Saturday, January 12, 2008

The finest hotel in town

Roxas was dark. No street lights, and really no lights coming from any business in particular, other than my hotel, which was, again, the finest hotel in town. I ate a pretty decent Filipino/Chinese beef dish at my hotel restaurant, which I could only assume was the finest restaurant in town. I was the only customer. Beer cost under 50 cents a bottle. There was a carport-looking space outside the restaurant window, which had become a makeshift arcade. Kids were playing the 5 or 6 video games there. The games all appeared to be from 1995 or before, and the text on the game was in Chinese. The Philippines uses regular Roman letters in their written language, so the Chinese text on the screen undoubtedly meant as little to the kids playing the games as it did to me. One of the games looked a bit like Shinobi, but worse.

I considered lingering in the restaurant to get plowed for pennies, but being that I was the only customer, this seemed both a dull and rude option. I decided to go out. I walked out of the front door of the hotel. There was a security guard outside the hotel whom I had seen before, brandishing a small shotgun. “Where you go?” This seems to be a common question in my experience throughout Southeast Asia, but being that he was clearly not a tout or a taxi driver, plus he had the shotgun, I trusted him.

“Is there a bar near here?”

“Yes, go that way, past the church. There is a videoke bar there.” I’d heard of the Philippine love of karaoke, and being that Boracay is more “international resort” than it is truly filipino, I had yet to experience it. Plus, he said bar. I was on my way. I hadn’t actually been out, like all out, for most of the trip, so I was excited for any kind of night out.

I had a bit of a rough landing a few days before to start my trip. My first night in Boracay, I wasn’t out particularly late as I was tired from my flights and wasn’t on much sleep. I had woken up at 6 a.m., and was out far later my last night in Korea at the airport hotel bar then I’d intended to be because I’d met an old drunken Irishman who kept buying me beers and telling good stories. My first morning in Boracay, I woke up mosquito-bitten to hell, and I hit the beach for a lazy beach day. I got sunburnt in a predictably dramatic fashion. At happy hour, while I was knocking back cheap gin and tonics, I jumped from the bar floor to the beach, about a 1 meter jump, with no shoes on. I landed on my left foot, right on a huge, jagged coral rock that was buried a quarter inch under the sand, and sliced the middle of the bottom of my foot. Look before you leap, I guess. I could barely walk the next couple of days. Regardless, I went on a snorkeling trip the next day, all while the bottom of my foot was starting to turn purple, and somehow got a cold or some sort of sickness. The next two nights, I slept like 11 hours a night, but still couldn’t manage to stay awake past 10:30 or so, despite the abundance of clubs, bars, and partiers. For a little while, I thought I must have malaria or something and would probably die within the week.

I didn’t, of course. The sunburn subsided, I got some bug repellent, I wore proper shoes rather than flip flops for a day and my foot got better, and my sickness, as it almost always does, went away after 2 days. So last night, in Boracay, I was wallowing in my wold-be death bed, the next night, in Roxas, I felt like a million bucks. Or at least a million pesos. The videoke bar didn’t seem to be a bar, it looked more like a restaurant from the outside windows, so I moved on, assuming I must be at the wrong place. I walked down the dark road, seeing some Christmas lights in the distance.

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