Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 13:
Monkey madness in balmy Boracay:
A cool breeze was gently blowing off the ocean that night but Hildas matter of fact pregnancy announcement was like a mini bombshell and as I pondered the situation I I felt a clammy film of sweat developing and the small walls of the restaurant seemed to be closing in on me. I looked at Hilda and asked, “do you want to keep it” to which she replied, “yes I keep my baby”. This was the answer I had been dreading and suddenly that film of sweat got even more noticeable and those walls moved a foot or so closer. I was not exactly experienced at this but the natural male survival instinct kicked in as I nonchalantly inquired, “ah Hilda how many months pregnant are you”? Now I was fairly sure I had said this casually and hidden the real meaning behind my question but Hilda saw right through me and asked, “what your problem Martin you have a sick”? Guess that film of sweat was now a river and I must have turned a whiter shade of pale because Hilda let me stew for about ten seconds then laughingly said, “don’t worry it’s not your baby”. So there it was out in the open, and as the huge waves of relief descended on me I started to breathe normally again, the breeze was back, and my film of sweat vanished.
Upon reflection I realize I had no reason to sweat it but at that stage I was like so many young men before me and would have readily stepped up to the plate and taken responsibility for my actions. Now that I look back at the situation through more experienced eyes I am actually a little insulted that she didn’t try and make me believe it was my baby. At that time I was only 31 years old I had a bit of money and if push came to shove I was naive enough to do the honorable thing and accept responsibility. However this never happened and as it turned out Hilda had no intention of trapping me or anyone else. She was quite prepared to have the baby and bring the child up by herself. At the time I was quite surprised by her casual approach towards giving birth and parenthood but over the years I have learnt many of the Filipinas are like this and giving birth is no big deal. In later years I would often hear foreigners referring to Filipinas as LBBM’s (little brown breeding machines) but at the time I did not know this, so for me all I could feel was a sense of relief.
The rest of that evening was spent chatting over a delicious sweet and sour Lapu Lapu (Coral trout) washed down with copious amounts of white wine which had somehow made the transition from Chile and ended up in Boracay. Hilda informed me that she thought the father was some German guy who she had been with approximately 3 months ago and that she had planned to tell me but was just waiting for the right time. I asked her what her future plans were, where she was going to have the baby and next thing I knew the restaurant was closing around us. The time had literally flown by so I paid the bill and then strolled along the beach back to our humble abode.
That night in the nippa hut Hilda was feeling a little frisky but try as I might I just couldn’t shake the feeling of a little human being growing inside her and this was not exactly a turn on. In the end I claimed a headache from drinking too much wine and promised her I would attend to her needs another time. Hilda was not exactly impressed with my rejection but she reluctantly lay down beside me and with one leg slung over my torso fell soundly asleep.
Life on Boracay was delightfully slow paced and undemanding. The days were spent swimming in the ocean, strolling along the beach, sunbathing, reading a good book whilst reclining in a hammock, or lying in bed listening to the balmy tropical breeze rustling through the coconut fronds. There was not exactly an over abundance of things to do or mental stimulation and as the days drifted by I found myself becoming more and more of a beach bum and in total relaxation mode. Life was basic and easy, there were no challenges and Hilda even though she was becoming noticeably larger was just the perfect companion. This girl was so easy going and placid nothing seemed to phase her except for missing one of her compulsory three meals a day.
During the days it was a habit of mine to head out on a walk just to breath a bit of fresh air and get a little exercise. One day I was ambling along with no particular destination in mind when suddenly it started to rain so I ran to the nearest hut which in those days proliferated along the beach front. I sat in the hut at a small wooden table and ordered a mango juice watching the rain tumbling down when suddenly a drenched Filipino guy with a monkey on his shoulder walked through the door and said, “hey Joe you buy monkey”. I closed my eyes and shook my head thinking, I must be imagining things. This whole experience was surreal but as I asked myself, am I really seeing this, I vaguely registered him sliding into the seat next to me saying, “hey Joe you buy monkey, this very nice number one monkey”.
This guy was like some bizarre apparition from out of a Cohen Brothers movie. He was wearing what looked like an old sack for a shirt, a tattered and grubby pair of denim shorts and some broken sandals which had walked the proverbial thousand miles and back again. The guys hair was long with straggly grey strands falling down to his shoulder blades, the few teeth he had left were tobacco stained and there seemed to be a garden growing beneath his finger nails. On his shoulder sat a female monkey who was staring at me intently. I looked back at the monkey and suddenly she jumped from the guys shoulder onto my arm and started pulling at the protruding hairs. With this the guy put her leash in my hand and said, “monkey like you, you buy monkey Joe”.
At this stage in my life I had experienced my fare share of bizarre events but nothing ever like this and next thing I knew I found myself gently stroking the monkey asking the guy how much he wanted for her. Initially he asked for five thousand to which I made a counter bid of five hundred. We haggled for about 5 minutes and finally came to agreement at a price of 800 piso. To this day I am not sure what was going through my head but somehow having a monkey whilst in Boracay just seemed like the most natural thing in the world and it never occurred to me to think about the logistics of the situation or how Hilda would react. All I knew was that this monkey and I had some sort of strange affinity and for that reason alone I had to purchase her.
With the deal done and the monkey now sitting on my shoulder playing with the hair on my head the mysterious vagabond stood up and looking at me with an intense somewhat maniacal gaze said, “thank you Joe” and stepped out into the pouring rain disappearing as magically as he had appeared. I and my newly acquired monkey waited a further ten minutes for the rain to stop then I bought the monkey a banana and proceeded to stroll back down the beach fully intending to introduce Hilda to the new addition in our life.