Monday, February 11, 2013

Mahal Na Mahal Kita

The end justifies the means.

         As people we are all driven to accomplish things in our lives for our own unique reasons. Whether it’s completing a first marathon, overcoming a fear of heights, or cooking a new meal from a signature cookbook, we always find new ways to challenge ourselves, overcome obstacles, and learn new things. For me I like to do all the above but most of all I like writing. Contrary to the expected motive of my words, I never write anything for the intent of it being read; my reason for writing is for myself.  When the words splash against the foreground, I’m alleviated from a burden of secretes and truth that they hold. When I write, it’s a therapy to myself for a better understanding of what I feel and who I am. So forgive me in advance for what you’re about to read because this is not a conventional happy love story. I’ve kept this one locked away close to my heart and spent the past three weeks debating if the world was ready to read it. The verdict being to share the experiences in my life with people who will most likely never get the opportunity to endure themselves.  I’m putting myself out there on this one like I’ve never done before but for the first time ever since the beginning of my literature quest, this story is not only for me but for a woman who I fell in love with. She gave me the courage to fight my biggest fear and the least I can do is give her a small voice of a life that so many of us might not otherwise listen to and give a chance to understand.
                 Three weeks and ten thousand stories to be told, five thousands adventures had, twenty thousand awkward moments and twice as many smiles shared. After finally getting through immigration three days later on the second attempt, my journey in the Philippines was hardly about to begin. I could tell you the story about how I ate a boiled fetused duck egg and spent that entire night walking the deserted streets of Manila before finally collapsing on the footpath where I spent the rest of the night sleeping in the streets with the other homeless people around me. I could tell you the story of how I met one of the most inspiring people in my life when I invited myself and ten random travellers into his tiny apartment after spying him buying alcohol in a 7-Eleven, that same guy later saved my ass by leaving his job on an instants notice to collect my passport from an embassy that was about to close and hold me and my passport stranded in Philippines for nearly two weeks, which ultimately would have jeopardized my plane tickets and potentially the month long motorcycle trip around Vietnam with my brother. I can’t tell you much about the morning I woke up on a beach in Borocay dressed in clothes that definitely didn’t belong to me because I honestly don’t remember much about that story at all. So whether it was having a lady boy sitting on my lap and wiping tears from his/her face, or sailing through the night on a cargo ship made of bamboo in monsoon seas, none of those stories hold any strength in comparison to the one I’m about to tell you.
                To be honest I wasn’t giving the Philippines a fair chance. Being deported originally and sitting around Manila for four days sulking and in limbo of my next move, my view on the people and the country was in poor regard. I teamed up with two Australian blokes and headed south for Mindoro Island to escape the city. Unfortunately it was out of the oven and into the pan, everything infuriated me. Endless accounts of being ripped off from taxi’s, jeepnys, and tricycles. The constant vendors pushing their inflated boat rides, sunglasses, and special deals in my face was poorly ignored by my already pessimistic view on the country. Everywhere I looked I saw old fat white men with young Filipina girls under an arm or both. Around every other corner I found women prompting me for message with happy ending.  Just when I thought I was clear of the craziness on a secluded patch of beach, the suspicious looking girls would approach and greet me with a voice two times deeper than my own.  I can honestly say I was disgusted to be a white person in their presence. I was so ashamed of the industry that wealthy desperate foreigners had created and corrupted in their country that I was ready to pull the plug on my Philippines experience and run back into a jungle where I would get lost and pretend like this life doesn’t exist. Those were my thoughts of course until I met a girl and my world was once again turned on its head to contradict my morals, beliefs, and judgments I’ve been making since birth. It’s like I spent my entire life up until the day I left Canada preparing myself to travel the world and take on anything it threw at me but the only thing I’m coming to realize after nearly three years south of the boarder is I hardly understand a thing at all. Each and everyday I become even more humbled and tested as I move further from the western stigma and closer to the truth.
