Good-bye Flo, Mabuhay Fe
I think, Flo, knew that I would be leaving even before mentioning it to her. I told her that I found a place across the road, it’s a small two-bedroom home and less than half of what I was paying for rent in Sta. Rosa. She put forth a forced smiley face, but I could tell that she was not happy with the news. At least that news settled her mind, for unbeknownst to me; she was in financial purgatory.
Now she had to do what I guess she was dreading all along; Flo had to sell the place and move in with her brother. Though the two of them were born in the Philippines, Flo had married and lived in Alaska for years. She had returned to her roots only after she became a widow and had difficulty adjusting to the lopsided in, America’s favor, exchange rate.
At the time the rate was about forty Philippine pesos to one U.S. dollar. Actually, the Php took a big dip in the year 2000 due in a big part to economic mismanagement and political instability during the Estrada administration, plus charges of corruption leading to an impeachment trial. The Peso took a nosedive from P40 to P50 to the dollar.
Her more quiet brother, was retired from the U.S. Navy and seemed to be doing fine on his pension. But of course, he was being paid in U.S. dollars. So that was that, Flo told me that I was welcome to move at any time. I really don’t think she understood my quiet ways. Hell why should she? I didn’t know myself anymore.
One place I would miss was Michaela’s. It was a seaside restaurant, dark and cool naturally (I mean without air conditioning) and was how I’d always envisioned a South Seas bar restaurant to be. Ceiling fans quietly whirred in the bar area and one close to the dining area, the bamboo roll up blinds were covering the window areas and the front door seemingly never closed. The windows were only a cutout blank space…no glass…no screens and no trim…you just rolled up the blind and you were smelling the salt of the sea and feeling the humid air.
Claudia and I were there for dinner one evening and seated at my favorite table (because I loved looking out on the sea). I rolled the bamboo up and the moon was as big as I’d ever seen it. Of course the moon always looked magnificent over the sea.
There were businessmen, but no stuffy suits, ladies would not enter alone, only if on the arm of a gentleman and the exception was a beautiful, south seas island female, as the afternoon bartender.
The polite and reserved owner was German but like most foreigners had a Filipina asawa (spouse) and the two of them ran the walk-up restaurant on the shore of the South China Sea there in Paringao, Bauang, superbly. The fresh fish was always a delight and was so reasonably priced and of course the menu had many German foods that I had begun to try after he explained to me what they were. But, I got away from the story and that’s because when I begin talking about one thing, well, that leads to another and another and another etc…and so on. Sorry.
Another simple but fond memory is of sitting on the balcony having coffee in the morning while surveying the surroundings, and one particular Filipina who was outside every day at about eight watering her plants. She had the long black hair flipped to one side that enticed me so. At first, I assumed her to be a maid (nearly everybody in the Philippines has a maid) but soon enough discovered that she was married to a guy from Great Britain, the owner of the beautiful salmon colored home with a green roof and cooling plants around the perimeter.
I happened to meet her one evening, or was it afternoon? Well, it doesn’t really matter. It was a chance meeting and though she recognized me, I didn’t her. I was having a lunch of, “Red Snapper” a delicious tasting fish and salad and coffee, always coffee even in this horrifically hot weather.
She walked over to my table and asked if I would like to join her and her friends who were playing, “Tongits” a Pilipino game that is basically the same as Gin Rummy and I’ve played a lot of Gin in my days.
Belle said that she noticed me looking at her from my balcony, but not until we were sitting at the table with her girlfriends. I told her, “Yeah well you know, I am not able to see far away without my glasses and that explains my staring, kind of, but I could tell you were a real island beauty…I hope it didn’t bother you.”
“Not at all, I like to have an admirer.” Her answer was expected because though I could not see her clearly from the balcony she was out there at roughly the same time every day. Most Filipinas like flirting and being told that they are beautiful…most American women always seem to try to instill in your mind that there is something wrong with calling them beautiful! That it is a perversion of sorts! I have to be careful with my wording of things while in the U.S. because with my unknowing mind; I get myself in trouble.