Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 16:
Back to Manila and mongering:
With monkey and Hilda firmly in hand I headed out of the Domestic airport and hailed a rickety old yellow cab. Hilda got in the back seat with the luggage while I got in the front with the monkey. I have always found it better to keep the luggage in the back rather than the car boot simply because it makes it harder for people to drive off with it. By now the monkey was becoming a seasoned traveler and she took to riding in a cab like it was the most natural thing in the world which is more than can be said for the driver who was little bit put out by the crazy foreigner whose monkey was pulling the sparse hairs on his arm.
Despite the monkeys best efforts we made it back to the Mayfair hotel where the friendly guard recognized us immediately and hurried to open the back door and help Hilda out with the baggage. I concentrated on paying the flabbergasted driver who took my two hundred pisos then promptly hightailed it out of there. Carrying the monkey on my shoulder again I walked into the Mayfair turned the corner and headed towards the main reception area where David Goldshaft along with the friendly receptionist were waiting for me. David looked up first and when he saw me he nonchalantly said, “hey mate how was Boracay, I see you picked up a new friend”. Just then the receptionist looked up and seeing the monkey on my shoulder let a surprise gasp but recovering quickly she smiled at me and said “yes Mr Martin would you like a room sir”? This was my first encounter with the unflappable Filipina who seem to take everything in their stride and over the coming years I was only to find a few of these rare creatures but I soon learnt to value them highly.
Hilda and I headed up to the room but when we got inside she turned to me and with a determined look said, “no monkey in room Martin”. Now I thought I had established that I was the boss but after one look at her face I realized this was a fight I was never going to win so it was down stairs to see Mario the bartender and enquire if he could keep an eye on my monkey. When I got downstairs Mario was there and he greeted me with a friendly smile and then gave the monkey a peeled banana. Straight away I knew Mario and the monkey would get on well so I asked him if he would mind looking after her for a while until I could find more suitable accommodation. Mario smiled and said, “sure no problem boss Martin I know monkey before when I live back in province you give me little money and I be the one to look after.” With this he gently held out his arm and the monkey with banana firmly grasped in one hand jumped off my shoulder and onto his arm. I remember thinking, oh well so much for monkeys loyalty, but then again I was also happy because it was obvious Mario would look after her when I didn’t have enough time.
During my time in Boracay I had become close to Hilda but this was Manila and no matter how close I felt the simple truth was I hadn’t come all this way to be with one woman. This was a precarious situation for me since I had genuine feelings for Hilda and yet I also recognized the need for me to be with other girls. After all this was Manila the sin city of the world and as a single male I had to make the most of it. I deliberated on my predicament for about 1 hour and then finally got up enough courage to ask Hilda, “hey babe do you have any relatives you would like to visit in Manila”? When she heard this Hilda looked me straight in the eyes and responded by saying, “ah honey you want taste different girl”. With this said she gave me a wry little smile and said, “you do short time honey Hilda stay hotel wait you”.
Well now this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind as I was hoping more along the lines of a sweet goodbye, a gentle parting of the ways and a hey let’s meet up sometime, I will come and see you in your bar sort of arrangement. I gave Hilda one of my best exasperated looks but to no avail and I decided then and there discretion was the better part of valor and to accept Hilda’s proposed compromise after all a little short time in another location would certainly be better than nothing and if this avoided confrontation with Hilda then why not.
For the next week I was out every night partying and chasing girls in all the bars in M.H.Del Pilar. That week seemed like a life time of drinking and total debauchery. I managed to visit most of the bars from Bloomers all the way up to Lovebirds on both sides of the street and even became a well known fixture in the blow job bars such as China Coast and Josies Pride. Del Pilar in those days was a subtle mixture of glitz and glamour mixed with dire poverty and unadulterated sleaziness, people from all walks of life rubbed shoulders in the bars all transfixed by the neon lights, cheap booze, booming music and scantily clad, nubile young Filipinas. It was a heady intoxicating time which I joyfully lived and excitingly absorbed with my entire being.
Being back in Manila was not exactly a healthy lifestyle but for me it was about as good as I was going to get. Here I was living the life that so many young men dream about and I was hooked. The mongering was now in my blood and I soon realized that for me, there was no going back.
Hilda was never exactly a hot tempered woman and she seemed to, on the surface at least, understand my philandering ways. At least this is what I thought until one night I came back at about 1AM to be greeted by the guard who with a worried expression grabbed my arm and said, “Mr Martin, Mr Martin, big problem sir”. I extricated my arm from his grip and with an even voice told him to calm down and just tell me slowly what the problem was. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Sir Martin they take your girlfriend they go hospital”. I looked at him as if he was completely daft and then it dawned on me that Hilda may have had a problem with the baby.
With that realization hitting me I grabbed my room key from the front receptionist and rushed up to my room. The bed sheets were pulled down and on the side table I saw a three quarters empty bottle of quinine tablets. I looked at the scene and then it hit me Hilda had taken the tablets. As I have mentioned in earlier chapters I had read the Lonely Planet guide book prior to coming to the Philippines and from that had learnt that there is some Malaria in the Philippines but mainly in the Palawan area. I wasn’t sure if I was going to Palawan but I figured what’s the harm in taking some anti malaria tablets and then my movements wouldn’t be restricted. I knew quinine tablets were fairly strong but I had no idea what effect taking twenty of them at one time would have however, I was about to find out in a big way.