three pairs of lovers with space



The Philippines were discovered by Magellan in 1521 and claimed for the Spanish, who begun their colonisation in 1565, establishing Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. As with their conquests elsewhere, foremost among their objectives and self-justifications was conversion of the natives to Christianity and this included fierce hostility to sodomy.

By this time, Chinese traders had been visiting the Philippines for at least a century, and these mostly came from Fujian, where pederasty was even more ubiquitous than elsewhere in Ming-era China. The Spanish encouraged the Chinese to settle in Manila, badly needing both their trade and their skilled craftsmen, but were vexed when they found that despite warnings and burnings at the stake, sodomy remained rife amongst them.

Friar Ignacio de Santibáñez, the first Archbishop of Manila, from 1595 to 1598, complained “that the Chinese not only committed this vice among themselves but also enticed the natives, both men and women, to commit the vice with them. Still later, in 1605 a testimony against the non-Christian Sangleys [Chinese] of the parián [Chinese market-place] described them as the most vicious (viciossisimos), most pernicious, and most harmful people. The testimony went on to state that since Manila and its surroundings were especially, warm and humid it was liable to sins of the flesh. Before the arrival of the Sangleys the natives had had no knowledge of sin against nature, even a name for this sin had never existed in their vocabulary. Since their coining this people had perverted the natives, who, being covetous and newly instructed in the Christian faith, could easily be led away from good morals and could even lose their Catholic faith. Their weak characters left them open to the influences of the Sangleys. They might fall into the superstitious practices of this people and eventually became idolaters like them.”[1]

Since Filipina women were accused of participation in this sodomy, it may well be that it was being narrowly interpreted as pedication, which would certainly be more consonant with what is known of the broad social acceptance of homosexual play amongst boys, at a much later date, but when most of the population was still devoutly Catholic.

In their book Boys for Sale: A Sociological Study of Boy Prostitution  (1969), Drew and Drake describe long-standing and widespread boy prostitution, mostly of themselves by transvestite boys emotionally attuned to happy acceptance of pedication.

Pederasty in the Philippines in the 1970s and early 1980s, as practised between local boys and foreigners either visiting or living there as refugees from the rapidly-growing repression of it elsewhere, is the subject of The Paggers Papers, a remarkably detailed first-hand account by Richard Rawson, a frequently-visiting American boy-lover.  Its accuracy has been widely-attested. Given the relative poverty of the country, the sexual activity described inevitably tended to involve some remuneration, with the boys able to bring welcome extra income to their approving families, but their tolerance of it can nevertheless only be understood in the wider context of a quite exceptional social acceptance of homosexual activity for boys.


[1] Albert Chan, “Chinese-Philippine Relations in the Late Sixteenth Century and to 1603” in Philippine Studies 26 (Manila, 1978) pp. 70-1, here citing as his sources the Archivo General de Indias (Seville) Aud. Filip., Leg. 74, no. 44; Idem., Leg. 18A, Ramo 4, no. 68; Idem., Leg. 74, no. 97.

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