The Search for Lapu Lapu, Killer of Magellan
In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan set out to explore and conquer new lands for Spain; for God, Glory and Gold. After a long and perilous journey around South America and across the Pacific Ocean he landed in Cebu, the southern area of the Philippine chain of islands. Magellan wanted all Filipino kings in Cebu and nearby islands to surrender to Spain. There was one brave Filipino ruler who defied him. He was chief Lapu-Lapu of Mactan. Rajah Humabon of Cebu (Lapu-Lapu’s rival) convinced Magellan to punish Lapu-Lapu for refusing to pledge allegiance to Humabon (and Spain).
At dawn of April 27, 1521, Magellan invaded Mactan, a non-descript little coral island just off the coast of Cebu. He led a small force of 60 men to Mactan but because the northern gulf of Mactan was full of coral reefs, he could not land his boats with their powerful cannons. He and his men had to wade ashore on the shallow coral beach where he was met by chief Lapu-Lapu and his brave warriors who were armed only with bolos and kris (a curved knife). In the bloody battle that ensued, the Spaniards with their armor and guns were overwhelmed by the native warriors, led by Lapu-Lapu, and were all killed.
Lapu-Lapu was the first Filipino chieftain to resist the Spanish invasion and their attempt to make the Philippines a colony of Spain. For the next 54 years no Spaniard dared to set foot on Philippine soil and Lapu-Lapu went down in history as the Philippines first national hero.
Leopoldo Tampus, a native of Mactan Island and the City of Lapu Lapu was going home to visit his ailing 86-year-old mother, made possible by the fact that the company he and I worked for, Kaiser Marquardt, was sold and closing down just before Christmas. He invited me to tag along with him and he would show me how small his world had been as a young boy on the island. I gladly accepted the invitation for this new adventure in a new country. We booked our tickets through a Filipino travel agency, City Tours and Travel, for $737 round trip to Mactan/Cebu International Airport. We packed our bags with gifts and waited for our departure day. This is the journal of our trip.
Tuesday, January 8, 2002
Leo made the start of the journey easy by picking me up at my house so I didn’t have to leave my car at the Fly-a-way parking lot for the two and a half weeks we would be gone. Things went fairly smoothly after that; the freeways actually moved along at a good pace, we stopped and picked up his beautiful daughter from her work as a nurse at the Veterans Hospital in Westwood (after a short detour through Westwood because Leo missed the Wilshire westbound off ramp), and the lines at the counter of Philippine Airlines were short and moved quickly. The flight didn’t leave until 9:30 pm and we had some time to kill because we had arrived almost three hours early due to the heightened security protocols caused by the World Trade Center attack. There was a McDonalds in the food court so Leo and I, his daughter, son Tim, and grandson Willie found a table and ate the most expensive Big Macs I have yet seen.
The time came to pass through that unknown gate called airport security. It seems that the finest minds in America found jobs for all the mental midgets as airport security checkers in a post 9-11 frenzy to make traveling as difficult and time consuming as possible. I escaped with the fundamental body search and shoe x-ray but Leo had his carry-on bag emptied by some minimum wage reject with an attitude. It’s just a good thing that he didn’t have any nail clippers or hand grenades with him.
The 747-400 was flying full to Manila, as it does almost every trip, its cargo bay loaded with sealed boxes of goods for poorer relatives back home. Leo had three big boxes tied up with rope and since I only had my suitcase half full, we jammed it full of shampoo, candy, bug spray, etc. The plane left around 9:30 pm for an all night flight to Manila with a one hour refueling stop in Hawaii after five and a half hours. They turned off the air conditioning while we sat on the ground in Hawaii so things got sticky and warm in the plane for a while.
There were five in-flight movies during the seventeen hour odyssey but I only watched one of them, or at least tried to, because our seats were right next to the mid cabin bathrooms and there was a constant crowd standing around waiting to get in. The bad part came when, towards the end of the flight, three of the four toilets clogged or filled up which made the line to use it even longer. I tried to use the bathroom once but couldn’t force myself to sit on a toilet that was full of ……..
Wednesday, January 9
Wednesday just seemed to fly by. In fact it really did as we crossed the International Date Line and skipped from Tuesday to Thursday in an instant.
Thursday, January 10
The Son of the Sun returned and peeked above the horizon just as we started our decent into Manila. As I looked out the window at the sprawling mass of houses and buildings, the golden arches popped into view and I just knew everything was going to be all right. Manila airport is a beautiful and modern facility but we only had half an hour to clear immigration and get to our connecting flight to Mactan-Cebu, about 400 miles to the south. I made a quick pit stop at the men’s room and then scurried to the gate. There was a massage booth right next to the gate where you could get a quick neck and shoulder rub for a small fee.
As the plane rose out of Manila at about 7:00 am I noticed how smoggy it was outside; just like Los Angeles used to be. I wouldn’t think that smog would be a problem on an island with constant ocean breezes blowing across it but I was wrong.
We landed at Cebu airport, on Leo’s island of Lapu-Lapu, at around 9:00 am and stepped outside to a comfortable mugginess. The temperature was only in the low eighties but humid. Leo’s brother, cousin, nephew, and wife’s cousin’s brother-in-law met us at the airport with a mini-van. We managed to get everything inside and set out for Leo’s mom’s house. It was soon decided that food was in order so we went to the Gaisano mall supermarket food court and ordered something. Rice is always the main course but together with that I ate parts of a pig that I had no idea where they came from, but you just pick out the hard pieces and enjoy the flavor, and it was very delicious.
We finally reached Leo’s old street and he was greeted by everyone that passed by as a cousin, aunt, uncle or somebody. I guess they didn’t travel too far in search of wedding material. A short walk down a dirt path led to Leo’s old home, built by his father, two stories with one bedroom, kitchen, and small living room downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. Leo’s brother Atoy lived in one of the bedrooms and Leo took the other one to stash his stuff in. The house fit the neighborhood and enjoyed a fairly large lot with lots of young trees. There were seven fighting “cocks” or roosters tied up in the yard waiting for their turn in the arena. A couple of them had already earned Leo’s brother considerable prize monies. A case of San Miguel beer appeared which gathered a crowd and the reunion party was on. Leo unpacked his boxes and had gifts for everyone, clothes, food, candy, and money. I found one of Leo’s cousins that spoke English, Arroyo (he did four years in the Marines before being deported back to the Philippines), and we had a great conversation as the San Miguel’s took effect. His wife had overheard Leo mention that I was looking for a bride to take home so she went off and brought her 18 year old cousin, Mary Anne, to meet me. A very pretty young lady with perfect skin and large dark eyes. The only thing that saved me was the contract I made with my daughters not to marry anyone younger than them.
Leo and I took a short walk to his mother-in-law’s house where I was invited to stay the night. It was the nicest house in the neighborhood by far. Leo passed out envelopes full of money to everyone in his wife’s side of the family and we borrowed a car and went out on the streets to find Ben Maceren’s house, or better said, “Villa”. As nice as anything in Beverly Hills with a big yard, pool, Koi pond, putting green, etc. Ben is an Attorney that also dabbles in Real Estate and has done very well. Ben’s wife, Patricia, designs and supervises the building of her family’s homes and some apartments. Both are very talented and both play the piano wonderfully. We visited, toured the house, played a couple of rounds of putting and finally returned the car we borrowed, walked back to Leo’s mom’s house and retrieved my suitcase. It was then that they introduced me to a very nervous Mary Anne. It broke my heart but I had to turn down the offer to have her go with me. Back on the street, we hailed a tricycle taxi, (a 125cc motorcycle with a sidecar), and took the short ride back to Villa Maceren.
