C How They Made Me! Chapter 30

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 30:

The trip down to Peurto Galera.

Rosie was not exactly impressed with my behavior but then as I pointed out to her I had no way of contacting her and for all I knew she may have changed her mind and decided against going to Peurto Galera with me. These were at best flimsy excuses but at that time they were the best I could come up with. Judging by the look on Rosies face and by the way the other girl slipped of my lap at the speed of lightning I knew I was in trouble but deciding offense is the best form of defense I looked Rosie straight in the eye and said hi beautiful so glad you could join us we have been only been waiting for an hour or more and I was beginning to think you weren’t coming. With that said I hugged her and gave her a big kiss which seemed to pacify her a little bit so I sat her down called over a waitress and ordered her a ladies drink, then called over the mamasan and paid Rosies bar fine for that night.

At the time my actions were purely instinctual but looking back on it I realize had I of had my present day experience, I would have done exactly the same thing. By kissing her in front of all her peers, buying her a ladies drink and paying her bar-fine I had given Rosie face. In the eyes of her compatriots she now appeared to have the upper hand which was very important since I had been the one to take her face away in the first place by playing with the other girl.

Dave and I sat with Rosie for a while and I then said well Rosie we have to get an early start if we are going to get down to Peurto Galera so let’s call it a night babe. Rosie looked at me earnestly and I could see her weighing up the pros and cons and then a big smile crossed her face and she said “sure why not honey let’s go holiday.”

That morning I awakened early at about 830 AM gently prodded a heavily sleeping Rosie who could only mumble something in Tagalog turn to the side and stay fast asleep. I decided to let Rosie snooze while I packed my bags. The packing took me about 45 minutes and after completing it I gently tried to awake Rosie but as usual with a sleeping Filipina this is more easily said than done. I don’t know how many readers have tried to wake up a sleeping Filipina and for those who are yet to experience this delight let me just say there is a real art to it. At this stage in my life I had not really had enough experience so I simply reverted to giving her a good shake which of course woke her up but put her in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

After hot showers it was a stumble downstairs to breakfast where an ever attentive David was waiting for us. Dave and I had a little chat and it was then that I realized I had missed the Sundowner Hotel bus and would now have to catch a local bus instead. When I expressed my concern to David he simply laughed and said look at it this way mate the local buses are just as good and half the price so just think of it as an adventure and part of your learning experience.” David and myself had a chat where he basically gave me the lay of the land explaining to me that I had to catch a taxi to some place named Areneta where the buses are stationed which take you down to Batangas and then from Batangas Port I should catch the SuperCat or the local ferry across to Peurto Galera. I looked at David as if he had been talking to me in a foreign language then asked him to repeat the instructions again but this time to Rosie as she might be able to make heads or tails of his instructions where I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. David went through it one more time with Rosie and then asked if she understood to which she nodded her head and said “oo”. Watching Rosie did not exactly fill me with confidence so I politely asked David to write down the place names just so I had a backup should we happen to somehow get lost.

After receiving the directions for Peuto Galera I left my suitcase with David for storage then carrying my rucksack and one small bag of Rosies we made our way out onto the street to hail a taxi. As always the Mayfair guard was there and next thing I knew I was being bundled into the back of a taxi together with Rosie and our luggage. A brief discussion ensued where Rosie kindly but firmly requested the driver to turn on his meter and then gave him directions as to where we were going.

20 minutes later we arrived at the unofficial bus terminal which was really just a large parking lot local bus terminal. Just as we stopped the driver quickly flicked a switch on his meter and it went back to 30 piso which was the starting amount before undertaking a journey. All of a sudden there was a torrent of angry Tagalog from Rosie directed at the smartass driver and then I was instructed to give the “bastos” driver 60 piso. Of course I did not have the small notes on me so I handed over a 100 piso note only to be told sorry sir “walang change”. This response caused another angry tirade from Rosie which I cut short by saying ‘it’s ok babe let the dickhead play his little games, its not worth the hassle and we have to get down to Peurto Galera.” This was not going to be the last bad experience I was to have with a Filipino taxi driver but it did teach me a lesson and that is always ask for them to put on the meter and if they don’t try to arrange a price before undertaking the journey.

After alighting from the taxi Rosie and I strolled across the road to a line of buses where we fell in line behind a herd of Filipinos all pushing and shoving to get on the bus. At first I just stood in line politely waiting my turn to get on board the bus but then I realized if I did this I would probably never get to board the bus until sometime the next day. I looked at Rosie who seemed to read my mind and together we pushed and shoved our way onto the bus. Like so many aspects of Philippine society the public transport works on a “me first” basis were one is required to assert oneself otherwise you will get absolutely nowhere.

Eventually we made it onto the bus where I was just about to breathe a sigh of relief until I saw yet another crowd of people all pushing and shoving to get a seat. Together we navigated the narrow aisle negotiating our way through a crowd of passengers and vendors until we reached the very back of the bus where we found two vacant seats. Within minutes I found myself crammed into my seat rubbing shoulders with some swarthy looking Filipino guy and feeling like a sardine jammed inside a can. As I sat there I surveyed my situation and began to feel distinctly uncomfortable. Here I was in a strange country surrounded by Filipinos all talking in some foreign language that I had no comprehension of whilst at the same time sneaking furtive looks at me the sole white man who had absolutely no business being there. This whole experience was a little disconcerting and I was extremely grateful that I had bought Rosie along with me who was the only familiar face in this crowd of strangers.

