Who was that masked man?

When you drop silverware on the floor in the Philippines it means you are going to have a visitor and depending on the specific utensil, fork or spoon, the sex of the impending visitor is also determined according to local belief.

My asawa revealed this to me many years ago one lazy afternoon when I had accidently spilled a tray of silverware on the floor. “Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed! “We are going to have many visitor’s today”. I must confess I found this revelation most amusing because we had numerous visitors each and every day without fail. I didn’t need to read tealeaves or interpret fallen eating utensils or even rely on gravity to determine the certainty of coming guests.

I mentioned in a previous article each time we return to the Philippines our house becomes the social hub of numerous transients. Abandon all hopes of privacy if ye come to reside in the Philippines. The relatives who come to visit range from directly connected immediate family to estranged distant relations that perhaps share some far-reaching Asian continental common DNA.

Lamkin House, right on the water!
Lamkin House, right on the water!

Each year the group that cohabits with me changes slightly in cast but for the most part is stable and well known to me. My routine over the years has varied little. I would rise early and go to the ocean each morning to fish as was my custom. Two or three of my nephews would accompany me carrying my equipment and then meet me when I returned. They would then rinse, clean my gear, and set it up for the next day’s excursion. This went on for some three weeks without incident one year.

One morning a young man arrived at out house around 5:00 am with some freshly baked pandesal bread. I was busy passing out warm pieces of the bread to my dive helpers when I realized I didn’t know the name of one of them. I felt embarrassed and discreetly asked my wife what is that boy’s name? She looked at him and said I don’t know him.

With the masked man!
With the masked man!

I said “Dear, Sweet Heart, He has been sleeping and living here with us the past month and you don’t know who he is?” “Who the hell is this kid?” My asawa then quizzed everyone in the house and it seems no one knew who he was or where he came from.

Forgive me I an a simple Wisconsin back country boy, but is it wrong to wonder how a child came to eat and sleep in my house unnoticed by anyone of my family members. Well after an extensive investigation if turns out that perhaps one of my nephews suggested he might come live with his Kano Uncle after he and his sister had a falling out.

Apparently he had come to visit his sister and she had spent the return bus fare so he couldn’t go home. They had a fight and he ran away. Well not exactly away…. to my house. I then explained to my family that I could barely assist helping them with basics but was unable to take in people we didn’t even know.

I confronted the boy and said “Excuse who are you? He proceeded to run out of the house and into the jungle. I followed him and caught up to him. I brought him back and said he could spend the night. The next day I took him and the whole family out to eat and then to a movie. I then bought him a return bus ticket. We then saw him off at the station so he could return home.

I went home and posted a set of rules on the wall of our house.

  1. No one can spend the night at our house without my permission.
  2. Any friends you bring to my house must be introduced to me.
  3. No one can smoke inside our walls
  4. No one can drink inside our walls
  5. Don’t Piss off Uncle Henry

It takes a village to raise a child. He wasn’t from our village!

Post Author: HenryL (5 Posts)

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  1. John says

    Uncle Henry,

    That was a most interesting story. And it was very human and with compassion that you bought him a ticket home when you were not obligated to do so. Did you ever hear from that young man again or know what might have happened to him. That would be a good sequel to your story.


    • Henry Lamkin says


      Sorry I can’t give more closure. That young man was never seen or heard from again to this day.

  2. PapaDuck says

    Thats for sharing this story. Your not still catching those small fish are you lol. Take care and stay safe. Looking forward to your next post.

  3. says

    Most interesting.
    I had forgot all about that dropping silverware thing and visitors. Growing up in the 60s and 70s in Arkansas I heard that many a time–“someone’s coming to visit–wonder who” when silverware was dropped.

  4. Roselyn says

    Hi HenryL: Excellent article. My deceased parents had this problem with their long-time maid. She brought a sister to the household without permission. Later, she brought her mother as well. By this time, my Filipino-American father intervened and sent her relatives home. They let go of this maid, but with a costs as she compromised the security of my parent’s home. It is wise to set rules early on to household members or employed staff.

  5. Paul Thompson says

    Very funny story, I can’t say that’s ever happened to me (Except at parties at the house) You handled the situation with grace and kindness. “It’s More Fun In The Philippines”

    • Henry Lamkin says

      OK Jamie you got me. My asawa is the one who discourages drinking within our wall and smoking is a no no also. So technically those are her two rules. We do allow an occasional amount of consumption during a party. I am of course restricted from doing any thing that feels or tastes good. Now you know why I fish all the time. Keeps me out of trouble.

  6. Robert says

    Hi Henry,
    Nice Story. You have a good heart but I agree, you can’t help everyone.
    Your home looks like what I have in mind when we make our move from Minnesota, although my wife is uneasy with building next to the ocean because of typhoons. Are you in a typhoon free zone? That’s a nice looking place.

    • Henry Lamkin says

      Robert, We are in the northeastern side of Luzon. My home could end up in OZ, somewhere over the rainbow, in any given Typhoon season. I alway wanted to have house on the water since I can remember. Lake property in Wisconsin if like 5000 dollars a running foot on the shore. I love my home and every morning I get up and look out over the China Sea. I am living the dream.

      I understand the concern about being at risk to typhoons but hell the earth quakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanos will probably kill me first. Seriously I have adopted the filipino mindset of nothing you can do so live on.


  7. Robert says

    By the way, you have the same rules we have in our house, necessitated by our overly social teen-age son.

  8. says

    My ex-wife and I had a Taco-catering company for years and did countless parties at so many Mexican household fiestas. We often used to joke that it would be so easy to mingle into a Mexican party at any time and just say, “We’re here with Juan and Maria.. we’re primos to Flaca and Wero.. ” ha!

    On another note, years ago my g/f (before I met her) gave over $1,000 to pay for a wedding for a ‘relative’ that suddenly appeared out of nowhere asking for help with the wedding! When it was all said and done, at the wedding my g/f didn’t see anyone she knew, but everyone claimed to be related. Personally, I smell a scam, being the cynical American I am but it seems there’s always a new ‘relative’ popping up of hers every six months or so.. but now we give them the once-over for verification.

  9. says

    p.s. Yes, that was $1,000 USD!! Not Pesos. She paid for pretty much the wedding and they put her on the spot for the ‘dollar-dance’ as the chief hostess. No more of that now that she double-checks things like that with me first and sees things a bit more critically.

  10. Mark G. says

    Great story Henry! I’m often asking my wife who the folks are that wander in and out of our lives. Usually a distant relative, a neighbor or a neighbors relative are the response I get. I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by a more social group of people, lol. It really is more fun in the Philippines!

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