My plane arrived Wednesday around Noon and for the following two days I’ve been doing LOTS of walking in and out of town. Getting settled into my studio meant getting lots of household items.. without the aid of a car. So each day I wrote a list of what I needed and then made 3 or 4 trips a day to buy and carry things home like an oscillating fan, folding chair, bottled water, floor mats and more.
So when Friday rolled around and I secured my USB accessed internet I was ready to for a break.
Three hours later I awoke around 6pm and the sun was much closer to sunset. The temp had dropped a bit and once I had an invigorating (cold) shower, I was ready to get out of the house and do some walking for leisure. I felt like taking a walk along the beach for a change so I hailed a tricycle (motorcycle w/side-car) and told him to take me to the eastern edge of the island. Little did I know that the tricycle ride was the high-point of the evening.
I enjoyed the cool air as we putted down the road at about 30 mph, taking in the scenery as we went. Within ten minutes he dropped me off just past Plantation Bay at a collection of nipa-huts. In broken English he informed me the beach was just past those huts. With visions of white sandy beaches in my head, I handed him a few pesos and he putted away as I made my way through the fifteen or so huts. When I came out the other side I found many rows of picnic tables. On one of them was a young Filipino couple having a picnic. Making my way past the tables I encountered.. a short cement wall. It stood about three feet high and just on the other side was the water as it gently lapped against the gnarly blockade. No sand. Just cement and then the ocean.
I accepted my dismay and comforted myself in knowing there ARE white sandy beaches around here somewhere. It couldn’t be that ALL those photos were computer-generated to lure in unsuspecting tourists. I walked along the tables, away from the young couple so as to give them their privacy, and quickly came upon some goats. At first I was distracted by the large goat standing atop the table staring at me with that bored, cud-chewing look they always give me. Then I noticed the other fifteen or so goats. . some atop the tables, some between and others making their way lazily towards me to see if perhaps my shirt was edible.
Not one to be easily intimidated by a bunch of hoofers with the IQ of a cantaloupe, I walked through them and then came upon a collection of six or so drunks spread out on the other tables. One of the big ones slowly sat up and tried to fathom what the hell might have brought me there. When he saw that I did not come bearing gifts of booze, he lost interest and went back to his meditations. The others took only scarce notice except to lightly chuckle at my obvious disillusionment.
I made my way back to where the tricycle had dropped me off. In the distance a 3 year old was playing in a large puddle the rain had made earlier in the day. Other than that.. just me and the road. Well, circumstance seemed to be dictating it was time that I get started on that walk I’d intended upon. And so I began my twisted night’s journey.
The sun had dropped below the horizon and what little light was left was quickly being choked out by the large and very dark clouds brewing in from the Eastern shore of the island. I hadn’t walked more than a quarter mile when a different tricycle appeared. Most likely he saw me from a distance and came to see if there was a fare to be had. He asked where I was going. “Well.. “, I thought for a second, “.. how many pesos to get me to the Northern end of the island?”. He said something. None of which I understood very well. Between my zero understanding of Visaya and his scattered English we were a comedy routine in the making. I never really cared for the game ‘charades’ but in this situation plenty of hand-motions and animated gestures seemed the most natural thing to do.
After several minutes of this (with no real progress) I finally pointed to my right and said, “100 Pesos.. that way. Ok?” That much he understood and I climbed into his uniquely painted ‘trike’ and we putted off into the darkness. To where, I really had no idea. But I figured, “It’s an island.. how lost could I get?”.
ONE IS COMPANY.. FOUR IS JUST PLAIN ANNOYING
This second trike didn’t have the horsepower of the first one I’d ridden. It labored to ascend the slightest incline. Had it been a mule I’d have done the decent thing and gotten out to push. We putted along into the darkness. Street vendors hailed along the way, people slowly dodged out of our path and then.. just more darkness. Trees, broken cement along the road and the occasional goat grazing on the abundant greenery beside the road.
