Only 20 years old, Lean* proudly claimed he is already “maro (literally, ‘treacherous’; though contextually used to refer to being ‘street smart’)”. That is, “dili pagamit (don’t let yourself be used),” he said.
This is why – now working as a masseur in downtown Cagayan de Oro City in the Province of Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao –Lean said he won’t do a thing “kung wala tay makuha (if I don’t get anything in return).”
Sitting with the other masseurs on a bench in Divisoria, the downtown area of Cagayan de Oro City, Lean was somewhat chirpy when he agreed for his story to be shared. He was, he said, more surprised somebody wants to know. “Pareha ra man mi tanan; pareha ra man amo istorya (We’re all the same; our stories are all the same),” he said. “Common lang ba (Our stories are common).”
When his photo being was taken, he asked to see the shots. And then he said with a laugh: “Kanang kamot, ayos. Ayaw lang ibutang ako nawong (The arms/hand, okay. Just don’t put my face)!”
Lean actually only started working as a masseur six weeks ago. Before then, “wala ra, tambay ra (I wasn’t doing anything, I was just idle). And then a cousin told him about “kining trabahoa (this job)” in the city. That same cousin also works as a masseur, “ug dako man siya gi-kita (and he’s been earning a lot).”
He was told all he had to do was at least try to give a decent massage, and then… “game dayon (an expression literally meaning “playing a ‘game’”, though it could also mean – as in this case – proceeding to having sex).
The sex part is somewhat “kahinanglan (needed),” Lean said. This is because a massage in the establishment where he works costs P200 (with the massage usually lasting for an hour). Of that amount, only P60 go to the masseur.
“Twelve hours per day baya mi work (We work for 12 hours a day),” Lean said. The masseurs get a break for a few minutes in between clients – and when they don’t grab meals, they hang out (perhaps to smoke) in the plaza.
“Kung gusto ka mukita, diskarte jud (If you want to earn, you have to be ingenious),” Lean said.
Ingenuity, in his case, means offering ES (for “extra service”, which means the sex that comes as an add-on from the massage).
“Okay ra ang sex kung nay kuwarta (Sex is okay as long as there’s money involved),” Lean said.
Lean said he charges P500 for handjob; P1,200 to P1,300 “kung romansa (if I romance him); P2,000 kung mu-tsupa siya (if he gives me a blowjob); and P3,000 kung pa-lubot siya (if he wants me to anally penetrate him/fuck him).”
Almost everything can be discussed, said Lean who kept stressing that when clients make requests, “ma-istorya man na (that can be discussed).”
The stereotypical male role is, however, on play here. That is, Lean will penetrate, but will never allowed himself to be penetrated. “Dili ko bayot (I am not gay),” he said. “Baboy ra kayo kung pa-lubot ko. Luod (Here, Lean mentions the pig, with the use of the animal representing a lowly status, so that Lean is basically saying it’s too lowly if he allows himself to be fucked/anally penetrated. He then added: ‘Disgusting’)!”
Generally, though, Lean feels nothing when he is working. “Wala gani giluuran (I’m not even disgusted),” he said, actually smiling. “Trabaho ra gud uy (I’m just working).”
Since he is only 20, Lean doesn’t have anyone to support. “Wala pa ko gibuhi (I don’t support anyone yet),” he said. So everything he does at least for now is “para sa ako-a ra jud (just for me).”
And though he does not see himself staying in this line of work forever, “dili sa nako gihuna-huna ang future (I don’t think of the future yet),” he said. All he does, for now, is live day by day. “Trabaho kasagaran; unya, one day per week, off ta, matulog ra (I just work most of the time; and then, once a week, I have a day off, and I just sleep).”
As he stood up to head back to work (the other masseurs with him were already standing, waiting for him to finish chatting), Lean gave his number “kung gusto mo makigkita (if you want to catch up),” he said.
And – just as he was starting to walk away – he was asked if he is not worried about society’s judgment of him.
Lean actually offered a smile. “Unsang ulaw (What there to be ashamed of)?” he said. “Kahibalo gani ako ginikanan sa ako-a work. Unsa gud reklamo, panginabuhi man ni (My parents even know about my line of work. What’s there to complain about, when this is making a living)!”
*NAME CHANGED AS REQUESTED BY THE INTERVIEWEE TO PROTECT HIS PRIVACY