Monthly Archives: May 2012

C How They Made Me! Chapter 47

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 47:

Province life begins in earnest.

Rosie’s father strode up to his little house purposefully with the bolo swinging loosely at his side. I was not looking forward to this confrontation as I had made his daughter cry just by asking if Bob and myself could move somewhere else and her father was acting like this was some kind of mortal insult. I realized later that by asking if we could stay somewhere else I was implying his place wasn’t good enough and secondly his family had automatically gained status in the village having the foreigners stay there. If we were to leave this would be loss of face for him and his family. At the time I was still comparatively new to Filipino culture and all I knew was I had one angry armed Filipino on my hands and I had better do some fast talking.

Rosie’s dad walked in the hut with Rosie close behind and stated, house not good”, which was proceeded with a blathering of Visayan. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out he was pissed because I had requested other accommodation and I kept a careful eye on that bolo. I explained to papa that his house was much appreciated but I felt like I was imposing because it wasn’t big enough for all of us. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to be a burden on the family but I think he only understood about 20% of what I was saying and I could see this situation going from bad to worse, rapidly.

Just then a still tearful Rosie stepped into the room so I approached her slowly, looked at her pleadingly and then a moment of inspiration hit me. Forcing a smile I hugged Rosie and said “hey babe I am sorry I did not mean to insult you or your home, this is fine for me but I am worried about Bob. He is asthmatic and I think it may be dangerous for him having to sleep in a crowded room”. When they heard the word asthmatic it was like a light had switched on in their heads and almost immediately their attitudes were completely different. They conversed together in a huddle reminiscent of a American football huddle and then papa with a big smile replied asthma bad we give cousins place by sea. I looked at him inquiringly and Rosie then explained that her cousin was in Cebu and she was not expected back until next year. Rosie also explained that this house was right on the seashore and he sister would come by as would she to do the cooking and the cleaning. Relieved that I had wiggled out of a potentially inflammatory situation I thanked her and papa profusely and then made to leave because I had to find Bob and get him ready to move.

I wormed my way out of their little house and there was Bob in the front yard talking with some of the kids and showing them some card tricks. Bob was a man of many talents and experience some of which he didn’t want to talk about, but in those rare moments one would get a glimpse of them and on many occasions I would find myself wondering, hey where did this come from, I never knew Bob could do that. I walked slowly out of the house and into the front yard to brief Bob on his asthma and the resultant change of venue all of which he took in his stride and said sounds good enough for me mate, lets pack and go check out our new joint.

Rosie’s cousin house was literally a 15 minute slow amble from Rosie’s place and just as she had promised was right on the seafront. This was not exactly the lap of luxury but compared to Rosies house with every relative under the sun all sharing the same abode this was definitely a step up. Our new shack had a small kitchen and two mattresses on the floor there were two electric fans and a gas cooker. There was even a near decent toilet house out back along with a secluded shower area. The best thing about this house was that it had a little veranda overlooking the sea and there was a constant sea breeze blowing through the hut keeping things a bit cooler and I could tell just by the look on Bob’s face that he was already planning a few sessions on this veranda.

Rosie saw the look on our faces and she knew straight away that this would be a more suitable place for myself and Bob to reside so without further ado she sent her father scurrying home to fetch some female members of the family so as to start the clean up process. In a matter of one hour they had the place spick and span and then Rosie asked me to give her 300 piso so she could go and buy some fish and rice for lunch. I was about to give her the money but then thought better of it and asked her if I could accompany her on the shopping mission. Upon hearing this she looked at me inquisitively then deciding that perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad having a foreigner tag along she nodded her head in ascent and we slowly walked along the beach together.

As we walked along the beach I took the opportunity to take in my surroundings. The beach was grey sand and was slightly littered with plastic bags cigarette packets. The sea was as smooth as a babies bottom and scattered all along the beach were literally hundreds of small fishing boats. Most of the people we ran into were all tanned a dark copper color by the ever present sun, all of them were friendly and after the initial shock of seeing a white man strolling along their beach they would giggle and whisper together then the more bold ones would smile and make eye contact. Sometimes one or two would try to start up a conversation with salutations like “hey Joe” but I was soon to find out this was as far as their limited English went so my steady reply would be “hey pinoy” which is a phrase I still use today whenever confronted with the hey Joe and it always elicits a humorous response. The village was obviously a basic one with a small economy based around products of the sea and the land. There was some small type of market places and it was to one of these that Rosie led me.

