Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
C How they made me chapter 40:
Province here we come
Of course when Rosie heard my trip to the province proposition she instantly accepted. Many people think that a Filipina will not like to take you down to the province because she is ashamed of her humble origins however I have never found this to be true. In fact I have always found that if a girl likes you she will be more than willing to take you down to the province introduce you to her family and generally spend time with you. For these girls the foreigner boyfriend is often something of a minor status symbol and a sign that they have landed potential support for the family. On the other hand it is also normally a sign that the girl is working in the bar but the Filipinos tend to turn a blind eye to this preferring to concentrate instead on the fact that there is now a foreigner in the family and therefore potentially a whole new world is about to open for their daughter and hopefully the rest of the family as well. At best the foreigner is a ticket to a whole new world for many members of the family unit at worst he is economic security for the future.
On our way back to our little compound Rosie was excited and when we ran into Jovie she was excitedly telling her about our up and coming trip to the province. Eventually we made it back to our compound and as we entered I saw Koripot Bob, who had the hut next door to me, sitting on his porch tucking into his first San Miguel for the day. I waved at Bob and he waved back then Rosie ran up to his porch and excitedly announced that her and I were going to visit her province. Upon hearing this Bob suddenly seemed to perk up and he beckoned for Rosie to take a seat next to him and then enquired where is your province darling to which she replied Masbate and then out of the blue Bob asked me hey mate you mind if I come along I have always wanted to visit the province and I hear the girls in Masbate are really beautiful. When Rosie heard this she seemed to get excited and turning round to me she asked Mahal we bring Bob province diba? I wasn’t sure if Bob was joking or serious but it was very obvious that Rosie was very much in favor of him accompanying us and I figured the more the merrier , besides if it kept Rosie happy Bobs company would be very welcome.
That night we all sat around barbeque on the beach and I told the boys about my plans to go to the province with Rossie and Bob. The boys reacted in a surprisingly varied manner. Some just sniggered behind their hands, others just shook their heads and some were adamant in their efforts to try and persuade me not to go. Paramount amongst the later group was big Phil who seemed to have a real problem with Rosie and I going to the province. When I first made the announcement his reaction was incredulous disbelief and he asked, “mate are you really sure about this” to which I replied “yep I have looked it up and have decided I really want to go there. I mean there has to be more to life in the Philippines than chasing girls and sitting around on the beach getting drunk and stoned with your mates”. Straight away Phil responded well if you find something better than chasing pussy and drinking with your mates please let us know mate because none of us have ever found anything better and we’ve been coming here for years”.
From the back the little group I heard a snigger then little Jimmy buckets piped up and said, “no offense Marty but I wouldn’t be going down to the province if I was you” to which I asked why not mate don’t tell me it’s dangerous or something”? Not just dangerous with the bloody NPA crawling around everywhere but bloody primitive mate. I’m telling you Marty don’t do it”. I looked at Buckets and saw that he wasn’t joking then I replied okay mate thank you for your concern but I have made up my mind and I want to visit the province. Besides a little change of pace experiencing the rustic lifestyle will do me a world of good”.
Just then I was in for a surprise because from out of nowhere koipot Bob piped up and said ‘you know what mate I kinda fancy a trip to the province meself. Count me in mate I’m going with ya. Besides I have screwed all the good looking sheilas here anyway so lets check out the province and see what we can find there”. When Jimmy Buckets heard this he looked at Bob as if he had lost his marbles and just shook his head. Then he looked at me opened his mouth as if to say something but nothing came out and instead of issuing another warning he said, “you guys want a cold one. Just offering mate because you won’t find a cold beer in the province”.
That night turned into quite a session with the boys sitting round the camp fire in various states of inebriation while the girls just relaxed in their respective rooms doing whatever woman do while waiting for their drunken partner. Which reminds me one thing I don’t like about the Filipina is her tendency to gossip. All women love to gossip but the Filipina takes it to a whole new level. Filipinas can gossip like nobody else on the face of this earth. A chance to gossip is social interaction with like minded people, it is affirmation of ones opinions and best of all it is titillating and even scandalous something the Filipinas love due to their penchant for drama.
Late the next morning I woke up to the smell of fried fish wafting through my doorway so with a nasty throbbing hangover I stumbled out of bed across the room and opened my door to be confronted with Rosie and Jovie sitting on the balcony enjoying a good old gossip session while tucking into some fried fish and rice. When she saw me Rosie offered me some fish and rice but the thought of it made me queasy so I politely declined and headed towards the toilet.
