The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane in Manila was the heat. It was like an oven. The second thing I noticed was that everyone was brown, with the exception of one distinguished looking gentleman towering over the crowd. He was wearing a white linen suit. It was none other than Ronald Coleman.
"Buddy, welcome to Manila." he greeted me striding over in his confident manner.
"I don't understand. Ronald, what are you doing here?"
"I'm the President of Marketing and Advertising at 'Juicy Mango Jeans'. After your reign, the quality of feet in Quebec declined precipitously. The last straw was three years ago, when a woman with a plantar's wart won. That wasn't the Pageant I knew."
"So how did you end up at Juicy Mango Jeans?"
"Through my friend George Hamilton, who's a close personal friend of the Imelda herself. You'll get to meet them all soon, Buddy. But now, let's get you to your hotel."
We got into a limousine. Dianne was there. She looked exactly the same. She sat in the back, still cradling the rock. It looked smaller than before, worn down by the obsessive rubbing of her hands, like polished pebbles in the surf.
"Hi, Dianne," I said.
"Dianne says hi back," said Ronald.
As we drove through the impossibly crowded streets, I stared out the smoked glass window. It was bedlam. People were living everywhere - in shacks made of cardboard, under umbrellas, inside disgarded luggage, in chicken coops, in holes, under crates, and even in apartments. We got caught in traffic, and I rolled down the window to get a closer look at the chaos. Instantly, like ants at a picnic, I was surrounded by little urchins, thrusting forth candy, peanuts, mangoes, trinkets, and something called balut. The cries of "Balut! Balut!" rang through the streets like the wailing that summons Muslims to mosque.
"I'll have some balut," I said. I loved the name. It sounded exotic. Ronald gave the boy a peso, and the boy handed me a large egg.
"It's just a pickled egg!" I said, pissed off. "We have these in every low-life bar in Quebec." I threw it back at the boy.
"Actually, Buddy, it's a hard-boiled fertilized duck egg, with an embryonic chicken inside."
"A chicken? How do they get the chicken inside a duck egg?"
"It's one of the many mysteries of the Phillipines."
"Like a ship in a bottle," I said.
The streets were filled with decrepit cabs held together with rope, smoke-belching buses, and strange elongated jeeps painted wild colours and adorned with mirrors and baubles. They weaved in an out of the traffic with abandon, while the passengers hung on for dear life, like monkeys on zoo bars.
"Those look like fun," I said to Ronald, pointing at the jeeps.
"They're called jeepneys," said Ronald. "After the Second World War, the Americans left behind their equipment, and the Phillipinos, being a resourceful people, turned them into the world's most colourful mode of public transit. Of course, now, they're all new vehicles, and mostly made by the Japanese. Ah, the irony."
"They look like giant jewellry boxes on wheels," I said. "What do they speak here?"
"Tagalog, but lots of people, and certainly everyone in the fashion industry, speaks English."
We got stuck in traffic again. I stared out the window. Mixed in amongst the automotive rabble was a sleek yellow Jaguar. It stood out amongst the other vehicles. It was on the other side of the street, coming towards us. I noticed a woman carrying a pole from which a cluster of unmatched sandals dangled. She was trying to sell them to passing cars. It was the most pathetic thing I'd ever seen. She could have been twenty. She could have been fifty. Her eyes were at least a hundred.
The Jaguar continued cutting through traffic. It suddenly burst through a knot of jeepneys into an open space. The sandal seller chose this moment to stumble, and she fell into the path of the yellow car. It rolled over her body. The Jag screeched to a halt, and a man got out, shaken. He was white, about 60 years old, with fake blonde hair and dressed in a very expensive suit. He stood over the woman's body while people gathered around. After what seemed like many minutes, a police car pulled up, and two policemen got out. They went up to the blonde man and began to chat. The woman's body just lay there. At one point, all three of them laughed. And then the blonde man pulled out some money, handed it to the police, and drove away. The cops put a blanket over the body, flipped it over, picked her up like a sack of rice, and put her in their trunk. Then they drove off. The wound closed, and the street returned to normal. I felt sick. I asked Ronald what had happened, and he told me it was best not to know. We fell silent.
Ronald dropped me off at the hotel, and after checking in, I decided to take in the town. I headed to the seamy side of town, which means I walked out the door. My first stop was a bar the bellboy told me about, called 'The Bird's Nest', where very young girls from the provinces showed all for Phillipino guys, Japanese businessmen, American G.I.'s, Australian nationals, and German sex pigs. The place was packed. All the men sat very close to a stage, at eye level. The show began with an MC coming onstage and singing Anne Murray's "Snowbird". My icy Canadian reserve began to melt. Then he brought out the main attraction. About twenty tiny impossibly beautiful girls came out, like a box of Laura Secord assorted chocolates. Each one smiled sweeter than the one before. They danced in bikinis and colourful pumps.
I cruised the room, looking for my prey, and I spotted him. A stunning Phillipino jarhead in his early twenties. Drunk, and already with a tent in his pants. I was smitten. I noticed him staring at the most exceptional girl, a dark brown Phillipina in her early teens. Unlike the other girls, she could dance. She looked like she had been around but wasn't jaded yet. Our eyes met, and I poured it on. Strippers can never resist the appreciative gaze of a gay man. My marine noticed and glanced over at me. Our eyes met. Electricity! She looked at him and their eyes met. Electricity! I looked back at the girl. More electricity! Then the lights went out.
"What's going on?" I said to the person beside me.
"It's a brownout, mate," said a drunken Australian. "Happens all the time. They don't have enough electricity. It'll be back up in a mo."