Since that time I have seen many fish markets both big and small but this was my first time and to be honest I found it quite fascinating. The market was only small being composed of about ten stalls which were nothing more than a large table with a nippa roof over them. In the stores were a series of fish all being displayed. The old ladies selling the fish would sit on a single wooden stall gently fanning the fish to keep the flies away. The fans were made from little strips of plastic attached to a thin wooden pole, they did nothing to cool one down but they seemed to keep most of the flies away. I noticed as we walked up to the various stalls the old ladies would reach down to a small bucket of water that they kept besides their stool and would then gently sprinkle the water on the fish to make it look fresher or like it had just been caught.

These people seemed genuinely relaxed and happy even though they had very little money and obviously lived a slightly better than subsistence lifestyle. Everywhere we went the older ladies would always greet me with a toothless smile and then would whisper in shocked awe about this strange and rather big white man who had suddenly appeared in their midst. Some of them knew Rosie or at least her family and whenever she did the shopping it was a time consuming exercise as she had to contend with all the questioning and the desire to just swap some news. I felt for Rosie but I also felt for the people living there. I guess they didn’t have much variation in their lives and they were not so splendidly isolated and as a result they were hungry for any scrap of information they could get regarding the outside world.

Rosie bargained like an expert at times becoming seemingly heated but when I asked her about this on the way back she just told me “this is the way we do here hon”. I had been to India and Thailand before and I knew bargaining was in these countries a fine art and I now had a glimpse that told me this was also the case in the Philippines. On the way back we stopped to buy a sack of rice and I asked Rosie why do we need a whole sack to which she replied, “my family like rice”. After we had purchased the rice I went to pick up the sack to carry it back to Rosie’s place but she stopped me and informed me, “boy carry rice, boy job”.

We got back to the hut and Rosie set about cleaning the fish whilst other family members scurried around collecting wood and leaves for the fire. Stupid me had been expecting an electric stove or even a gas burner but why bother when one can have a fire right on the beach. Pretty soon the boys from the rice store arrived carrying the heavy sack of rice and Rosie instructed them to just lay the bag down in the kitchen then she gave them 2 piso notes each and after receiving this they scurried off gleefully obviously intent on spending their new found wealth. Magically some plates appeared along with some mineral water and before we knew it Bob and myself were sitting on some stones on the beach tucking into some perfectly cooked fish and gulping down mineral water.

By the time lunch had finished the lack of sleep was beginning to catch up with me and I could feel myself gently sliding into the open arms of a good afternoon nap. I motioned to Rosie telling her that I was really tired and that I desperately needed to get some sleep to which she replied, “wait, my brother make ready for you”. Rosie said something in Visayan and three young kids rushed inside my new shack only to reappear five minutes later with big smiles on their faces. I looked at Rosie inquiringly and she said “They make your bed nice . Now you have fan and everything. You sleep but not long time because papa and friends they play cards to you tonight”. That just great I thought to myself this is going to be another night of gambling for chump change and slurping down voluminous amounts of cheap alcohol, while all the time listening to gibberish and not comprehending a word of it.

As I headed towards the now very inviting mattress Bob piped up and said hey mate you gonna crash? I replied, “yeah sure am, feeling buggered mate”, to which he said, “cool you have a good one and I will go with Rosie to the store mate and stock up on some stuff we will need. I smiled at him wearily and replied sounds like a plan to me and the next thing I knew I was drifting off to sleep with the sound of children playing on the beach and small waves gently lapping on the shore. All of a sudden the provincial experience was all to real and even though it was not exactly luxurious it was certainly relaxing and I felt a wave of contentment descend on me together with the waves of sleep. Life was basic here and yet somehow delightfully real, there was certainly something to be said for living this rudimentary lifestyle and I wondered what the near future would bring.

C How They Made Me! Chapter 46

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 46:

Settling into provincial life..

