Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 10:
Boracay the tropical rendezvous.
Back in 1991 Boracay was a very different island than the Boracay of today. During the 1980’s it had experienced dual types of development as a response to the dual markets that were frequenting the island. On the one hand there were the richer mainly European tourists who liked a little luxury with their beach life. For them there were a series of slightly more up-market resorts and even some luxurious beach houses that Boracay locals had built, mostly using foreign money, and then rented them out for months on end. At the other end of the market there were the back packers turned beach bum, such as myself, who required less luxurious accommodation. Where I had grown up in Australia we were used to back packers and soon learnt not to lump them all in the same basket especially when it came to their financial resources. This however was not the case amongst the Filipinos who automatically judged you as having no money whenever they saw a back pack. When I first encountered this judgmental attitude I was a little perturbed but soon realized that I could use their superficial judgments to my advantage. This was my first taste of the Filipino obsession with appearance and it was to resurface many times in the coming years.
I had come to Boracay in August which was still officially the rainy season and as a result the island was not exactly crawling with visitors but that did not bother me as it meant lower prices and no problem finding decent accommodation. Hilda and I caught a bunker from Kalibo and were delivered right on the beach at Borocay. With help from the boat boy we unloaded our bags which were then placed rather unceremoniously on the sand along with various supplies the boat had been carrying. After dropping our baggage the boat boy looked at me expectantly which bought a sharp rebuke from Hilda who told him in no uncertain terms that we had already paid for the boat and if he wanted money he had to carry our luggage along the beach to where we were staying. This bought a disdainful look from the boat boy and he was back on the boat in a flash pulling up the anchor whilst casting hateful glances at the Filipina who was blocking access to his foreigner meal ticket.
With the boat boy gone it was up to Hilda and myself to carry the luggage along the beach until we found a suitable place to stay. I donned my back pack without a second thought and Hilda with an exasperated look picked up her bags and we started off along the beach. We walked for about 8 minutes when I noticed Hilda was lagging behind and there was a grumpy look etched on her face. Thinking that she was having a problem with the weight of the bag I offered to carry it for her but this offer was greeted by another exasperated look so I said to her, “no problem sweetie, we will stop at the next place we find and stay there”. Later I was to ask Hilda what was the problem carrying the luggage and she informed me that it was not her job to carry luggage, either the boat boy or someone from the hotel should carry it. Ah yes, another lesson in “face” and superficial appearances.
Within 3 more minutes we found a little compound just near Niggy Niggy Noo Noo’s which had about ten large nippa huts literally a stone’s throw from the beach. Hilda asked some local guys if there was an office nearby where we could book a room and they just smiled while pointing to a little old lady who was squatting underneath a coconut tree, intently watching a bowl of water boil. I looked at the old woman with tattered clothes, a dirty apron, missing teeth and the ubiquitous fag hanging out the side of her mouth and thought, ‘there is no way she will understand English so I will send Hilda over and get her to do the negotiations’, besides, she would probably be able to negotiate a better price than me anyway.
Hilda slowly approached the old lady showing the proper amount of deference for her age by greeting her good afternoon and pressing her forehead against the old ladies hand. Hilda chatted with the old lady for what seemed like an eternity but was in fact maybe five minutes maximum and then with a smile came over to me and said “we stay house there” and pointed with her lips to the nearest Nippa hut. I asked her how much we were to be charged and she informed me she had not negotiated a price yet but was getting round to it a bit later. As it turned out the old lady was originally from Negros and the two knew many people in common.
While Hilda chatted with the lady I decided to take an afternoon cat nap which had already become my habit and remains so 18 years later. The Nippa hut was basic with a Filipino sized double bed, a bed stand, a rickety cane floor, a small window which opened on a hinge and a nippa roof woven together out of leaves from the coconut tree. I dumped my bag on the floor took of my shoes and with the sound of wind rustling through the coconut trees, the nearby waves gently lapping against the shore mixed together with the gentle jibber-jabber of Tagalog and Visayan along with the easy going laughter of two new found friends, I gently drifted off into a sound and peaceful sleep.
I must have slept for a couple of hours because when I woke up the room was pitch black but I could hear Hilda and the lady outside and there was delicious aroma of Tamarind circulating throughout the hut. I stumbled two steps across the room, groped around in the dark for the light switch then proceeded down the steps to be greeted by the sight of Hilda, the old lady and three other women all seated around a fire enjoying what looked to be some like sort of fish soup.