                It was the craziest three weeks of my life so I shouldn’t need to go into detail about why I was up at 3:00am doing wheelies and donuts on Mondoro’s most touristy beach with my hired Honda XR200 Motorbike. My new friend Rudi from Holland was along for the ride on his own bike as we commuted all the way from our part of the island in the pouring rain to meet up with a bartender who had previously given me her number. The bartenders name was Azia, a beautiful 25 year old Filipina girl who had a crush on me. I in turn also liked her but she made a mistake that night by bringing her friend along because the moment I saw that new stranger on the back of Azia’s scooter in the early hours of that morning, I lost all interest for anyone else in the world and I was defenseless against the new strangers beauty. I didn’t waste much time making it clear who I was interested in as I greeted her off the bike and onto a picnic bench next to me. Azia didn’t seem to mind and had no problems getting acquainted with my friend Rudi. We spent hours on the beach drinking Tanduay rum and laughing the night away but the morning was creeping up far too quickly and a retreat back to our own side of the island was necessary if we didn’t want to be caught by the resort owners or police who needed only to follow the tracks of carnage to our rental bikes in the sand. The journey home was much dryer and a lot more comfortable with a beautiful woman’s arms wrapped around my chest and her body pressed tight against my own. I could feel her muscles flexing and her body stiffening around every hairpin turn. Anyone who knows bikes knows that to be a good passenger you must surrender oneself to the driver and invest all trust into their movements while working with the corners instead of leaning against them. I reached back with my left hand to comfort her upper thigh and turned my head to ignore the dark wet road ahead and meet her eyes. I whispered for her simply to trust me and kissed her on the cheek before turning my gaze back to the traitorously unfamiliar road ahead. I’m not sure why she listened to the clearly mad man she met only hours before but every time she rode on my bike with me after that kiss, her muscles and limbs melted into my own movements as if we were a single creature riding the impossibly curvy coastal road. We spent the rest of that morning curled up on the beach together watching the sunrise on the perfectly clear turquoise tropical waters. When neither of us could fight off the exhaustion of a long and crazy night, we kissed one last time and I watched her walk away disappearing into the small complicated network of alleys running like veins through Sebang township. I walked home drunk on curiosity while others emerged from their sleep to face another beautiful day. I lay down on my bed and realized I didn’t know her name, age, or phone number but what I did know is she had a grip on me and I had to see her again. While the people around me woke and opened their eyes to a beautiful day, I was closing mine to the memory of far more beautiful face.
               It didn’t take long for her to track me down as she appeared in my doorway the next day with Azia who was there to see my friend Rudi. We spent the next day’s going on adventures to waterfalls, swimming in fresh water pools, and riding my motorbike around to exotic locations only known by the locals. Eventually I found out through broken English her name was Jessica and there were some questions and answers that just seemed to have gotten lost in translation. Maybe it was a bit of selective hearing on my part as well because I had a suspicious feeling growing in my stomach since the moment we met.  I considered some situations but honestly couldn’t bring myself to believe in them while blinded by lust. Spending three months living on river banks in Australia followed by living in the jungle for a month in Papua New Guinea definitely didn’t help sedate the need for a woman’s affection. It wasn’t until the third night when I met with Azia and Rudi for a drink that I quizzed Azia as to why Jessica wasn’t coming to meet us. Azia told me right then and there what my gut feeling and biggest fear had been. The woman who I was falling in love with was a prostitute and had a client. There it is, a confession to a story most people take to their graves with them and that’s the way it almost was for me as well but this story doesn’t end here.
                I had hardly enough composure to say my goodbyes that night before jumping on my motorbike and heading straight back to my room. Three years I’ve been travelling, four years since a relationship, and the girl I’ve been saving myself for turns out to be a prostitute. I’ve hit some serious emotional lows in my life but this was worse than rock bottom. I lay in my bed that night as the loneliest man on the planet. I don’t practice religion but I understand the ones who do because when you find yourself in situations like this, there’s nowhere else to turn for the comfort needed to get you through the night. Fortunately I didn’t have access to internet because I was already trying to book my route back to Canada. I was so far from home and I had nobody, I couldn’t deal with this one alone and I needed an escape route. I packed my bags and laid them against the door to my room and cried myself to sleep with the intent on sneaking away on the first bus out of the town and vanish from her life just as abruptly as I had entered it. The next day came with a bit more clarity and rationality than the night before. I never ended up getting on that bus. I lay in my bed not feeling ashamed for having a relationship with a prostitute but disappointed in myself for being so weak. The truth is I’ve been running my entire life from things that I don’t understand. It very well could be the same reason I’ve spent so long away from home in the first place but I’m tired of being a coward and if I want to inspire people and lead by example I need to be strong, honest, and brave. So for the first time in my life I found the courage to fight against my only fear, the fear of the things we don’t understand.