Villa Maceren, Gun-Ob, Lapu Lapu City
In the evening Ben and Pat took Leo and me to dinner at “Baywatch”, a restaurant on the top deck of an old passenger ship anchored in the harbor. The name of the ship was “Philippine Dreams”, and is owned by two Chinese investors from Hong Kong. The buffet was truly delicious with lots of sea foods and great salads. It might have been because it was our first real meal in two days but it went down easy. We sat and listened to the live band as we ate, three young, sexy girls swaying to American oldies, and when the bill came it was less than $5.00 each with drinks. I love this place!
Ben has two Midsize SUVs and two permanent drivers that work for him. One of them is Gilbert, a 27 year old young man who lives in a room with his young and beautiful wife on the compound. He is good. I mean REALLY good! A trip through the narrow streets of this overcrowded place makes one think that they are all suicidal here. The object is to miss each other but not by very much. It’s really a trip, and then at night, in the dark, fa gid about it.
After dinner we drove over the bridge to Cebu, to the Riverfront Hotel where the “Filipino Casino” is found. It’s just like an off-the-strip Nevada Casino but geared more to Asian gambling tastes, i.e. Baccarat is the big card game and the dice table is rarely open. I wandered over to the dice table and threw down my stake, 1,000 Philippine pesos ($20) and began to play. I was all alone so it wasn’t much fun. In 15 minutes I had lost half my stake so I picked up and wandered off to find better luck. I cashed in my chips for some 5 peso coins to play the slots with and sat down at one of the Vegas style slot machines. I soon won back the money I’d lost at craps so I cashed in and went to watch Ben and Leo play cards. I was starting to fade because it was 9:00 pm and it had been a very, very long day. The ride home was even scarier but my eyes kept closing involuntarily so it went fast. I fell into bed and was instantly asleep, sweating, but asleep.
Friday, January 11
Leo popped his head in the door about 5:40 am and told me he was going to his mom’s so they could visit the cemetery where his dad is buried. I went back to sleep and got up about 8:00 am, just in time to have breakfast with Ben; sausages, eggs, bread, and juice. After breakfast Ben took me next door to his daughter’s house. Ben and Pat have eight children and they have set them all up with beautiful homes in and around Lapu Lapu city and grubstaked them for their own businesses, i.e. Apartments, water purification, etc. The daughter’s house was charming; high vaulted ceilings, split-level, six bedrooms with marble and hardwood flooring and three pianos. The daughter was sweet and very personable and it was evident that environment had played a big part in her personality because her parents are such amiable hosts.
Around 10:00 am we got dressed up (that means long pants and collared shirt) and headed out to find Leo. After several tries at his mom’s house and a trip to the cemetery we went by Auntie Dorie’s sister’s house to wait for him. (Sieto and Mimi) The cemetery was all above ground vaults enclosed in little wrought iron cages. With the water table being only a few feet below ground level it is probably better not to have bodies decaying into the drinking water.
Leo finally showed at about 12:30 pm and off we went to lunch at KFC at the same mall (Gaisano) that we had eaten at the day before, on the way home from the airport. After eating (again, it was so cheap it was surprising) we went into the department store to buy me a Filipino dress shirt (barong). It cost me about $9 for the shirt and I’ll probably get more before I leave. We then left for Mactan to see the statue of Lapu Lapu, the Chief whose men killed Magellan. It was rumored that Magellan was trying to bed Lapu Lapu’s wife and paid the price.
The next stop was the Shangri-la Resort down the road. It is an absolutely wonderful resort hotel, immaculately groomed and furnished. The Hilton chain of hotels is building a huge hotel just a short distance away. A 20 story hotel right on the rocky beach. Ben owns the land right next to the new hotel and they need it for a parking lot; the price, around 85 million pesos (divide that by 50 to get dollars). Ben bought the land originally for less than $20,000 when the market was down. Before getting the wrong idea, let me just say that Ben is one of the most unpretentious and generous people you would ever want to meet. He started out poor and he and Pat worked very hard to reach their present level but he never forgot the people that helped him along the way and the two of them donate a very sizeable amount to different charities and organizations in their area. As we drove back towards home, Ben would point out houses or apartments and sometimes just empty lots, that belonged to him, or that he had given to his children to assure their welfare. It would almost be a full time job just to keep track of his holdings.
We stopped briefly at the arena in the middle of town to watch the last cockfight. It was a draw because both roosters were too beat up to continue. To be the winner the cock has to peck at the other three times after the other is unable to fight anymore. If neither cock pecks then it’s a draw. These roosters are raised and trained just to fight other roosters. They are pampered for about two years before put into the arena. There is also a black market in stolen cocks because they stay outside all the time. The last two weeks before the match they are fed vitamins to make them stronger and the day of the fight they get painkillers in their food. Don’t think this is just neighborhood fun, there is big money bet on these birds and fortunes have been lost by the wrong choices.
That evening we were invited to dinner at Sieto and Mimi’s home, the sister of Auntie Dorie and Uncle Jack (one of our golf partners). It was a family get together of people related to Leo’s wife, Elizabeth; cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, etc. The main course was Lechon (whole roasted young pig) and was complemented by giant “Tiger” shrimp, rice, fried fish, cake, Pepsi, etc. I over-ate as always and then excused myself to go outside where the temperature was a little cooler and where Leo and his friends were talking. After the family finished eating a new group of devout Catholics came over for a weekly prayer meeting, lots of singing and testimonies for several hours. I sat in on some of it but it was all done in the neighborhood dialect except for the singing. Leo kept trying to get the guys to go to a karaoke bar to drink and sing, but fortunately they said no. I was still tired from the trip over and just wanted to lie down.
Saturday, January 12
Saturday dawned a little cloudy and nice. Leo had arisen early to go to his mother’s house for breakfast. He couldn’t sleep so he got up at 5:00 am and got dressed and left. At 7:50 am Ben knocked on my door and announced breakfast. I was just finishing putting on my shoes so I went right down to a breakfast of two sunnyside fried eggs, papaya, sausage, bread, fruits and a cold Pepsi. It certainly contained all the food groups and I ate my share. After breakfast Ben had to go over to Cebu, to the University, to attend a class to finish his Master’s degree so he can teach at the new School of Law he is starting. It has been closed since the early 70’s and Ben wants to get it going again so he can teach the future politicians some ethics. The Professor never showed up so we left and drove up to the Taoist temple on the hills above Cebu and took some pictures. There is a new, very affluent, community going in just below the temple called, “Beverly Hills” and you have to drive through some of the worst slums to get there. Another wild ride through the narrow streets took us home again and Ben fixed us a grilled tuna and pork lunch, which we hurried and ate so we could make our tee time at the local course.