After throwing up I headed towards the bed again but Rosie was having none of that so while I was trying to sleep or at least rest my aching head in peace and quiet Rosie puttered around the small shack making as much noise as she possibly could. After about an hour of this I realized there was nothing I could do about it and there was no way I was going to get any sleep so I slowly extricated my aching body from the comfortable bed walked out the door and headed for the beach. In my experience there is nothing better for a hang over cure than a swim in the ocean and I could here the beach calling me.
Even though I had a pounding headache it didn’t take me long to get to the water and next thing I knew I was swimming under water then floating on my back just letting the refreshing water envelope me in its soothing caressing and in a couple of minutes I found my headache slipping away. After half an hour or so I was feeling decidedly human again and I decided I could now face the trip to Manila and from there down to the province.
On the way back to the hut I saw koripot Bob who was sitting on his balcony so I asked him “are you ready to go man, province here we come” and to my surprise he answered straight away, “yes mate, packed and ready to go when you are”. This really was quite a surprise for me. I had been expecting Bob to say no having had second thoughts and yet here he was ready to go before even I was. I was to find out why Bob was so keen to get to the province some 4 days later and let me tell you when I did find out I was simply amazed.
I entered my hut and there on my bed was a change of clothing and my suitcase already packed with everything we had bought to Peurto Galera. I looked at Rosie and said are you trying to tell me something, anyone would think you were in a hurry to get to the province or something. Rosie smiled and replied, “you change clothes now get ferry Peurto then bus Manila”. So now my decision was made and there was no putting it off we were heading towards Manila and from there heading down to the province. I sauntered to my doorway and yelled to Bob that we were leaving in ten minutes and he shouted back no worries mate, cant wait.
Loaded down with luggage the trip to Manila was more than a little precarious and extremely wearisome. First we had to lug it all the way to the bunka station in Sabang then onto the boat where we made our way to Peurto Galera. At Peurto Galera we waited 45 minutes sitting on the dock while the old ferry which was running late made its way towards us from Batangas. Sitting on the dock I was feeling particularly vulnerable but Bob and Rosie seemed oblivious of everything as Rosie in halting English explained to Bob what her province was like. I listened to Rosie’s stories half heartedly while keeping an eye on the people around me and next thing I knew the old local ferry was rounding the bend and making its way towards us slowly but surely.
These days on the trip to Peurto Galera there is a number of huge sea cats and even ocean going buka’s that regularly do the crossing but back in those days there was only one sea cat and the local ferry. Having resided in Sydney for most of my youth I was very much used to the old wooden ferries but the one heading our way made the Sydney Ferries look brand spanking new and the epitome of luxury. As the Ferry drew nearer I felt a sort of subtle excitement course through me because I knew when I stepped aboard this I was well and truly beginning my trip to the province.
The old ferry was the chosen means of transportation for most Filipinos simply because it was a third cheaper than the SeaCat but then again there was a price to pay for the cheaper fare and as the ferry drew near I was to find out in no uncertain terms what this price was. Basically this was the means of transport not only for Filipinos but for their livestock as well. Goats, chickens and just about any other animal used this ferry for traveling from Batangas to Peurto Galera. We waited while the passengers and animals disembarked and next thing I knew I was being pulled by the hand and pushed towards the boarding plank. I couldn’t see the need for a hurry but Rosie was most insistent and she pointed to Bob in front of us who was busy muscling his way in front of a pair of Filipino guys to get on the boat as quickly as possible. I asked Rosie what’s the hurry but all she could do was pull me by the hand. After pushing and shoving we managed to board the boat where Rosie literally threw her bag on the floor encouraged me to do the same and then pushed me towards the boats bow. As we navigated our way through plastic wrappers and animal feces it suddenly dawned on me that the prime seats were the ones in front of the boat where the air was fresh and we wouldn’t suffocate on the odors of animal feces.
Up the front of the boat we traveled in comparative luxury and it was a pleasant experience with the wind and ocean spray blowing in our faces. The trip took about 40 minutes to cross the Batangas channel and during that time I just hugged Rosie and gazed across the ocean lost in my own private reverie.
When we arrived at Batangas Port I was once again on my guard. It seemed like the squatter area by the water had gotten even bigger since we last saw it and the crowd of raggedy kids had increased also. When the boat docked we made our way together with the other passengers towards our luggage only to find an empty space where my bag should have been. I made worried gestures towards Rosie indicating that my bag was missing but all she could do was look at me with a vacant expression and as the boat emptied out I was left pondering where the heck was my bag and what was I going to do now that every article of clothing I had bought with me had suddenly gone missing. This was a lot more than a mere inconvenience, this was a hassle of the first degree.