Being raised in a comparatively affluent society in Australia I was a complete stranger to the sport of cock fighting but Rosies father’s enthusiasm was infectious and next thing I knew I found myself being dragged towards a circle of Filipino men all shouting and gesticulating wildly while they watched two cocks fight. Rosies father dragged me into the middle of the group and stood beside me while the guys around me were all shouting and cheering on the cock they had bet on.

The rules of the cock fight were totally beyond me and it seemed to me that just as the animals were engaging in the fight properly the owners would pull them apart and people would start betting again. For me I would have rather of seen the rounds last a prescribed amount of time with the winner being whichever cock wounds or kills the other but that didn’t seem to be the case here. I figured that even if the cock lost it was probably still a valuable possession in this community so better to preserve it’s life so it can fight again another day or be used for a variety of other purposes. For the Filipino man a rooster is money on legs and is serious business.

The fight which we had enetered half way through soon came to an end and the guys would sit around and chat discussing the fight they had just seen and the problems of their little world. Usually this discussion would be accompanied by a plastic cup with ice and a large bottle of beer. The beer is then poured into the plastic cup and swallowed in turn. Normally one guy will take a couple of gulps then the glass is passed back to whomever has the beer bottle where it is refilled and then passed onto the next guy to gulp down.

Rosies father grabbed me by the wrist and led me to the group of guys drinking then as they looked up and comprehension that a foreigner was in their midst slowly dawned on them, they each adopted a big smile and moved around so as to make room for Rosies dad and myself to sit down and join the party. Next thing I knew another two bottles of beer appeared and the plastic cup with ice was making the rounds again. I am not particularly fond of beer at the best of times but when it is being passed around a group of men inside a plastic cup with ice it was not exactly thrilling especially since it seemed they wanted me to have every second gulp almost like they thought it amusing to try and get the foreigner drunk. To be honest this situation was a little unnerving because they insisted on touching me all the time and then they would say something in their own language which caused ripples of laughter amongst the group and the fact that I could not understand them obviously made me uncomfortable which in turn increased their mirth even more.

After about ten minutes of sitting around in the group being forced to gulp down lukewarm beer, the next cock fight was announced and the group slowly dispersed heading towards the fight. Rosie’s father grabbed my hand once again and said, “we look fight now”. With this he yanked me up and once again we joined the throng of men and kids gathered around the cocks. The cock fights which I was truly grateful for because it took the guys attention off me. The two combatants would be held by their owner while a Filipino guy would circulate the crowd with notes rolled up inbetween his fingers and in his hand was a scraggly piece of paper on which he would write down something unintelligible. It didn’t take much to figure out that this was the equivilent to the bookie but I had no idea how his betting system worked.

Throughout the entire evening Rosies father was acting as if he was Mr Important or as my father would always say, “acting like lord muck”. Looking back on it I realize that he had gained some sort of elevated status, albeit only temporary, by bringing the foreigner and therefore the money into their midst. But at the time I was just feeling bemused wondering what all the fuss was about.

The cock fights lasted for about 3 hours and inbetween each fight I would be pulled over to the group and encouraged to drink beer. Each time it seemed like it was Martin taking on the whole group but this didn’t really bother me since I figured this was some kind of initiation test and if outdrinking a bunch of locals was what was required to gain acceptance then so be it.

After the cock fights we were all pretty drunk and I can vaguely remember Bob and myself being led back to Rosies house where we found two small foam mattresses placed on the floor which we unceremoniously plonked ourselves upon and crashed out, completely oblivious of our surroundings.
These days with a few more years under my belt I definitely need my creature comforts but back then sleeping on the floor was no big hassle, especially when I had a head full of booze. I remember making it to the mattress finding the lumpy pillow and then darkness descended. I think the fact that we had been traveling for nearly two days with what amounted to only a few hours proper sleep, contributed to our ability to sleep in the primitive conditions.

