This Island, My Home

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Being Irish, and a writer, it’s intuitive for me to observe. I find it impossible not to consistently look into people’s eyes, and wonder about their lives, lifestyles, fears, joys, and aspirations. I’m at Robinsons in Dumaguete City as I write this, sitting at Sans Rival, which is owned by the family of the wife of my good friend and fellow Rotarian Dodo Bustamante. Three March-December couples sit nearby. One couple is heavily pregnant, with the foreign man looking more likely to give birth before his woman. The look in all the couples’ eyes, and the posture of their bodies are always revealing. I can’t decide whether to burst out laughing or to simply cry. Laugh at the absurdity of it all, or cry over their dilemma.

These old men are shriveled, old, with a distant look in their eyes. The seemingly-bored, lovely-looking girls sit across from their men while focus ing intently on their mobile phones. They represent their final dance in life.

Their egos are stroked by having these “hot young babes” on their arms, instead of the shriveled, ex-wives back home. It must feel so darned good for them as they wobble along Rizal Boulevard, to think of the envy experienced by the good ol’ boys at home when they look at photos of them with their young babes.

Despite the initial euphoria, I doubt if the experience lives up to what the men had originally anticipated. After the first few enjoyable experience s, while thinking, “I can’t believe this beautiful girl wants me!,” reality settles in like an unwelcome house guest who refuses to leave. They quickly realize they have nothing in common apart from cold, selfish, self-interest.

For her part, the young girl may have known hunger as a child, and other painful deprivations in her life. Even in the unlikely event, she has a solid, formal education, her opportunities for economic security remain limited. Therefore, she lowers herself by catering to some degenerate foreigners to get some level of security for herself, and, most importantly, for her family.

What the foreigner always fails to take into consideration is not only does he get the lovely girl, but he also gets her immediate and extended family. This could be thirty or more people! Occasionally hiring a professional, working girl would be significantly more economical, both financially and emotionally.

Both parties see the initial value in each other. He gets companionship, someone to cook, clean, and take care of him as he fades into oblivion. She gets security, a roof over her head, food every day, and if they marry, which is probably her goal, she will get his savings and perhaps also his pension when he dies. If a baby results, this “gift from God” will have a US passport, a theoretical ticket to economic freedom.
Speaking of babies, I just overheard some moments ago a stupefying statement from an Expat who has not seen his feet in decades, telling his friend: “And she still ain’t done lost the baby fat!” — obviously referring to his gorgeous, young wife sitting beside him, staring blankly into space.
This loud complaint against the wife was indignantly proclaimed from the flabby mouth of an Expat whose gigantic belly dangled awkwardly over the table, then quickly plunged downward like a life-threatening avalanche down a mountainside.

In case I’m coming across as painfully sanctimonious, and in the interest of full disclosure, I need to admit my recent misadventure into the younger-women arena. “S” is a beautiful lady, age 25, and a law student at a prestigious university here. In hindsight, perhaps all we really had in common was an interest in law. I’d graduated from law school and she was studying law. We “dated” for a few weeks during which I helped fund her studies. I was conscious of the irony because of my well-known disgust at old foreigners with significantly younger girls. At my age, I should perhaps instead be praying for a peaceful death.

Regardless, I briefly indulged in the madness. I even began writing a chapter about her for my next book, *More Almost* *True Irish Stories*. It was titled *Beauty and the Beast*. There is no prize for you determining which one I was.
My brief foray into that romance lasted three weeks and ended as quickly as it had begun. On Sunday, “S” and I literally bumped into five of her university classmates just after we’d enjoyed an excellent Sunday buffet at Sans Rival Bistro. “S” didn’t quite faint from embarrassment, but did become momentarily unsteady.

That reaction helped explain why she’d never held my hand in public. On Monday, I asked how she had described me to her college colleagues. “You’re a family friend.” Interestingly not a lover, or a boyfriend, not even an old man friend. I realized it was time for me to wake up and smell reality. So I did and ended the nonsense.

