How to write about a shithole

When people see me sitting in a pub writing in my notebook, they’ll often ask me if I’m writing about this shithole.

Not my words. An actual question posed by actual (white) people who live here.

When I explain that I’m currently working on a feminist sci-fi novel about a planet that gets attacked by Earth, they shake their heads.

“You should be writing about this shithole.”

It’s true, and I think about that a lot. I probably should be writing about this shithole.

And I want to, I do. This place is crawling with stories (and rats and cats and cockroaches, oh my!) But something has been holding me back.

At first, Angeles City really is as skeezy as it looks. Unkempt foreign guys sit around getting drunk all day in dirty bars and then take home much younger girls. None of the girls working the bars are from here – they’ve all been enticed in from the provinces with the promise of easy money. They just want to earn some dough to send back home to their families and hopefully snag a foreign boyfriend to look after them for as long as possible.

That first impression is not entirely wrong. A lot of the foreigners are incredibly racist, many are inveterate drunks, some are probably criminals. And yes, there are definitely pedophiles around too. But there’s more to them than that. I’ve met some fascinating people and they all wound up here in bizarre and interesting ways.

And of course there are the Filipino people themselves. I know office workers and trike drivers, school teachers and security guards, stall owners, small time entrepreneurs, and business people. Angeles City has a thriving sex scene, and I know a lot of people who work in that industry too. But there’s more to this shithole than what most foreigners see.

I think the thing that’s holding me back is that I want to write about Angeles City, the expats, the foreigners, and the locals with compassion. I actually like this place. I like that no matter how hard you scrub, this city will never be clean. I like that everyone has a sense of, oh well, that’s life, let’s carry on. I love that my neighbours are having a videoke party at 10pm on a Thursday night and nobody cares.

So I will start writing more about Angeles City, I promise. I just need to figure out how to tell the stories of these crazy people.

Not that I’m judging. I’me one of those crazy people too.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, podcasts, feature articles, ghostwritten books, drunk text messages and a novella. She is also an actor, voice artist, tour host and creative writing tutor.


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