Even though I was dead tired I still only managed to get 5 or 6 hours sleep and as the sun came streaming into the hut I awoke to the sound of mosquitoes buzzing in my ear and seemingly a thousand mosquito bites all down my legs, arms and neck. My head was throbbing, I was sweating like a race horse before a piss test, there was a crick in my neck from sleeping on the hard floor with the lumpy pillow and the roosters were crowing their lungs out welcoming the two foreigners. Basically I felt like absolute shit, I looked over at Bob who was still sleeping soundly then at the remainder of the room only to be greeted by a number of bodies all lying on the floor . I took one more look at my situation and soon it was obvious that I wasn’t going anywhere and my only option was to simply lye there and wait for people to wake up before going anywhere or doing anything.

I lay on the floor for what I figured must have been an hour or so willing myself to go back to sleep but without a fan and a softer mattress this was almost impossible and I found myself just lying there sweating. As readers can imagine this was hardly an ideal start to my provincial adventure but there was no denying this was reality. This was exactly how the vast majority of people lived and this was an authentic province experience warts, mosquitoes, bed bugs and all.

I think I must have lain there for about an hour and a half desperately trying to will myself to sleep but to no avail. Under these conditions and with a throbbing head, sleep was just about impossible. Eventually I saw Rosies mother who was lying in the far corner begin to stir and then slowly but surely the rest of the family woke up to face a new day in provincial life. The family had now all roused so I shook Bob who slowly woke up and then loudly announced “ shit Marty watcha doing waking me up mate, I was having a rip snorter dream and now it’s fucking gone”. I apologized profusely for waking him and then pointed out to him our surroundings and said in hushed tones, “don’t know about you mate but I can’t get much sleep in these conditions with all these people so I am going to ask Rosie about some other place to stay”. Bob looked around him and responded with “yeah good on ya mate. See if we can stay somewhere else with a bit more room. Oh by the way did you see Rosies cousin last night, wouldn’t mind having a crack at that”. Despite feeling like death warmed up I couldn’t help but smile at “koripot Bobs continuing addiction to the Filipina no matter where he was or what conditions he was enduring. This man was fanatical and certainly knew what he wanted from his time in the Philippines.

After my conversation with Bob Rosie appeared through the minute entrance that passed as a front door and said Rosie mother make breakfast, you like now?” I looked at Bob he looked at me then just as I was about to ask what we were going to eat I thought better of it and replied yeah sure I am hungry. With this said Rosie left again then came back with a plate piled full of steaming rice some canned sardines and two fried eggs. Not really being in a position to complain and certainly not wanting to be seen as ungrateful, Bob and myself made our way to the kitchen table where there were three tiny seats and tucked into the specially prepared breakfast. While we were eating a mass of kids appeared at the small window and proceeded to stare at us like we were aliens from another planet. I don’t know how many readers have experienced numerous kids gawking at you and giggling while you are trying to eat, but let me tell you, it is a little unnerving to say the least and both Bob and myself had a hard time eating our breakfast.

What goes in must come out and after breakfast both Bob and myself needed to evacuate our bowels but the problem was there was no toilet to be seen so I had to ask Rosie who laughed and said “follow me”. Rosie led us round the back of her little house and there in the backyard was a tiny little hut with a nippa roof . Bob and I looked at each other in disbelief but then simultaneously realized that we didn’t have many options and it was this shit house or out in the street with everybody viewing.

After performing our ablutions I asked Rosie if I could have a little word with her in private and she led me back into the house. When we were alone in the house I started by thanking her very much for putting myself and Bob up but there was a problem because we felt we were intruding on her family and I was wondering if there was any place where Bob and I could stay that was slightly separate from her family and which didn’t have so many people in it and we wouldn’t be so much in the way. After I had finished asking Rosie as nicely as possible trying to disguise my desire to find some place a little more comfortable she just looked at me with a mixture of sadness and anger then all of a sudden tears welled in her eyes and she rushed out the front door straight towards her father who was standing outside, saw his daughter crying, spoke to her in a concerned tone, then proceeded to walk towards me purposefully with the razor sharp bolo swinging on his belt. .

C How They Made Me! Chapter 45

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 45:

Welcome to the probince Mr poreigner.

