Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 34:
Our little hut by the sea was in fact part of a compound which was occupied by a couple of Australians, Germans and some Americans all of whom seemed like a great bunch of guys. I was certainly the newbie amongst this lot as most of them had been coming to the Philippines for at least five years and all of them were more than familiar with the ins and outs of Peurto Galera.
Before I knew it the days events had caught up with me and after eating it was time for a little nap. I lay down with Rosie beside me on our little bed reveling in the breeze gently blowing trough the window and slowly drifted off to sleep listening to the sounds of small waves gently lap against the shore.
I slept for about three hours and when I woke up I reached for Rosie only to find she wasn’t there. Groggily I stumbled outside where I saw Rosie sitting by the barbeque tending to a grilled fish whilst chatting with this big white guy. I approached hesitantly put my arm around Rosie and said “there you are I missed you babe”. When he saw me the big guy was momentarily taken aback but quickly overcame his surprise to introduce himself as Phil from Australia. “Gooday mate” he said, “nice to meet ya. Me names Phil. I was just chatting to me old mate Rosie here known her for yonks mate. Great Sheila mate, reckon you done well”. With this he gave Rosie a beaming smile then held out a huge hand for me to shake.
Phil must have stood about 6 foot 3 with dark hair drunken brown eyes and a barrel chest. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on the big guy and I estimated him at being about 27 years old. As I stood there with my arm around Rosie trying to bravely mark my territory I couldn’t help but think, I hope this guy doesn’t go off it would be a real problem trying to handle this big bastard. As it turned out Phil was basically a gentle soul with a cigarette permanently hanging out of one side of his mouth and a bottle of Tanduay Rum out of the other. Later on in the piece I was to find out just how well he knew Rosie and how recently he had renewed that friendship but for now he seemed like a genuinely friendly sort of guy so I shook his hand with vigor and offered to have a drink with him.
With the offer of a drink Phil’s face lit up and he said “sure thing mate give us a couple of hundred and I’ll go buy what we need”. I forked out 200 piso and Phil with a smile took the money and said “I’ll be back in half an hour mate”. Sure enough he was good to his word, 30 minutes later he returned with two packets of cigarettes two bottles of Tanduay 3 bottles of coke and a plastic container full of ice. Phil plonked himself down on the wooden chair on my huts veranda placing the booze and plastic container on a little wooden table then called me to come join him. “I reckon Rosie will take care of the fish mate, how’s about you and me having a little drink”.
Phil and I sat there for about forty minutes smoking cigarettes drinking Tanduay and coke, watching the sun set and just generally getting to know each other when from out of nowhere three other guys appeared and asked if they could join us. Phil seemed to know them and before I knew it we had five of us all sitting around the barbeque area quaffing down Tanduay and coke like there was no tomorrow.
When the other guys joined us it was obvious that Rosie and mines solitary fish wasn’t going to suffice so I asked Phil, “where can I get some more fish or something to put on the barbeque to feed the guys”? He smiled and said “no worries there mate just give Rosie five hundred and send her up to see nanay or her daughter. They know the lay of the land mate and will see ya right”. I could feel the effects of Tanduay Rum beginning to kick in now and I knew I had better get something to eat before my head was spinning so I called Rosie over gave her 500 piso and asked her to go see nanay and buy some food for me and the boys. Rosie looked at me with a look that said, what did your last slave die of, grabbed the money and headed off towards nanays house.
While Rosie was gone the boys and I started on a fairly heavy drinking session. These guys were all Australian and were not exactly new to the drinking scene in Peurto Galera or any place else for that matter. There names were Jimmy Buckets, John Cockran and Koripot Bob. All of them lived in the same little compound as myself and Rosie and all of them seemed like hard core Philippine veterans. At this stage I realized I was still a comparative newbie and I was all ears as these boys enlightened me on survival techniques in the Philippines all over copious amounts of rum of course.
