Massage therapists want to remain near Davao city hall

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 July) — Massage therapists who used to accommodate customers at Osmeña Park here wanted to continue their business near the city hall.

“We hope that the city government would allow us to work here at least once a week,” Jun Laurente, one of the masseurs, told MindaNews.

Some 150 therapists did massage services to their customers who were seated on monoblock plastic chairs in the street between the city hall and Velasco bookstore on Sunday evening.

They were removed from Osmeña Park along with ambulant vendors and chess players since it has been rehabilitated.

Laurente said over 300 masseurs had been making a living at the park in the last eight years.

But since a few months ago, at least half of them had never showed up again after the Technical Education and Skills Authority (TESDA) required training and certification for massage therapists.

“All of us here now have National Certification from TESDA,” he added.

City Administrator Melchor Quitain said Monday he called for the park’s rehabilitation after news came out that it was being used for sex and other activities.

The city government planned to put up fences around the park, additional lights and other facilities such as two closed-circuit television cameras.

Quitain said the park will be re-opened before the end of July.

He said the park had become a place that some people used as a toilet and where they slept, aside from being a “sex area”, according to the news.

Asked where he planned to transfer the masseurs, he said, “Saan sila galing? Balik sila kung saan sila galling” (Where did they come from? They should go back to where they came from).

Earlier reports said alleged sexual activities happened in the park resulting to its rehabilitation and prohibition of massage services there.

However, masseur Estrella Buc-ong told MindaNews that nobody among them admitted the alleged sexual act nor mentioned about witnessing it during their general meetings.

“It’s impossible to do that in an open space without any of us noticing it,” she argued.

She added a government official wanted to displace them because massaging in public is “dili nindot tan-awon” (not pleasant to see).

Councilor Al Ryan Alejandre, chair of the committee on tourism and beautification of the city council, said Monday Yusof Jimlani, chief of the city demolition unit, will find a better place for the masseurs as ordered by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

But Alejandre said he has nothing against the masseurs as they are just trying to earn a living.

The masseurs charge less than established massage parlors — P40 an hour for head massage, P60 for legs, and P80 for back. They also offer whole body massage for two hours at P200 but they will do it inside a massage clinic nearby.

“We earn more this way,” Laurente said, adding that when he used to work in a massage clinic, he only received 30 percent of the total income. “But now I give 10 percent of my income to the owner.” (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)