The trike ride to Rosies village wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been expecting. These trikes were large with enough room to slightly stretch ones legs and since Bob and I both got separate ones and our luggage was on the trike roof there was even room to look out and appreciate the rural countryside. We drove for about forty minutes along a flat meandering coastal road which intertwined with rice paddies, coconut plantations and rustic villages. We passed through a series of villages with what basic housing and verging on subsistence living. Yet despite the poor conditions and the obvious lack of income the residents seemed happy and every village we passed through the word soon went out and we were greeted by a throng of smiling waving kids. In every village there would be a village center and here the kids would stand outside the little hollow block huts with thatched roofs and either gawk in wide eyed amazement at this strange apparition of ghostly white men or burst out in missing teeth smiles.

Since the Vietnam war we in Western countries have been bombarded with images of snotty nosed, brown skinned kids dressed in rags with semi vacant yet somehow curious looks in their eyes. This was certainly the case here except with one big difference, the children here embraced life no matter how hard it was and no matter how squalid their existence. The kids in the Philippines have for me always been magic and despite their harsh living conditions have always managed a smile and exhibited a joyful enthusiasm for life no matter what it brings.

Being the center of attention believe it or not is not something that I relish however trundling through the small villages being chased by a crowd of screaming and cheering kids was kind of fun. I am not sure if they had ever seen a white man before but then again the reason for this reception didn’t really matter, it was just nice to be so popular and receive such a warm welcome. I had experienced something like this traveling to the remote islands of the Maldives archipelago but here in the Philippines the kids were ten times the number and the Philippine kids were a lot more vocal in their welcoming cries than the Maldivian kids.

After traveling through five or six coastal villages and some lush green coastal farm land we finally made it to Rosies village. I cannot remember exactly what my expectations were but I do remember being pleasantly surprised at the condition and location of her village. Unlike the others her village did not depend on the main road passing through the center but more importantly it depended on the fishing boats that dotted the shore line. I think the fact that Rosies village was right on the water front differentiated it from the other places we had traveled through. For some r5eason I have always found myself more comfortable when near the water which is only fitting when you consider my star sign is Aquarius.

Rosises village is best described as quaint in a rustic sort of Filipino way. It was situated right on the shore line and a gentle breeze blew of the ocean 24 7. This breeze was always accompanied by the smell of sun dried fish, dried squid or just salt water but no matter what the accompanying aromas I was more than grateful for its presence. All along the shoreline there were houses which were little more than glorified nippa huts and outside each house would be the Filipina wife washing clothes by hand using a plastic bowl and running around the house would be a tribe of snotty nosed kids playing the Filipino version of catch me if you can. Behind the shoreline the village spread out on the grey sand reaching towards a large jungle covered hill in the distance. Basically the village was composed of a series of huts some of which were sari-sari stores others communal meeting places and the majority being simple housing for the villages inhabitants.

The houses here were rustic to say the least. The average house was a simple 10 meters by ten meters single room abode with a lattice floor. The houses were mostly elevated 2 or 3 feet above the ground. Most houses would have a wall around them and the toilet and bathing area were behind the house in the back yard. There were no taps and the water was carried each day from the deep wells in buckets. Whilst staying here I would often accompany Rosies brothers to the well and help carry back the water to the house and I have to admit it was an arduous job which worked up a good sweat in a mater of seconds. Rosies brother and I had only rudimentary communication at best and yet to this day I still feel as if we had some kind of bond that developed through our physical exertion together.

When we finally arrived at Rosies village Bob and I exited our trikes grabbed our bags then just stood there taking it all in. Rosie took care of paying the trikes which I think cost a whole 10 piso each (a far cry from the extortionist bastards in Angeles) and then joined at us just looking at the village taking it all in. I asked Rosie, “how long has it been since you were last home and in reply she gave me one of her rare tantalizing smiles and softly said “a long time honey”. As we stood there in what seemed to be the equivalent of the community square we were once again surrounded by a throng of half dressed snotty nosed kids with some running around gesticulating wildly as they pointed at us and described to their elders these strange, rather large white men, that had suddenly appeared in their village. Other kids just stood and gaped at us not saying a word whilst others simply hid behind their mothers skirts occasionally risking a sly peak at this scary apparition of large foreign men.