“You have wife!”, he shouted over the loud putt-putt of the struggling engine. “No, no wife.”, I replied. “How long stay?”, he countered. “Well.. rest of my life is the plan.”. He looked back at the road with a puzzled look.
“You like pretty girls? Many pretty girls here.” “Yes. Pretty girls.. very awesome. Many, many on the island.” I found myself trying to match his own succinct form of English in the hopes we’d end up communicating better. “I take you to my house. My house. You come? I have many pretty girls to meet.”. Being as considerate of his hospitality as possible I replied, “No.. thank you, but no. No girls tonight. Just dinner and walk. Need exercise.”
Again with the puzzled face as he maneuvered the bumps and holes of the road.
We eventually came upon a well-lit section of road with lots of vendors on both sides of the street. I banged on the side of the trike to get his attention and motioned to pull over. I gave him some pesos for the fare and leisurely began my walk into the crowded sidewalks. In no particular hurry I took in every detail my eyes, nose and mind could record. The smells of so many foods wafted through the air as I walked along. So many choices and every vendor giving their pitch that I buy their goods or culinary offerings.
Now, I purposely ‘dressed down’ so as to not attract attention to myself. Some old, faded shorts, a plain yellow t-shirt were my choice for the evening. As it is for most evenings, but that’s another matter. It was to no avail. I stood out like a clown-suit at a formal affair. Speaking of clowns, it was not long before three guys sided up along and around me from out of nowhere. One was the ‘Talker’.. so I knew he was the one to ignore. I calculated his task was to grab my attention, distract me from the other two. Instead I took an inventory of the other two, slowing my pace to get all of them in full view. Checked the hands.. no weapons visible. Pockets seemed empty enough.. no batons or machetes to worry about. I sized them up.. even the biggest one I could take down easy enough if necessary.
The Talker began hammering me with compliments, questions and familiarity. Despite telling him I was from California he kept announcing to anyone in earshot, “This is Rico, everybody!!.. see, my GOOD FRIEND from Canada.” Geez, I know where this is going and if I have anything to say about it.. it aint.
I was polite but made it clear I wasn’t interested in being bothered. I waved at them and motioned that I’d be on my way. They talked among themselves and I made my way to a vendor selling freshly cooked corn-on-the-cob. After getting it dipped in butter and some kind of cheese-powder I started to walk again, munching into the awesome corn-goodness. Life was good. For about a minute. Suddenly, Talker and the 2-Live Crew were hot on my heels again. With a loud, (and annoying) fake laugh he started joking and saying, “Hey, Rico! He like corn!! Corn for everyone, right Rico?”
Now, if I have one natural gift at all it seems to be the ability to drop my IQ down in a heartbeat when necessary. I can out-stupid just about anybody. And I have. It’s like a defense mechanism that evolution saw fit to equip me with for moments like this. By the time we finished talking about corn.. he got frustrated and gave up on the idea that I was buying anybody anything that even looked like corn. I finished my corn as they followed me down the street and, again, waved goodbye to them.. tossed the corn into a trash can and ran across the traffic to make a break for it.
I made the mistake of getting something to wash down my corn and.. all three of them showed up again. Once again he announced to everyone how I hailed from the great land of Canada rather than California. Once again he suggested I buy rounds of Coke or San Miguel for everybody. I told him, “No.. you don’t have to buy me any beer. But you guys go ahead, I need to do some walking.. exercise.. you know, good cardio.”, and once again I left.
And as I left behind the bright lights now to make my way into a very (very) dark road.. again they ran and caught up with me. “Where to Rico, Sir? Restaurant? You want food??” “No.. I’m just going to WALK and then.. WALK some more. ”
Now.. this went on for another mile. I walked and they followed along. The darkness was only briefly broken by a small home or sari-sari store selling loads for cell-phones. The rest was all darkness, very few street-lights and dim at that with nothing but random jungle and darkened shacks along the way. I kept watching them, rotating, staying alert while set like flint on walking another 5 miles if that’s what it took to peel away from these guys without an ugly incident.
