"Dad Is Gone": What Happens To Children Born After The Sex Tourists Leave

Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
In 2014, Swiss photographers Stéphanie Borcard and Nicolas Métraux were in the Philippines documenting the stories of women trying to leave sex work when they learned about the children many call tisoy. Born to Filipina mothers, their fathers are foreigners, some of whom came to the Southeast Asian country as sex tourists and never returned again.

"The children face bullying at school and have to grow up without a father. Some idealize their paternal figure and start posting YouTube videos to find their dads. But usually, they do not have enough reliable information about their fathers to get in touch or find them," Borcard and Métraux told Refinery29 by email.

In the predominantly Catholic country, abortion is strictly illegal, contraception is expensive, and poverty drives many young women into sex work. In Angeles City, a red-light district full of brothels and bars caters to foreign tourists seeking a so-called "girlfriend experience" with young Filipina women. These paid sexual relationships can last for weeks or months.

"There is an enormous wealth gap between the sex tourists and the girls," Borcard and Métraux explained. Often, the men the photographers met said they were lonely; some even seemed in denial that their "girlfriend" was someone they were paying for sex.

"The problem is that most of these men are here for a set amount of time, usually months. All sorts of promises are made prior to their departure. The relationship often continues via social media until they come back," Borcard and Métraux added.

But for many men, when they hear about the pregnancy they are responsible for, "their reaction is, 'How do you know I'm the father?'" the photographers said.

If men consent to DNA testing and it confirms their paternity, they are responsible for monthly child support payments of about 10,000 Philippine pesos per month, or $213 USD, until the child's 18th birthday, according to Borcard and Métraux. But many of the mothers they interviewed said the men refused to take responsibility, or stopped paying and disappeared.

Women are left to raise their children alone and children are left to wonder who their fathers are. Borcard and Métraux sought to capture these children's stories with a photo essay entitled Dad Is Gone. Ahead, they share their portraits with Refinery29.

Editor's note: All captions were provided by Borcard and Métraux and have been edited for clarity.

More From R29 World News:

How Girls Manage Their Periods When Pads & Tampons Aren't Always An Option
Why These Women Ask Their Male Relatives To Scar Their Backs
10 Women Explain Why They Carry Guns
1 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Princess Ann is 1 years old. Her father, around 60, comes from Spain and spent one week in Angeles City as a "tourist." Her mother says he does not know that he has a child.
Advertisement
2 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Samantha Elise is 6, and her half-sister, Briana Louise, is 3. Samantha’s father is from India and Briana’s father is from Canada. They are being raised by their aunt.
3 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
An advertisement for a "girlie bar." Angeles City has become a hot spot for sex tourism. What started as a few girlie bars bordering the U.S. military's Clark Air Base grew bigger during the Korean and Vietnam wars. When Americans left the base in 1991, some bars closed, but many later reopened.
4 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Mechelle, 19, works at a bar on Fields Avenue, a major street running through the center of the red-light district in Angeles. While walking with her mother on this street when she was 9 years old, her mom pointed to a man and said, "That’s your dad." Today, she can’t remember his face. She only knows his first name and that he is an American doctor from Santa Maria, CA.
5 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Kayla Jolie is 6 years old. Her father, who is from Ireland, supported her and her mother financially for 10 months before vanishing. Since then, they have not received any news from him.
6 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Hearty, 5 years old, and Jocelyn, 31. Hearty’s father, a 55-year-old Australian, had a three-month "relationship" with Jocelyn. Most men coming to Angeles City are looking for a "girlfriend experience" — a paid sexual relationship.
Advertisement
7 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Angela Paula is 4 years old. Her father is a 47-year-old Korean architect. It seems he wanted to meet his daughter, but her mother refused, saying that she was scared that he would take Angela to Seoul.
8 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
The "Las Vegas" is one of the many nightclubs in Balibago, the red-light district of Angeles City. Many of the bars are owned by Americans, Australians, Germans, and, more recently, Koreans and Japanese people.
9 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Benny is 3 years old. His father is from Australia and supports his son financially with 10,000 pesos per month (a little more than $213 USD). Benny’s mother continues to work on Fields Avenue.
10 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Mitch, 28, is five months pregnant from an unknown foreigner. She works in a bar on Fields Avenue as a "waitress" to support her other two children.
11 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
The neighborhood that surrounds Angeles City. In the background is Mount Arayat, an extinct volcano.
Advertisement
12 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Sara Jane is 20 years old. Her father is American. She has no information about him, and her mother says she doesn’t want to talk about it. A relative living in Las Vegas has funded her education. After graduation from college, she studied computer programming at the University of Angeles. Now, she is looking for a job.
13 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Annaliza, 22, was adopted by a friend of her mother's. She has never found her biological mother. Her father is a U.S. Navy soldier who was stationed in Olongapo, a costal city that is southwest of Angeles City. Annaliza says she suffers a lot from bullying because of her skin color.
14 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Antonia, 26, holds a paper with the address and phone number of her daughter’s father written on it. He is around 60 years old, comes from Spain, and spent one week in Angeles City as a "tourist." He does not know he is the father to her child.
15 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Ritchell, 29, only knows that her father is German. She says she is seeking her spiritual path and plans to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
16 of 16
Photo: Stéphanie Borcard & Nicolas Métraux/INSTITUTE
Mary Grace is 16 years old. She never met her father, who is a Swiss citizen, but she knows his name. Mary used to have a picture of him, but the humid climate destroyed the print. She grew up with her aunt.
Advertisement