then Clark Air Force base was located), had their fair shares of Amerasian children (who were often abandoned by the American servicemen who sired them). These biracial children usually loitered near the bars and/or public places, as they hoped to be another Elizabeth Ramsey (a popular Amerasian entertainer fathered by a Black-American soldier).


Through this system, came some actors who were born in the Philippines. If asked, some may admit to being "Good-time Charlies." An American priest, who felt guilty of the sins of his fellow Americans, tried to contact their stateside American parents. Some of his efforts succeeded and the Amerasian children were petitioned by the American fathers. But usually, the efforts failed.


Before the bases were closed, the American media, especially public-relations experts, spoke of thousands of jobs lost. The fact is that after the bases were closed, more local people were employed. Acer Computers, a Taiwanese company, is an example.  Besides, salary for base employees were based on Philippine – and not U.S. – base-pay scales.


Aside from the abandoned Amerasians, the bases also brought chemical pollution and other environmental damages. These cases too had been documented.


The book is worth reading. It says that San Diego (California), Jacksonville (Florida), Norfolk (Virginia) and Yokusaka (Japan) and other cities that have American military bases have their share of "honky-tonk" amusement places. In the book, the American military not only degraded Asian women but also reminded me of the "hanggang pier" generation of my earlier days in the Philippines. # # #


E ditor’s Notes: Maximo P. Fabella is a professional historian, who taught at the University of the East in Manila, Philippines. He has done book reviews for Amerasia, Journal of African and Asian Studies, the Philippine Times of Chicago, where he served also as its Florida bureau chief, and other newspapers.  He is based in Florida, where he has resided since 1976. The author migrated with his family to the United States in 1969.


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Last Updated on Saturday, 09 January 2010 09:25
Comments (2)
1 Saturday, 09 January 2010 20:07
Max is an old friend who used to edit a Fil-Am newspaper in Jacksonville, Fla. He retired as a`social worker.

Last year, Max and I toured the nation's monuments and memorials -courtesy of the National Park Service.

Keep up the good work.

Happy New Year.


2 Saturday, 28 July 2012 09:58
by Ambeth R Ocampo
Manil, Anvil,312pp. 2009

reviewed by Maximo P. Fabella
exlusively for Radio Mabuhay

Ambeth Omcapo has been tagged as a "public historian". He is that and more.

He is priest of the order of St Bede, a writer, historian, enrolled for his doctorate

in London School of Oriental Sudies, a professor of history at Ateneo de Manila

University and UP.

There are 101 short chapters in the book. To date he has written 15 books

for the popular readers. First came in out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Story telling is one approach to history. Grandparents are known for telling

them even during the Japanese period. My history students at the university

complain that their textbook, 2 volumes Gregorio Zaide, are as "dry" as

"dilis and tuyo". How can I blame them?.

Critics of Ambeth complain, that his books "makes mountains out of molehills"

I have to disagree with them. The short articles of no more than 3 pages each

are all documented.

Others complain that his books do not have the "integrative" approach.

For that we have one prime example, O.D.CORPUZ, 2 volume, THE ROOTS OF


FILIPINO PEOPLE, still in demand in schools, colleges and universities.

One thing notable I noticed, is the seeming enability of Filipinos to AGREE

if not fight in public. Note the quarrel between the followers of Andres Bonifacio

and Emilio Aquino, the disagreements of Isbelo Artacho and Emilio Aguinaldo

over the monies, they took to Hongkong. Artacho wanted a division.

I have read these stories in a different format, in my course of academic

life. Aside from documentation, the book also preserved pictures, which are

no longer available. I COMMEND AMETH OCAMPO, for his books..

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