I couldn’t leave all those questions unanswered so I called her and she agreed to see me one last time before I left the small resort town of Sebang. When she arrived with Azia that night, she waited outside for me hesitant to come in. I came out to confront her and the look in her eyes said it all. She had come to break up with me because she didn’t want me to be with a bad person like her, she felt I deserved somebody better than her. She couldn’t have been more wrong. I understood things that night that changed my life and the way I look at everything differently now. I wrapped her in my arms and just like being on the back of my motorcycle, her body melted into my own, completely disarming her attempt to leave. The words choked inside her throat and the truth revealed itself, she wanted to be there with me just as much as I did with her. We lay in a rooftop hammock of my hotel until the early hours of the morning where she told me her story. Married at 18, two children by 22, husband disappeared at 23, she was only 25 years old. She wasn’t the only person since then to tell me that prostitution is really the only source of income for uneducated women to make a decent living. A normal wage working an uneducated job in the Philippines is hardly enough to support a family if you’re a man but impossible as a single mother. I’m not sure why I’ve spent my entire life believing that that all prostitutes are horrible burdens on society who make selfish choices to follow such a shallow means of employment but I realized in the short amount of time with her that it’s never about the choice but the lack of it. She had no other choice but to sell herself just to keep her two kids in school and out of the hands of child trafficking.  She was the most selfless person I have ever met, she didn’t smoke, drink, or spend any money on substances she didn’t need. She worked an illicit job to spare her children a similar future; she even tried to leave me despite her own feelings and desires to live a normal life. Quoted from a Mafia boss in India who also ran the largest slum charity that ever existed during that time “Sometimes we need to do the wrong things for right reasons.”
As if my emotions weren’t broken as it was, they were definitely in ruins now. I surrendered myself to her in that hammock as she did for me every time she climbed on my motorcycle. I told her I would extend my visa and stay there for as long I could with her. She confessed that if I where to stay any longer it would be too hard to see me go when I finally did leave. I understood that every minute we spent together she wasn’t making money from her clients so effectively I was taking away from her children. It’s healthy to have some complications in a relationship to overcome but I don’t wish upon anybody to be faced with the same decisions I had to make with her. I offered her a lousy four thousand peso to keep her off the streets for at least a week after I was gone but she wouldn’t accept anything from me telling me it would take away from what we had. Instead of accepting anything from me, she lay across my chest and instructed my lips with her finger while teaching me how to say “Mahal Na Mahal Kita” which in her language means I love you very much. Four days ago I was scowling at anything that accepted money for any service but there I was being taught the most romantic words I have ever spoken by the last person I would have ever expected. I offered her everything and in the end the only thing she took was a passport sized photo of me so she would never forget what true love feels like.
I left her that day upon her own request to let me live a life I don’t deserve to live any more than she does. I walked away from her and her family knowing I had the wealth and power to save her and her children’s lives. I’m haunted each and every day with the thought of not using my gift of education and wealth to help the ones less fortunate than ourselves. It’s easy for me to beat myself up but I showed at least one good hearted woman that not all foreigners are interested in exploiting people with their money and power. I reminded her that she was still a person with a heart and soul like everyone else. My only request before delivering my final kiss was that someday when her kids are old and intelligent, she was to find a man who treated her same way I did and to never settle for anything less because she was more than worthy of it. I don’t wish for anybody to go through the same experience but I’m grateful that it happened to me. It broke my heart but built a new respect for people who live lives unparalleled to my own. I’ve learned to be fast to love and slow to judge and always see someone for their strengths rather than their faults. Up until now I would have told you that I had no favourite country and I would probably never return to the same country twice but the Philippines is definitely on my settlement list for places to spend the rest of my life. After that encounter I treated all Filipino differently and they all showed me caring loving innocents that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world.  The majority of the country lives well beneath the poverty line but they will be the last ones to say it or show it in their faces. Never in my life have I ever met a people with such an undefeated attitude on life. I realize now that I didn’t just fall in love with girl named Jessica but I fell in love with an entire country called The Philippines. 

Mahal Na Mahal Kita.

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