Posted by lex, on August 8, 2006
“Let’s walk up toward the circle and back down the other side. I want to stop at Mariposa and get something to eat.”
The last of the day was fading and now MagSaySay took on a different appearance. Lit by neon, the street appeared more interesting, brighter, like a woman wearing her best makeup and illuminated by candles, covering the flaws that were so apparent in harsher light. More girls stood in the doorways of the clubs, calling to the passing Sailors and Marines. The sounds of the jeepneys mixed with the volume of the music that rose and fell as each club passed.
Rocky peered into the door of one as they went by, “You ever stop in any of these clubs?”
“I went to a few my first trip here, back in ’79. Not since then. The Squadron all hands party will somewhere along here, probably in one of the bigger places. It’s always right at the end of the det. Last time that got pretty crazy, saw some of the officers out the floor during one of the shows.”
They crossed the street and stepped down into Mariposa. Girls in bright yellow shirts welcomed them as they sat at an open table near the sidewalk. The menu, painted on the wall, was a mixture of American and Filipino, something like the town itself. A gaudy painted butterfly, the restaurant’s namesake, covered part of the back wall.
“Coke, in the bottle, and chicken adobo.”
“I’ll have a ham and cheese omelet, Coke too.”
They turned, facing the street, watching the flow of people. Couples strolled arm in arm. Small groups of guys, moving faster, as if they had some meaningful destination weaved in and out as they passed by. At the corner, a balut girl carried a woven basket and called out her product.
“Hey, balut, BALUT! Hey, BALUUUUTTT!” Her cry rose above the noise.
Rocky looked across at Tom, “You ever eat one of those things?”
Tom shook his head, “No, I’ve got some pictures, close-ups of them being opened. They smell awful. You know what they are? Fertilized eggs, buried in the sand. The chicken dies after a few days, but it’s half developed by then. They rot, or ferment, or something. Filipinos are so starved for protein, that’s why they eat them. They crack open the shell, and eat ‘em like a hard boiled egg. But you can see the feathers, and the beak and feet. I could handle that, but the smell, you wonder who ate the first one.”
The waitress returned with their food. Hot and good, the plates were loaded with their orders. They dug in, conversation halted, washing down mouthfuls with Coke. As they slowed, Tom asked, “Have you ever been out of Olongapo?”
“Just up to Subic City, and that was last week.”
“I have. Olongapo and Subic City aren’t the Philippines, you know. They’re some weird mix of the US and the PI. All the money, it twists up everything. Look at this place, a PFC can afford to live out his dreams, or his fantasies, and have money left come payday. Meanwhile, just a few miles from here, people work 60, 80 hours a week or more, hard manual labor, just to survive.”