It’s early Tuesday morning, around 1:45am and I should be in bed by now. Usually I’m awake until 2-3am but I have to be at the BI (Immigration Office) in Cebu in the morning for my Visa renewal and ACR card issuance. Problem is my ‘siesta‘ got outta control and I slept from 4:30pm to 9pm. The power had gone out during the heavy rains during the day, so I decided to read some more of the book, “Heart of Darkness” out on the patio as I watched the intense rain come down in sheets. Warm rain, very awesome.
After about an hour of reading I got kinda sleepy so, with no air-con in the house, once I laid out on my bed I was ‘out’ for the count. So now.. it’s ‘good luck‘ falling asleep. I’ll take some Melatonin later though, that always helps. If nothing else, I enjoy the crazy dreams it causes. When I awoke from my siesta though, I was really hungry and in no mood to cook. All day I’d been drinking some fresh juice I’d made in the blender from mango, papaya, banana and pineapple. Apart from that I had a bowl of rice all day. At the risk of sounding like I’ve gone ‘Asiatic‘, it would seem that I’ve had rice every day since I got here. It comes with almost any meal you order. They have these woven bags of ‘hanging rice’ everywhere you can get for a few pesos (about 4cents each). Plus I have a rice-cooker that I use every two days to make yet another fresh batch of Jasmine rice.
So, since I was super-hungry I strapped on my sandals, used some Purell and walked down the street to this place that is open until around 2am. I really like this place. They have a grill and you pick out the skewers you want cooked and they cook it up for you. I got a few with pork, peppers and pineapple. Some chicken ones, those are always good with whatever sauce they put on it. A skewer with a Chicken thigh and drumstick on it and another with their version of ‘Chorizo’. Nothing like Mexican chorizo, this is more like sweet meat-candy.. I love it. And then, at the last minute I pointed at one of the dead, raw fish lying there and told them, “And.. eh, gimme one of those cooked up as well.” The lady looked at me as if to say, “But you’re not Filipino.” But she tossed it on the big banana leaf with the rest of my order before I changed my mind.
Now.. here’s the thing. In my entire lifetime, not counting factory-made fish sticks, I’ve only eaten fish maybe five times. And I never really cared for it. I know chicken is an animal, but it doesn’t look like one with it’s eyes staring at me while I eat it. So, I’ve always veered away from fish. So the first thing to arrive at my table was, naturally, the fish. They had basically laid it on the hot grill, flipped it over to cook the other side and now.. there it was. I opened up a pouch of hanging rice, filled a small bowl with vinegar, soy sauce and lime and then proceeded to peel back the fish skin.. scales, whatever. Dipping the cooked fish-meat into the sauce I felt it for bones and began to chew. “Not bad. Pretty good actually.” It didn’t have a fishy smell at all. They delivered up my cooked skewers and I dug into the chicken and pork while enjoying the late evening warm air under their outdoor, bamboo patio with a view of a Discovery Channel program on China/Tibet to my right and the still busy traffic on the street to my left. After a very relaxing and satisfying meal, including the fish, I washed my hands at the sink provided and went to pay up my bill. An entire (very filling) meat fest, rice and a bottle of water for only $5.20 (USD) Not bad. I put the fish-bones, head and chicken bones into a plastic bag for ‘a cat’ (not my cat) that lives in the neighborhood and shows up on my porch day and night at random times. She’s pregnant so, felt sorry it and been giving it scraps every now and then. But it’s not ‘my’ cat.
The streets were kinda flooded from the rain that had stopped an hour ago. I navigated my way down the street to a bakery that I know is also open until after midnight. I got some chocolate cake (hadn’t had that since leaving the States) and two big sweet rolls. The cake was good and had kinda a zucchini taste to it in addition to the chocolate. I liked it. I pulled a piece of the other sweet roll.. it was ‘ok’, but not gonna order it again.
As I casually began to make my way home around 11pm I simply enjoyed the warm, clean, post-rain air of the evening. Stars between the faint clouds overhead. The slight smell of sewage from the flooded drain-pipes blended with the delicious smell of fried chicken being cooked on the side of the road. Reminds me of my nights wandering the streets of Mexico, all that was missing were those bacon-wrapped hot dogs I love so much with ketchup, mayo and diced tomatoes. A few giggling school-girls passed by several times as I walked along, still in their school uniforms.. about 14 years in age. It’s not uncommon to see kids out on the street here on Mactan, usually in pairs or groups of 4 out getting a late-night snack. Even though I keep an eye on my surroundings I feel pretty safe on the streets of Mactan, even as late as 3:30am when I walk home from the nearby Cafe’ Malmo where I’ll go to do some writing and enjoy their bottom-less iced tea and jazz music. The ladies who work there are friendly and cute so, I guess that’s a plus.
