The Lunch Box
Life was good, interrupted on occasion by fleeting bouts of danger, but I'd become used to life in the Philippines, and the everyday occurrences of violence that were commonplace in the area I lived. I had no security, save for my pit-bull terrier
'Rocky', and my pump action shotgun, that I bought from a policeman, complete with firearms permit for just over 20,000 pesos (approx. 15,000 baht). However, the locals took care of me as if I was one of their own, and a new face in
the area stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Anyone who has spent time in the Philippines, and lived in one of the communities will understand what I am talking about. Take care of the locals (more often than not financially), and you will
have streets full of 'security guards', in ragged t-shirts and basketball shorts, wondering when their Friday night bottle of Emperador will appear.
One of my side-kicks, whose name, Bong, seemed to suit him fine, was with me on a trip back from Manila centre, and we rode motortrike taxis for the last step. Of course, the driver idiot tried to charge me 15 pesos for a 5 peso trip, so I argued. Actually, I had just started to argue, I had only got as far as 'What the [email protected]$# are you talking about? I've ridden this part lots of times and now you're . . . . . . . ' My tirade was interrupted by Bong, who decided that I'd said enough, and he proceeded to bash the driver's face in. "Kuya Alan, you ok?"
"Yeah, fine mate, why'd you do that?"
"Cos he might try and overcharge you again. We better go quick, his brother might come back with a gun" Overcharge me !! Chrissakes. I went out of my way to avoid even seeing that driver again. By the way, 10 pesos is about 7 baht. In short,
my living standard was very high by Filipino standards. I was earning a Japanese salary, and didn't have to worry too much about being robbed by crack-heads. Life was very comfortable.
Until I met Maribeth. An attractive young lass, taller than average, with the Filipina look that I still yearn for. She'd been married to a Japanese man previously and had a daughter that still lived in Japan, so we seemed to have a common point. My base was in Japan, and we conversed in Japanese frequently. The relationship developed, and as is usually the case, her family's problems (yes, always financial ones) seemed to find their way to me. Now this was very tolerable as Filipino prices are still very low, and there wasn't anything I considered outrageous, except for the time I was asked for 600 pesos for an hospital oxygen tank. Please don't ask me, to this day, I have no bloody idea why anyone would need one of those.
Her family were content, as of course they would be. Her youngest brother seemed to enjoy driving me around Manila in my car, and he'd be with me in areas like Tondo and Quiapo (very nasty places) watching my back and packing my shotgun. Whenever my Japan business trips occurred, he take me to the airport, and I'd give him free use of my car so he could earn a few quid driving people around the country. They were happy, I was happy taking care of the village, and everyone was a winner. Stupid bloody me. I came back from Japan after two weeks in Hiroshima, during which I had given Maribeth enough money to take care of my affairs (rent, bills, bribes etc) and more than enough for her family's concerns, which, as anyone who has visited the Philippines knows, usually consists of school fees for the 7 or so kids that every couple seems compelled to produce. I used to go through a fortune buying tubs of ice-cream for them. To this day, I have never, ever seen a gallon of ice-cream disappear so fast. And please, if you're ever in the Philippines, never take a group of two to five year old kids to the shopping mall in Fairview, in case they find the ice-cream refrigerator and eat 2 tubs of cookies and cream ice-cream in the supermarket. Believe me.
She was there at the airport waiting for me to exit, and after the welcome home, missed you, how's things were all over, we ambled over to the car park, where the young brother was waiting, not in my car, but in a ragged looking green van. Figuring that he'd taken mine to the service centre for the new engine belt, as I'd asked him to before I'd left for Japan. I didn't say anything, but he did seem a little subdued. Maribeth was bubbly, hanging round my neck, and wanting me to agree to go to Jollibee on the way home. Oh wasn't it wonderful to be back home. There was talk of Christmas celebrations, the presents we (me) would be going to buy and how much better it would be this year, because, at last, they had managed to pay the National housing agency the outstanding balance on their two plots of land. My ears pricked up. I looked at Maribeth, she smiled sweetly, I looked at the younger brother's face in the rear view mirror, and he looked back woefully, and nodded. The bitch had sold my car !!! Kalbo 2006
Oh, you have got to laugh!