“You want to spend time in Manila?” Father Giovanni was not fully agreeable to Andy’s plan.
They were painting the front wall of the chapel when out of the blue, he revealed his intentions to the priest.
“I want Jane to see the city.”
“You’ve seen how it is, how crazy it could be,” Father Joe shook his head several times. It was not his decision though if Andy persisted.
“I think I can handle it, Father.”
The priest sighed. He could not dissuade Andy so he had better give his ward some kind of a fall back in case something went sour with the vacation.
“I can ask some friends. You can live in the dormitory within the church premises.”
“Thank you for the offer. Jane would like a bit different.”
“I’ll give you a number in case you change your mind.”
“That will be great!”
Father Giovanni knew Andy would be more than ready to face anything. He was a blessed soul. A smart one, too.
– o –
The sea at night was calm. Illuminated by the full moon, one could mistake it as a vast dark floor in the middle of nowhere. There was hardly a wave to speak of.
Jane took Andy out to the side of the ferry. She needed the romantic setting to bring out the lover in her boyfriend. At times, she felt he was holding himself back when it came to showing his affection.
“It’s cold!” she snuggled near him as if they were the only two people around. “I need warmth.”
“I told you earlier to bring a jacket,” Andy pointed out. “You did not listen.”
“Why should I? You are wearing one,” she nudged him gently. “We could just share.”
Andy smiled. She was using her guile to the max.
“We could go back inside,” he suggested.
“You’re so insensitive,” she pouted. “Why can’t you be like other men?”
“I am!” Andy confirmed. “I piss standing up,” he added.
Jane look daggers at him. She was not in the mood for jokes.
“You should worry if I look at other women,” he teased, “or other men.”
“You’re playing with me!” she finally smiled even though her romantic evening began to fade away. “That’s enough!”
“I love you,” Andy promised, looking straight to her eyes.
Overjoyed with what she heard, she wrapped her arms around his body.
– o –
The ferry service was unlike those found in wealthy Asian and Western countries, where passengers sleep in separate cabins. The local version had double-decked bunk beds, lined up side by side with small gaps for passengers’ mobility. As such, privacy was next to non-existent.
Snoring bodies, gambling creatures and strolling souls spent their almost eighteen hours of willing captivity inside the converted old cargo ship. For a cheap fare, anyone could travel without hindrance.
A few minutes before reaching the port, Andy and Jane went to the railings to see the ‘view’ of the city. He did not tell her anything because it would ruin the ‘surprise’ he wished she would discover herself.
“What’s that smell?” she asked naively while she covered her nose.
“Fresh air,” quipped a fellow wearing a baseball cap. Almost everyone burst into laughter with the rejoinder.
Andy let out a short grin, He was not amused though. He could not do anything about the odor that welcomed every new arrivals in the capital.
“Look!” Jane exclaimed after seeing a floating object in the water.
“First time you’ve seen garbage?” the same fellow asked playfully. He was actively delighting those around. “You’ll see more in the streets later.”
Jane displayed a quizzical look.
“Come,” Andy pulled her out from where she stood, removing her further embarrassment. “Let’s get near the door so we could get down faster.”
– o –
At the docks, it was chaotic, disorganized activities everywhere.
Uniformed stevedores went up and down the gangplank bearing loads of big bags and large carton boxes. They squeezed their way through the throng of hurried passengers moving in the opposite direction.
Andy held Jane’s arm tightly. They could be separated in an instant due to the comings and goings around them.
A wiry, spindly guy approached them. He was playing with a big chain which looked like cars’ keys. Obviously, he was looking for passengers who were looking for rides to their destination. In reality, he was a plain con artist looking for easy marks.
“Where are you going, man?” he slurred the words, typical of so-called gang men of the underworld.
Andy was not falling for the trap. He could discern who was genuine or not when it came to legal transport.
“I am waiting for someone,” he lied politely. “He will fetch us.”
“Maybe he’s not coming,” Con Man pressed, “I can give you good rates and the safest ride.”
A tall muscular man with a mustache joined in.
“I am sorry I am late,” he eyed Andy and Jane as if trying to figure out if the couple was the pair he was told to fetch.
“I am here first,” Con Man insisted angrily. “Piss off!”
“You see that man?” Muscleman pointed to the uniformed policeman surveying the crowd. “I can introduce you to him.”
“I know him!” Con Man said but his color paled somewhat. He was most likely allergic to men of authority.
“You don’t want me to remind him of your acquaintance, do you?”
“Come on!” Con Man was desperate, “Find someone else.”
“I told you before that someone would come,” Andy explained. “I think we should go now.”
“Father Joe requested me to come.” Muscleman revealed.
“Who the hell is Father Joe?” Con Man asked, still unwilling to let go of his would be victims.
“You don’t need to know,” Andy replied, relieved that the priest made sure they would be safe.
“I guess it’s goodbye to you,” Muscleman waved the retreating con artist.
“Damn this place,” he cursed, leaving the trio laughing at him.
“By the way, I am Tony. Father Joe and I were childhood friends. Here,” he lent Andy the cellular phone, “please call him now.”
Father Joe was elated they were in safe hands. Andy thanked him profusely for the surprise assistance.
“He has always been a great friend,” Tony related as they walked toward the parking lot, “He helped me change from being a bad boy into a responsible father.”
“Yes,” Andy nodded. “We are thinking of the same Father Joe.”
(to be continued)