We had a scheduled 1:00 pm tee off time at the local “Mactan Coral Golf Club” on the grounds of the Air Force Base next to the airport. It was a nice course, flat, but with lots of hidden water in front of the greens. Fortunately we didn’t keep score because my driver had a big right turn in it most of the day. We had a great time and the three of us were joined by “Willie”, a young retired bank manager. After golf we went home and too a swim in Ben’s pool. It felt good just to be cool for a short while. After the swim we went to dinner, at Leo’s insistence, back to the “Philippine Dream” and the Baywatch buffet. It was a little more crowded since it was Saturday night, but we still filled ourselves with fried squid, crab cakes, rice, and delicious salads made from who knows what. We sat there and enjoyed the singing of the three lovely girls on stage and sipped our fresh squeezed mango juice on the rocks. On the way out we stopped by the Disco but the music was way too loud and we were too full of food to really enjoy ourselves so we didn’t stay long. Back home it was lights out in a hurry, in fact I fell asleep with the lights on and woke up later and turned them off.
Sunday, January 13
Leo popped his head in the door and told me it was already 8:00 am and we would be late for his cousin’s baby’s baptism. It was really only 6:30 am but Leo couldn’t sleep so he was all ready to get going. We walked down to the main road and jumped into one of the motorcycle taxis for the short trip to his mom’s house. It cost about ten cents for the ride.
The baptism was to be at 10:00 am so Leo and I went over to his mother-in-law’s house to borrow the car. When we got there the cute little 16 year old (Diane) was crying buckets of tears because she was in big trouble. She had stayed overnight at a girlfriend’s house and didn’t tell anyone so they were awake all night worrying about her. Since Diane’s dad had died, we both felt the need to give her some fatherly advice. Leo did it at about 105 decibels and I was a little calmer but we did get her to promise not to be so foolish in the future.
Jon, Diane, and the mother-in-law
We loaded the mini-van with tons of people and made the short drive to the open air church, “Our Lady of Perpetual Hope”, located on tidal coral next to the fishponds. The place was packed for the 9:00 am mass and we had to stand outside for the rest of the mass. The priest came out and splashed us with holy water at the end, which he remembered the next Friday when we had lunch together. The mass ended at 10:30 am and the baptism ceremony took place for 24 babies. I am now a “Godfather” to a little boy in the Philippines named Glenn.
The baptism of Glenn
After dropping everyone back at the neighborhood, Leo took me on an exploration of his island to find some giant clamshells for Fred Wilson back home in Morro Bay. The contrast between the large new resort hotels sitting among the shacks of the poor people is quite stark. The scariest thing about the island is the tremendous number of young children playing on or near the streets. When they all reach maturity and start having babies the island will sink from the sheer weight of their numbers. I don’t know where they will all live since it is so crowded already, but somebody better start thinking about those things or there will be some serious consequences.
We continued our journey and ended up down at the beach at Marigondon. Behind a shack we found a pile of clamshells and picked out a few to buy, about 3 football sized shells, paid $8 and trucked on down the road. Leo made a wrong turn looking for a shortcut back home and we ended up at the end of a pier with a restaurant so we stopped for lunch. Open air, the island of Cebu across the channel, cool breezes, fried squid in lime sauce, fried pork and giant shrimp, all washed down with a cold sprite. Life is good! A guy named Tony sat down next to us and it cost me two beers just to get rid of him, but he was really a nice guy.
We returned the car and rode a tricycle taxi down to the ferry terminal to catch a ride over to Cebu. The price was 14 cents each. From the other side we took a real taxi to the Riverfront Hotel Casino to meet Ben and Pat, who were playing charity bingo like they do every Sunday after attending church. Leo and I had a little time to kill so we played some slots, cards (21), and just wandered around until Bingo finished at 5:00 pm. Ben went right to the Baccarat table and I joined him there about an hour later after an unlucky streak at slots and blackjack. I really didn’t know how to play Baccarat but I must have caught on quickly and playing as banker I almost doubled my starting stake before we quit for dinner at 7:00 pm. Dinner was at one of the hotel restaurants where we ate Lapu Lapu fish (yes, there’s a fish named after him), fried pork, rice and washed it down with coconut water and sprite. The dinner for four cost less than $20 and it was my first chance to treat. I slept most of the way home, probably due to the heat and humidity finally taking its toll on me, and I wasted no time getting back to sleep once we reached home.
Monday, January 14
Ben had to go to court in the morning to argue a case so Leo and I decided to go into Cebu shopping. Leo snuck out early as usual to have breakfast with his mother and brother and when they came back at around 9:00 am we were given a car and Gilbert, the driver, for our use for the day. Pat had told us about an upscale mall named “Ayala” in Cebu so we went there first to see what they had. I bought a couple of shirts and some socks and then we realized that it was too expensive so we went over to the poor man’s mall called “SM”. I have no idea what that stands for but the mall itself is about double the size of Topanga Plaza and four stories tall. The new mall had the same shirts cheaper so I bought some more. We walked around and killed time waiting for our real agenda to take place, which was the cock fights at 2:00 pm. This was a local contest and there was some problems finding enough money to bet on both birds to make it worthwhile. I didn’t bet very much at this fight but I did manage to win a little. There was a 4-cock derby coming up on Wednesday at the arena in Cebu and the big money would be there. Okay, it was unbearably hot, painfully loud, and somewhat stinky with all those guys crammed into that arena building, but it was exciting when you had money down. The animal rights weirdoes would be appalled but the Filipinos consider it their national pastime and the roosters are treated like little feathered gladiators until they are turned loose to kill each other. And besides,….I won! Ben’s driver, Gilbert, was betting for me since the hand signals and screaming were out of my league and he did a good job of picking the eventual winners. I would have more than doubled my money except that the cock we were betting on finally had enough and just turned and walked away from the mostly dead foe just lying there. The rule goes, “You leave, you lose” so I didn’t win the 1,000 pesos I had bet on him. The heat and noise of the place finally got to me so I went outside for some fresh air. I had had enough and was happy with my winnings and the others soon followed.
It was already 4:00 pm and Ben and Pat were taking us to dinner at a German restaurant while Pat attended a Rotary Club meeting. Ben had to eat and run to attend a Toastmaster’s meeting in another building. I got to speak German with the owner who was also the President of the Rotary Club, Udo Pelkowski. An Australian bloke came in and sat at our table and we had a lively conversation with him. It turns out that he owns a third of the place and his filipina girlfriend runs it. The sausage was the best I’ve had outside of Germany but it just wasn’t the same without potatoes.
After Pat finished her business with the Rotary Club we loaded into the car and went to find Ben. It was a room full of college age women and one guy. They were there to help them conquer the English language and get comfortable speaking in front of other people. We were welcomed in a big way and even had to get up and speak a few words, which in my case is very difficult to keep it to just a few words. Ben is internationally known for his work in the Toastmaster’s and is doing a great job helping these young people better themselves. Home to bed and for the first time I turned on the air conditioner and slept through the night, which in this place is hard to do with all the roosters crowing and dogs barking.
