A week ago, I was scrolling over my Facebook homepage, like I always do, when I encountered a friend’s shared post about an app. It caught my attention for two reasons: one, that friend reacted with exaggeration to the original post so it should be controversial; and two, the nature of the app itself, which is essentially a ‘fake boyfriend or girlfriend for hire’ platform.
It’s called Pangga. The name hits close to home being a Visayan term of endearment commonly used where I am from.
I was initially amused by the concept because I thought nobody might take this seriously in the Philippines. I mean, come on. Who hires a fake boyfriend or girlfriend?
But eventually, I realized that this might actually work in a country where social life, more importantly love life, among the younger generation is a big deal. Pangga could be an unexpected success.
So I read more about it to check if it’s worth a try. Because who knows, I might actually need a fake partner to boast about in my college reunion.
I learned that its developers are calling it Asia’s first on-demand companionship service. That is fairly easy to confirm, since its closest similar app Tinder is in a completely different league – nobody is hiring anyone there to become a pretend partner.
To be exact, this is how Pangga is described by its developers in Google Play Store:
“Pangga App is an app-based technology platform that enables millennials to avail a friend for hire or companionship service in order to improve relational skills and build a healthy self-esteem in todays ‘Me Me Me Generation.’”
As I read further, I discovered that Pangga offers friend for hire services for clients who want Pangga to portray a specific role in his/her distinct situation.
There are different categories. Two of the controversial ones are the social media boyfriend or girlfriend, which lets the hired partner to be the client’s special someone on Facebook; and Rent a Date, which allows the hired partner to serve as a boyfriend or girlfriend in social events.
Other categories are for a more socially acceptable purpose like the hired companion acting as a fitness buddy, a local tour guide, or something like a counsellor.
Upon learning the available options, I thought that Pangga is just like an escort service through the app.
Even when the goals of the developers are explicitly mentioned and the intentions are clean, the platform might be used for prostitution.
The developers knew that they would get this reaction, which is why they clarified through their website that Pangga is not designed to be an escort service.
They said that while the hired companion can portray the role of a boyfriend or a girlfriend, certain limitations should be strictly observed and implemented.
One of the ads by Pangga.
Pangga assured, “We strive to make your every session a memorable one with the end-goal of fulfilling your social needs in your distinct situation.
“Your safety and security is very important to us. We take several precautions and set location tracking (GPS) to ensure the safety of all parties involved at all times,” they added.
Allowed activities between the client and the hired companion are massaging the hands, playing games or cards, watching movies, and taking selfies. In the grey area is holding hands with the client because Pangga only allows it in ‘special circumstances.’