A Country for Old Men

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Kookoo's Nest

Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Thursday, March 24, 2011

 He was Australian, somewhere in his fifties, I guessed. He'd been living and working in the Philippines along with his British wife for a number of years. I'd been biding my time. When the man's wife excused herself from the dinner table I jumped at the opportunity.

"Pecker performance enhancing drugs have sure taken their toll on the young women of the Philippines,” I said.

“You shouldn't jump to conclusions,” the man responded, “most of these older guys you see have simply come here to find nurses, to help them along in their senior years.”

I looked at Ellen. Her mouth was agape.

“And a lot of times the young girls you see are the men's daughters,” he continued.

“Really! I never would have guessed,” I said, realizing I'd opened a sordid tin of worms. “It sure was a beautiful day today, wasn't it?”

Later that evening, as I was about to beat Ellen in our third straight game of cribbage, I said. “I wonder where all the moms are?”


"The mothers of all the children. You know, the old white men and their Filipina daughters. Where are the moms do you suppose?”

“Don't start with me.” Ellen hates losing at cribbage. Then she went on the attack. “What was the matter with you? Why didn't you go after that guy? He spouts that nonsense about old white men climbing out of their lazy boy chairs, to make pilgrimages half way around the world to find nurses and you let him get away with it.”

“Kind of like salmon spawning, wouldn't you say?”

“That's a good answer from an old white man. This isn't a joke. What about the devastation these old bastards leave behind?” 

“What do you mean, 'old white man'?”

Ellen ignored the question. “Wherever we've been in the Philippines, the devastation has been there too, kicking us...at least me, right in the gut. Every restaurant, every bar, every hotel and on every island. And one of the saddest things is that Filipinos are the kindest, gentlest people we've probably ever met.”

“Okay, the daughter story was a bit of a stretch," I said, "but I'm not so sure about the nurse theory.”

Ellen was turning redder. Generally she doesn't appreciate my opinions, saying they're biased. But today I'd decided to examine this situation while sitting atop the fence.

“What about last night at dinner. That old man, 70 if he was a day, sitting with that group of beer quaffing fools, rubbing his hand up and down that girl's leg and arm. There was a box of Cialis sitting right beside his beer. While he gloated and drooled the poor girl had the saddest look on her face."

“I saw the box you're talking about. It could have been chewing gum.”

“Oh, be quiet. You pointed out that same box when that local guy came to our table moments before, trying to sell you some.”

“Hold on one moment—”

“And you remember the two couples? They were older, European, I think, sitting two tables away. They were disgusted. If that had have happened in Toronto, that old bastard would be in jail this morning and his photo would be plastered on the front pages of all the newspapers. ”

“The Europeans could have been arguing about something totally different,” I said.

“OK. Don't say anymore. Just listen. Remember the waiter last night? He was a young man, looked about 16 or 17.”

“Yeah. So?”

“How would you feel if you were that waiter and the young girl was your sister? Or maybe your childhood sweetheart?”

I opened my mouth, about to respond, but Ellen cast me to silence by simply raising her arm.

“Think about the Filipinos who have to witness this every day. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings. These people can't escape the fact of what has happened to so many of the young girls of their country. I read that there are 400,000 prostitutes on these islands. As many as 20% are children.”

“There you go. Stephen Harper doesn't even believe in census results, but here it works.” I kept an eye on Ellen in case she decided to throw something. Instead, she acted as though she hadn't heard me.

“If Ponce de Leon could only have waited, this detestable drug-induced fountain of youth would have come to him.”

“So all could drink freely.”

“God you're annoying.”

“You just hate losing at cribbage.”

We've returned to the Kookoo's Nest, an hour-and-a-half down the coast from Dumaguete. As it turns out the Nest is leading the pack as our favourite spot so far. Maybe we'll just stay here until Canada's Great-White North warms up a little and Ellen cools down.

I mentioned in one of my earlier entries that the Vietnamese are able to drive, cycle and walk, like ants, every which way and never bump into one another. Well that's just not true. During our taxi ride to the airport through the busy streets of Saigon a few days ago, our driver hit a pedestrian and knocked him arse-over-tea-kettle, into a fruit stand. Don't know how badly the man was hurt. Our driver didn't stop.
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