My mind sometimes drifts off to a time and place that I truly was in paradise, that I recognized the fact I was in paradise, and lastly, indulged as much as I could before dragging myself away.
My mother passed away from gastric cancer in December 1997. She was born and raised on the Filipino island called Leyte in the township of Villa Jacinta. As you can imagine communication to Villa Jacinta from the United States was either a post, aka snail mail, or in-person.
Sending the news of her death to her family and extended family by way of letter wouldn’t be the right thing to do.
After all the things that were said and done, I had built into the itinerary a stop for my birthday treat to myself: Boracay Island.
I had heard of it, and researched it as best as I could in 1997. They usually say, “The brochure looks nice!” And I was able to convince my family and traveling friends to join me.
BORACAY ISLAND: Heaven On Earth
February 8, 1998 – Happy belated birthday to me! I booked Lorenzo South Resort for a few nights. The allure of crystal blue water, white sand beaches, and an awesome exchange rate was too much to pass on.
First order of priorities: rum and Coke.
There was a lone tiki hut on the beach that most likely would have my beverage of choice. I had budgeted quite bit of money for myself for this trip. I worked many hours of overtime at AAA Express Travel Center, and saved every penny. I still had burn to money, per se. The exchange rate in 1998 was 50 Filipino pesos per 1 US dollar.
It was about to get hectic, y’all.
Bartender: Mabuhay, sir. Welcome to paradise. What beverage would you like?
Me: Rum and coke, please.
Bartender: *pours drink, hands it over* That is 20 pesos.
Me: *fishing out a $20* Ah, yes, here’s 20 USD.
Bartender: I’ll excuse myself one moment to retrieve the change.
Me: Or perhaps we agree on a financial plan instead.
Bartender: Oh? What’s the plan?
Me: Well, if you’re agreeable to it … any time you see me, please bring a rum and Coke. I’ll be here only through the weekend, and I don’t believe I can consume 40 rum and Cokes.
Bartender: I shall keep a tally.
Me: Perfect. Any money left over after my departure is your gratuity. (little did he realize I am planning on tipping him another $20 if he does this crazy plan)
My travel mates, mostly my Dad and sister, were immediately confused by this bartender always bringing me a rum and Coke regardless of the time of day, if I had already OR where I was at!
I would reply with thank you (salamut), and he would answer back with my pleasure. As you can imagine I was always at least buzzed while on Boracay. Now mind you, I was functional but definitely day drinking.
One Night In Boracay … Makes A Hard Guy Humble
On my last night I wanted to treat myself to a nice dinner. My Dad was with his friend, Gordy, Charrina was with Kelly, and I was flying solo. I wandered down the path towards the restaurants along the beach.
A sleepy one beckoned me inside. Imagine a barkeep behind the bar clean the same damn glass, one other patron in the corner, and a ceiling fan that’s really only shoving around the hot, tropical, humid air.
An obligatory karaoke machine was in the corner, which was powered up but no singers. I was kinda half-expecting my bartender to roll up, but he didn’t … or at least as far as I knew.
I sat down at a table, perused the menu, and landed on steak and lobster: 250 pesos! Oh, goodnight. I’m eating good. Then I started with beer. Next shots. Finally, I’m buying beer AND shots for patrons visiting.
The barkeep questioned whether I had the bankroll for this activity, I smiled, I have it.
Needed to flex the Golden Pipes.
I asked how much the karaoke machine was per song. I surveyed the crowd I gathered up, which was at least 2 dozen in my mind’s eye. I slurred my next question, “How much to rent the karaoke machine the rest of the night?”
The barkeep shrugged, “200 pesos, please.”
I fished out 300 pesos, “Got yourself a deal.” I walked up, plugged in Copacabana, and as I finished, I shouted “FREE karaoke all night long! Who’s singing? Who needs another round?”
The Morning After …
I woke up in my own bed at Lorenzo South Resort with my clothes on, my wallet on the night stand, and everything intact. However, I don’t remember how I got here. And I’m definitely hungover.
I dragged myself outta bed to my tiki hut, and my bartender. He was smiling, but didn’t present a rum and Coke. “Hey there. I was at the restaurant but don’t remember how I got back.”
“You were ‘hubog’, sir,” he replied.
“I was what?” I fired back in confusion.
“Drunk, sir,” he almost laughed.
I paused, “How did I get back?”
“Me, sir. I assisted you,” he said through an impish smile.
“Why did you do that?” I’m in a fog.
“To be honest, as you stumbled out of the restaurant I was about to present a rum and Coke but you had too much. You were happy, you had paid the restaurant what was owed, which is owned by my friend. So we escorted you to the room, got you inside, and there you slept,” he explained in full.
“Right. Right,” I acknowledge. “Do you have family?”
“I do, sir,” he replied.
“I’m sorry I’ve kept you from them. How many drinks are tallied?” I inquired.
“Twenty two, sir,” he paused, “do you want your change now? It is your last day, and your boat is on the way.”
I waved the thought away like a mosquito. “No, no, keep the change. In fact, for your troubles, and kindness … *I slapped down another 20 dollar bill*
He refused at first, “No, sir, that’s too much.”
“It’s for your family, it’s my form of saying thank you. Please take it, because whether you do or do not, I’m not walking away from this hut with that.”
He palmed the bill quickly.
I mused, “Boracay Island really is heaven on earth.”
“It is?” the bartender questioned.
“Well, yeah. It’s staffed with at least one angel,” I winked.