It wasn’t long before Rosie was back carrying what looked like a couple of fish, some boiled rice, some squid and some vegetables. Now as most people know I am no slouch when it comes to drinking but these boys were making me look like a rank amateur. It seemed to me that this was their nightly event and this impression was further confirmed when Jimmy Buckets suddenly said, “welcome to our little group Marty I reckon you’ll fit right in mate”. When Buckets said this I felt kind of honored like I had been accepted into the inner circle of friends or something. Of course this meant nothing to Rosie who when I asked for the change gave me a look of seething contempt and replied “wala”.
By now the second bottle of rum was getting empty so Phil asked me for another hundred which I drunkenly handed over and he then took it to Rosie and said, “can you fetch us some more Rum Rosie me love” and gave her a little pat on her behind. I was expecting Rosie to say something along the lines of get your own bloody drink but all she did was smile and reply ooh ooh then off she trotted. I remember thinking through the alcohol sodden haze how the heck did Phil do that but then at that stage thinking anything more complicated than whats my name was beyond my capacity, so I just let my mind slide into drunken numbness that is typical of life in the Philippines.
Rosie was back seemingly in a jiffy and following close behind was Jovie carrying plates and cutlery. When I saw Jovie I immediately turned a bright red and I was sure Rosie would notice it but instead she seemed to have eyes only for Phil and as it turned out all the boys new Jovie anyway and were quite effusive in their greetings to her. Rosie and Jovie started to prepare the food whilst Phil poured another round of rum and cokes and it was once more into the breach for poor Martin. By the time we had finished the next round the food was ready and we all stumbled towards the barbeque to fill our rumbling stomachs. Due to the lack of chairs we all sat on the sand by the barbeque and continued talking and drinking as we consumed the fish, rice and some sort of undefined vegetable with great gusto . I am sure under normal circumstances I would not have even looked twice at this meal but sitting on the beach in an alcohol induced stupor with my new found friends and a gentle breeze blowing off the sea, this meal seemed somehow perfect.
While we were eating Rosie and Jovie were making acquaintance with each other and I couldn’t help but wonder what they were talking about. Admittedly I was worried that Jovie would let slip about the afternoons activities between us but if she did Rosie never showed any sign of it and the evening progressed along with everybody being happy and friendly. At the time I did not realize it but the company of good friends, tall tales and copious amounts of booze was soon to be the story of my life in Peurto Galera and I would literally have to drag myself away and force myself into another lifestyle but that was in the future and for now I just felt pleasantly intoxicated and at peace with myself.
The evening progressed along and even though I was getting totally fucked up I could see the signs of wear and tear on the others and it became a point of pride that I wasn’t going to let these boys drink me under the table. I had enjoyed numerous drinking sessions in Australia and had always managed to hold my own so I wasn’t about to let these guys whom I had only just met, get the better of me. As the night wore on the supply of Tandauy rum seemed never ending until at last Jimmy Buckets drunkenly proclaimed “I’ve done me fucking bolt lads and I’ll see youze all tomorrow”. With that grand announcement made, Jimmy managed to slowly struggle to his feet where he wobbled precariously unti Koripot Bob managed to stand up beside him and together the two of them stumbled of towards their respective huts. This left myself John and big Phil and even though my head was reeling I wasn’t about to give in and let these two get the better of me. I decided the best form of defense was offense and I sluringly asked one more round boys at which John looked at me with disgust and said “no thanks mate but I got to piss off bloody worlds spinning and I gotta visit Manila tomorrow “. This left me and big Phil who simply smiled at me and said, “yeah sure thing Marty I could go another”.
I think myself and Phil stayed there for another hour or so until we finished off the fourth bottle and then thankfully Phil slowly stood up and said “well I gotta go mate, sleep well and give my love to Rosie”. With that said he slowly stumbled off into the distance and as I watched him depart I thought to myself well done Martin you showed those guys. With my self congratulatory praise still ringing in my head I tried to gain my feet only to find myself lying down on the sand. At first I thought somebody had tripped me so I looked around, only to find fresh air. Right, I thought to myself, slow it down a bit you are pissed Martin, just concentrate and take it easy. Using my last dregs of common sense I manged to gain my feet and stumble the fifteen yards to my hut where I ascended the steps gently opened the door and gratefully collapsed onto my empty bed.