We came upon a small shack where some children were singing karaoke outdoors. That’s when I stopped and anchored myself among the kids. Surrounded by them I just listened to them, one by one, sing out their hearts in Tagolog to tunes I’d never heard before. Meanwhile my three companions were getting BORED outta their minds. The Talker asked if I wanted to meet some women, he knew a place. “Nah.. I just LOVE this karaoke thing.. I could watch it for HOURS.” Well, as fate would have it, 45 minutes later they turned off the light and shut down for the night. Crap. Time to do some more walking.
After another half-mile of walking, still with these guys in tow.. Talker wanted to know what my plans were. The other two seemed to be frustrated that we were now about 2 miles away from where I met them and no free dinner, booze or girls to show for it. I stopped along the road when I came upon a home that was amazingly out of place for the area. It looked like something Victorian and apparently boarded up giving it something of a haunted look to it. I stood there, just staring at it for about 15 minutes. “What is this house?”, I asked them. They seemed confused. “I mean, was it a business before?.. or a private home? The architecture is beautiful.. don’t you think?” I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I figured it boiled down to either, “Let’s either rob him or leave, he’s boring us to death with all this walking!”.
As I stood there, still entranced with this home, Talker came to me with something of a request from the group. “So, ehh.. Mister Rico Sir.. you are hungry? We go to eat or maybe you want beer??” “No.. .. .. I’m just amazed at this design on the house. I think I’ll walk another two miles. I’m a night-person, I could do this till 3 in the morning. Isn’t the night-weather here fantastic? Perfect for late-night strolling, eh?”
“Well..”, he continued, “.. it is late. We are far from home.” “Yah, you guys should start walking back.”, I countered. “But we have no money for Jeepney.” “Well, walking is good.. very good for you.” We went back and forth like this until we stale-mated at an uncomfortable silence while the other two looked on. He then started to rationalize why he and his buddies should get paid.., “But you know, Sir.. we three of us, we make good bodyguards. Very dark and not so good here.” My response was flatly, “I don’t need bodyguards. If there had been any problems it would be me handling it while you watched.” He then got all apologetic, “Okay, okay Sir.. I just joking. Only joking.”
I began to calculate the variables in play and figured it would be worth 60 Pesos (about $1.50 USD) to finally get rid of these guys. I gave him the pesos and he thanked me profusely at first. As I started to walk away into the night he said, “And.. Sir, I also need money for rice.” At this point I figured my patience was well beyond testing and calmly told him, “Yah.. me too, I got bills too.”, and just kept on walking. I glanced over my shoulder to see them board the next Jeepney and finally leave me to my walking and search for some dinner.
AND THEN THINGS TOOK A STRANGE TURN..
I continued to walk into the darkness for another quarter mile. Immediately I was able to enjoy my evening again. Aside from the occasional make-shift karaoke huts and dimly lit homes the road wasn’t taking me anywhere in particular. I did pass the grand entrances of some resorts eventually. Finally I found a few places where I could get some dinner. I was starving and open to just about anything. I walked into a Chinese place and sat down. Even though it seemed to be run by Filipinos the menus were in Chinese. The only other patrons were four Japanese men who seemed to be on their second hour of beer and saki shots.
I asked for chow mien and the waitress (a 14 year old girl) suggested some spicy beef instead, with rice. Hungry as I was I said, “Sure.. I’ll take that with some water.” She returned with a large carafe of water, a cup, some kind of pickled vegetable in hot sauce and some slices of an unknown pickled vegetable yellow in color I’d not seen before. I used my chopsticks to try the pickled hot sauce. Big mistake. Not because it was hot.. but because it tasted just gawdawful. I tried the pickled yellow thing and that was actually very good.
After a slow, relaxing dinner of spicy beef with rice I went to settle my tab. Right away the two girls started in on me as they tendered my bill. “Sir.. you have no wife?” I settled up my bill and made my way outside to figure out my next move.
