So there I was in the lobby of my hotel with the brother of a work colleague’s Filipina wife and their two, very pretty, very young looking, cousins. The previous night he had taken me to a night club where seven of us had a great night for less than twenty bucks and now he wanted to take a day off work and show me Manila. So why did I feel uneasy?
First of all, I didn’t believe the ‘cousins’ were related in any way. I later learned from my work colleague that they were bar girls who had been promised a big pay day if they looked after a visiting kano, a close , personal friend of the brother. If only I had known this the first night, I might not have been the perfect gentleman I had been! After all, I didn’t want to ‘come on’ to my colleague’s wife’s cousins, especially as I thought the two friends of the brother who had accompanied us were their boyfriends. Actually they were their minders, sent by the mama-san to keep an eye on the ‘cousins’.
I learned all of this weeks later after returning to Australia and discussing it with my colleague, who then brought it up with his wife. She was very embarrassed because it seemed her brother had called her (collect) and carried on about the stupid Kano who made him lose a day’s work and hadn’t given him any tip for all the hospitality he had shown me and so on. I knew he was spinning a yarn about owning the construction company and I had been warned to be wary of strangers being overly friendly but he was my colleague’s brother-in-law, right?
So what happened next? I managed to escort him and the cousins off the hotel premises and everyone parted company, on the surface at least, amicably. I went and had a beer in the hotel bar and decided it would be prudent to change hotels, so I did that before the noon checkout time rolled around. I made sure as I left he wasn’t watching me and if he was, I had the cab driver take me on a tour of the heavy traffic so I could spot any tails.
I learned some vital and valuable lessons in just the first 48 hours of being in the Philippines. First of all, nothing is what it may seem to be. Second, trust no-one unless you know them well and long. I was never concerned for my physical safety but I figured if I didn’t ditch the brother–in-law and his ‘cousins’ it would end up being a very expensive few days. Besides, I prefer to explore on my own or with a companion I have chosen.
I also learned that you can’t trust the first story, or any subsequent version of the story, you are told. Filipinos will be vague and contradictory, even downright implausible in their explanations. It is not always for nefarious purposes but often because they genuinely believe they are saving you from embarrassment that would ensue were the truth be known. I didn’t mind shelling out $20 for a great, memorable night but I had no intention of bankrolling the man’s entertainment needs for the rest of my stay. I do regret not twigging to the availability of the ‘cousins’, but we all have regrets we will take to our graves. continued Part 4