We stood in the village square for what seemed like ages when Rosies cousin who had disappeared unnoticed by Bob and myself suddenly reappeared parting the crowd of spectators that had surrounded us and leading behind him a middle aged Filipino couple. The lady bore a striking resemblance to Rosie but an older version and it was clearly obvious that in her younger days she would have been a real looker. Despite the ravages of child birth and provincial life this lady still maintained a very fit body and she still had that Chinese skin color and Chinese eyes that I found so attractive in Rosie. Rosies mother held herself with a certain grace and calm serenity which when I observed I couldn’t help but ask myself I wonder why Rosie never inherited this aspect of her mothers demeanor. Just as I was pondering this I then noticed Rosie’s father standing beside his wife and my question was answered straight away. Rosie’s father was fairly tall for a provincial Filipino standing about 5 foot 10”, he had a dark leathery complexion from having tolled long hours in the sun whilst fishing for a living and he had a bristling moustache which he jutted out along with his upper lip as he looked at us with a mixture of inquisitiveness and hostility.

As my eyes met those of Rosie’s father I sensed a sort of smoldering resentment but I figured I hadn’t come this far to back down now so I simply dropped my bag on the sand, walked over to Rosie’s father and still looking him in the eyes said, “hello sir my name is Martin it’s nice to meet you”. Rosies father looked me straight in the eyes but ignored my outstretched hand and then I looked down to see that he was carrying a bloody great machete(bolo) in his right hand hence the lack of a hand shake. Right then and there I made a mental note to myself that if I survived this encounter in the future before rushing into a situation I would try to be a little more observant first.

The tension between us was almost palatable and the air between us could have been cut with one swipe of that razor sharp machete but just then I felt Rosie slip her hand on my arm and with a sweet little girls voice she said something to her father in Visayan and the mans face suddenly transformed from a scowl to a big cheesy grin and with great gusto he transferred the machete to his other hand and shook my hand with his. Later on I was to wonder what Rosie had told her father but that’s a story for another time.

With his arm around me Rosie’s father led us through the little village all the time smiling and waving to the people who would come out of their houses to catch a glimpse of this strange procession. Somehow I felt like I was on display and scenes of a pig being led to the slaughter house kept on entering my mind. I looked behind to see Bob and the remainder of Rosie’s family following dutifully and I thought to myself well at least I am not alone if any trouble comes my way. After about ten minutes walking we reached a little house just like every other house in the village and Rosie’s father loosened his grip around my shoulder and said with obvious pride, “my house inside we drink now”.

Rosies house was a small one room affair with a lattice floor and only one small window. In one corner there was a small table with four cane chairs and in the other corner was a thin foam mattress which was obviously where Rosie’s family slept. Upon seeing this I was momentarily panicked and I asked Rosie, hey sweetie where are Bob and I supposed to sleep and she replied you and Bob have mattress we bring from my sisters house no problem”. Okay so this wasn’t exactly luxury accommodation but I figured what the heck why not rough it a little bit because after all this was the province and this was the genuine provincial experience that I had set out to experience in the first place.

Bob and I dumped our bags by the solitary mattress and the Rosie said, “you give papa money because he go buy food and drink”. Upon hearing this I dug through my pocket and came up with 5 hundred piso which he quickly grabbed and scurried away to purchase supplies. Bob and myself sat at the small table while Rosie instructed some young relative to go and buy some Cokes for Bob and myself and of course some ice so we could drink them cold. We sat around the table slowly sipping on the cokes for about 1 hour with a constant stream of kids appearing at the doorway and gawking at us. Some were a little braver than others and would touch us then run away giggling, but overall we didn’t really mind being a spectacle as we figured they would soon get used to us and then we would just be another part of day to day life in this little fishing village.

After a while Rosies father reappeared and presented Rosie and her mother with what looked like chicken and fish then once again he put his arm around me and tried to steer me out of the door. I looked at Rosie inquiringly and she then explained that her father wanted to take me and Bob to the cock fights where we could do some gambling. I asked her how much money I should take and received the answer, “up to you”. Thinking to myself well that’s bloody useful I grabbed another 500 piso note and off I headed to my very first Filipino cock fight.

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.

C How They Made Me! Chapter 43

Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer

C How they made me chapter 43:

The joys of traveling in the Philippines.