Tuesday, January 15
Breakfast: fried squid, fried eggplant, rice, bananas, bread and a cold Pepsi. Life is really good! Leo came back from breakfast coffee with his mom and we practiced chipping on the lawn in preparation for our trip to the “Alta Vista Country Club” in Cebu. It is a beautiful place, situated atop the hills looking down on Cebu city and Lapu Lapu across the channel. The course is much like the “Cascades” course in Sylmar with lots of elevated tees and fast greens. The landscaping was fantastic, tropical and lush green. We rode carts but also had caddies to hand us our clubs and advise us how to putt. My caddy was “Emily” and she was okay considering that they only earn about $4 a day if they get to work. We ate lunch in the clubhouse before we teed off as guests of Willie, the retired banker, who, as it turns out, got his membership at a cheap price from Ben, who, got it as payment for services rendered as a lawyer. Ben seems to have many facets, just like a diamond. I bought six golf balls at the pro shop before we went to the first tee and Willie laughed that it wouldn’t be enough. As you stand on the first tee and face this giant abyss in front of you with the fairway over 150 yards away his words came back to haunt me. I did make my best hit of the entire round on the first hole but by the end of nine holes I was back in the pro shop buying six more balls. They also disappeared over the sides of the cliffs. Leo only lost 8 balls during the round and ended up beating me by one stroke over all, 112-113. I had lots of trouble with errant shots going out of bounds, which incurs a two stroke penalty. Of course, out of bounds on that course meant down in the jungle ravine and gone forever.
After golf Leo and I were dropped off at the “Paradise Physical Fitness Club” for a massage. I couldn’t pass up the chance to take a short steam bath and long shower with warm water before my massage. “Sharla” was my masseuse and I knew I was in trouble right away when she climbed up on my back and by previously broken ribs hollered surrender. She cautiously avoided hurting me but I was amazed at how strong her hands were and how much my body ached from the deep oil massage. She had her little two year old daughter there with her and she was giving a pretend massage to one of the idle masseuses on the table next to mine. It was one big room with about a dozen tables and Leo was across from me having his first real massage. He was too scared to really enjoy it.
Leo at Alta Vista
After we floated out of the place feeling great, we went upstairs to the Casino and Leo dropped a few bucks at Blackjack so he handed me the rest of the chips and sat me down at Baccarat to win it back for him. I got most of it back for him and we left to go to dinner at our favorite “Baywatch” buffet at about 9:00 pm. We took Gilbert to dinner with us and he really went to town on the all you can eat buffet. It’s really sort of strange because, when faced with a buffet, the Filipinos go for the rice first and I always check out the meat dishes first. I’ve eaten more rice on this trip tan during my entire life. I had absolutely no trouble sleeping with a full belly and a working air conditioner.
Wednesday, January 16
The morning dawned sunny and warm so I took advantage and caught up with this journal after a fine breakfast of rice, fresh papaya, eggs, bananas, squid, roast chicken and of course, cold Pepsi. Leo came by with his cousin’s car so we could unload the shells that I had purchased earlier down by the beach. Ben had offered us his car and Gilbert, his driver, for the day and we were to meet in the Casino at 7:00 pm that evening. So Leo, his brother Atoy, and I went looking for adventure with Gilbert doing the driving. Our quest was to find a tee shirt with Lapu Lapu printed on it; the words, picture, or anything. What we found was a roadside stand selling beautiful seashells just like I had pictured was what Fred Wilson wanted. There were giant clamshells, spiral conch shells and various other works of art that live on the seafloor around the island. I bought a selection and we continued our journey to the end of the island of Mactan. The narrow two lane road just ended in someone’s yard, nothing special, so we turned around and went back to the group of little eating booths near the Lapu Lapu statue and had some lunch. Leo ordered five different fish dishes, shrimp, squid, rice, fried pork and we ate till we were stuffed. There was a karaoke machine there so we sang a couple of songs to entertain the people at the other nearby eating places and they all loved my rendition of John Denver’s “Take me home Country Roads”. Leo hadn’t negotiated the lunch very good and when the bill came they ripped us off big time. What should have cost us less than $15, cost us close to $40. There wasn’t much we could do about it after the fact so we left feeling very disgruntled. Sometimes it costs to be a tourist in a foreign country.
It had been very educational to see the huge variety of seafoods on display for human consumption including giant clams. It was time to forget lunch and get on with our quest to find Lapu Lapu tee shirts. Leo returned his cousin’s car and we headed for the SM mall in Cebu to do some shopping. I bought some Filipino dresses for my girls and some more shirts for me and just had a leisure time looking around the place. About 4:00 pm we went to the “derby”, a championship cockfight where breeders bring their four best roosters to compete for a grand prize of 1,000,000 pesos. There were 100 entries with an entry fee of 3,000 pesos per rooster ($60) or $240 per team. That works out to over 1,000,000 pesos at 50-1. The action was fast and furious and each match followed quickly behind the previous. There were 200 cockfights to stage over the next four days and the bouts would sometimes go all night. It would be very hard to describe the experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with 2,000 Filipinos, sweating profusely, and listening to the screaming and shouting as side bets are made in the grandstands. It’s something a person needs to experience only once in a lifetime to remember forever.
After two hours I’d had enough so I took my ringing wet self outside where there was at least some air movement. I had won a little so it was a good match and Gilbert did my betting for me. I was soon joined by the others who took their winnings and quit. It’s not easy to always choose a winner because the cocks are all about the same size and weight. There’s a short warm-up period to get the roosters going and then they are placed apart in the middle of the ring, razor sharp blade attached to one spur, and they do what comes naturally. Sometimes the match is over in seconds but usually it takes a minute or two for one to inflict a serious wound on the other. When the winner is finally successful the people in the stands who lost start paying off their bets. It’s quite remarkably that there is such honesty in the stands. The money is being thrown halfway across the arena and always seems to make it.
We left the derby and went up the street to “Sammy’s World Famous Pochero Café”. Pochero is boiled knees of beef soup. Sammy’s is one those streetside small cafes with a karaoke machine. There were several drunk men singing, or better said yelling, into the microphone OFF KEY. The volume was pumped up to serious hearing loss level but the food was tasty; rice, boiled cow knees, shishkabob, and 7up. We ate and then quickly left while we could still hear loud noises. We left Leo’s brother there to fend for himself because he wanted to sing a few songs and drove up to the Casino.
Ben and Pat had just arrived at the Casino a few minutes before we did and Ben was seated at his favorite Baccarat table while Pat was playing the nickel slots. I wandered over to the roulette table that was sitting idle, since the craps table never seems to be open. I plunked down my $20 and started placing my bets on my lucky numbers. The same ones that didn’t win me the lotto. I won several times and quit a couple a hundred pesos ahead. We finished and left the Casino early around 8:30 pm because we had an early tee time at the Mactan Coral Golf Club the next morning.
Leo Tampus “The Godfather of Lapu Lapu”
Thursday, January 17
I awoke at about 5:00 am and wrote a couple of postcards until Leo came and told me we were ready to go. It’s barely light enough to see the ball at 6:00 am but at least it was cool. We had breakfast at a little canteen in the middle of the course at the end of the first nine holes. There were moments of brilliance followed by long periods of mediocrity that morning but it was still fun.
