C How They Made Me! Chapter 44

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 44:

The journey that never ends.

So there we were in backward down town Masbate, the town that time literally forgot, sitting on top of a jeepney full of Filipinos who between them couldn’t speak more than five words of English, about to venture into the wilds of Masbate in search of a village I had no idea the name of let alone the location. I looked at Bob to see any discernible reaction but if he was at all worried he sure hid it well. Etched on his face was the same easy going laconic smile and when he saw me looking a little perturbed, he broke into an even bigger smile and said, “don’t let it worry you mate, there’s no going back now and we may as well enjoy the adventure”. Bob was a man of few words but what words he did say were normally pretty spot on the money and a newbie such as myself felt compelled to listen.

After they had packed the Filipinos into the jeepney like sardines the driver switched on the ignition and with a belch of black diesel fumes the jeepney came to life and started rolling down the road heading towards a distant jungle covered hill. At this stage I was still wondering what I had gotten myself into when all of a sudden the jeepney gave a large jump and I looked down to see we were now traveling on a dirt road. I think the paved road must have lasted for all of ten minutes and with each bone jarring bump I had the sneaking suspicion this trip was going to be one not soon forgotten.

We had been trundling along for about an hour when I noticed the landscape beginning to change. At first it had been classic lowlands provincial Philippines with rice fields and little mud huts with thatched roofs but now this was giving way to a more rugged landscape dominated by lush jungle like vegetation and large protruding hills. I remember looking at Bob and asking, “you didn’t happen to bring a camera did you mate“? And he replied, “no mate couldn’t be bothered, that’s just one less thing for the flips to steal”.

After about two hours travel we came to the bottom of one particularly large hill and here the jeepney decided to stop. I was wondering why the stop and was about to ask Rosie but then my question was answered as all the male Filipinos disembarked on one side of the jeepney and the females on the other. This was like a bulk piss stop but there were no public toilets here and it was a case of choosing your area and then doing your business. I was kind of amused perched on top of the jeepney watching this piss procession until the driver and his right hand man started shouting something at me and I had no idea what they were talking about. I looked around for Rosie but she had joined the group of females having a piss so I was left to my own devices to try and decipher whatever it was they were shouting about. The drivers assistant kept on shouting and gesticulating for me to come down from the roof so I looked at Bob and said, I wonder what this bastard wants”. Listen mate do me a favor if they give me a hard time get your ass down there and help out”. Bob just looked at me with his usual laconic smile and replied, “no worries mate but shit I wouldn’t worry, the Flips here are normally pretty good and seem friendly enough”.

I jumped down from the roof and was about to ask the Filipino driver what he wanted and why he was getting so hot under the collar when all of a sudden Rosie appeared beside me and informed me that there was no need to get agitated the driver only wanted to get the baggage of three Filipinos who were ending their journey here. Feeling somewhat foolish at having totally misread the situation I moved aside whilst calling Bob down so the driver and assistant could get the luggage. While they were doing this I asked Rosie how much farther to her village to which she replied, “Rosie forget long time Rosie not go home”. With this said she joined the other people who were now boarding the jeepney leaving Bob and myself to climb up the ladder onto the roof and assume our positions as the shotgun riding foreigners.

This first hill was fairly steep and it was while traversing it that I developed a sort of begrudging respect for the hardy jeepney’s that crisscross the Philippines no matter what the conditions. The jeepney’s seem pretty much indestructible and really are the work horse of the Philippines. This jeepney was no exception, as it rumbled hill at a snails pace gushing out black diesel fumes I glanced at the road and realized this was more like one gigantic mud hole than a road. I was marveling at how the jeepney seemed to be impervious to the bog like conditions when suddenly we ground to a halt. I looked at Bob and he at me then we both looked down at the right hand side back wheel and sure enough it was firmly bogged in a watery muddy hole.

Having grown up in Australia I was no stranger to driving on dirt roads but normally I was using a car not an old diesel engine jeepney overloaded to maximum capacity and to be honest I wasn’t exactly sure how we were going to get out of the bog. Bob and I descended from the roof and all the Filipinos disembarked then we all just stood there and watched as the driver revved the engine and two Filipinos pushed the jeepney. As the back wheels spun and covered the guys pushing the jeepney with mud it soon became obvious that the jeepney was going nowhere unless they got some more man power pushing the dam thing out of the quagmire. I think both Bob and myself were hoping that somebody else would step up to help but obviously this did not happen and both the silly foreigners stepped forward and offered to help. In retrospect this was probably the best move Bob and myself made the entire trip because even though we were a source of vast amusement for the Filipinos we also gained the respect of the driver and cohorts and this was soon to be made very evident as the journey progressed.