I am well aware of the pitfalls involved with traveling in the Philippines but back when I was doing the trip to Masbate I was considerably younger and the problems were all just part of the experience. These days I am certainly getting older and I find my level of enjoyment is often in direct correlation with my level of comfort. When I was younger comfort was an added luxury but now it is a necessary pre requisite. In hindsight it is probably just as well that I undertook my trip to the wilds of Masbate when I was young because doing it today at my current age would not be an enjoyable experience at all. Throughout this entire trip comfort was merely a concept and English a luxury. I know that if I would try this trip today it would have to be under very different conditions but back then the lack of comfort and the total lack of English was all just part of the adventure, and Bob and myself took it all in our stride.

After getting the food from the flirtatious store girl. Rosie led me back to the cabin with one hand holding mine and the other tightly grasping her noodles. I was having a hard time negotiating my passage without stepping on one of the bodies that lay strewn all over the ferry floor, but for Rosie there was no such problem and as nimble as a cat she skipped over the sleeping Filipinos dragging her clumsy footed foreigner boyfriend behind her. One thing that has always amazed me is the Asian races ability to sleep just about anywhere and this ferry trip just bolstered my amazement. I mean the trip had only been under way three hours or so and already the floor was littered with bodies lying prone or slumped against a wall fast asleep.

Rosie and I made it back to the cabin where Bob lay sleeping and Rosie nimbly jumped up to the top bunk without rousing Bob then motioned for me to follow her. I climbed up on the bed only causing Bob to stir a little bit and no sooner had I got onto the mattress when Rosie pushed me down and started unzipping my pants saying Rosie give you special time now honey. At first I was a little bit put off knowing that Bob was sleeping just 3 feet below us but in the end I was putty in Rosie’s hands and I soon managed to push Bob from my mind and concentrate on the sensation of pleasure that was rapidly enveloping me.

As some of you who have read the earlier chapters will remember Rosie used to work in the Bee Club which was basically a glorified blow job bar and this in turn led me to believe that she would be orally skilled but so far she had only blown me away (pardon the pun) twice and I was beginning to wonder if maybe the problem laid with me. So there I was just lying back enjoying Rosie’s oral administrations when suddenly I felt the familiar feelings of orgasm beginning to overtake me and next thing I knew I was jetting my man juice into her soft warm oral cavity.

There are orgasms and then there are orgasms and this one was definitely in the later category. I could literally feel my toes curling and Rosie just kept on sucking and licking until I could hold back no longer and then with a loud moan followed by a sharp intake of breath the orgasm overcame me. After I had finished I lay down with my eyes closed in a state of total relaxation when all of a sudden Bobs voice comes drifting up and I hear him saying, “Hey Rosie me love how about ya give old Bob one now”.

The trip to Masbate was not exactly luxurious and we must have spent at least fifteen hours crammed into that small cabin but this was also a perfect opportunity for us to get to know each other and during those fifteen hours we had numerous in-depth conversations and a sort of bond grew between the three of us. During this trip I actually got to talk to Rosie and get to know her. I won’t say we had in-depth conversations because with her rudimentary English and my massive five word Tagalog vocabulary this would have been impossible, but despite the language barriers I did get to know her better and I think she developed a slightly better understanding of me and maybe even felt the beginnings of some affection.

During the trip we all developed a sort of sleep talk eat, sleep talk eat, cycle and just as I was coming awake after one of my sleep cycles I heard Rosie giving an excited little squeal so rubbing my sleep laden eyes I asked, “hey what’s up hon” to which she turned round from the little port hole window and said, “we Masbate now, Rosie come home”. We were still a 1000 yards from the dock but Rosie had already packed what small amount of baggage we had and excitedly she led us outside to the main area of the boat and pushed her way to one of the windows so she could look out at her beloved island almost like she thought it might disappear at any second.

