Still More of Self’s Adventures in Bacolod

Self looks at her books, all the ones she brought from California, and is suddenly filled with regret.  She brought a lot of them.  She brought a lot of literary journals, too:  The Tampa Review, Salamander, Manoa.  She’s barely made any inroads into this wealth of reading material.  Heck, she hasn’t even been able to watch much TV!  Soon it will be time to pack them all up and go home.  Perhaps she’ll be luckier, next time she visits.

Sheesh, it is super-hot today.  Self doesn’t feel like opening the blinds, not even a crack.

Wednesday, she returned to the Daku Balay.  She knows she distracts the secretaries from their work, with her chatter, but she can’t seem to stop.  Finally, out popped the million-dollar question:  ” ‘Day, how old are you?”

Self was speechless for a few moments, then responded, “How old do you think I am?”

And one of the ladies, it might even have been Edalyn, said:  “Late 50s?”


Self was so completely mortified.

Today, self encountered one of those taxi drivers who claims to know her father, Oso.  He ran for Congress back in the 80s, everyone seems to remember him for that.  Some taxi drivers even go so far as to maintain that they voted for him.  Well, self’s Dear Departed Dad ended up seventh place out of a field of eight, so she’s not sure how much to trust these drivers’ memories.  She knows her Dad made it a point of honor not to issue a single bribe, and this might have partially accounted for his poor showing.  People probably thought:  Swapang!  They might have thought:  Oso lives in that big white house, and he doesn’t want to share his wealth, he wants to keep it all for himself.

The taxi driver said he used to work as a security guard in the family resort, “the one that’s owned by the Parreños now,” he said.  And what resort is that, self asked.  “Santa Fe,” the driver said.

“That resort is not owned by the Parreños,” self tartly informed the taxi driver.  “It’s owned by the family corporation of the Villanuevas”  (of which, self might have added, “I am a shareholder, equal to every single one of my cousins.”)

“Didn’t your lolo also own a taxi service?” the man said.

Yes, self replied, he did.  She remembers summers, being told by the relatives to ride only in the cabs that said “GV & Sons.”  And when she did take one of those GV & Sons cabs, they would take her and her siblings anywhere they wanted to go, for free.

The city of Bacolod was like Disneyland.  No, better than Disneyland!  It was hers, theirs, everyone’s.  No one got angry at self, no one tried to take advantage of self, she felt Bacolod was a place where she belonged, truly belonged.

Now she knows what Obama means when he writes how he felt after his first miserable attempt to organize a political rally.  Thirteen people showed up, and Obama “sat there, roasting like a pig on a spit.”  That was when he realized that “in politics, like religion, power lay in certainty —  and that one man’s certainty always threatened another’s.”

Chapter Eight ends with this:

I realized then, standing in an empty McDonald’s parking lot in the South Side of Chicago, that I was a heretic.  Or worse —  for even a heretic must believe in something, if nothing more than the truth of his own doubt.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Further Adventures of Self in Bacolod

Yesterday, self was in a rather disconsolate mood.  This traveling can be somewhat exhausting.  She’s been to so many places, already, this year:  India.  Scotland.  Amsterdam.  Paris.  London.  Bacolod (twice).  Perhaps she should call it quits and cool her heels back in the ol’ US of A, where right now she imagines all the houses on her street decked out in Halloween witchery:  bedsheet ghosts hanging from trees, spiders dangling from eaves, pumpkins with glowing eyes lining the driveways.

She received several rejections (which normally doesn’t slow her one bit), and was wondering how much more she could eke out of her Bacolod experiences before she totally runs out of cash.

One e-mail, though, was from a travel magazine, inviting her to contribute.  Hmmm.  Self checked the originating address.  An American magazine!  That means she might get paid in dollars!  Woot hoot!  She read the rest of the e-mail and learned that the editors are unable to pay contributors just yet, they are in the very early stages of the project, perhaps later when they start pulling in a profit, and so forth (What is the point, self wonders, of being a Bacolod heiress/princess if one has constantly to be on the look-out for paying jobs?)

Here are the things self managed to do this morning:

  • She caught a Bata/Libertad jeep to San Sebastian Cathedral (Fare:  8 pesos) and heard early morning mass.
  • She grabbed a taxi and directed it to the Daku Balay, intending to pay the fare with some borrowed cash from family funds (which, you know, are bottomless.  And they might as well pay her rather than bribe the driver.  She could just offer, you know, to bribe herself and keep them informed of all her future whereabouts.  This would eliminate the middleman —  the driver —  and permit direct transfer of goods from producer —  self — to consumer, Genen Family Corporation.  Wouldn’t you say this was a brilliant proposal, dear blog readers?  She wonders why it didn’t occur to her sooner!)

Would you believe, when she got to the Daku Balay, she found that the offices were closed because, according to a very confused security guard (He had an armalite hanging from one shoulder, very scary), it was an official holiday.  What official holiday?  Ramadan.

“Are we Muslim?” self burst out.

“No,” he said.

But the guard looked so confused —  evern perhaps a little terrified —  by the presumably wild look in self’s eyes that she didn’t have the heart to continue grilling him.

So OK, Bacolod celebrates Ramadan now.  That’s interesting.  Will wonders never cease?

She then tried to borrow pesos to pay the taxi from the lone secretary who’d wandered in, but the poor woman was on her way to visit her relatives in La Castellana and though she did not have the strength of will to resist self’s demand for taxi fare (Perhaps this would qualify as a friendly-type mugging), self felt sorry for her and decided instead to knock on cousin Mae’s door and borrow some cash.  Luckily, Mae was already up.  Self then excitedly informed her that she was going around in a taxi.  Mae said she was going to the funeral of a man who’d been murdered last week (owner of the Eastview Hotel).  Self was on the point of asking if she could come along, as she’s never been to an actual Bacolod funeral, and this one would no doubt be packed because of the unusual and violent circumstances of the man’s demise.  But then she thought that if she did ask, this would be just one more piece of evidence pointing to her supposed derangement.  So she bit her lip.  Though it disappointed her mightily to do so.)

Then self directed the poor taxi driver, who swore he used to know her father, Oso, to the Organic Market close to the Negros Museum, and had him wait while she had her fourth cup of brewed coffee of the day, and consumed one but-ong (10 pesos, or about 24 cents).  Never mind that this was actually her second breakfast of the day.  Before taking the jeep to the Cathedral, she’d had a breakfast of corned beef and scrambled eggs.  Hmm, hmm, hope self can still squeeze into her Economy plane seat for the flight back to California!

Self’s breakfast at the Bacolod Organic Market, where they sell 10 different kinds of rice, all manner of organic coffee, and pumpkins/squash.

She also bought a package of “Artisan Piaya, made from Muscovado Cane Sugar.”

Her last e-mail from sole fruit of her loins said:  “Hope things are fine out in Bacolod.”  Hmmm.  That mildly sardonic tone, that’s pure son, right there.  She wondered if he’d been reading her blog.  Naaah, probably not.  But his senses are very fine-tuned (just like self’s).  Self swears, she could be contemplating a coconut tree and son, all the way in California, will know exactly what her state of mind is.  She could have told him he would make an excellent psychologist, he got so much practice with her, when he was growing up.  Dearest Mum used to be-moan the fact that sole fruit of her loins switched from being a Chemistry major to being a Psychology major.  “It’s because of you!” Dearest Mum would say.  Well, of course it’s because of self!  She has many friends who seem very happy in their domestic arrangements, and then will confide that one or more of the progeny went into Psychology.  Aha!  That is the number one tell-tale giveaway to “All is not as it seems”!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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