The outer rain bands of Typhoon Phanfone (Local Name: Ursula) still hovers over the sky of Central Luzon as I embarked to a journey to Angeles City, the largest city in Central Luzon.
Thinking that it is a 2-hour journey since I think that the road re-routing schemes in the National Highways along Magalang and Mabalacat (both in Pampanga) are still taking place, I have departed at 8 am, just to be in time for an appointment at 10 am.
Much to my surprise, the jeepney ride has gone exquisitely well and quite fast, having arrived at the Balibago area of Angeles at 9 am. I alight the jeep and wander around. I have already finished the daily quest of KanColle right during the journey, so I have nothing else to do to pass the time. I have just toyed with the idea of returning to the pool hall of Efren “Bata” Reyes at Dau, where I have unknowingly showed off before the people there to the point that they were clamoring me to have a match with Efren.
That was December 22.
As I have dissuaded myself with the idea of going to Dau, since I saw not that many people when the jeepney earlier zoomed pass by.
And the need to wile the time is further extended as the appointment is rescheduled to 12 noon.
Being the guy who gets easily bored, I need to find ways to amuse myself. But thankfully, I’m a guy who’s easily amused with a little bit of mischievous adventure, so off I go to the direction where the “M-point” jeepneys originated from.
After I passed by a bunch of carinderias and convenience stores, I become at awe with the density of the high-class hotels in the area. Maybe indeed, Balibago has the highest density of hotels and possibly night clubs in the whole Philippines. But my eyes are fixated into looking for two things. Those are not the things recently mentioned since I’m not fond of clubbing (though I tried it numerous times) and going to the hotels (since it still gives that nostalgia from the accommodation that our survey team availed during our field survey on Bicol Region after Typhoon Kammuri and from a bittersweet memories from the past). Rather, I am looking for a billiard hall and at structures present at the area since the aftereffect of the pre-event and post-event surveys still is programmed in my mind. I keep identifying building types and assessing damages.
When I go on to an adventure into the unknown, I habitually turn off my internal compass and have myself lost. But the exhilaration of that adventure is a bit dull as the roads just loop back to when I have come from.
Attempting to take some photos reminds me that my phone’s screen was broken during the field survey. It happened to crack under the pressure brought by my rather pointy elbows when my elbow accidentally rested upon my phone during my sleep. And it also caused the cellphone battery to malfunction a little bit. So, to further wile the time, I have gone to a cellphone repair shop to have my phone fixed. The technician has told me to pick it up by 12 noon.
That cellphone repair shop is along Fields Avenue. Fields Avenue, being a former extension of Clark Air Base, is full of strolling foreigners. One may wonder on why the foreigners frequent in that particular place. As I go further east the road to search for an ATM, the answer to that growing curiosity unravels before my eyes.
Down the road is the segment of Fields Avenue called Walking Street.
The street is full of nightclubs, karaoke bars, and restaurants. It is midday, so the nightclubs are not in operation. The weather is too gloomy for people to go karaoke. But the misty morning is perfect for cups of coffee as foreign patrons priding themselves with their respective foreign language chatter leisurely amongst themselves.
Money, for those patrons, is so accessible for those foreigners as ATMs are abundant along the street. The ATM is much different than the ATMs that I saw frequently in other Filipino places. It reminds me of the ATM machines in Singapore, where I heartbreakingly withdrew 100 Singapore dollars exactly last year.
I then make my try on one of the machines. But I find the machine is too fishy for me to trust, so I have cancelled the transaction midway.
I continue up to the Walking Street’s eastern end at McArthur Hi-way. There is a PSBank there on which I have trusted enough to conduct an ATM transaction too. I withdraw the amount that I will be needing for the phone repair, plus some extra cash, since the appointment that I am mentioning about is actually a date.
I have turned back to return to where I have come from. I then recognize that the eastern welcome arc of Walking Street was that of one of the Charlotte’s final episode. I have already forgotten the name of the main character there. My bad.
I then see on one of the stalls, that a brand new Asus Zenfone 5 that I brought to the repair shop cost twice of the repair cost. I then think for myself that I would be buying a new phone instead of putting it for repairs if in case, it will break again. [Note: As of March 15, 2020, the author has put the phone for a repair for a fifth time already, costing him already twice the amount of a brand new Zenfone 5.]