On the way home from golf we stopped at the cemetery to pay respects to Leo’s day who died in 1993. His crypt is the first one closest to the street and we only stayed long enough to take a picture and say goodbye. I told Mr. Tampus that he had raised a good son and should be proud but as we were leaving he slapped me upside the head, or I forgot to duck going through the gate, but the next thing I knew I was bleeding wildly down my face and dripping off my nose and chin into a red pool on the ground. Ben had some tissues in the car so I was able to apply pressure and stop the bleeding while we drove to the hospital. It turned out to be superficial but the nurse in the emergency room cleaned it up and applied a bandage and the doctor wrote me a prescription for tetanus serum, which I had to go downtown to buy. In the tropics little hurts can turn ugly in a hurry so it was better to take precautions than to risk it. The next time I come I’m bringing a helmet to wear since I bumped my head the whole time I was here.
Back home I went up to my room and lay down to write some postcards. The next thing I knew Leo was waking me up for lunch; squid, bananas, rice, barbeque shishkabob, fish and of course Pepsi. Since telling Pat that I liked Pepsi on the first day there was always a cold Pepsi at my place with every meal after that. Leo ate with us for the first time, as he usually went to his mom’s house in the morning. After lunch we dressed up and got Ben’s other driver, “Bobbie”, to take us to the Post Office to mail the postcards at 11 pesos each. Leo had to drop by the Social Security office to get his account straightened out from the time he worked at the local steam plant before coming to America. He has two social security numbers so he has to consolidate them into one account. The place was packed with people but Pat knows the manager so Leo went directly to her office and was quickly taken care of. It’s a great thing to be connected in this world. It makes things go so much smoother. Leo is going to get Ben to write a letter to get things straightened out so it should be okay.
That taken care of, we were off the Cebu City and the big SM mall to do some more shopping, use the ATM and take in a movie. We saw “Behind enemy lines” with Gene Hackman and it was very good. We ate dinner at the food court in the mall – twenty fast foods booths all selling basically the same Filipino food of rice and pork, fish, etc. I had a sizzling rice bowl with teriyaki steak. We’d been here a week now and lived a year’s worth of experiences with more to come. Home to bed.
Friday, January 18
Breakfast: Oatmeal mixed with powdered milk and brown sugar – very tasty, eggs, pineapple, barbeque beef-kabobs, NO squid! I sort of missed it. Leo went to visit his mom and would return at 10:30 am to pick me up. We had been invited by Auntie Dorie’s younger sister, Todai, to eat lunch at the small Catholic Elementary School where she was principle because she wanted to introduce me to one of the unmarried teachers. That Leo was still trying to get me married by telling everyone that I was looking for a filipina wife while I was there. I put on long pants and one of my new “barong” shirts and off we went with Leo’s sister-in-law in the back seat. The school was across the street from the church where we had gone to the baptism the previous Sunday. It was a former two story apartment house, unfinished, with cinderblock walls and poorly cast cement floors. The kids were all from the poor neighborhood and were very intrigued by my presence there as I stood a foot taller than anybody else. I asked permission to talk to the 6th grade class and made a short plea to study hard and become rocket scientists. How much was understood I will never know but the kids were adorable.
The young priest from the church was there to hear the confessions of the children on his yearly visit. The girls were all wearing pretty white dresses and the boys had on dark pants and some sort of white shirt, ranging from tee shirts to long sleeve dress shirts. Leo and I watched the procession of children as we visited with the lady I was supposed to meet, who turned out to be a former classmate of Leo’s, and the principle. It was an ominous sign when the first little girl came out of the confessional crying. After all the children had seen the priest we gathered in the principle’s office for lunch with the priest. Leo and I sat near him and had a very enjoyable conversation with the young man, around 26-27 years old. He was very dedicated to his calling and yet very personable and witty – a charming fellow.
After lunch we went home and I took a nap for the first time. My body seemed to be reacting to all the strange foods I’ve been eating and the lunch flushed itself out of me before dinner. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that Goat brains stew. Leo and Gilbert went off to the cockfight derby and I waited for Ben and Pat to return home around 6:30 pm. Leo and Gilbert came back early because it was a rest day for the derby competitors – no matches. The roosters live another day! Ben and Pat arrived and we left to go to dinner at our favorite “Baywatch” buffet and attend the Rotary Club meeting in one of the lower salons. Leo and I ate upstairs to the hip swaying sounds of the young Filipina singers and when we were done I went down to sit in on the Rotary Club.
The discussion was about providing transportation for a group of 48 doctors and nurses from the States who were voluntarily coming over to Lapu Lapu on a medical mission. Pat immediately volunteered her car and driver for the effort. A very pretty lady with a sexy voice was giving some details about the mission. It turned out that she was a doctor, anesthesiologist, who had grown up in Cebu and migrated to Seattle, Washington. We struck up a conversation and she invited me to go have a drink with her upstairs. Just as we were headed to the lounge, Ben said it was time to go home and I had to leave her at the door. She was charming and I was sad that I didn’t get to spend more time with her. So Tess, if you read this, call me! It was almost 11:00 pm when we got home so I read the paper and fell quickly to sleep.
Saturday, January 19
Leo poked his head in the door at 6:30 am to tell me that he and Ben were headed for the parade down by the bridge. So I quickly got dressed and went downstairs and we drove to the bridge. There were already thousands lining the bridge over the harbor because the statue of the Patron Saint of Cebu, El Nino, was traveling on a ship to view his area in preparation for the Fiesta tomorrow called “Sinulog 2002” or “Pit Senior”. We’re going there tomorrow to see the big Mardi Gras like parade of dance troops. On the news today – a mysterious fire consumed the costumes of the favored dance troop that had been winning all the competitions. These guys play hardball here!
After we watched the decorated boats go around in circles we hiked back down the bridge and went to breakfast at “Jollibee”, the Philippine answer to McDonalds. It serves the same basic menu but includes rice with every value meal. Leo and I got dropped off downtown so he could visit the big church that he attended as a child because he went to the catholic high school next door. We got there in time to sit through a mass and then we went walking through downtown. He dropped off some film for developing and I found a barbershop and got a real haircut for 75 cents. I just couldn’t let that go by because I was paying $15 at home. I tipped the barber $3.25 to make it an even $4 haircut because he was the barber that cut Leo’s hair when he was a kid. The haircut even included a straight razor shave around the ears and back of the neck and stink water afterward.
When we got home Ben and Pat were going to Cebu City for something so we went along and had all you can eat, all you can drink, buffet lunch for $2.20 each. I ate so much fresh fruit it gave me a tummy ache but the fresh papaya and pineapple are sooo good. I even had a milkshake with fresh pineapple and coconut. Yummy!! Home again, I’m laying on my bed, the air conditioner running, catching up on this journal…… I fell asleep for a while and now its time to go downstairs and visit.
Pat had a bunch of old photo albums on the table of pictures of her in school, her parents, etc. I suggested that they scan the pictures into the computer and save them on a CD. Well, that led to Ben showing me his scanner on his old computer and I sat down and tried to get it to work. Eventually I was able to get the scanner to work using his Corel Photoshop 8 but the printer wasn’t printing dark enough. So we quit to get dressed for a Fiesta Senior Party in Cebu at his cousin’s house. Two roast pigs, a blessing on the house by the Priest and food galore with good conversation. It was a great time and another very talented and well educated family.
