Memoirs of a Philippine Mongerer
By the time I had woken up and MayAnne had departed it was late afternoon and for some reason I was feeling kind of drained so I decided to stay in the hotel that night or if it got to boring to restrict my bar hopping activities to the immediate area around the Maharajah. To be honest I was little worried about running into Wally as his aggravation was something I didn’t need and I was also a bit hesitant to go back to the vicinity of Ziggys where MayAnne could lay claim to me again. This girl had already dug her fingers in and I wasn’t about to help her solidify her position.
At this stage of my short but illustrious mongering career I had decided that single life is the way to go and to forget about these relationships. Of course like most men, in the long run I was in the end unable to live up this creed, but it felt right at the time, and for the next five years I certainly tried to make mongering freedom my reality.
I decided a brisk dip in the pool would wake me up and maybe a few laps would get the blood flowing again, so I grabbed a towel and headed out to the pool. Being after 5 there was literally nobody else in the pool and I decided to make the most of the opportunity and swim a few laps. Growing up near the beach I had always been a competent swimmer and doing laps of a pool or swimming in the surf was a regular occurrence in my youth and I was completely unaware a large number of Filipinos cannot swim.
I dived in the pool and started gently swimming laps and after completing about ten I stopped for a breather and suddenly I felt eyes upon me. I looked around and sure enough there in the restaurant area were three women and two guys just staring at me. Not sure what had them so enthralled I simply smiled at them and waved to which I received a smile back from all of them and then they carried on their conversation with the occasional furtive glance in my direction.
After the swim I was feeling like a new man and I had definitely worked up a hunger, so I headed over to the restaurant area, only to come face to face with two of the women who had been watching me swim. When I saw them I smiled and said, “hello girls is there any chance I can order some food because all that swimming has made me hungry”. Both the young ladies looked away from me and turned their heads as they giggled. Right about now I wasn’t sure what to do so I just took a seat at one of the tables and said, “can I have a menu please”? This bought another series of giggles and both the girls scurried away leaving me sitting in the restaurant by myself.
I had been sitting there for about two minutes and was just about to get out of my seat and berate the staff for their non existent service when from behind some closed doors a man appeared and presented me with a menu. I surveyed the menu and to say it was limited would be an understatement. I looked at the guy who was standing beside me waiting for my order and said can you recommend something as I don’t see anything that really sparks my interest here”. He looked at me with a look of benign amusement on his features and replied, I recommend the pork and chicken adobo. Everybody like that. “Okay” I said, I will have the adobo and to drink I would like a coke please”.
He took my order, took back the menu and exited the restaurant, once again leaving me sitting there with my own thoughts. I had no idea how long the food would take and I was just about to go back to my room to get a book to read when from behind me I heard the giggling again. I turned around and there were the two girls just staring at me and giggling. By this time I was totally perplexed and rather than just ignore the situation I decided to confront them and find out what was so amusing. I got out of my seat and smiled at the girls then I asked, “would you ladies care to join me for a drink”?
The girls looked at me somewhat aghast and both just stood there giggling. Thinking they didn’t understand I made the motions indicating drinking and they both giggled again and slowly made their way towards my table. When they reached me I offered them each a chair which they hesitatingly took and I asked them very slowly, “what can I buy for you ladies to drink”? In response I got another giggle and then one of them replied, “we like sprite”.
With the ice partially broken I thought I was on a roll and I was just about to get up and hunt down a waiter when one of the girls said, “I be the one” and with that she rose and disappeared into the kitchen area. Literally 1 minute later she was back with two sprites which both the girls proceeded to sip on while staring and giggling at me. By this time I was a completely nonplused. I literally had no idea what was going on or why these girls were seemingly fixated with me but not being one to let a challenge like this get the better of me I decided to put in some work and find out what the heck was going on.
