Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 11:
Sunburn and sand rash:
As I stated in the preceding chapter Boracay was a very different island back in the early nineties. From 1990 through to 1997 Boracay was in a sort of hiatus period. The early nineties represented the beginning stages of what was to become a fairly rapid development catering for tourists from around the world. At the same time these years also represented a time where Boracay was still a comparatively sleepy little island and life moved at a sedate pace. In the mornings visitors would wake to a gentle breeze blowing through the room and the sound of waves softly lapping against the shore. Most hotels or resorts had a restaurant of some description but for those travelers on a budget the beachside sari-sari stores would suffice and on any given morning one could find foreign tourists sitting on wooden benches tucking into Filipino breakfasts and washing it down with a bottle of mineral water. Normally these breakfasts would be composed of fish and rice but when the boats came in laden with supplies it was possible to get sausages and eggs and sometimes if you were really lucky pork chops or a steak.
The days on Boracay always passed slowly and were normally spent lying on the beach reading, frolicking in the sea with a Filipina partner, a slow pleasurable saunter along parts of the island and then in the afternoon enjoying a banana and mango smoothie before having an afternoon siesta getting ready for the evenings activities. As someone who had grown up on the beach I was totally at home with the laid back island lifestyle and would often spend hours at a time on the beach lying on the sand or swimming in the water. Ironically Hilda who had been keen to accompany me on my trip to Boracay seemed hesitant to expose herself to the sun and rather than lye on the beach or go swimming she would park herself in the shade underneath a coconut tree and just watch me. When I asked her why she didn’t want to be in the sun she explained she didn’t want her skin to get dark.
Occasionally I would drag her into the water childishly kicking and screaming but even then she would always have a pair of denim shorts with a bra and shirt to protect her from the sun. While I would spend my time enjoying the simplistic pleasures of the tropical island lifestyle Hilda would occupy herself chatting with some new found friends that seemed to make so easily or eating. Now I think back on it Hilda seemed to be able to eat amounts that belied her small frame and it was through Hilda that I was introduced to the delights of Green Mango with bagoong ( a salty fish paste sauce) along with taho (bean curd with caramel sauce).
I stayed in Boracay for nearly 2 and a half months and during my stay I witnessed Hilda’s stomach getting progressively larger which at the time I attributed to good living a healthy diet and lack of exercise. The truth was far from this but more on that later.
If you stay on Boracay for more than two weeks it is almost inevitable that you will brush shoulders with the local expat community and to some extent become intertwined with their small community. It was a regular habit of mine to enjoy a stroll along the beach each morning and it was during this walk that I would meet the local expats. Normally I would begin my walk about 8AM and the walk would last for about an hour on the way out and another hour on the way back. I had been doing the walks for about 8 days when one morning I was stopped by a group of guys sitting in plastic chairs outside a sari-sari store and they called me over offering me a drink. Feeling hot I accepted their invitation and walked over to their table only to see a bottle of Ginebra Gin and several large bottles of San Miguel beer along with some cheap drinking glasses. One of the guys poured me a healthy shot and said in a broad cockney accent, “here gov you look a bit hot try one of these to cool you down a bit”. At this stage I had only been in the Philippines just over a month and a half and I wasn’t really used to the expat lifestyle which included hitting the grog early in the morning. Since that time in my travels I have come across the similar groups of expats in a variety of different locations throughout the Philippines. As a bar manager I drink far too much but these guys make me look like a baby having just come off mothers milk. I have often wondered why they choose this lifestyle and I can only put it down to a lack of mental stimulation and social interaction, in short, boredom. Combine the boredom with a sense of having been there done that and a perspective that says ones best years are far behind oneself and you have the perfect reasons to numb your mind and drink yourself into oblivion. Lastly in the Philippines you do not have the social judgments that are inevitable in one’s own society and as a result it is easy to slip into the alcoholic lifestyle.
In the end I sat and chatted with this bunch of guys and managed to avoid the continuous offers of alcohol. After about half an hour I managed to escape and promising to meet them at the Bazura disco later on that night I headed back to Hilda and a hearty breakfast.
