I think my ears are bleeding.
Like many expats who have made their home in the Philippines, I am married to a somewhat younger Filipina. And, to keep her happy (happy wife makes happy life) we hung out last night at a post-Sinulog, Mango Street disco with her sister and our helper. Now I am not adverse to loud music; you can hear my stereo blasting out the Eagles or even Despacito most afternoons, but I swear… the bass was so strong at Ultra, people were losing their teeth. I mean it. Fillings were actually jarred loose and were falling out of people’s mouths; the place was shaking so much, my chicken nuggets walked across the table.
After an hour or so, “the girls” wanted to go to a karaoke place, which is actually a pretty good entertainment value, 99 pesos for an hour. The equipment worked, there wasn’t any air, and there was a distinct smell of sisig pizza, but hey, who’s complaining?
Filipinos and Karaoke: Don’t ever tell a Filipina that they can’t sing. No, really. Fights have broken out and family trees have been rearranged with an off the wall comment, like “Ate, maybe you should try a different song.” But after a few Red Horse beers and a flip through the karaoke book, every Filipina is Taylor Swift and every Filipino is Enrique Iglesias. Never mind that the high notes actually broke 4 wine glasses, when the microphone is in my hand, I am a Diva; I am a Goddess.
I moved to Cebu 6 ½ years ago, very much by design. I had been traveling in SE Asia for a few years with the idea that when my daughter was “out of the nest” I could reinvent myself in a new place and in a new culture that I could come to love. I went to Manila, of course; you have to go there, but also Subic, Puerta Princesa, Leyte, Boracay, Dipolog and various points in between. Cebu City had everything a “city kid” from the US, like me, could appreciate: an international airport, good restaurants, friendly people, a place where I felt safe and most everyone spoke some English. After a dozen exploratory trips to “The Phils,” I made my move.
By this time, I was pretty familiar with Cebu; I had dated some women, had some good moments and had been scammed a couple of times too. I was becoming “ex-pat literate” about life for a foreigner in The Phils. I resigned my job at the university, sold most of what I owned, packed up 12 Balikbayan Boxes filled with “stuff” from books to clothes to kitchen utensils and shipped them off from my West Coast city. I rented an apartment, opened a bank account with the full intent to relax, retire and drink cool drinks at the beach with little umbrellas in them.
Within a month, I met my future wife, and this changed everything. The Philippines is definitely a “True Love” culture. Every story, every movie, every tv show and every song is about Love. Finding it. Losing it. Getting it back. Filipinos believe in Destiny, with a capital D. The Family: having one, creating one, relying on one is the staple of Filipino society. It was true luck that I met the woman I did. Ok, maybe it was Destiny.
So, I will write here sometimes and tell you more of the story of My Life in Cebu. I’ll try to make it interesting, and funny with what I’ve learned about myself and my “sort of” new home in the Philippines. But right now, I’m off to the dentist; I am praying he can put those 3 teeth back I lost at the disco.