After about half an hour of sitting there being crammed into the confined space with a radio blasting out a seemingly never ending blare of distorted seventies love ballads and having to fight hordes of vendors who seemed absolutely fascinated with this strange white man invading their territory and even more convinced that he should sample of their Filipino delicacies. One particular vendor who was selling quail eggs finally figured out that he was more likely to make a sale if he concentrated on Rosie and after 3 minutes of haggling Rosie finally gave in and asked me for five piso so she could buy the eggs.

After a while the bus started moving and as I felt the busses wheels roll beneath me I realized I was starting another part of my Philippine adventure. Traveling through Manila was and still is a nightmare because of the continual traffic but when you are in a bus and raised above the traffic it doesn’t seem so bad. To get through Manila was a two hour journey and we traveled at a snails pace I found myself clutching onto my rucksack between my feet and at the same time gently chatting with Rosie who as it turned out had been to Peurto Galera before with another customer but was shy to tell me previously.

Finally we made it to what seemed to be the outskirts of Manila and suddenly the drab grey buildings and squalid wooden shacks gave way to a modern highway dotted with cane and corn fields along with the occasional small town the inhabitants of which all seemed to live right besides the road. David had informed me the journey was about 3 to 4 hours long depending on traffic but once out of Manila there was only a small amount of traffic and what held us up was the continual stopping allowing people to get on and off the bus.

Along the entire length of the bus in the walking aisle they had placed a number of small plastic chairs big enough for about one ass cheek of the average western male. These were all occupied by Filipinos who I got the impression regarded themselves lucky because they had a seat albeit a tiny one which was much better than standing up.

I have never been one for sleeping whilst traveling but Rosie being Filipino seemed to have that enviable ability to get in a seat and within half an hour was soundly asleep. One minute I was chatting with her and the next thing I knew she was fast asleep with her head resting on my shoulder. Many times I have wished for the ability to sleep while traveling but I just can’t seem to do it and this time I was particularly grateful for staying awake.

We had been traveling for about 2 hours when I felt the swarthy looking Filipino next to me rub against my shoulder. Thinking nothing of it because of the crowded conditions I shifted as much as I could towards Rosie but some sixth sense started ringing alarm bells in my head and I looked down at my rucksack between my feet and sure enough the Filipino guy next to me had the clips undone and was in the process of riffling through my bag. At first glance it didn’t register what this prick was doing but after seconds it dawned on me and my instantaneous reaction was to grab the guys arm and pull him forward banging his head on the seat in front of him. The seats are of course padded so this didn’t hurt him much and as he came upright again I drew back my finger and simply pocked him in his eye. A solid poke in the eye will slow just about anybody down no matter how big or small and this was certainly the case here. The would be thief reeled backwards covering his teary eye with his hand whilst letting out a cry of dismay and pain. By this time Rosie had woken up and instantly grasping the situation had started on her verbal tirade against this guy. I guess Rosie’s stream of invective and the poke in the eye must have been more than enough for this guy and with a bus full of Filipinos watching him warily he slowly stood up and made his way towards the front of the bus negotiating the small plastic chairs whilst dabbing at his still watery eye.

Eventually he made it to the front of the bus talked with the driver and then within seconds the bus stopped and he was let off. As the bus rolled away I looked out the window only to see my would be robber surrounded by three other guys all of whom looked up at me simultaneously and in response I smiled and wagged my finger in the universal sign of you have been naughty. The look on the Filipinos faces was one of pure hatred as if I had done something wrong in defending my personal property then again those looks could have been directed at Rosie who was right behind me sticking her fingers in the air at the group of guys making her thoughts crystal clear.

Rosie later informed me these guys work as a team and probably carry butterfly knives so I should be careful. When she told me this I realized my actions had been a bit risky but then again what was I supposed to do let the guy take what he wants from me just because of the fear he may have a knife. This was never going to happen and I realized then and there even forearmed with the knowledge he had a knife I still would have done exactly the same thing except I would have followed the poke in the eye with a short sharp punch to the ribs.

Rosie and I discussed what had happened and she warned me to be careful when in Batangas because there are squatter kids all over the wharf area who specialize in snatch and grab practices and many of them will utilize a sharp knife to pry your baggage away from you. After about half an hours more travel we entered the port area of Batangas which is the connection point for the trip across to Mindoro island where Peurto Galera is situated. Slowly but surely the Filipinos filed of the bus only to be greeted by a sea of aggressive porters all shouting at the top of their voices trying to get their attention and offering to carry the bags. Amongst the porters I could see the small street kids who must have been somewhere between 8 and 10 years old all dressed in squalid rags and all with that hungry look in their eyes. As I surveyed this scene I thought to myself what the heck have I gotten myself into. I instructed Rosie to lead me to where the ferry was waiting and steeled myself to enter the fray of hungry Filipinos who saw me and my belongings as an instant meal ticket.

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