It’s 2016. Wow, time really does fly. It’s been more than a full year since I last tapped out an article for the blog website here. The last year or more has been devoted to video, travel and romance. But as diversions go, it’s been an amazing sabbatical from the keyboard. When living in the Philippines, you never really do know how your day will go once you venture out from your doorstep each morning.
I suppose I should skip back and began where I left off, living on the island of Panglao. It was March of 2014 and I had just returned to the Philippines after making my first return trip to California. That trip to California, just a few weeks after both the big 7.2 quake and the typhoon Yolanda was actually more traumatic for me than either of the natural disasters. Dealing with an earthquake, loss of water, electricity and driving around for food until anything returned to normal a week later was much easier to deal with than the prospect of returning ‘home’ to California and feeling like a ghost lost in the wrong time period.
Now prior to leaving Bohol, which is connected by two bridges to the island of Panglao, I met a wonderful Filipina woman around September of 2013. She was 39 years old, widowed the year before, no children. She owned the small resto where we first met, owned her own home as well her own motorbike and tricycle. She was tall for a Filipina, about five foot and seven inches without heels. With heels she was simply elegant.
And so it was no surprise when I returned to Cebu airport that she was there to greet me after my long flight. She’d already gotten us a hotel nearby and by the next morning we were on a ferry back to Panglao where her home was.
Upon arrival she insisted I stay at her home where her two parents also lived. We were not engaged, but we were in an exclusive relationship by this time. Even so, her parents being a bit conservative, the sleeping arrangements found me sleeping in her room while she slept with her mother. Her father was already in the habit of sleeping on a twin-sized bamboo cot near the kitchen. And that was all fine with me. I was in no hurry to rush things. All things in their own good time. I didn’t even bother taking my luggage to my previous home on nearby Bohol for a week or so. I settled right in at her place at the center of Panglao surrounded by a forest of tall coconut trees. It was serene and beautiful. I was so glad to be back in the Philippines once again.
To skip forward a bit, things seemed great for the next five weeks. I worked on my videos at her home while she worked her small resto near the mall. In the evening we’d have dinner with her parents, do some karaoke or take a ride around the island to Alona Beach. But it was during the last week or so that I learned two crucial pieces of information. One is that during my absence, the neighbors of the home I had previously been living at (on Bohol) had been telling my landlord that since January I was already living with some woman somewhere else on the island. They even claimed to have talked to me and met this mystery woman during January. Which, of course, was a completely fabricated lie since I was in California from November until March. It was March when I returned to the PH, not January.
This would be the moment where I interject how the PH differs from most Western nations. In the PH two things rule; Gossip and Cash. Those are the currencies in operation here. So you might be wondering, “Why would neighbors go to the trouble of telling a landlord some detailed lie?”. Well, very simple; self-interest. My landlady happened to be my ex-girlfriend who was living on the island of Cebu. The gossiping neighbor happened to be my ex-girlfriend’s sister-in-law. And this neighbor also happened to be an old schoolmate of my new girlfriend’s business partner. As to motive, if the sister-in-law could convince my ex-girlfriend to lock me out of the house I was renting from her.. she could then weasel her way into the home herself. Considering she was living in a two-room nipa hut made of bamboo and palm fronds, the idea of moving into a brick home was quite the upgrade for her. And so began her campaign against me in my absence while I was in California.
Eventually my ex-girlfriend and I figured out what was going on and who was at the center of all this gossip and manipulation. To this day my ex and I have remained good friends, so no harm done there. But since I had moved in with my new girlfriend on Panglao (in March), I gathered my belongings from the house, which wasn’t much, and stored it in a few suitcases with a buddy of mine on Bohol. And no, the sister-in-law did not get to move into the home. It was later rented out to someone else.
But.. par for the course here in the PH. It has nothing to do with being a foreigner. Having or creating gossip is how many people get things done around here. It’s what people do when they are low on resources or options. Just comes with the territory.
I mentioned there were two pieces of crucial information I came across during my first five weeks returning to the PH. The second item was discovering that my new girlfriend was asking either of two other men to get her pregnant. She knew from the beginning I would not, could not, have children. She herself told me that at age thirty-nine she did not want to risk another miscarriage and had accepted a life without children.
Well, apparently that was not the case. She was hot on the idea of marrying me and having a long life together. What she didn’t tell me is that she planned on slipping a pregnancy into the plan and hoping I would think it was mine or that I would simply love her enough to accept it. I came across her messages to each of the men. She seemed to favor having a baby from the guy from Spain, perhaps figuring the resultant baby could pass easier for being my own. But she was also putting out requests to a man from the UK. She didn’t want them to stay around. Just get her pregnant and leave. Well, needless to say I was not too keen on this hidden agenda.
When I first sat down and calmly confronted her, she gave it her best to “deny, deny, deny”. She even threw in some emphatic phrasing such as, “Oh Gwapo.. I would never, no, I would not do that!” When I mentioned the two men by name, that was when the blood drained out of her face and her eyes glazed over for a few moments. I knew at that moment I could never trust her again. We were ‘done’. She was sweet as sugar-cane and as lovely as the day is long. But now I could not trust her. I saw no reason for yelling, arguing or name-calling. I simply let her know I’d be on my way and it had been a pleasure up until then knowing her. In my own estimation she had a good thing and lost it. That would be punishment enough.
I found out later the Spaniard had moved on to some other Filipina. So she continued in a relationship with the UK guy. If there is such a thing as destiny, then I wish her all the best.
I hired a tricycle to take my two suitcases from her place to my buddy’s home where he let me crash on a sofa for two days while I formulated my next move. I’m a big proponent of the “Plan B” school of adaptation. I truly did love her and the thought of driving past her resto every day with the UK guy sitting there in plain view every time I drove into town was just too much for me to bear. I knew that as much as I loved Bohol and Panglao for the ten months I’d been there, it was time to leave.
I pared my belongings down to a backpack for my laptop and an overnight bag for my clothes and decided that since I’d already been up the Cebu coast to it’s northern end in Bogo, I would go South and see what I encountered along the way. I saved a few maps to my phone’s photo gallery and rode my bike onto the ferry leaving Bohol. It was a hard thing to do. Very painful. It was like leaving the closest thing to ‘home’ I’d found in the PH since I got there almost two years before. But it was time to hit the road. That much I knew with complete conviction. Somewhere ‘out there’ was something different, maybe something better. And I would only know what it was by putting the gears into motion. As Bohol slipped away behind the ferry I knew the island itself would faithfully wait for me to return. I then went to my bunk and with the smell of the sea air around me, I lay back for a much needed rest. I’d be hitting the coast of Cebu before long and I could foresee many miles of riding ahead of me. I figured I’d circle around Cebu and Mactan to visit some Filipina friends of mine and then ride my bike south to a place on the map called Moalboal.
The story continues in this next section, ‘My Long Trek to Moalboal‘.