After about ten minutes we docked and slowly but surely the huge door that has locked us all in began to descend and Bob and myself along with a hundred or so Filipinos together with various animals were bathed in sunlight. The door descended slowly which was just as well because we would have all been temporarily blinded by the bright sunlight. As the door hit the dock the Filipinos all pushed towards the opening and we were caught up in the rush. I remember being jostled forward to the point where I was pushing people away from me but Bob and Rosie had a more easy going attitude and they just went with the flow. For Rosie getting pushed around and jostled by the crowd was as natural as daylight and sometime later when I asked her why she let people do that she replied always like that in Philippines.

I managed to make my way to the side of the stream of people where I could get a better view of my surroundings and the first thing that caught my eye was the kids all floating besides the boat. Every now and then one or two of them would duck dive and come up smiling and it slowly dawned on me that people were tossing coins of the boats for the kids to dive after. It never ceases to amaze me how necessity can produce amazing results and this was certainly the case with these kids. Even though the Philippines is a land of 7001 islands it is a well known fact that only a small amount of Filipinos can swim properly but this was certainly not the case here as these kids in the pursuit of precious ‘pera’ had become very proficient swimmers both above and below the water.

After getting off the boat and meeting up with Rosie and Bob who were waiting for me by a little store just off to the side of the dock I asked Rosie how do we get to your place and she pointed down a hill at a line of jeepney’s. Gathering our bags Bob and myself followed Rosie down the hill to the waiting jeepney’s and when we got there Rosie engaged the drivers in an animated discussion in what I assumed was the local language. After about 5 minutes of arguing back and forth Rosie settled on one jeepney and told Bob and myself to get inside.

As anyone at all familiar with the Philippines knows, Jeepney’s are a symbolic icon in this country and they are the most used form of public transport. However, even though they are iconic they are in my experience far from comfortable and the jeepney we were now sitting in was no exception. As Bob and I tumbled in the claustrophobic jeepney we came face to face with a van full of Filipinos of all shapes and ages all of whom seemed fascinated by these two strange white men cramped into the jeepney beside them. I had the distinct feeling that we were a curiosity item and they wanted to ask us what the heck we were doing here and bombard us with a thousand other questions but communication was severely hampered by the language barrier so rather than talk to us they just sat there and looked at us. I had traveled before so this wasn’t the first time I had been an object of curiosity but Bob was a little nonplused by the attention and he asked me hey mate can you ask Rosie to come in here and tell these people to stop gawking at us”. I looked around for Rosie only to find her outside watching the porters put our baggage securely on the jeepney’ s roof.

And that’s when it hit me, why sit crunched inside the jeepney banging our heads on the low roof while a bunch of Filipinos looked at us like we were aliens from out of space, when we could be sitting on the roof where there was more room, we could stretch our legs and there wasn’t a bunch of Filipinos constantly staring at us. I put my head out of the window and called Rosie over asking her if Bob and I could ride on the roof. Rosie then turned round to ask the driver which caused a look of confusion which rapidly turned to amusement and the driver in between smiles said “hey Joe you ride top”.

Bob and I quickly disembarked from inside the jeepney and then climbed the little side ladders to our perch on the roof top. After about half an hour more the jeepney beneath us was full to capacity and with the Filipinos crammed inside much like sardines the engine came to life and with a smattering of diesel fumes we were on our way. We had been traveling for about 45 minutes when the jeepney made it’s first stop allowing passengers to get off and also to board, I had no idea how long this journey would take us so using the ladder I climbed down and poked my head inside the jeepney to ask Rosie how long the trip would be. When I did this the Filipinos all looked at me as if I was mad and then stared at Rosie as if they had suddenly realized this young Filipina was with the foreigners which of course was another source of amazement for them and I was to find out later that for the first few hours of our trip the Filipinos were quizzing Rosie mercilessly.

When I asked Rosie how long the journey was replied 2 hours something but I was to soon find out that when asking questions to Filipinas always leave them a lot of leeway because you can bet your bottom dollar they will give you an inaccurate answer, as I was to find out as the trip went on. The trip actually took us seven hours as we traversed the mountain range that runs smack down the middle of Masbate. On the way we were to get covered in mud, meet people who had never seen a white man before, push the jeepney out of 2 foot deep mud holes and of course have meaningful conversations with the chickens and piglets that cohabitated with us on our rooftop. This was a real eye opening trip but that’s another story for another time, in my continuing Philippine odyssey.