This whole time the dark clouds I’d noticed before sunset were now the area where very large lightning bolts were being tossed from one cloud to another. The night would flash in such as way as to say that this was not the usual single-point lightning. This was a massive storm and somehow it was going to affect me personally. So I decided I’d ventured far enough and it was time to walk home to my studio.. which was now about 6 miles away. In the dark. With a huge storm just off the coast.
I started walking, a little faster than I had been the whole evening. It wasn’t very long before yet another, third, tricycle pulled up along-side me. This man’s English was much better. “Where can I take you, Sir?” “How many pesos to get to Guisano Mall, Central?”, I asked, trying to not sound as if I had no other reasonable option. “100 pesos, Sir.” Before I even replied I was already climbing in. His tricycle had some power to it so already I felt better as the cool breeze chilled my sweat from the humid evening.
We hadn’t putted along for more than a minute when he shouted out over the engine, “Wife, Sir? You have wife?” “No, no wife.” He seemed pleased. “On our way to mall, I take you to my home.. many beautiful Filipinas. My cousins and neighbor. You like Filipinas? You like beautiful women, yes?”
“Oh yah.. I like. Many beautiful women here in Philippines. But, I just want to get home. But thank you though for the offer.”, I replied as diplomatically as possible. Before long we were passing through the area where I first ran into the three guys. Still lots of people outdoors. I just watched from the comfort of my covered side-car.. almost hoping to see them as I putted along down the road. No sign of them.
“I take you to bar, very close to mall. You will like.. you like disco, huh? Good disco?” “Uhmm.. no thanks, just going home.” We finally got close to the mall and, as I am oft to do unexpectedly at times, I changed my mind and said, “Tell you what.. how about we stop by that bar just for a quick look around.” He sped past the mall and off we went. And we kept going. And going. Finally I yelled over the sound of the trike, “I didn’t think it would be quite so far.. maybe not.” “Oh no, Sir! We just have to go around one-way street, not far.”
Before I knew it we had stopped along some businesses that had closed up for the night. The only thing open was a single door leading to a stairway with a security guard posted at the entry. It looked pretty sketchy but I figured, I’d do this guy a solid. He’ll take me in, I buy a drink and he gets some sort of tip for bringing in the goofy foreigner. I’ve got the time so, let’s do this.
We went up the flight of stairs. Then up another flight of stairs. And then, yet another third flight of stairs. At the entry way was the bar. The entire place was dimly lit with just a reddish glow interspersed with the random flashes of light from a DJ light sphere spinning over an empty dance-floor. The middle of the room was filled with empty white tables. Somewhere someone was killing a tune on the karaoke mic. Most everyone was sitting at tables along the wall. To the left and right.. tables with one man and three to four young women fawning over him each. Along the wall nearest, just around eye-sight from the bar, were all the ladies still waiting for another man to come in and take a table. They giggled and gossiped stopping only momentarily to see me and the driver of the tricycle walk in. I’ve been to this rodeo before and wasn’t in the mood to play.
I sat at one of only two available seats at the bar, the trike driver taking the other stool next to me. Then lifted my hand as if bidding on an auction and the bartender approached me. “I’ll take a Red Horse.” “We only have one size, the Grande.. is that ok?” “Yah, sure.”, I responded. He quickly came back with a huge bottle of Red Horse, the only Filipino beer I’ve liked so far, and two chilled glasses. I poured out a glass for my driver, Domingo, and a glass for myself. We toasted to nothing in particular and downed our bitter ale. I was surprised at how very cold the beer was. Nothing worse than warm beer. Well, okay, maybe some things are worse.. but I’ll drink almost any beer if it’s cold enough. Except that pumpkin/honey beer.. never doing that again.
That first glass went down fast and it was time for a refill. Domingo and I were just getting into some idle chit-chat when an older woman (the Mama-san) approached me. “Would you like to sit at a table?” In my mind.. a chess game had just begun. First objective.. control the center. “No thanks, I’ll use the bar instead.” She asked again, and again I politely declined. Looking to increase his commission, tip, whatever.. Domingo then starts on me. “You should get table. Many nice girls come. Maybe dance some disco? Ehh?”
