My native friend Marilyn and I spent half a day in Zamboanguita, which is about 15 or so miles south of Dumaguete along the national highway. My prior experience had told me that every town in the Philippines is crowded, no matter how small it is. I was quite sure that Zamboanguita was rather miniscule, but I'll be darned if the downtown area wasn't crowded. We proceeded to the home of Marilyn's cousin, who had invited us to spend some time at her beach house. I was rather impressed with this beach "compound" that was situated on at least a few hundred feet of shore down the road. Apparently, Marilyn's cousin and her family own a pig farm. This can be a very lucrative industry as I understand. Yeah, I'd say so. They could have hosted a party for all of Zamboanguita on their property.
Shortly after we had made the short trip down the road to the beach house Marilyn's uncle asked if I was a beer drinker. Deciding it might be rude to reject what sounded like an invitation, I went along and said yes (in reality, I average about 2 beers per year). He then asked if I'd like to travel into town with him to pick up a few bottles of San Miguel, even offering to pay for them. Of course I agreed. We then set out on the short jaunt via a motorcycle, which is always interesting without a helmet. Thankfully, we only had a mile of ground to cover. When we arrived at the store I quickly noticed how primitive it was, even by Philippines standards. Once inside, I was greeted with a few curious stares from locals who were watching some sort of TV program. When it came time to purchase the beer the financial responsibility actually fell on me, despite the earlier offer by Marilyn's uncle to purchase it. I did not even flinch, but reached into my pocket to retrieve the 100 pesos (i.e. less than $2). Filipinos are masters of hospitality if you are a guest in their home, but in a neutral environment such as a store or restaurant the "rich" foreigner is expected to cover expenses.
Before leaving Zamboanguita I accompanied Marilyn to some sort of Catholic funeral ritual (Marilyn is Protestant, by the way) that was being held in memory of a distant relative. I don't know exactly what was going on, but a group of 4 ladies appeared to be singing verses over and over again and were facing an altar that contained a photo and a few flower arrangements. Marilyn waited outside the door for a good 30 minutes, entered for about 30 seconds, and then we left. I still don't know what it was all about.
By now it was starting to get dark and we still had to get back to Dumaguete. We waited by the side of the road as every conceivable form of transportation passed by. Finally, we flagged down a small van of sorts that looked like it was already filled to capacity. Would you believe there were two spots still available in the very back row? We sat down and began our relatively long (by Filipino standards) 15-mile journey back to Dumaguete. The driver appeared to be a younger gentleman, so you can imagine my shock when the van's audio system started pumping out vintage songs from Kenny Rogers! Of course, my disbelief had more to do with the fact that I was hearing American oldies in this packed little van in Zamboanguita, Philippines. At the same time, though, the familiarity of home was very much with me in those moments. I used to hear those songs on the radio as a kid in Michigan. The world suddenly became very small.
Oh, and do you want to guess the total price tag for that 15-mile trip down memory lane with Kenny Rogers? Sixty pesos for Marilyn and myself combined...or about 55 cents each!