Monday, July 11, 2005

An unlikely reunion

A British friend had recently e-mailed me, telling me he was on his way to the Philippines and asked me if I could show him around.

Great! You can count on me. I e-mailed him back.

In the course of the next couple of days he kepted on hinting that he wanted to visit the REAL Philippines and of course, by REAL I had thought he wanted to see life in the rural areas.

So, when he finally arrived and got settled into his hotel, I took him on a couple of short trips. We went to the usual places (by usual, I mean places where most foreign tourists end up going whether they want to or not)... I took my Brit friend to Subic, Tagaytay, Baguio, Puerto Galera, and a host of other places in Luzon (one of three largest islands in the Philippine Archipelago).

I grew a bit concerned because as the days wore on, he seemed more and more fidgetty, more bored. I kept asking him what the matter was, but he kept on insisting -- in that very cool British accent -- that things were quite all right.

Of course, that kind of response only got me more concerned and I kept on asking. It was on his last week in the Philippines that he finally relented and told me that he wanted to see 'Grand Inihaw'... I had to grab at the back of a chair inside his hotel room to keep myself from rolling on the floor with laughter.

Grand Inihaw! Is probably one of the seediest strip joints in Metro Manila, next only to Takusa, Kulasisi, and Amihan (formerly named Grand Bingwit, if I remember correctly).

Imagine, travelling all the way from the UK just to drink beer and watch a bunch of Filipinas (some of them are actually quite homely) strut their stuff on a rickety stage.

Not wanting to disappoint the guy (who had been my classmate when I was in elementary here in the Philippines), I took him to Grand Inihaw which is at Welcome Rotunda which marks the boundary between Manila and Quezon City along Espana boulevard.

I had my misgivings about it. It makes me feel sort of disappointed that my country is quite well known for its stripjoints, brothels, and prostitutes.

Upon entering the place, my British friend picked a table with a wide view of the darkened recesses of the strip joint. After a few beers, he asked me to get hold of one of the so called Floor Managers (the older women who usually act as go betweens for customers who may want to get a girl to sit with them at the table).

So, the floor manager and my friend talk for a while. Expecting that some girl would later come to our table, I freed up a seat.

But instead of the usual scantily clad dancer, a much older woman took the seat beside my friend. I swear, the woman was old enough to be my friend's mother.

I was quite surprised at the sudden familiarity they had with one another. Holding hands, embracing one another -- but not in an amorous kind of way. They looked like two dear old friends meeting after so many years of being apart.

Seeing that I was a third wheel, I bade my leave.

The next day, my British friend called me to tell me that he really appreciated what I had done.

I brushed it off, saying that was the least I could do for him and so on.

Then in a stern, serious voice he said, "Really, I have to thank you. Without your help, I wouldn't have found my way to Grand Inihaw and locate my mother. She had left me and my father a few years after we went back home to the UK. I'm staying for a while to get her papers processed and I am taking her back home with me, it's my father's dying wish."

I never get tired of telling this one story.

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