Upon our arrival back home Leo and Gilbert were already there. It had been a very good derby and Gilbert had doubled the 2,000 pesos I had given him so I split it with him since I had already written it off as lost. The $40 he took home was a big chunk of money in the Philippines. Tomorrow we are going to the Sinulog parade in Cebu and it ought to be very interesting.
(Cebu, the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines, celebrates the feast of Senor Sto. Nino (infant Jesus) every third Sunday of January. More popularly known as the Sinulog, a pulsating prayer of dance of faith, the annual celebration has become a spectacular festivity that draws devotees and revelers from all over the country. A fusion of ethnic rhythms and religious hues, the Sinulog is a major attraction of Cebu City.)
Sunday, January 20
PIT SENIOR! VIVA SANTO NINO! These are the greetings on this day of celebration in Cebu where the patron saint of Cebu, Santo Nino, is honored and people come from all over the world to take part in the Fiesta. Ben got me out of bed at 6:30 am so we could go into Cebu and have breakfast at McDonalds before the big parade at 9:00 am. We couldn’t get to the only McDonalds because the streets were blocked off so we ended up at Jollibee and Ben and Pat stood in line for over half an hour just to order pancakes. They had run out of coffee and other things due to the huge volume of people crowding into the place on this Sunday morning. After we finished our rice, hotdogs, pineapple juice, and pancakes, we headed down to the parade in the main part of town.
The parade is two-fold; first, a chance for school children to dress up in costumes and perform for the thousands of onlookers, and second, a dance contest with honors for the group that bests the others with their dancing and telling of the story of Santo Nino or the “Baby Jesus” – depicting how the Spanish brought Christianity to the islands. Many groups were dressed as native tribesmen and women and others had a Spanish flair. One recurring figure was Bernardo Magellan who first landed on the island in 1521 and baptized the King of Cebu and hundreds of his people before trying to subdue the Mactan Tribe of King Lapu-Lapu and losing his head for his trouble. The energy of the children was amazing and they danced and marched the five miles of the parade in “shower thongs” – those cheap little sandals that you hold on your foot with your big toe. I even saw teenagers playing full court basketball in “go-aheads”.
The sun came out and smiled on the parade and immediately drove the heat factor into the uncomfortable zone. I had found a small space behind the wall of people where umbrellas didn’t block my view and I stood there for a couple of hours while the parade bogged down to a crawl. Each group had its own drum corps and the beat stayed the same along the entire route. About noon we got worried for Ben and Pat in the heat and finally found them lounging in the shade – waiting for us.
A small observation about Philippine traffic laws: A huge game of chicken where misses by inches are the norm and horns are used to warn others to keep going straight because I’m speeding by. There is no road courtesy and the drivers all accept the fact that whoever has the nerve to make others stop for him – wins. Oh yes, another thing, most of the motorcycle taxis and big trucks have long since lost their taillights as well as their headlights so there is a large mass of motorized moving vehicles that appear suddenly out of the dark, or worse yet, people dressed in dark clothes crossing the streets by the hundreds in the dark. The pedestrians have no right of way here and small children play alongside the narrow streets as cars and motorcycles rush by. I finally had to stop watching as Gilbert miraculously weaved his way through the maze. There were so many close calls that made my foot twitch for the brakes when Gilbert instead hit the gas to go around the slower traffic. If Walt Disney were still alive, driving in the Philippines would be an “F” ticket ride.
After leaving the parade we inched our way toward the Casino and stopped at another buffet for lunch. For 99 pesos, or about $2, we ate our meal off freshly cut banana leaves as plates – a great idea, making the washing of the dishes as easy as just tossing them into the trash. They were a lot like paper plates except smoother. The meal included lots of fresh fruit and some corned beef hash.
On to the Casino, I sat down to play blackjack with Leo and Gilbert and was winning, but Leo lost his 1,000 pesos stake and decided to leave so I cashed out 700 pesos ahead and went to try something else. Leo and Gilbert heard of a cockfight nearby so they left and I bought 200 pesos worth of 2 peso coins and sat down next to Pat to waste some time watching the bars roll by on the slot machines. As it turned out my luck was good and I hit for 400 pesos or $8 and decided to cash out about 600 pesos ahead. So in a very short time I was up 1,300 pesos or $26. I wandered around, thought about calling home with my phone card but couldn’t read the numbers with the glasses I was wearing, went to the gift shop and bought a couple of hats and gold shirts with my winnings and sat down to watch the parade rerun on TV.
Pat wandered over and joined me and we talked as we watched the dance troops perform for the judges. Leo came back quickly after losing the first two cockfights and we left to go to church. Ben and Pat are devout Catholics but several of their children have converted and become Baptists. This was the third mass I had attended – I could almost sing the songs. Back on the road…. Well, at least we tried. It took us half an hour just to clear the church parking lot and another half hour to finally reach a through street. We stopped at Jollibee in Lapu Lapu to get some dinner and it took half an hour for me to get my “Champ” hamburger. It was more like an oatmeal burger and had been heated in the microwave so the lettuce was cooked. I ate it anyway and washed it down with pineapple juice. Home to bed after a long and very exciting day at the “Sinulog of Cebu”.
Monday, January 21
I arose about 7:00 am and took a much needed cold shower (the only kind available). I never realized how oily my skin was until deprived of my daily hot shower. Ben and Pat had gone to breakfast with the Doctors from the medical mission so I ate my eggs and banana alone. Leo came back from his Mom’s a little after 9:00 am and we went to the airport to confirm our flight next Sunday. Leo had to check on his social security account and pay up for the year. He will be eligible to draw money from it in 16 months but the amount is so small he is giving it to his brother, “Atoy”. After checking at the bank we headed for the guitar factory in Morigondon. It was the size of my garage and there were 5 people building the guitars by hand out of native woods. I watched in amazement as one fellow shaved a piece of wood into a bridge and adjusted it to fit perfectly. I ended up buying a nice Filipino style guitar for 6,500 pesos or $130. It was probably too much but it looked like a nice gift for my daughter, Nikki, who once said she would like to learn how to play. Getting it home as a carry-on will be the trick.
After the guitar shop we went down to the beach at Morigondon to eat lunch; squid, fish, pork and rice washed down with a sprite. Back to Lapu Lapu and shopping at Guisano shopping center. I had a great time teasing the young girls that worked as clerks. They understood just enough English to make it interesting. We finally got home to Ben’s around 3:00 pm and he was waiting for us to take me to Cebu and see about a permit to take the seashells home with me. It seems that some of them are banned from export. The lady in the permit office, “Corazon Corrales”, was very nice and served us coffee and apologized that I had been inconvenienced but the shells were on the forbidden list, etc., etc. Anyway, she ended up giving me a beautiful 3 piece set of candy dishes made out of “Mother of Pearl” as a consolation prize I guess. I forgot to bring the shells with me so we have to take them back in on Wednesday so they can see what I have. It doesn’t look good for Freddie’s giant clamshells.
Only the two shells left of the hat made it home
On the way back home Ben drove us by “Caesar’s Palace”. I thought it was a restaurant but it turned out to be a “Health Studio” on one of the back streets of Cebu. It was one of those uneasy moments as we stood there looking through a window at about a dozen young girls in all sorts of different styles of undress. I think Ben was having a good time watching our embarrassment as we bantered with the hostess. We could have our pick of the litter for only $20 but the room would be another $20. It was really more sad than sexy looking at these poor young ladies selling their bodies to survive. Fortunately we had to get back and go to a party for the doctors so we didn’t avail ourselves of the services which make Leo and me very happy.