I walked a bit further down the road where there aren’t as many street lights. This is where the two cat-houses are, next door to each other. I can’t say much for the inside since I haven’t been indoors. But I pass them almost every day and occasionally see the working girls come out for a snack from a family that is always cooking food just outside on the street. No girls out tonight though. Just the smell of more good food and a few stray doggies looking for scraps. Each of these places had taxis pulled up in the drive-way. Sometimes I see filled shuttle-buses from the nearby hotels drop off male tourists who are looking for an efficient, good time. One night I found myself speaking with a Japanese man who had just exited and joined me at ‘my’ stump of cement across the street where I’ll often sit late at night after my evening walks.
I asked him, “So.. what exactly is the deal in there? Is anyone pretending to run a karaoke bar or is it just a straight-up cat-house?” “Cat-house?“, he asked. “Women.. for hire. Cat-house.” “Oh! Right. Yes..”, he didn’t have much of an Asian accent for being Japanese. After almost an hour speaking with him I discovered he’d been living most of his life in Canada and Europe. I guess that would explain it. He continued, “They have karaoke. But.. that’s not why anyone goes there.”
“But, looking at it from here on the street.., it seems like nothing is even going on. The place looks ‘dead’.”, I remarked. Now, to give you an idea.. this small building has a bottom-floor which is basically a two-car parking garage with some stairs going up from there. There’s a second floor where nothing seems to be going on and then there’s a 3rd floor where you can see that lights are on.. once in a while you see the top of someone’s head near the window and some flashing DJ lights.. but that’s it. Can’t even hear any music. It gives all the impression of a silent dance floor that someone forgot to turn the lights off before closing. “No..”, he continued, “.. there are a lot of people in there sometimes. Many women. Lots of women and they surround you as soon as you walk in. There’s a lot of activity up there, trust me.”
Tonight, as I walked by the ‘Bayside Club‘ with it’s neon sign that only had maybe 3 letters lit up, I looked up at the empty windows and still found it hard to believe anything at all was going on up there. This isn’t exactly the center of town here. Something tells me it’s a far cry from the nicer, stranger cat-houses I’ve heard about in Angeles city. Most of the girls I’ve seen coming out of this dive are not exactly ‘top shelf’ if you know what I mean. Although I must say, 3 or 4 were fairly cute. But tonight, I just kept on walking as usual and was soon back in the darkness that stretched out after that patch of road. As I looked ahead I could barely make out some silhouettes going through the trash that is often left out on the side of the road. Sometimes it’s dogs. Sometimes it’s goats. Tonight it was three young boys, about 7, 9 and 11 in age looking through the piles of trash for something of value. Recyclable plastics, or wood to burn at home for cooking. As I passed by the oldest one I instinctively held out my hand with the bag of sweet rolls and thrust it in front of him. Without much pretext I simply said, “You want?” He nodded and smiled as he took it without me even breaking stride. I kept on walking and eventually looked back to see their silhouettes huddled together for their unexpected treat. I wish I could say I felt good about myself, but I didn’t. A few sweet breads hardly makes much difference in the grand scheme of things. Thinking back on it, I should have slipped them some pesos. I’ve seen them in the day-hours before. Perhaps next time.
But that’s life sometimes. Some have it good, some don’t. Crazy world this is. Somewhere there are evil men living in luxury. In another place, good men wonder how they’ll feed their kids the next day. Somewhere else, a kid is cursing his own parents because he didn’t get an iPad for his birthday. The other day I saw a 10 year old boy carrying a 5 gallon water jug into his home. Do you know how heavy those things are? Pretty damn heavy for me, and this kid is carrying it into the house for his parents. It’s my theory that the small towns and province areas still produce the salt-of-the-earth, old school values while the big, inner cities have rotted into the same blight that affects any other big city. Maybe that’s why I feel safer on the streets of Mactan late at night. People here still instill into their kids a high sense of duty and respect for their elders. Come to think of it, in my seven weeks here I haven’t seen one kid, of any age, mouth off to any parent in the malls or streets here. Something tells me there’d be a tree-switch on their ass if they did.
I got home and the bad kitty-kat was there waiting for me. I unloaded the plastic bag of chicken bones and fish head onto a flat rock and let her go to town on it. I can hear the frogs and crickets doing their thing out in the balmy air outside my screen door. The night is quiet. Just frogs, crickets and the whir of my faithful oscillating fan. It’s been a good day. Tomorrow, we’ll see how it goes with immigration. But first, some Melatonin and then.. let the weird dreams begin.
About Me.. In 2011 I made the decision to move to the Philippines within a year. Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat. (Mactan, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong, Boracay, Cebu) I recently spent the year living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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