I was disappointed. I thought it was because of us. The lights came back on. The girls were off the stage and were now walking amongst us, mingling with the men. An older Pillipino woman, the mama-san, circulated the room, setting up liasions. The dancing girl came up to me.
"Hello, you are very handsome, Joe." All white men were called ‘Joe’, as in ‘G.I. Joe’.
"Thank you, but my name is Buddy."
"Very beautiful name. My name Fely. I come from province. You want to have date with me?"
"Look, Fely, you know I'm not interested in your honey. I'm interested in the bees. You know what I mean?" I said putting my lips in a beesting pout.
"You are bakla?"
"If that means do I like men, yes."
"Ah, which one you like?"
"That one over there," I said, motioning towards the jarhead.
"Ah, you pay me, I fuck him, you watch?"
"Something like that. Here's five hundred pesos. Bring him over for a drink."
Moments later, I was making the aquaintence of Tino Tolentino, a soldier in the Phillipines army on a four day pass. He was very polite and his English was excellent.
"So, is this your first time in Manila?"
"No, I'm stationed here. But I've been to Hong Kong, Djakarta, Tai Pei, Tokyo, Halifax, and San Diego. But originally I am from Nueva Vizcaya in northern Luzon province. My dialect is Ilocono and I like America rock and roll music."
"Me, too. I love Donna Summer."
"Hey, you forget me, boys? Not nice. You buy me drink. Buy me big drink," Fely said in an animated manner.
"Oh, sorry. Tino, this is Fely. She really likes you."
"Hey, I work here," she replied and smiled broadly.
Tino and I flagged down the waitress and bought her two drinks. She downed them both quickly. They were probably water, but she pretended to be woozy anyway and snuggled up to Tino.
"I noticed you on stage," Tino said to her. "You are a very good dancer. Like Tina Turner."
"Yes. I dance very good. I study dancing at the Betty Hall School of Dance."
My ears perked up. "Betty Hall? You don't mean the stand-in for Ginger Rogers who parlayed her friendship with Ginger into a lucrative career as a dance instructor and started a series of Betty Hall Schools of Dance all over America in the fifties, and then who was sued by Ginger for using her unauthorized image in posters and literature for the school, resulting in Betty losing everything? Yes. The last I heard of Betty Hall, she was collecting tin cans along Sunset Boulevard."
"She alive. There are Betty Hall school all over the Phillipines."
" She must be a hundred by now. Does she teach you personally?"
"No, I am teach by bakla dress like her. Betty only does exam. She say me have talent, going to be a big star," said Fely.
"Just like her," I thought aloud.
"I like you both because you are not German," blurted out Fely. "German have big ugly cock, hurt my pussy. Australian have big cock, too, but they drink much, so sometime don't get hard, which is good. Japanese have most small cock but they are cheap and have cold feet. Chinese are dog. I don't talk about. But I like you. You are handsome Phillipino man. And you are strong blonde American."
"Actually, I'm Canadian," I asserted insecurely.
"Canadian? 'Sometime When We Touch.' Dan Hill," she exclaimed.
"I love that song," said Tino.
She began singing the song. Tino chimed in. Their voices grew in volume. Others joined in, and soon every Philippino was swept up in the scmaltzy sentiments.
"Sometimes when we touch,
The honesty's too much
I want to hold you till I die
Till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the sun begins to cry."
At the end of the song, everyone burst into applause, and went back to negotiating sordid sex. An hour later, we were back at my hotel room. Tino and Fely were lying together on the bed. Fely had her clothes off and Tino was licking her small breasts. He had an erection, very visible through his uniform. I was making them both drinks from the mini-bar.
"How's it going over there, kids?" I called out.
"Very good, Joe. Give me drink," said Fely.
I handed her a screwdriver, and gave Tino a San Miguel beer. Tino took the beer and lay back on the bed. He stared at me with a big grin.
"This is the life eh, Joe? Rock and Roll. Jim Morrisson."
"I knew him," I lied. "We partied together once after one of his shows. Me and him and a dog named Blue."
"The women are very beautiful in Canada, no?" he asked.
"Sure, some, yeah."
"Not more beautiful than Philipina women!" shrieked Fely.
"No, no one is more beautiful than Phillipinas," said Tino, calming her by stroking her hair. She curled up next to him and arched her pussy at me. I winked at it. It winked back. Tino began to pour his beer on her breasts and lick it off. The incredible heat in the unairconditioned room flared. Fely stared at me over Tino’s shoulder. I looked at her with annoyance and flashed a five hundred peseta note. She knew what I meant.
"I have idea. You both fuck me both ways. Make both hole happy." I sat on the edge of the bed, my thigh touching Tino’s.
"Well, that's an interesting ... I mean, what do you mean? Both of us making love to you at the same time? I don't know. Tino, how do you feel about that?"
"I guess. Maybe it could be fun. I get the ass," said Tino.
"Deal," I said, and took a hundred pesos from Fely. Well, this was not exactly as I had planned it. I was certainly going to need some music. I turned on the radio. To my delight, the song playing was "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks. More Canadian pop. Somehow the familiar strains of this maudlin tale of dying young was just what I needed. It's urgent Rod McKuen prose, coupled with the thought of Tino only a mucus membrane away, filled my penis with blood and I performed with the aplomb of a seasoned cocksman.
After it was over, the three of us fell apart, panting like animals. Fely and I both curled up on either side of Tino, and he showed his acceptance by embracing both of us. Like this, we fell asleep.