Posted by Lex, on August 8, 2006
Editor’s note – this part inadvertently emended from the previous post. Gomen.
Tom paused. Rocky was his closest friend in the Corps, but this was Rocky’s first trip to the PI. Tom was almost certainly on his last cruise, he was going to get out. This trip had taken on a note of nostalgia. He had taken to keeping a journal, daily notes of events, and carried a camera, trying to capture as much as he could. In the back of his mind, he thought of writing a novel, a tale of Marines and aircraft, set in Olongapo. He decided to try to explain what he had seen.
“These girls, you know how they get here? There’s a syndicate, like the Mafia I think, they recruit them in the villages. Offer them jobs in Manila, secretaries and such, I guess. Then they bring them here. The money here, even the extra money, is so much they can send enough home to help their families, pay for their little sisters to go to school, feed an extended family. They justify it best they can, lie in letters about the good job in the bank in Manila. They hope, they dream, and they fall in love, just like us.”
“Most of the guys don’t see any of this; they come in with the fleet for a few days, get hammered, pay a big barfine, and spend a month’s pay. They have a big time, but they get jaded, and a lot of the girls get jaded, too. Burned out. It uses them up, and they get older. I don’t know what they do when they can’t work here anymore.”
Rocky looked out, considering this. He was married, but somehow that fact had fallen away since they had been here. So far, this had been an extended party without rules for him. He asked, “So how far away have you gone, what’s it really like?”
“I’ve been out to a lot of little places, villages, little groups of huts. I asked around, and when people found out I was genuinely interested, I got more invitations than I wanted. Last October, I met a man, a jeepney driver. His wife does laundry for the bar girls. They had a new baby, it was their fourth, she had it in the hut they live in. When I met him, he was down at the stream, washing clothes, so his wife wouldn’t lose her clients. That hut, no floor, no electricity, she had that baby right there, just like she would have 500 years ago. I took pictures, ones I would love to share with them, but I lost contact.”
“The longest trip was when I went to Manila last year, with my girl. We got to be friends, then lovers, and when she wanted to go, we went. I only told two guys I was going. It was way out of bounds. The Squadron had a 96, and so she and I took the Victory Liner. It was very interesting, but you know, I could have disappeared a thousand places, just disappeared, never heard from again.”