Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
A close call.
So there it was, mankind’s oldest problem, a knocked up girl and all the social complications that go with it. Good old Bob had been following his dick around and this is where it had landed him, stuck on some oversized mango swamp of the coast of Masbate, with a family of Filipino’s expectations running wild, and all out to extract their pound of flesh. I broke the grasp of Bob and then replied, “you certainly know how to get yourself into some shit don’t you. Just what you expect me to do about it I have no fucking idea but let’s have a seat and see if we can find a solution to your problem”. Amazing how easy it was for me to keep a cool head since I wasn’t the one stuck in the situation. Half of me was kind of thinking stuff Bob this is what he gets for following his dick all the time and at the end of the day this was the same guy I had caught point blank getting a blow job from my girlfriend. On the other hand Bob was an Aussie bloke stuck out here in a hostile environment and totally at the mercy of the local Filipinos and I could see by the look on his face he was scared shitless.
Bob led us to where he was sitting and there were the two girls that I had last seen him with, along with about twenty other Filipino’s, who I assumed must be the girls family. At first the family members gave myself and Rosie the once over and there was an almost tangible sense of hostility there. I looked at Rosie who looked back at me seemingly oblivious of the hostility and I thought to myself, I really hope Rosie helps out because without her this could get very tricky. I was having visions of standing back to back with Bob while the Filipinos attacked us with razor sharp bolos but luckily it never came to this.
As we sat down and joined the little group Rosie sat and talked to the girls and to the older women while Bob and myself were surrounded by the men. I could see Rosie chatting away but she kept on looking over at Bob and myself shaking her head. Meanwhile Bob and myself were stuck just sitting there with the stony faced men folk of the village, just staring at us without saying a word. This situation was tense to say the least and I was deciding how to handle this, when suddenly the basketball landed in my arms and I had a whole group of young Filipino guys shouting at me. I looked to Rosie for some help but she just motioned for me to get up and said, “you play basketball”.
Now as it turns out I used to be okay at basketball having played it for many years when at school, but no matter how good I was, nothing could have compared me for this. This was not ordinary basketball where the ball bounced properly and there were actually some rules, this was more like a melee or some sort of wild free for all and had only a vague resemblance to what ordinary people would call basketball. I started playing but honestly I had a big problem because I had no idea who was on my side. This seemed to amuse the boys and I was very soon the object of fun. I can remember thinking how fit and agile these guys were. They had no training, the hoops were all over the place in terms of height, and yet they moved like greased lighting with amazing agility and speed.
The game seemed to move rapidly and pretty soon I was totally buggered but despite my being so tired it was obvious the guys got some sort of amusement out of my bumbling efforts and they weren’t about to let me sit down. Every time I was about to say, I’ve had enough, the ball would end up in my hands and I was forced to play. I had been going for about ten minutes now and was a ball of sweat but I was damned if I was going to give up and give these guys the upper hand. Digging down deep I steeled myself for however long this would take and then as the ball came flying into my hands rather than run with it I simply did a perfect jump shot and luckily for me the ball went through the hoop in what would have been a classic three point shot.
The game lasted another ten minutes and during that time I found myself with the ball on numerous occasions and each time they were looking for me to repeat the three point shot. I would like to say that I had a perfect record and set the hoops on fire but nothing could be further from the truth. I did however manage something like a 60% success rate and this seemed to impress the boys to the extent where I became one of the team and had now earned their respect.
After the game I made my way back to where Bob was, covered in sweat, and Rosie came over saying, “Martin play good, now Martin buy drink with boys, Rosie talk girls mother”. I motioned to Bob that we had to buy some drink and he came up with a couple of hundred piso which I gave to the guy who seemed to be team captain and told him “we drink now”. My offer of alcohol consumption seemed to please him and within minutes two bottles of Gineebra Gin were produced, some sprite, two tubes of ice and one cup. There was about ten of us drinking and the idea was for a shot of gin to be poured into the cup along with a little sprite and the ice then the guys would take it turns skulling the drink.
While all this was going on Rosie was involved in a deep conversation with an older lady who I assumed was the girls mother and after about an hour or so she made her way over to me and announced, “we have big problem. Bob he go with girl and now she pregnant and family want to marry”. Straight away I looked at Bob and said, “don’t know what we are going to do now mate, I mean this is the classic shotgun wedding, you’ve knocked the girl up mate so you better do the right thing as I reckon that’s the only way we are going to get out of this”. Bob looked at me with the look of a haunted and trapped man, then suddenly a smile creased his features and he said, “Rosie love can you tell them I need to go back to Manila to my embassy to get the right papers so the marriage is legal. Tell them I will take their daughter back, I will pick up the clearance from my embassy, then I will come back here and marry”. Rosie gave Bob a what do you think I was born yesterday look and then proceeded to translate what Bob had said.
I watched closely as I saw expressions of disbelief alternating with expressions of understanding and this is where I came to believe that when it comes to provincial Filipinos if you cant baffle them with brains then baffle them with bullshit, still holds true. After Rosies little speech the mother and a group of elders gathered together and then a little old guy stepped out of the pack and said something to Rosie who all of a sudden cowered and started pressing her forehead to his hand in the classic form of respect for ones elders. Rosie then turned to me and said, “we stay night, in morning we leave with Bob and girl and go Manila but Bob he come back or there big trouble in village”. With this pronounced I could literally see the weight of the world being lifted off Bob’s shoulders and although still very much subdued there was a little spring in his step again as he realized his quick thinking had pulled him given him a little leeway.
That night was spent on a sleeping matt placed on the floor of some hut surrounded by a swarm of mosquitoes all dining out on my tender white flesh. There was no such thing as a fan and no electricity so Bob and I had to make do with a flame torch and an old flashlight that had magically appeared from nowhere. During the night it was obvious that neither Bob nor myself were getting any sleep so rather than try we simply decided to stay up all night and have a chat like some sort of long lost buddies. That night I think Bob and myself became a little closer as we both reflected on the various choices we had made and what had been the consequences of those choices. As for Bob he realized he wasn’t out of the woods yet but now he could see some sort of path through the trees and even though it was a small hope he was clinging to it.
The next mornings rising sun found myself and Bob lying on the sleeping mats just chatting. I can’t remember all the things we discussed that night but it was kind of cool having the old Bob back and after we poured water over ourselves from the little bucket Bob packed his bags and we were ready to go. Bob’s girl appeared together with Rosie and as we made our way through the village towards our waiting boat all the girls relatives lined the street saying goodbye. At this stage Bob was still being suitably contrite and humble, in fact I was quite impressed with his acting performance. I knew full well that he couldn’t wait to get out of there but he was making it appear as if he was really going to miss the island and that he was genuinely sad to be leaving.
It seemed like forever getting to the boat especially for Bob who was just so relieved yet unable to show it. Eventually we got to the boat and I helped Rosies uncle push it further into the water. Next came Bob’s girl who we loaded onto the boat then Bob and his bags then just as Rosie was about to jump in the little old man whom she had shown so much deference to previously stepped out of the crowd again and said something to Rosie which caused the color to drain from her face and once again press her forehead against his hand in the sign of utmost respect.
As we got under way I could see Bob visibly relax and breathe several sighs of relief but I was more interested in who was the little old guy Rosie had spoken to and what he had said that seemed to shake her so much. I asked Rosie, “hey hun who was that old guy you were talking with” and she replied, “that Bob girls lolo (grandfather) he tell me he NPA and have many friend Manila. He say Bob no come back, we all make dead”.