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|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
Last Night in Asia
Manila, August 21, 1996,
[Warning: adult content]
On my last night in Asia I went to the Libraryi gay sing-a-long bar in Manila. There I saw again Wilbur, the fellow that I had met that first night. I went in to sit at a table, but he didn't follow. The show was just starting: gay Filipino and cute Filipina are the co-hosts. Gay Filipino guy introduces himself as Martin. The girl is Joyce. Martin is funny and very openly gay. He keeps saying, "I'm sorry--I never told you!" to the great amusement of the audience. He finds every foreigner in the crowd and asks where they're from. He spots me.
"Ooh, cyoot! Where are you from, sir?"
"Oh, do you like to sing?"
I shake my head--I'm not going up there.
"No? Can I sing you?"
The audience cracks up. Even I know enough about Filipino culture to know that `sing' is a bilingual pun--in Tagalog it means "to give oral sex."
The audience is varied. It's nice that it's not just all gay men; not only are there lots of women here, but it even looks like a couple of whole families. He goes on, he and Joyce sing a few songs (Karaoke style), which sound really good, and guests start to go up there and sing. Some sound great, some not so great. At one point the cute waiter whom I had met the first time I stopped by there, went on stage and did his `gay disco' medley, which consisted most memorably of a falsetto version of "Never Can Say Goodbye."
The night goes on. I'm not sleepy, since I've been sleeping as much as I can--both days and nights. I go to take a sip from my Cali and feel something like a mustache hair brush my upper lip--it's an alcohol-drowned roach. I get a new glass. It gets late. Midnight, and then some. Blocks of people leave but are replaced by others.
I go to the entranceway and see that Wilbur is still there. We speak briefly. I think he's miffed that I was so distrustful, uncommunicative earlier. What he doesn't know is that I've long since decided that I want no more sex from Asia; that I'm determined that this visit to the Philippines will be a sexless one; that I've got no more stomach for the one-night stand. I've got a larger mental load to handle--an unwilling return to America. We talk for a while and then go and play pool. He beats me in four games of 8-ball, although I played better than him in some games. (Well, it's eight-ball--no real test of skill here.) We have to keep waking up the hotel `Pool Attendant' to have him re-rack the balls for each game. During this hour of pool, Wilbur lightens up, seems playful, almost coy at times. Perhaps he thinks he's found a "trick" for the night. He hasn't.
After pool, we return to the Libraryi, where the singing is still going on. On my way back from the restroom I'm way-laid by a handful of gay Filipinos who seem especially happy to meet me. The `leader' of the group is very forward--embarrassingly so. At one point I say I'll be back, that I need something to drink.
"Cum," he asks?
And I'm about as amused by it as you just were.
When I return he asks why I'm being so shy, says that I should enjoy myself on my last night here. "Go ahead--pick one," he says, indicating the four or five other Filipino guys in the entranceway. I tell him that I'm not used to people being so forward. He goes off on how this is the way of the Filipino people, how "the people of this nation of 7,000 islands are naturally warm," and it's something he's very proud of. At the end of his speech, he stands there grinning, his foul breath cascading onto my face. I tell him I'm not comfortable with him standing so close to me. He backs off.
When I rejoin Wilbur, he whispers to me, "Be careful with these guys--they're prostitutes."
You don't say.
At Wilbur's invitation, we go for a walk around the neighborhood. Before we get to this park that he says he likes to walk through after the bars close, he warns me just to ignore it if anybody comes up to me asking if I like girls. After I ask, he assures me that it's safe. Of course, right when we enter the park, an attractive, smartly dressed Filipina inquires, all smiles, "Lady friend?" She doesn't let up until I tell her, firmly but politely, "No."
We walk, and Wilbur tells me about his exploits in Singapore, etc. It's really sad--I enjoy having company, but I don't think he gets it yet that I'm not going to have sex with him or anybody else tonight. And he’s far better looking than I am, so this entire scene is just bizarre. We eventually make it back to my neighborhood. This is my hotel. Of course I don't invite him in.
"See you," I say.
"Why do you say that?," he asks. "You will never see me again." He just keeps on walking.
David SaiaDavid Saia traveled extensively in Southeast Asia in 1995-96. These travelogs were originally sent out via email to a select group of friends and acquaintances. The collected travelogs, now in manuscript form, are awaiting print publication.