While I waited for my food we made halting small talk and I found out both the girls worked at the hotel in the kitchen. These two sweet young women must have been about 22 but both had the childlike sense of humor that made them seem so much younger. It was hard for me to ascertain just how much they understood because they would only speak English sparingly and most of the time would chat with each other in Tagalog and simply giggle.
After about 15 minutes my food was delivered and as the waiter approached our table I thought I detected a sour look on his face so I said to him, “hey mate you have been a really good waiter could I buy you a drink or something just to say thank you”. The waiter seemed a little nonplused by my sudden offer and after a quick chat with the girls he said to me in English, “sure why not but what we would really like is some food”.
Then it hit me, these guys probably see guests pigging out on food all the time while they have bugger all money to buy anything for themselves and as this realization dawned I made what turned out to be a very fortuitous decision. I looked at him squarely in the eyes and replied, “how many of you guys are there in the kitchen” to which he replied, “two more” and I said, “well if it’s allowed, how about I buy a meal for everyone here”. The waiter looked at me seemingly in shock and then as my offer began to sink in he replied, “for a while sir” and went scurrying back into the kitchen.
After what seemed like ages but was probably only a matter of minutes he returned and said, “sir if it’s okay to you we would like crispy pata”. At this stage I had no idea what crispy pata was so I simply smiled and replied, “that’s cool with me man, crispy pata it is”.
From that point on the night began to get interesting. It must have been about half an hour later when three Filipino guys came and joined our table bringing with them a huge dish of what looked like pork but with all the bones and fat still attached. I was in later years to learn this is what is called crispy pata and it is considered a delicacy here in the Philippines but at this stage I was still a ‘newbie’ and just going along with the flow.
The three guys joined our table and before long we were all getting along like a house on fire with everyone telling jokes and me relating stories about my country and also my experiences in the Philippines. The guys certainly seemed friendly enough and after the meal they suggested we have a few beers and play some cards. I asked the girls if they thought this was a good idea and each of them smiled and nodded their ascent. Within seconds there appeared 3 bottles of San Miguel in a bucket of ice and a fourth one that had already been opened along with a glass of ice.
Having come from Australia I considered drinking beer with ice sacrilegious but it was very obvious to me that this was how it was done in the Philippines and not wishing to offend the locals I simply decided to go with the flow and drink the beer over ice like they did.
No sooner had the beer appeared than the dishes were cleared away and a pack of cards produced. The guys told me this was a game called pusoy dos and asked if I knew how to play. I replied in the negative and said I would just watch a few hands first and see if I could pick it up. As it turned out Pusoy Dos is very similar to Jim Rummy but with a few extra twists and rules so it really wasn’t that hard for me to pick up. I watched about five hands as well as partaking in a chug of beer each time the glass was presented and I then felt I had got the basics of the game and it was time for me to join in.
The details of that night are a bit hazy as the beer seemed to be on a never ending tap and every 5 minutes the glass was in my hand with the Filipinos encouraging me to drink it down in one. To this day I am pretty sure I never won a single hand but then again it didn’t seem to matter because we were all having such a great time and the hours seemed to fly by.
Even though the communication barrier was very much in effect that didn’t seem to stop us from becoming friends and understanding each other. I was having a thoroughly enjoyable time with my new found friends when suddenly I noticed it was 1:AM and with the beer buzzing my head I announced that it was past my bedtime and I would see them all tomorrow.
Feeling somewhat drunk I raised myself to a standing position smiled at the girls and said good night politely, then I shook each guys hand and assured them we would play again tomorrow night. With goodbyes said I now stumbled back to my room which luckily for me wasn’t far away, I opened the door, turned on the light and then without even bothering to get undressed flopped on the bed.
I have no idea how long I lay there in a drunken stupor but I remember being woken up by a gentle but consistent knocking on my door. With blurry eyes and my head now throbbing with the beginnings of a massive hangover I made my way to the door, opened it and there standing in the open doorway with a mischievous smile on her face, was one of the girls whom I had been playing cards with.