We traveled for another two hours all the time heading steadily upwards until we came a point where the ground leveled out which was the top of the mountain pass. As the road began to level out signs of development began to appear. Little huts dotted the side of the road and little sari-sari stores became more frequent. The sides of the road were lined with children and when they set eyes on Bob and myself all covered in mud they would break out laughing or just stare in awe as if seeing a ghost. The jeepney made several stops along this stretch of the road and each time people would disembark and new people would climb on board but for Bob and myself it was all about the kids who just couldn’t come to terms with the two crazy mud splattered white men riding on top of the jeepney.

We had been traveling on the level road for what I estimated to be about 30 kilometers when the jeepney pulled over in what was almost a small town. This time the driver turned the engine off and all the passengers disembarked heading for what looked like the Filipino equivalent of a roadside diner. Once again Bob and I looked at each other and instantly decided when in Rome do as the Romans do so we both jumped down from the jeepney roof and headed towards the shack. As we entered the Filipinos from our jeepney never paid us any attention but the other Filipinos just stopped what they were doing and gaped at us in awe. It was a weird feeling being the center of attention and I thought to myself I guess this is a bit like how the celebrities feel.

The people in the hut just stared at us until Rosie approached us and said, “you sit with Rosie”. Bob and I promptly did as we were told but the people inside still kept staring at us. Rosie had ordered some food but neither Bob or myself were brave enough to partake in this places delicacies so we passed on the food and just stuck to drinking coke through plastic straws. Rosie didn’t take long to finish her meal and after paying the bill all three of us headed out to the jeepney. As we stepped outside the shack we were literally surrounded by a throng of kids. Some would jump around wildly trying to touch us and then run away, others would adopt a more demure approach sneaking up to us shyly avoiding eye contact only to touch us and then run away again, whilst others were just plain terrified and decided to check us out from a distance.

We gently pushed our way through the crowd of kids then Bob and myself mounted the jeepney to gain our elevated seats which brought a big cheer and peals of laughter from the kids. The other passengers then slowly boarded the jeepney and as the driver gunned the engine and headed down the road the jeepney was followed by a screaming crowd of kids all jumping and laughing as if seeing these strange foreigners had made their day. Later on I asked Rosie why the kids had been so excited and she explained that they had never seen a white man before let alone ones that were covered in mud.

The journey lasted another 2 hours during which time the jeepney got stuck 3 more times and each time Bob and myself had to get down and help push which meant by the time we reached Cawayan the nearest big town to Rosie’s village we were literally covered in mud and must have looked a real site to the locals. I remember disembarking from the jeepney roof then after picking up our luggage Rosie instructed us to follow her and we walked the streets of Cawayan with people just stopping to stare at us, until we reached a small house which Rosie proudly announced belonged to her cousin. Rosie knocked at the door and her cousin a Filipino male opened it and nearly had a heart attack when he saw Rosie flanked by two mud covered white men.

Of course the cousin didn’t have a shower but he did have a little area out back where his family showered compliments of a tap, a little bucket and a small jug with a handle which the Filipinos call a “tabo”. The idea here was to fill the bucket with water then dip the “tabo” into the bucket and pour the water from the “tabo” over your head. Bob and I took it turns showering and even though I would have much preferred a traditional shower the “tabo” shower certainly did the job and fifteen minutes later both Bob and myself were clean refreshed and ready to make our way to Rosies house. I asked Rosie, “where is your house, are we near it now” and she replied, “house near here, house near water not in big place like Cawayan”. We then grabbed our bags and once again followed Rosie through the streets of Cawayan.

For this excursion we were accompanied by Rosie’s cousin who as it turned out spoke passable English so I decided to question him a little bit thinking the more information I had the better. I asked him where we were now going explaining that after the six hour jeepney ride which I had initially been told was a mere 2 hour journey, I was a little weary when it came to Rosies sense of time. The cousin seemed amused by my description of our boat and jeepney ride and with a big smile he assured me that we were just making our way to the trike station where we would get a ride to Rosies village. He also assured me this was a half hour ride at the most. Rosies cousin and I had quite an interesting chat but just as I got to the trike I asked him what is Rosies father like and he replied Rosie dad traditional man he have no money but he still proud and he has big “bolo” for people he not like”. Just great I thought to myself, here I am in the middle of nowhere and I am about to experience the Filipino version of the Texas chain saw massacre, as an over protective father avenges his daughters honor taken by the evil foreigner.

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