That evening we were invited to attend a party at the Mayor of Cordova’s house to honor the doctors that were working voluntarily in the local clinics. I was told by Pat that Tess Boylon, the anesthesiologist, told her to make sure I came. So with that build up, I was excited to go and see this American Filipina doctor that I found so intriguing just last Friday. She was there and all smiles when I went over to her table were she sat with her family. Cute as ever. I ended up sitting next to her and when the singing entertainment ended we even danced a dance to good old Rock and Roll. She’s a very lively lady with good moves. Ben came and pulled me away about 10:15 pm because we had an early wake up to go play golf tomorrow. Another interesting day full of new experiences in a beautiful country. I wonder what the poor people are doing?
Tuesday, January 22
Up early and off to the southern tip of Cebu Island to “Verdemar”, a seaside resort that Ben owns a piece of. He is the chief salesman for the resort and owns two units in the main building. A share in the resort sells for about $2,000 right now. The trip was long, over 100 kilometers, and took over two hours due to the heavy traffic on the two lane road. Bobbie was our driver because Gilbert had eaten some bad mussels the day before and woke up sick. Verdemar isn’t easy to get to but once there it’s a paradise. The small waves of the incoming tide lapped at the sandy beach while coconut palms stood guard, their branches holding the round, green fruit that’s always in season. Ben and Pat have their own apartment #3 at the resort due to the fact that Ben has invested millions of Pesos in the operation. After arriving we rounded up some caddies and took off to play the course. Narrow fairways, gaping chasms to cross from the tees, rock hard grass from lack of water, but all in all a fun and very challenging course.
After the first nine holes we stopped for lunch at the open air dining hut. The others had fish head soup and rice and I ordered some spaghetti with tuna and fresh tomatoes. Back out on the course, ocean behind us, trade winds keeping us cool, we started the back nine. Basically it was the front nine with different tee boxes since they haven’t finished all eighteen holes yet. The electric carts were broken and we had to walk the course which was laid out with sometimes long distances between greens and tees, uphill and down. I was worried about Ben so I hung back and walked with him but he did great. It started to rain on us so we hurried through the last couple of holes and called it a day. The rain felt good as we changed into our swim trunks and went for a dip in the warm ocean water followed by a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. The rain made the air fresh and clean so Leo, Pat and I sat on the porch of their apartment discussing the world while Ben attended a finance meeting in the office with some investors.
It was dark by the time we left and the roads were even more treacherous than before. We almost broad sided a large cargo truck that was backing across the highway with no lights. About half the vehicles on the road over here haven’t any lights and nobody seems to bother. I’m just glad that Bobbie drove us home because I only had my sunglasses with me and I couldn’t see squat! When we got home, around 9:00 pm, I adjusted the headlights on the car for Ben. The driver’s side was shooting up into the sky and blinding the oncoming drivers. It’s bedtime now and the air conditioner is humming as I lay here on the bed writing this last page for today – goodnight!
Wednesday, January 23
I got to sleep in till 7:00 am this morning since there was nothing going on. Had breakfast with Ben, played a game of pool which Ben won, worked on his backup computer making him a website, and at about 10:00 am we went to Cebu to the Dept. of Fisheries to get a permit to take my clamshells home. I got to keep two of the ten I had purchased, the rest are banned from export including the giant clamshells. It was a disappointment but not unexpected after seeing how inefficient the government here is. There is so much corruption that it’s a wonder anything gets done. I’ve seen projects here that would take me about 2 days to finish and here it takes a month. Labor is dirt cheap so there is no incentive to use machinery and get it done quickly. Besides, ten guys working means 10 guys working and not starving so it just stays slow and easy a pace and time slows down. Anyway, I got a permit, in triplicate, for 25 pesos to take home 2 shells. Whether they make it in one piece remains to be seen.
We stopped for lunch at the Convention Center restaurant “The Grand Majestic”, a Chinese restaurant – excellent buffet. We were to meet Pat at home at about 3:00 pm so we went back to Lapu Lapu and took a nap. Leo came back from his mom’s home about 4:15 pm and we left to go back to Cebu to a novena at the church. From what I saw a novena is a short prayer meeting before the formal mass. Off to the Casino where I won again at the 2 peso slots while keeping an eye on Pat. They go there so often that just about everyone knows them in the Casino. After about 90 minutes of playing we left and went back to the 99 peso buffet that we ate at last Sunday. The food is edible but the room was too warm upstairs. Home again by 8:30 pm and now I just might catch a few minutes of Philippine TV before lights out……… Well I woke up at 10:30 pm so I decided to just go to bed.
Thursday, January 24
The electricity went off during the night and the temperature in my room started to climb so I threw off the one blanket and went back to sleep. Later I woke up cold because the air conditioner had come on again and it was chilly without the blanket on me. About 6:30 am the rain started. Leo had just poked his head through the door to tell me he was going to his mom’s house so I thought he might be walking in the rain, but it turns out that Gilbert was on his way to give the doctors a ride and dropped Leo off on the way. Breakfast was eggs, fried eggplant, toast with homemade mango/pineapple jam, bananas and Pepsi. I passed on the rice which was probably the only thing I should have eaten. Ben and Pat had things scheduled for the day so after breakfast I played on the computer a while waiting for Leo to come back. He brought the car about 10:00 am and off we went to the SM Mall in Cebu to shop. I bought 7 more shirts, 4 pearl necklaces, 2 flutes, and a bottle of Tanduay Rum for my collection. Leo and I went to McDonald’s for lunch and my big Mac tasted just like every other one except that the lettuce was wilted again. We decided to check the theater to see what time “Ocean’s 11” started and we got there at exactly the right time so we went in. Leo fell asleep but I enjoyed it. It still wasn’t as good as the original with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.
On the way home we stopped for gas at 16.45 pesos/liter and had the car washed by hand for 100 pesos or $2. Ben was out putting on the lawn so we joined him for a couple of rounds. About 6:30 pm Ben told me to get dressed up so we could go to dinner. Little did I know until we were almost there that the Mayor of Lapu Lapu was throwing a party for the doctors at the Philippine Dream and Tess would be there. We sat together and talked and after dinner everyone got up and danced. It was great fun and a good crowd just dancing around. Unfortunately I had to leave with Ben and Pat and say goodbye to Tess, but we’ll see each other tomorrow night at another party for the doctors. This trip is quickly coming to a close and I wish it wouldn’t. I’ve had a wonderful time and a person couldn’t ask for nicer people to stay with than Ben and Pat. Leo is a Prince too. He’s torn between spending time with his family and spending time with Ben and Pat and me. Tomorrow we’re going to the beach at Morigondon to celebrate Leo’s brother’s (Atoy) birthday and in the evening to the Rotary Club.