When I got back there was no breakfast waiting and an ominous air was surrounding our little resort site. Intrepidly I made my way to the little nippa hut shared by myself and Hilda and upon entering through the front door received a shower of shoes, clothing and whatever else she could grab all hurled in my direction amidst shouts of puntang ina mo. Most of the flying objects I managed to duck and quickly closing the door behind me I made a hasty exit heading towards the beach. All this time I thought I had gotten away with the Cassie encounter but obviously my free ride was over. Hilda had found out and now it was time to pay the piper.
I stayed on the beach for about two hours then began to feel the effects of prolonged exposure to the sun and as I made my way back to the nippa hut I realized I was the color of a cooked lobster. Having been raised by the beach in Sydney I was no stranger to a little sunburn but then again at home I wouldn’t be forced to avoid the vicious attacks of a jilted Filipina and to be honest I knew in my sun burnt state I was in for a painful experience.
I opened the door to the Nippa hut and there was Hilda lying on the bed with her back turned towards me. I slowly made my way to the bed and still getting the cold shoulder I proceeded to kiss her neck telling her how sorry I was and also mentioning that it was just a brief liaison which meant nothing to me other than casual sex. I then told her how she was the only girl who I had real feelings for and with that turned her round and planted a big kiss on those luscious Visayan lips. At first Hilda remained motionless but after the third or fourth attempt her resistance slowly began to fail and next thing I knew we were engaged in a hot, steamy and extremely passionate round of love making.
After the heavy session Hilda and myself crashed out to the sounds of waves gently lapping at the crystal white sands of Boracay and a gentle breeze blowing through the now open nippa hut window. Later on in the afternoon I took Hilda for a walk along the beach and made her swim. We whiled away 3 or 4 hours lying in the shade under the coconut trees, swaying in a hammock while drinking banana and mango smoothies and frolicking in the sun and crystal clear waters of Boracay Island. Living in a tropical paradise for approximately ten dollars a day together with a beautiful Filipina whose only wish was to please me in any way possible was definitely a high point in my life and to this day the memory of that time are implanted in my mind.
Later that night we headed to Bazura disco where I met up with some of the boys I had met earlier on in the day and once again they had commandeered a premium table and were getting stuck into the cheap booze except this time it was Tanduay Rum. Bazura at that time was an interesting mix of people. It was mostly the younger people who came from all areas of the world and were happily indulging in the hedonistic worry free tropical beach lifestyle made famous in the late sixties and early seventies. Back in those days Boracay was as much a lifestyle statement as it was a holiday destination and an essential part of that lifestyle was the Bazura disco. The Bazura was almost like an open air nightclub with 3 decades of music, a steady group of young tourists from all areas of the world partying the night away all mixed with a steady flow of alcohol and a heady carefree tropical beach environment.
Our days would be spent lying in the sun or relaxing in a hammock, swimming in the crystal clear aqua marine sea and eating fish, fish and more fish. In fact prior to this I had no idea how many different ways fish could be cooked, banka boat rides to neighboring islands were also a common occurrence and of course there was the extended drinking sessions with my newly found mates outside one of the numerous Sari Sari stores that proliferated along the beach front. The evenings were spent either making love in the nippa hut or on the beach at night, moonlight swimming, watching videos at one of the local restaurants indulging in extended drinking sessions or partying the night away at the ever popular Bazura disco.
Life moved slowly in Boracay and there was a distinct lack of mental stimulation, still I rationalized that I did not come to the beach for intellectual pursuits and it was only a short period of time for me to learn to relax and go with the flow. Life on Boracay was idyllic and all the problems of the outside world seemed far away and of no consequence. This was truly a great time and shall forever be rated as one of the best times of my life.
Hilda and myself stayed on Boracay for about 2 months and by the end of that time I found myself brown as tobacco and down to a very reasonable weight thanks to my diet of fish and continual walking along the beach and exploring the island. Contrary to this Hilda seemed to be getting fatter and her stomach was beginning to bulge. When you are with someone everyday you tend not to notice the subtle changes and it wasn’t until our friendly land lady pulled me aside and whispered “you be daddy, Hilda she look like fregnant” that I realized something had escaped my notice. When she smilingly told me her opinion I smiled and said, “no I don’t think so” but the nagging doubt had been planted in my mind and later that night when we were having dinner, with me none to subtly glancing at her slightly extended stomach, I asked her point blank, “darling are you pregnant”, Hilda then looked at me eye to eye and a simple “yes” is all she said.