One month down and one to go. Been relaxing to the extreme these last weeks; lots of sightseeing and stuffing my face with Filipino food. Baguio is gorgeous. Situated on top of the mountains it receives just enough rain to stay green and enough heat to be considered tropical. Most flowers and fruits bloom all year long. Don't even get me started on the mangoes. I eat those things by the kilo. Heading to the province in three days. Looking forward to hiking out to the famed coffins and seeing the rice terraces. It's about six hours away from Baguio, and Baguio is already 7 hours away from the big city. Gonna really be in the middle of nowhere. The air, I'm told, is about as clean and fresh as air can possibly get. People head out to the province to forgot about everything and just relax at the riverside and enjoy some home-cooked meals. We planned our trip there to make it for one of the harvest festivals. Not too many tales to tell this time, I'll see what I can come up with.
After some site sightseeing Max took me to the bar she used to sing at. We walked into probably one of the nicest bars in Baguio. Western themed, wide open, pool tables, and clean bathrooms. I noticed a table at the center with a big sign that read "Table of Knowledge". I asked what that was all about. Apparently it's for people that just wanna talk. Say you come to the bar for a drink alone one night, but you still wanna chat with someone. Instead of bugging someone sitting next to you at the bar, or conversing with the bartender, you can sit at the Table of Knowledge. Very cool idea, wouldn't mind seeing in implemented in America. The table is always crowded (it fits maybe 12 or so people) and usually ethnically diverse. Seems dominated by political talk and sports. With the corruption of politicians here, I'm sure there is always something to discuss. The owner and numerous people came to talk with us. Including the two singers performing that night. A pianist named Sonny and a singer named Mads. Of course they made Max go on stage and belt out a few songs. On the way out the owner stopped us and said,
"Max, it's good to have you back! You start next Wednesday." Wow, wish I could get a job that easy. Singing is a lucrative business here. To put it in perspective, a full day of work here usually pays about 300 pesos ($7). Singing for just three sets, at 45 minutes a set, pays 1,200 pesos plus 250 worth of free food and drink at the bar. They also gave her a driver to take her home from work. I met and forgot numerous people's names that night, I just have been overloaded recently. With the 20 or so cousins, 10 nieces and nephews, and numerous friends, I just sorta gave up on names. Let's skip ahead to the first night of work.
The bar is packed. Word got out that Max was back singing. Though for now only one night a week. The old group back in the day consisted of Max, Sonny, Lenny (a women), and one more girl that has been M.I.A. for years. For Wednesday night they booked Max, Lenny, and Sonny together. People were thrilled to see the group reunited, the bar was hopping and people were cheering and applauding like crazy. I had took a seat at the bar, hadn't even ordered a drink when a guy named Rafael asked me to join his group at the pool table. They needed a fourth player. I was introduced to a Canadian named Dave, and a man named Joseph from Bangladesh. Rafael was himself from Kuwait.
Joseph was my partner and usually cleared the table by his second or third turn. I do quite enjoy winning. Max's Mother and two cousins even showed up to watch. As the night neared its end I found myself in deep conversation with Dave. He maintains a golf course in town and is utterly convinced he is the luckiest man alive. Hard to argue--he spends his days golfing and his nights playing pool. He was telling me he built himself a very nice house with a huge patio. He invited Max and I over for a BBQ sometime in June to meet his wife and see his place. Dave has lived here for seven years and never plans on leaving. He is one man that understands how and what it is to live in the Philippines as a foreigner. We discussed the pros and cons of living abroad and the many differences between here and back in North America. As the night went on and the singing came to an end I piled into a taxi with Max's family and we all headed home. But the night wasn't over yet...
After we traversed the horrible stairway in the black of night we all started getting settled in and ready for sleep. Max and I were upstairs listening to music and playing a word game called Text and Twist. Momma was downstairs in the living room/kitchen sleeping on the couch. Now, almost every family on the hillside owns a dog. They eat scraps, kill rats, and most importantly they are the cheapest form of security. The dogs around us started going crazy, barking and yapping. I casually ignored the barking of the dogs as I tend to block out most outside noise. Max could sense something was up and asked me to check the doors. I slammed both the front door and the door to the upstairs balcony. I latched them both down for the night. We went back to unscrambling our words when Max told me to shut off the music. I muted it, we both listened but heard nothing else. As the music started up again a heart-attack inducing shriek pierced the room. I bolted to find some pants and glasses. Max joined in the shouting, though I couldn't understand the words, the urgency and fear in the voices told me all I needed to know. The amazing thing about living with family so close is the response time in situations like this. Before I even made it to the outside balcony to see what was happening numerous cousins had already made it over. They were talking very quickly and I assume finding out what happened. This is what went down. Two men in baseball caps and followed us down the stairs. The assailants made a tiny crack in the glass window looking into the living room. They reached a finger inside and unlatched it. Now the windows to the house are all barred up. So they got creative. Using a bandana they tied two 5ft sticks together
and slowly inched the contraption toward a backpack laying against the couch on the otherside of the room. Momma was sleeping and didn't realize what was happening until the backpack was already airlifted to the window. What we heard was the screaming that went along with Max's Mom trying to yank the backpack out of the grasp of the two men. They quickly overpowered her and were, according to the neighbor, fleeing up the stairway. Everyone stayed up for a while talking, even laughing about what had happened. The backpack belonged to Max's cousin Sara. It contained her passport, passbook, and possibly the money she made from selling her pig. To the tune of 10,000 pesos. I wish I could tell you that I wasn't told numerous stories about break-ins, robberies, and hold-up on the stairway. I really wish I could. It's worse because being the only white person on the mountain has attracted a lot of attention our way. Unwanted attention. Next time those dogs bark I'll be ready. Fool me once...