Hilda saw me coming down the stairs and with the downward pointed hand motioned for me to come over and then offered me some soup. I looked at the old iron pot, saw a solitary fish head floating there and as it stared up at me with its one white eye, I decided this was one Filipino delicacy I was probably not quite ready for. Trying not to offend I politely declined the invitation to eat and announced that I would like to go for a walk along the beach. This announcement bought a series of worried looks from the local women and the next thing I knew I was being introduced to a strapping young Filipino lad who was the old ladies grandson and would act as my guide plus so called body guard. I asked Hilda if this was really necessary and after a quick dialogue with the old lady she assured me it was citing the example of a foreigner who had recently been killed by a bolo wielding Filipino.
The walk along the beach was actually quite interesting and due to language deficiencies I was unable to conduct a conversation with my newly appointed body guard which was actually a blessing in disguise as it left me free to savor the after sunset, sights and sounds of Boracay Island. Walking along the beach at that time of night was a very pleasant experience. Always present was a gentle breeze blowing off the sea and the sound of tiny waves delicately lapping against the shore. Every 100 meters or so there was a restaurant marked by burning torches which formed a sort of tropical island gateway beckoning the customers to come inside and sample their wares. I walked past several of these establishments savoring the intoxicating aroma of barbecued seafood and finally settled for a place that had a big sign board outside advertising an all you can eat Mongolian barbecue for 200 peso.
I asked my companion if he was hungry but he declined my offer and vaguely indicated that he would sit down on the beach outside the barbecue place and wait for me. I surveyed the board and the various options it presented then decided on the mixed seafood barbecue with special Mongolian sauce. As I have explained earlier I have a particular penchant for hot spicy food and I figured maybe the Mongolian sauce would have a little kick to it.
The open air restaurant was composed of two large tables covered with pristine white table cloths and a series of small tables each seating two to four people with plastic green chairs and the immaculately clean white table cloth. I chose a small table near the back of the restaurant and within a minute was approached by a beautiful young waitress who, flashing a set of pearly whites brilliantly off set by dark brown skin, asked me what I would like to eat. I stared at her absolutely spell binding face and statuesque body all wrapped up in a clinging colorful sarong, then muttered something inane like, “I want to eat you”. Without missing a beat this ravishing beauty simply leveled with me with yet another dazzling smile and asked me to repeat my order.
I settled for the Mongolian sea food barbecue and it was absolutely magnificent with huge tasty prawns, shellfish, crab and some tender fresh coral trout, which the locals call lapu-lapu, all smothered in a tangy, slightly spicy, Mongolian barbeque sauce. During the meal my bedazzling waitress was at my constant beck and call bringing me drinks and then the bill. I paid my bill and then in a moment of impulsive abandonment I asked her if she would like to take a walk along the beach, to which she replied, “sure I finish now so no problem”.
We exited the restaurant together and were immediately accompanied by my newly appointed body guard who my beautiful waitress talked to and he then melted into the darkness to where I assumed he would be following us but at a discreet distance.
We walked along the beach for what must have been half an hour and the easy going conversation with this exotic beauty was truly intoxicating. After a while we turned round and headed back towards the Mongolian restaurant and as we neared it I decided to throw caution to the wind and asked, “hey Cassie (yes that was the girl’s name) would you like to go somewhere just you and me”. When she heard this Cassie stopped walking, turned her face up to me and with that dazzling smile now whispered the words I could hardly believe I was hearing, “sure honey I like that but I only do short time coz I work early tomorrow”.
When I heard this I thought all my Christmases had come at once and then it hit me that I had nowhere to take this vision of loveliness. I looked at her and deciding honesty is the best policy said, “Cassie I have a small problem, I have a girl waiting for me in my room and I don’t know where to take you”. When she heard this she simply smiled and said, “I know place, you follow me”. Cassie then strode ahead of me while I stumbled awkwardly in the sand with my eyes firmly fixed on the swaying buttocks in front of me. Cassie knocked at a door of one of the huts spoke briefly to someone unseen and then a hand appeared with a pair of keys which Cassie promptly took and with yet another saucy waggle of her buttocks motioned for me to follow her towards one of the nippa huts at the back of the compound.