Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Comically rich

I think it's now officially my goal to finish writing about my Philippines trip before I start my next vacation. Writing here is slow going in the winter, when I can't go out to my precious convenience store table to do it. Anyway --

As I walked toward the Christmas lights, I passed a small store with a table out front and some people sitting around it. “Hey, where you go?” One of them shouted at me.

“Is there a bar this way?”

“No man, sit, drink with us.” Sounded like a plan to me. I sat down at the table with the large Filipino dudes, who were eating chicken and drinking beer and rum. The shopkeeper, a woman, brought me a beer. Crispin spoke the most English, and seemed to be the leader of the group.

I sat at the table with these guys, drinking beers and rum, telling stories about Korea and the U.S., while listening to theirs. The only light came from inside the store, a bare bulb. When I (or anybody else) had to piss, it was just a matter of standing up and turning away from the table and pissing in the road. There weren’t any cars coming. 3 or 4 vehicles passed in the time I was there, one old beater car and a couple motorcycles. All of them stopped at the store to shoot the shit. Everyone knew Crispin and the other guys.

We contined knocking down San Miguels. I was invited to their Christmas party, if I were still in town. The next day was Christmas Eve. I considered it, these guys were cool. I imagined that we could probably have crazed rum-fueled adventures the next day, riding motorcycles and shooting guns.

The store closed. I bought a pack of smokes on the way out. My total for the smokes and god knows how many beers - under 4 bucks. I suddenly felt almost embarrassingly/comically rich. I had told the guys about my continuing epic quest to the Taco Bell in Manila. They said they had been there and liked it, but Taco Bell was an extravagance, something they eat once every couple of years. They asked me how much I made in Korea, I lied and cut my wages in half, though they still thought it to be a large sum. It’s not.

We walked to the videoke bar. By this point, it was only me, Crispin, and one other guy who’s name I’ve forgotten. Videoke operates differently from either American-style karaoke or Korean/Japanese style noraebong. Like the American style, there is one machine in the bar, and one has an audience of strangers. However, there’s no showmanship whatsoever. The microphone has a really long cord, and you sit at your table rather than going up on any kind of stage. The microphone is set to such a level that it doesn’t pick up voice unless the voice is loud. Thankfully, none of the awful Korean reverb is involved. I had to try it, and ripped off a little Manilow - Mandy. It just wasn’t the same without going up stage and putting on a show. I cracked jokes between verses, but I think the language barrier prevented them from landing. That, and they were probably awful.

After the other guys did a couple songs, and a couple beers, and striking out with the surprisingly hot waitress, we left, and I made my way back to the finest hotel in town. I had to get up reasonably early the next day as I really wasn’t sure how solid my transit options to Puerta Gallera would be. I hoped it wouldn’t come to hitch hiking. I really didn’t want to follow the first rule of the road.

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