Walking along Walking Street feels different compared to the streets that I’ve walked in around the Philippines. Scanning Walking Street intently for the second time reveals the true face of Filipino hospitality.
Situated at the last concrete traces of the colonizers that visited…ehem colonized…the Philippines for the past 425 years, the attitude of the place reflects to the overall disposition of the Filipinos towards its visitors. Keen into maintaining a kind of image, they project that kindness into visitors into what has been called as hospitality, yet they deprive their fellow Filipinos the same kindness for they know that that kindness is just for show.
It shows, with the look of contempt that I have gotten from the Filipinos working there. The work of the Filipinos there vary, from catering, to management, to customer relations, and notoriously prostitution.
The prostitution within Central Luzon is what is believed to be the source of the proliferation of the sexually transmitted diseases.
I have this unusual aversion towards greasy streets. And the aversion is heightened as I walk across Walking Street, even more than the times I was walking on the poorly maintained streets of Manila. In my mind, I am seeing STDs in “physical form”. I ask for forgiveness for expressing it in such way.
I have then found my refuge to a pool hall. The treatment of the waitresses to me is much different that their treatment towards the foreigners. Unlike their chummy attitude towards the foreigners, they just blankly ask for my order.
I have ordered a 350 ml Coca-cola, which costs 35 pesos, five times of the suggested retail price.
I am not bothered by the mark-up which rather seemed like a rip-off, as my eyes and attention are on the pool table. I am waiting for my turn as patrons switch turns every time they lose.
There is this one sign that caught my attention.
Hustling is deliberately losing to a player worse than you to entice that player into raising the stakes on which the hustler will seize the moment the player took the bite.
I guess that I won’t be doing my usual routine, which is also considered to be hustling. I won’t be having some earning playing today.
I am also made aware of another house rule: “The winner will still relinquish his turn by the time he/she won five consecutive times.”
That house rule remains at the back of my mind as I finally got my turn.
I first played against a Filipina, accompanying an American, in an 8-ball game. Expectedly, the balls are not scattered that well since it was the Filipina that made the break. Even though some balls are tight together, I have tried an attacking game only to miss a bank shot on the penultimate ball. I still find myself struggling to get accustomed to the cushions of the vintage Maxima 1 table of Star Billiards. The Filipina has her chance for run-out, only to miss a long shot on the 8-ball. I never let go of that chance as I have cleared the remaining balls.
The next person I will be playing with is the bald Austrian. He has the first crack of the balls, pocketing four consecutive balls with his sound snooker technique. But being a snooker player myself, I return the favor by making a run-out.
Then follows the Japanese player who has cranky technique. I have watched him produced four consecutive wins earlier with some scary pocketing skills. I have taken the break shot and the balls spread wisely. I just breeze through the rack and am about to produce a break-and-run-out. However, my pity for my opponent leads me into deliberately missing the 8-ball.
Still, the intimidation that I have projected to the Japanese player turns out to be too much as he crumbles under the pressure and misses the first ball, handing over the rack to me.
The Australian who has listed his name after me has finally gotten his turn. He has his own cue stick. However, like most beginners posing with their respective cue sticks, the personal cue stick is not able to compensate the lack of ability. Another rack goes my way.
My 5th match is against the Filipina’s American companion. He has taken the first crack of the rack as my break went dry. The spread of the balls has made the rack difficult for the American as he misses a bank shot. I then respond with three consecutive bank shots. I then become self-conscious of the people in the establishment catching up, even though I am trying my best to hold back. That self-consciousness makes me take me attention off the path the cue ball will be taking as the cue ball goes in along with the 8-ball.
I lose. Thankfully, I lose, as I then find out that it is winner’s pay. I continue to observe the surrounding as I pay my bill. The Filipina earlier along with the waitresses’ disposition to the foreigners, plus some eavesdropped conversations, lead me to the conclusion that most of them are hopeful to be wed to those foreigners in order to lift them out of poverty.
Thankfully, I haven’t indulged myself much, both in playing and observing, as the phone is just finished being repaired.
I fetch the newly-repaired phone [Author’s note: It then broke on January 2020.] and I run towards the person who is waiting for me a few yards away.
My experience in Walking Street is what I will be sharing to that person, whom I will be introducing to my grandfather later that day. [Author’s Note: Eventually, we broke up.]