“Nahh.. I’m just gonna have me this beer and then call it a night.” One of the other ladies came by and threw me some suggestive glances, gesturing that perhaps I should join her at a table. Domingo picked up on this. “She like you. Why you not sit at table?” “Because..”, I told him in a most matter-of-fact manner, “.. ten seconds after I sit down, three women join me and start ordering watered down drinks at higher prices. I’m not in the mood to be buying fake drinks for women who don’t give a damn about who I am.”
He nodded his head, realizing the jig was up and I wasn’t some newbie eager to open his wallet just to sit next to a pretty girl. So he tried a more direct tactic. “Then, you just take them for tonight, after that you leave. Only two thousand pesos for five hours. You get massage.. sex massage.”
“Two thousand pesos? That’s half what I pay in rent for a month. I’m not paying that for a few hours of massage.”
“And sex.”, he was going for broke on getting this commission, I had to admire his persistence.
“Nah, not gonna happen.”. I smiled at one of the other girls who passed by, much cuter than the rest. I then poured the last two glasses of booze, guzzled it down and waved some pesos at the bartender. “Well, I’m heading out. But you can stay if you want.” But he didn’t. He was quick on my heels though a bit disappointed he didn’t close that sale.
We exited the stairs into the cool, late, evening out on the street. Domingo didn’t seem much of a drinker to already be getting fuddled up with his keys. “You gotta pass by the mall anyway, how about you drop me off outside the mall?” He agreed and I climbed back into the trike. We hadn’t gotten fifty feet from the place and already we were deadlocked in a head-on stop with oncoming traffic. The headlights were blinding and Domingo was waving gestures while the traffic began what seemed like cursing in Tagolog, Visayan.. I couldn’t tell which. At this point I thought maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to booze up your own driver. Well, water under the bridge.. just make the best of it and hold on.
Finally Domingo backed up and got us out of the jam we (he) had caused and we were putting down the main street again. He offered to drop me off at my driveway but I really didn’t feel like disclosing where I lived so I had him drop me off at a late-night street vendor who was making fried chicken on the corner. He thanked me for the beer and off he went. I got some fried chicken t0-go in a bag for just a few pesos and began the short walk to my studio.
I was just finishing up my first piece of chicken when the most incredible downpour started. The luck-of-the-Irish was with me. Five minutes later and I’d have been drenched. The lightning got closer and closer. So bright I could see distinct, momentary shadows beneath the trees in the yard in front of my porch. Just as the thunder was clapping from the first big bolt.. another incredibly large bolt of lightning pounded the ground and instantly the power grid went black all through my studio and all I could see of the city in front of me was a black void of darkness.
After about two minutes the lights flickered back on and I figured it was time to call it a night. Anticipating much more lightning, I disconnected my laptop and appliances from the wall sockets. Turning off the last of the lights I stretched out on my bamboo bed and every muscle in my body thanked me. The last thought I remember having before drifting off to sleep was, “I’m sure that food was safe.. how can you screw up fried chicken?”
Henry ‘Reekay’ V.
After 49 years living in Southern California, USA, I decided to move to the Philippines despite never having been here before. I spent a year getting all the information I could online and in July, 2012, I took a leap of faith and transplanted myself first to Mactan and then began my trek through Cebu, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong and now living in Cebu City, here in the amazing Philippines.
Starting in January of 2019, I will begin a slow trek through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and possibly Malaysia, China and Japan. My itinerary is open with no big rush since I hope to share in detail what each place is like as I enjoy it for months at a time.
I am a single man taking an honest look at all that Southeast Asia has to offer, one day at a time. I hope you find my channel informative and/or entertaining. 🙂
I hope you will make use of the links I provide as they help to support some of the costs of making this channel possible. Thanks!