Tropicality and Decoloniality: Sex Tourism vs Eco Tourism on a Philippine Beach


  • Rosemary Wiss University of Sydney, Australia



Philippines, tropicality, decoloniality, postcolonialism, tropical natureculture, sex tourism, ecotourism


The small beachside town of Aplaya, Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines has a sex, beach, and diving tourist economy. Aplaya is considered a place of isolation, providing unspoiled tropical nature. Many foreign men discuss their desires for a Utopian paradise, a tropical beach that is imagined as uninhabited except for the necessary extras – the welcoming natives and compliant women. Foreign men depict the Philippines as a place where women are ordinarily sexually available, part of the natural excess of the tropics. This discourse of tropicality is here put into context with a discourse of decoloniality. The Philippines archipelago was colonised for over 400 years firstly by the Spanish, then by US colonisation, followed by Japanese occupation in WWII, and a return of the US until 1946 – after which post-colonial US influence continued. Despite this long and complex history, tourists who recount desires for a natural world and a nostalgia for a lost paradise in relation to the West help produce Aplaya as paradise found, rather than a particular version of paradise made. Amidst these ideas about natural women and traditional gender arrangements there are also ideas about the tropical natureculture, its natural state and cultural interventions. In Aplaya, a conflict is occurring between the development of sex tourism and environmental conservation through ecotourism. The domains of nature and culture, their articulation in the tropics, the environment, and development are produced and contested around this beach.

Author Biography

Rosemary Wiss, University of Sydney, Australia

Rosemary Wiss lectures at the University of Sydney in Anthropology. Her primary focus in on the anthropology of gender and sexuality. Rose gained a BA Hons in Anthropology at the Australian National University, was on postgraduate exchange to the History of Consciousness Program, University of California, Santa Cruz, and received a PhD from Macquarie University Sydney. Her past work has received awards from the Australian Anthropology Association, and the Vice Chancellor’s Award at Macquarie University. Rose has published in The Australian Journal of Anthropology (TAJA), The Journal of Human Rights, and other sites. I live on unceded Cadigal land in a public housing estate in Sydney where I am involved in activist work supporting public housing tenants. I’m a white woman, whose heritage is from Tasmanian convict Anglo and German migrations.


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How to Cite

Wiss, R. (2023). Tropicality and Decoloniality: Sex Tourism vs Eco Tourism on a Philippine Beach. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 22(2), 57–81.