Now I’m instead settling for genuine companionship in the form of two Labrador puppies that Dodo Bustamonte is giving me. They come from a recent illicit interaction between his highly-prized pedigree Labrador and some local, socially-unacceptable mongrel.
Like Dodo, his Labrador has a significant pedigree: when she poops, the fragrance is like that of exotic French perfume that could be bottled and sold in up-market boutiques. But she brought shame to the Bustamante family by socializing far below her vaunted social station in Dumaguete society. Now the pups are being quietly adopted. A condition of me being given the puppies is to never reveal their mother’s shame to them. Being an Irish mongrel myself, the puppies and I will, no doubt, get along wonderfully.

I just finished my coffee and delicious Sans Rival red velvet bites and decided to head home. Outside Robinsons, the pedicab drivers recognize me so I’m soon on my way in an ancient, pedicab chugging up the hill to Valencia proper.

From there, Tani, the caretaker at the property where I live, would meet me on his scooter at Naspri Bistro. It’s where I get my cappuccino, mango juice, and bottled water. Since I’ve no food, I asked Tani to take me to the marketplace where I buy my fresh vegetables and eggs from Maria.
Sometimes I wonder if, one night during deep sleep, I somehow got married to Maria, because if I don’t show up at her stall for four days, she seriously grills me regarding where I’ve been. She acts like a suspicious wife who presumes I’ve been fooling around with another vendor. I reassure her that I hadn’t and wouldn’t.

Heading up the mountain, thunder and lightning hit us hard and without warning, heavy rain and something like hailstones bombard us. Within seconds, we’re soaked wet. It’s intoxicating. I delighted in the energy flowing through my body.
There’s no current or previous mayor living on my side of the mountain, therefore, there’s no road to the Mayor’s House. The road up to Camp Look-out is drivable for the first two kilometers but after that, especially when driving steeply up the mountainside in this deluge, it’s a dangerous crapshoot. Fortunately, Tani is the right man for the task.

Eventually, we arrived at my beautiful home, and soon, I was luxuriating under a hot shower. Then, with steaming coffee in my hands, I looked down over the valley. My wi-fi stopped working. Minutes later, there was a blackout, a brownout, whatever it’s called.

Whereas months before this would have resulted in me grumpily complaining that nothing works here, now I just laugh, as I stumbled in the darkness up the staircase and into the bedroom. There, I lay down and was, as always, captivated by the sight of the valley below, and the lights sparkling in the distance from Dumaguete City, and the ships floating majestically on the glass-like sea, with Cebu and Siquijor islands further over to the right .
Outside the huge glass windows, fireflies worked their magic, while in the jungle to my right, the evening chorus of wonder began. Birds of many species gossiped loudly while singing the latest news, thousands of crickets began their performance as they always do at precisely the same minute every night. For a while their sounds dominated everything. Then suddenly, they were silent, and the communion of stillness prevailed.

The main gecko, Charlie I call him, was stretched comfortably on the window as he began his leisurely, evening stroll. By 10 p.m., he would be sitting high at the top of the wall outside my bedroom looking intently down at me. During the night, he will come inside. I think he has a girlfriend living here somewhere because I regularly see several little Charlie in the house, and occasionally, another adult white-skinned gecko.
Feeling drowsy, I snuggled deeper into my bed, grateful that this evening I had a warm meal to eat, and tonight, a roof over my head. Although born into affluence, and living in opulence for much of my life, I’ve also been a homeless person, and know what it’s like to aimlessly wander the streets hungry, alone, and afraid.

Because of that, every night without fail, I feel gratitude for my dinner, my warm, clean, dry bed, and for having a roof over my head. Soon I will fall asleep feeling grateful for my present life, and for this island I now call my home.

The author’s latest book “More Almost True Irish Stories” may be purchased from the Amazon

This story was first seen at:

michael's life in dumaguete

Shortly after arriving into Dumaguete, Michael  intuitively knew it was the right place for him. Everything seemed to be right. It was and is. In addition to enjoying the way of life, he also met a special Pinay, and is living contentedly with her near the city.

He now operates Veritas Consulting Group, a company dedicated to helping other expats and Returning Filipinos with their transition to life in Dumaguete City and surrounding areas

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