Lucia has something to say

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Philippines: Try Before You Buy

If they hadn’t spoken. I would have mistaken them for businessmen. Four in all. Aged 35-60. Sitting in the Manila airport. Waiting for a flight. To Detroit.

The big Southerner started the conversation. The one with the shirt sporting jumping fish. And lures. Lures. “Found her on my first time out!”

“How old is she?” they all ask. “’Bout 32.” And then. He complained. About how much work. It is. To get a new wife out of the Philippines.

“So y'all came for the same thing?” he asks. They all nod their assent.

Yes. Yes, indeed.

And I became quiet. And began. Unabashedly eavesdropping.

A sharp looking guy. In khakis. Who sounded like he was from Boston. Was a big proponent. Although he hadn’t found a wife. His trips sounded. Recreational.

Boston described. Women from the provinces with adjectives. Like “pretty,” “clean,” and “well-dressed.” And, he added, “Humble, humble, humble.” “They’ll chop off the top of a coconut for ya!” he exclaimed. And later. With a wink, wink. He added, “They’re very ‘flexible.’ If ya know what I mean.”

The next question up for discussion: How much is she worth? $5/day? $7? $10? Yeah, they’re cheap over here. Try before you buy.

The quiet one has been listening. He’s been here three times. But there’s no wife. They ask him, “Do you think you’ll be trying again?” “No,” he says softly.

Boston chimes in again, with his view on relationship building. With an analogy. “It’s like cement. It takes the foundation some time to set.”

I feel revulsion. I think how desperate these women must feel. In a country with 40% unemployment. Which is even higher in the provinces. And this. Commodification. Trafficking. Seems like the only way out.

And the men keep coming. To buy. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. And Sexual. Services. Is it a good trade? Services for life in the U.S.?

I offer my apologies. To any American men. On flight 72. From Manila. Who aren’t coming back from a foray. Because right now. I’m looking at all of you. With sad. Disgust.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Philippines: Crossing the River

The current was strong. The water was clear. Rushing over the rocks. The only way across was through. Cool water felt good on my feet. Flowing through my shoes. One woman. Lost a flip flop. Swept into the current and carried downstream. The rest of her afternoon. Was walking on the rocks. With one flip flop. And one bare foot. For me. The best thing about traveling. Is doing things. I don’t do. Every other day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Philippines: Road Trip

My head near the window. I try to dry. My wet hair. Soaked by sweat and humidity. All I can do. Is pull it back with my fingers. From my face. We fly past sari-sari stores. Fruit stands. And small flags flapping along the road. We pass a sign that says “Pulis.” Which I later understand. To be police. Women cross the road. With babies. Too close for comfort. The humidity. Grabs at my roots. I am tired. I have not adjusted to the time. And by the time I do. I will be back home.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Teflon Princess: A Fairy Tale

Once. Upon a time. There was a Teflon princess. And a real princess. Teflonia, as she was wont to be called, expected flowers. To be laid. At her feet. The real princess, let’s call her Lucia, was embarrassed. When flowers. Were placed at her feet. She wanted. The flowers. To be distributed equally. One to every one. The real princess. Had a deep sense of fairness. And equality. And responsibility.

One day Teflonia was waving at her admirers. Taking in their adulation. As she straightened her taffeta and smiled. She dropped the scepter of responsibility. She reached for her tiara. To be sure it was still there. But she took little notice. Of the absence of the scepter. The scepter others had picked up. Out of the dust.

Teflonia’s days grew lighter. Without the scepter. As others toiled with the responsibility. But the day arrived. When the scepter was returned to Teflonia. She took it with a flourish. Without a nod or wink. Without a look of thanks. Without a single flower. For Teflonia thought. Mostly of herself. An outlook. Perfected by princesses throughout the ages.

The real princess. Became weary. Of the Teflon princess. She thought about the Biblical parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Who each started work. At a different time of the day. And yet. At the end of the day. All were paid the same. Her sense of fairness. Violated. She spent days considering. The path ahead. She was unsure. And she is unsure still.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Philippines: Childhood

I wish in all cultures. Childhood was sacred. But it's not. I'll be on my way. In just an hour or two. From Manila to Olangapo City. To Preda. They work with abused children. Children trafficked into brothels. Children in jail. Both difficult. And sad. That this is an everyday occurrence. The children. Draw pictures. Like the one here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Am I the only one? Who thought McCain's interview on the Today show this morning. Was laughable at best. And pitiful at worst. That he had only. Twenty seconds of on-message talk. That he repeated. Over and over and over again. It was like listening to an endless loop. On an automaton. I have trouble believing. A man who talks about greed. When he owns six houses. Or is it seven? Himself.