Friday, January 25
I had the usual breakfast with Ben and Pat. It always includes stories and advice from Pat who has built an empire aside from her husband’s and prides herself on having her own investments. Leo picked me up around 10:00 am with his Uncle’s car full of people and we headed to the beach at Morigondon to celebrate Atoy’s birthday (64). There was karaoke singing and I got the highest score with John Denver’s “Take me home country roads”. Meanwhile they were barbequing pork bellies into adobo and people just continued to come until we had taken over most of the little restaurant. Leo’s cousin showed up with his 3-piece combo and everyone took a turn at singing. My turn came and the only song I knew the words to was “Edelweiss” from the Sound of Music – but in German. They loved it anyway. It was quite a party and got even louder as the 4th, 5th, and 6th bottles of Tanduay Rum got polished off. No fights – just singing and having a good time while we watched the small catamarans load up and take off to the nearby small islands.
That evening I was being sworn in as an honorary member of the Mactan Rotary Club so Ben designed an official document on his computer and we printed it up on parchment paper so I can display it at home. We made a quick trip down to the beauty parlor to get our nails done – my first since 1961. I also had the only real man working there (the other two were flamers) give me a shave for $1.20. The manicure was only $1. I wanted to get a pedicure but it was getting late and we ran out of time. The owner of the shop was a hoot. She is one of those women that throws her arms around you like you were her own brother – a type not unlike my own sister Marlene.
With bright shiny nails we hurried home to change clothes for the Rotary Club meeting at the Philippine Dream. I was duly inducted and sworn in by Udo Pelkowski, the president of the Mactan Rotary Club and fellow German. In the course of the evening we conversed in German and he thought I was born in Germany. When I told him about my experiences as a Mormon Missionary in Germany, he confided that his wife was a Mormon lady. Small world! The meeting was short due to the fact that there was a farewell party being given for the doctors that had spent the week performing surgeries in the local hospitals. It was to be another chance to see Tess Boylon, the Filipina doctor from Seattle. We got to the restaurant, the same one at the end of the pier that Leo and I had eaten lunch at a few days before, a few minutes after everyone else had left, so we grabbed a meager plate of fried squid and crab before leaving to go to the Mayor’s house. We had stopped there on the way in but there was nobody there yet, but on our second arrival we found the place full of people and music and dancing. The night droned on with endless presentations of computer generated certificates of appreciation for everyone so we left about 11:00 pm to go home. All my good plans and new cologne that I bought, shiny nails and all went for naught since I didn’t even get to say Hi to Tess, as she was busy with the doctor group. Ah, the fickleness of Fate. Like fishing, sometimes the fish just jumps off your line after you think you have a hookup. I fell asleep with the lights on again because I was so tired. This warm heat really drains the energy out of you.
Jon and Udo Pelkowski, President of the Mactan Rotary Club
Saturday, January 26
Breakfast is always a surprise as to what will be found on the table. The only constant is the two sunnyside fried eggs on my plate and a cold Pepsi beside it. There is always rice and bananas and some other fresh fruit but the meat courses vary every day. Today it was Chicken McNuggets to go with the rice. I must say that I have eaten more and better since I got here than I ever do at home. I’ve made a vow to start eating better when I get home to include more fresh fruit and vitamins. I have detected a noticeable memory loss in the past year so with this ominous onset of “Old Timers” disease I hope I can remember to eat better. We hopped on a tricycle taxi and went over to Leo’s Mother-in-law’s place where Diane lives and from there we walked to Sito and Mimi’s house for another going away party. The combo showed up and after a lunch of “Lechon” or roasted pig, we all went outside for a sing fest and dancing. It even started to rain for a while just to add to the atmosphere. I sang my German version of “Edelweiss” again by popular demand and later a short version of “Du, du, liegst mir im Herzen”. It was payback for all the speaking in their dialect of Visayan that I couldn’t understand.
It was a great time and lots of fun. Ben and Pat showed up and sang and danced with the rest of us. They really are a remarkable couple. After 49 years of marriage they glide around the dance floor as one. They both sing and support each other totally in all their efforts. It’s what I had pictured marriage would be like when I was young. I left with Ben and Pat to go home and rest a little before the next party at 5:00 pm. Another “Lechon” dinner, catered, to celebrate his aunt Lydia’s 86th birthday. It was Leo’s mother’s side of the family and there were several big shots there including a retired 4 star general who had been Chief of Staff under President Estrada as well as Ambassador to Pakistan before the change in government threw him into retirement. Nice guy! Another was the regional director for Shell Oil Company and another nice guy! It was an enjoyable party with good conversation and everyone adores Leo – “The Godfather of Lapu Lapu”. We left about 8:00 pm as the crowd thinned. Lydia was charming as she sat in her wheelchair and she invited me back to the party next year. We got home just before Ben and Pat, who had gone to another party in a nearby town. “Nice, but too many people”, said Ben. Leo and Gilbert went off to the cockfight derby for one last chance before going home and I’m laying here with the fan blowing on me catching up on this report. Tomorrow we leave for home but first there’s a farewell lunch at the mother-in-law’s house and then a 5:00 pm flight to Manila. I saw two elders today as they were hurrying to an appointment in the barrio and yelled at them because I wanted to buy them lunch but they didn’t even turn around. Such concentration!
Sunday, January 27
A final breakfast with Ben and Pat and Leo before packing up our stuff. I put the shells in my suitcase wrapped in towels and underwear hoping that they would survive the trip. I had 16 “Barong” shirts to pack up and various other gifts for the folks back home. My suitcase must have weighed 70 pounds when I was done. I packed up the guitar as best I could, thinking that I could take it aboard as carry-on luggage. It turned out that it had to be checked anyway because of the new security precautions. We wandered over to the mother-in-law’s after saying our goodbyes to Ben and Pat. Diane’s mother had prepared a lunch of shrimp, pork, rice and fruit. We visited and ate and soon it was time to check in at the airport. One of the cousins gave us a ride over to the airport and everyone else tagged along. They wouldn’t let them in to the waiting area so the goodbyes were quick and over with. We were two hours early so we had to sit and wait on the benches inside the waiting area. Sito and Mimi managed to show up inside due to some connection with an airport employee and the retired general and his sons were there.
We arrived in Manila about dark and wandered into the employee cafeteria to grab a bite of supper. We had several hours to kill so there was a lot of sitting around watching people getting frisked by security. I had to take my shoes off twice, once for the x-ray machine and once so a person could actually look in them. Getting on the plane for the 12 hour flight was actually a relief, at least we would be moving. The flight home was boring and long but we arrived in Los Angeles the same day due to the international date line we crossed somewhere out in the Pacific. Leo’s family picked us up and dropped me off at home about 8:00 pm after a very long day. It was a great trip and a pleasure to watch the “Godfather of Lapu Lapu” in action as he doled out the cash to just about everyone on the small island. I never saw a guy with so many cousins.
Sweet Diane called me on her cell phone a few days later just to say hi. She graduated from High School and enrolled in nursing school in Cebu City. Leo’s mother died the last of April and he returned to the Philippines for the funeral. It was good that he got to spend time with her in January. Ben and Pat came to the USA to visit their daughter in Texas and stayed for a couple of months before returning to Lapu Lapu. Aunt Lydia died about 3 weeks after her birthday party. I delivered a package and met Pat’s sister, Norma. I got a mild case of the Philippine quick step the week after I got home and my kids loved their gifts. All is well!