Beggars can’t be choosers

Wrapping up my visit in the not-so-lovely capital city of Manila.

Yesterday afternoon I had some time to kill so allowed myself to be enticed into getting a massage at one of the joints in the mall adjacent to my hotel.  The already cheap one hour full body massage was on special for only 180 pesos ($3.83).  The masseuse asked if I preferred hard, medium, or soft.  I went medium and damn when she was cranking on my back and shoulders it was f’n painful.  Of course, male pride wouldn’t allow me to scream in agony so I just lay there gritting my teeth while my torturer said “you have lots of tension”.  Anyway, it was mostly good and I feel no aftereffects this morning.

Last night I cabbed over to Makati, the upscale area of Manila.  There’s a strip of bars on Burgos Street I’d read about over the years so I wanted to give them a try.  Well, I made it to four of them anyway before reaching my self-imposed limit on alcohol consumption. The bars that I saw were all of the “girly” type which I don’t particularly like.  The girls get a commission on overpriced “lady drinks” and some of them will outright harass you until you relent and purchase one for them. At my first stop “Shampoo”, I’d taken like two swigs of my beer and the mamasan started in on me to buy drinks for the girls.  Told her I’d think about it once I’d finished my beer.  She kept on and I finally lost my temper telling her “do you think I’m stupid?  Do you think I don’t know how this works?  I’ll buy a lady drink if and when I’m ready.  So leave me the fuck alone”. .I wasn’t so popular after that and I left.

The next bar was called “Bottoms”.  I was happy they had an actual bar in the bar.  When you sit alone at a table it is like an open invitation to be besieged by thirsty bar girls.  Usually you will be left alone at the bar.  Sometimes anyway.  Not at Bottoms.  Girl stood on my left and another stood on my right (apparently they are not allowed to actually sit at the bar).  They weren’t pushy on the drinks though and we engaged in some friendly banter.  I eventually rewarded their good behavior with a lady drink for each of them.

Moving on, I stopped in “Dimples”.  It also had a bar so I plopped myself down.  A couple of gals approached but I channeled Greta Garbo and told them “I want to drink alone”.  Surprisingly they actually respected my wishes and I wasn’t bothered again for the duration of my stay.  In addition to the drink beggars I also dislike the music played in the girly bars. It’s normally loud techno-pop dance crap which grates on my nerves pretty quickly.  Yeah, I know.  Kids and their music these days said the old codger.  To Dimples’ credit they had a nice mix of tunes played at a reasonable volume.  Even a few country songs!  I had a nice time there but there was still one more place I wanted to see before I ran out of time (and money).

I had read about Crazy Horse on some of the Philippines forums I frequent and I wanted to see if it was as good as everyone was saying.  It is. It had a large stage chock full of very attractive young women who could actually dance.  They did choreographed performances every bit as good as those you see in K-Pop girl band videos.  And best of all I did not get approached or pestered even once for a lady drink.  That’s how it should be, a great selection of girls willing to keep you company if company is what you want, but you have to make the first move.  I really enjoyed just sitting there watching the gals dance and chatting with the other customers a bit.  When I was ready to depart I walked to the stage and gave my favorite dancer a 100 peso tip for her efforts.  Yeah, I’m a cheap Charlie but she seem appreciative of the compliment at least.

Caught a cab back to the hotel with no problem (they’ve got that much on Itaewon at least).  Driver got lost on the way and was asking the drunk man in the back seat (me) for directions.  I just shrugged and said I don’t know, it’s by a mall.  He stopped and asked a trike driver which I guess worked because I did sleep in the right hotel last night.

This morning I enjoyed my last free breakfast and walked to the convenience store for some Coke Zero.  It was locked up tight, not real surprising I guess for a Sunday morning in a Catholic country.  Across the street in front of the also closed mall was a group of homeless folks laying about on the sidewalk. Most of them were young children. A depressing sight that I don’t expect I’ll ever get used to, and frankly, I’d hate myself if I did get used to it.

I learned a long time ago that it is a fool’s errand to give money to a beggar on the street.  As soon as you do you will be besieged by fifty others.  It can also be dangerous as I’ve heard of do-gooders being surrounded and having their pockets emptied by the prying fingers of these hungry waifs.  So, I just don’t do it.  I always feel like a prick when I tell a filthy child “no” when the say “I’m hungry”.  After a few days I actually get depressed.  Which is one of the things I’m going to have to factor into my decision on whether the PI is a viable re-retirement option for me.  One thing I’d consider doing is sponsoring an orphanage with a monthly stipend of some sort.  Maybe that would assuage the guilt I feel when I can’t (or won’t) respond to beggars.

Anyway, I looked in my wallet and I still had some small bills amounting to 160 pesos. I walked across the street and handed them to the oldest woman in the group whom I assumed was the grandma.  I didn’t technically break my “no beggars” rule because they hadn’t asked, I just offered.  Ah well, as I walked away five or six young boys followed me asking me to give them money too.  I told them that’s all I have but they persisted in their efforts.  I kept moving so as not to be surrounded and finally let loose.  “No goddamn it,I told you that’s it.  No more!” I used my big voice which put them back on the heels a bit and I made a beeline to the security of my hotel.

All packed up and waiting for my ride to the airport and the completion of my journey back to the first world.

3 thoughts on “Beggars can’t be choosers

  1. Can’t say that this narrative made the Philippines sound all that appealing. If anything, I get the impression that, for expats at least, the country is one giant Itaewon. Ick.

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