Sabang Part 1: Diver's Paradise & Other Bola Bola
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****WARNING***: For those that are overly politically correct, please skip this post. I do in no way condone illegal activity but merely include my reflections on the presence of it. My personal opinion is that these descriptions are quite tame. Should you feel that any descriptions contained here-within are inappropriate to the standards of Travel Pod, please send me a message directly and I will consider removing the given section of my posting for the purpose of the blog community at large.
I arrive at the organized chaos that is the ferry terminal in Batangas
We finally board the ferry and it's a painless ride over to the island of Mindoro. The picturesque islands and hot blue sky stream by as I lazily smoke a cigarette. I meet Susie and Angel, two nice local girls who sing in one of Mindoro's many karaoke-type bar bands
Around 8 PM the stream of "girlies" starts to flow from unknown destinations towards the girlie bars on the main strip of town. I had no idea that such a small location could host up to 6 girlie bars but apparently this place can handle it. Around 9 PM I'm hangin' on my small deck when two local "freelancers" as they're known (street prosties), approach. I'm playing my guitar to pass the time and their interest is piqued. They invite themselves up and I pour them a beer. They excitedly request that I play them a song. I suggest a love song because that's all they really like around here. They suggest a couple of obscure songs from an unknown time that I'm not familiar with, so I play the first love song that comes to mind, "Invincible" by the fantastic English band "Muse". The chords are strummed and the "girls" are enraptured. I use "girls" in quotation marks as only one of them is actually a girl
After a scrub up I head into “town”, which is essentially one long, meandering strip of markets, diver shops, bars, restaurants and makeshift street vendors of every variety
I keep strolling and surveying the amusing scenarios that continue to play out. A group of dorky Koreans sing atrociously out of tune to the sounds of the omnipresent karaoke box. Two local girls in a spat have it out on the street corner. A boy of perhaps 5 years old rakes spiders out of the street rafters with a self-fashioned “spider catcher”, presenting them to his father who is nothing short of horrified. Ladies who are more wide than they are tall balance a cornucopia of fruit in the baskets on their heads. I head on down to Angelique’s to catch Susie and Angel’s “band”, which of course is a karaoke style arrangement. They smile and wave when I walk in and I attempt to ramp up the enthusiasm by clapping loudly and belting out over the top compliments when each song ends. My attempt to raise the level of interest in the band falls relatively flat as there are a total of about 8 people in the “crowd” in a restaurant/bar that could easily seat 60 or more. But I can tell the girls appreciate it and they suggest, while looking straight at me, that someone in the “crowd” make a request. I offer the most obvious option…yes, yes,…Carless Whispers. In less than 2 seconds Careless Whispers is pumping through the amplifiers and they are hamming it up a little for my sake, obliging me to sing along heartily when the chorus kicks in. The song ends and they recommend that I join them on stage to sing a song, but this is where I clearly draw the line. Perhaps if I had about 12 more beers in me then……maybe. But now, no.
After what seems like an eternity, their hour long set finally ends and they take a bow and sit at an adjacent table while they catch their breath and discuss their affairs. They ask hesitantly if it’s OK that they join me for drinks out on the town. I shrug with a questioning look…”Of course, why would that not be OK?”…..”Because you pay.”….Right. Of course. Because I pay. OK then, I will pay for a round or two. They guitarist from the band joins us as well. After a few minutes I tap Susie on the shoulder and make it clear to her that I’m happy to pay for a few drinks but I will not pay all night for an endless flow of booze for the group. She’s mindful of this and does not seem to be offended at all. We head on down to one of the most central and popular party joints, The Broadway. The Broadway is that odd mixture of dozens of young, cute and playful Filipino girls and equal numbers of crusty, blazing drunk, mostly over 50 western guys. Actually this isn’t that odd here in the Philippines. In any case, we chat casually and enjoy the karaoke-girl-band (which I will from this point onwards in my blogs refer to as the KGB). This band is like most, there are three of them and one is clearly the front-girl who hits the high notes, directs the other two and generally has run of the show. The front-stage girl notices Susie and Angel, talking directly to them in her microphone between songs and sharing laughs from a distance. The kinship extends to me simply because I am with them, and the front-stage-girl prods me for a song request. I’m in a Michael Jackson mood but I can’t be arsed to get up and plunk a tip in the jar on stage. So I subtly draw my eye contact away from the front-stage-girl and she moves on quickly. I can’t help but notice one particularly sad looking geezer, who looks to be 200 years old if he’s a day, sitting 180 degrees behind me. He’s all slouched over his drink which he’s not touched in the last 20 minutes, with a dejected and truly sorry look on his face. He’s all alone with distant eyes that are loosely focused on a time and place that the rest of us do not see. I’m drunk enough to be in a nasty-humour sort of mood, so I lean over to Susie and suggest that this old clunker had better peel off to the hospital before he expires. Susie laughs heartily, but I can’t help but feel a little remorse for this pathetic looking case. Sure, it’s just my impression, but this senior citizen looks to have ended up in the wrong place for the wrong reasons, all alone, with on one that cares to pay attention to him, even in a place where attention is quite easy to come by.
Shuffling out onto the street, we ramble down the pathway that leads to the centre of town. After a few non-decisions Angel eventually suggests that we head into the “Sabang Disco” which, to be certain, is not a disco at all. For the sake of salvaging my reputation , I will make it clear that Angel finally insisted that we go into this place. The bar is in fact a strip joint with an oval shaped stage where girls who appear to be anywhere between the age of 14 and 30 strut around in monotonous circles. The lighting is low and the atmosphere is murky. Luckily for me Angel and Susie sit on either side of me, thus shielding me from what would most certainly be immediate advances from the girlies on duty. We sit and chat for a while about whatever kind of stuff local girls and foreigners chat about – the silliness of the bar, funny stuff that happened recently and their music career. Susie in particular seems transfixed on the dancing girls, her conversation lapsing off regularly as her attention gets continually drawn to the stage. Angel is impressed by the shoes that one of the girls are wearing – a hybrid of converse all-stars and hoochy, high-heel stripper shoes. I agree with her, the shoes are pretty cool. Susie and Angel finally get absorbed in a personal conversation about some imminent unfolding scenario-drama, which I have no interest or business in. They politely ask if it’s OK if they excuse themselves and I of course oblige. I’m sitting alone and I can feel the eyes on me. I know that if I sit here for much longer the girlies will start to swarm, so I guzzle my beer, settle up and head for the exit.
Ambling down the path to my hotel, I feel the dread of the inevitable he/she that is waiting for me somewhere between my current location and my safety spot. It’s only about 100 meters to my hotel, but it’s an imperative 100 meters really. Cunningly, I make a sharp left into a beachfront bar which I know has an exit on the opposite end which is that much closer to my hotel. The idea being that I can hit one last beer here and move easily on to my safety spot. But I’m caught in a tranny-style trap. Who is lingering around the bar in question of course but my serenade friend, the very he/she that I was trying to avoid. He/she calls towards me as though we are long lost friends and I rudely turn my back towards this person, initiating a beer from the bartender.
He/She: Where you go?
Gerry: I went out to the bar for a few drinks.
He/She: I come to your room.
Gerry: No, I’m not interested.
Gerry: Because I’m not interested.
He/She: I come to your room.
Gerry: Like I said, I’m not interested.
Gerry: No really, I don’t want that.
He/She: OK……maybe later????
Gerry: No, not later, not at all. I am not interested at all. Not now. Not later.
He/She: Ooooohhhh, OK….(Pause). Tomorrow????
Gerry: No, please! Not now, not later, not tomorrow, not at all. I sorry, I’m just not interested.
He/She: Ooooohhhh……OK. Maybe tomorrow!....(finally walking away)…..
This whole thing isn’t as bad as it might sound but to discourage he/she from circling back around, I down my beer quickly and make a dash for the hotel. When I’m 100% certain that he/she is out of sight I slip back onto my porch to have one final goodnight beer, the extra-strength Red Horse. I sit for around 30 minutes drinking my beer and in that time, I see no less than one dozen older, foreign men walk back to their hotel rooms, each one of them accompanied by a young Filipino girl. I would estimate that in most cases the ages of these girls range from anywhere to 1/3 or ½ of the respective man’s age. It’s like a parade of perverts. I finally retire for the night.