One of the great things about living in the Philippines is the opportunity to learn (or unlearn) things about yourself. Since I have been here, I have had a few epiphanies along the way – things that were actually quite obvious to any casual observer, but central to things that I couldn’t clearly see due to fracturing and imperfections on the lens through which I viewed reality. I won’t bore you with the details of those first ones – I’ll just simply relate the one that happened this past week.
Friday came along and my Pagadian Princess was off to Mindanao for a wedding/bachelor funeral. I was pretty psyched, thinking that it was going to be a hedonistic weekend of partying, drinking to excess and dancing until dawn. (Unfortunately that plan never actually coalesced as I usually get up around 4 AM to work and I have to be in bed by 9 PM. Durn bedtimes…..) So, the first night home alone, I just played Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel in my boxer shorts and woofed down a bag of Sweet Mesquite Doritos. Ah, the bachelor life….. That second night, though, I decided to go out and hit a local restobar – someplace that I hadn’t gone to before but had wanted to check out for a while.
Flip-Flops is a small restobar that sits just across and down the street from Hypermart. I had heard it had pretty good music and decent food, so I decided to swing by and grace them with my presence. I pulled in on my trusty 125cc steed around 7:30 (an hour an a half til I turn into a pumpkin…) and already the place was hopping. It was your typical layout for a restobar except for two things: The waitresses wore flashing LED nametags and the customer demographic was decidedly………..old – late seventies and early eighties – veritably decrapitated. And although annoyingly bright, the flashing neon nametags I could live with, especially being pinned to their uniforms where they were. What I couldn’t accept for the life of me was the behavior of the geezer crowd that was gathered there – they were hopping and jumping all over the place, throwing their hands in the air, fist pumping, doing the funky chicken and basically partying like it was 1999. Or – I thought, privately relishing my inestimable wit – 1899.
So, I’m drinking my cold San Miguel and waiting on my fish and chips. By this time, a few of the old dudes had actually gotten on stage and – having relieved the band singers of their microphones – were now belting out a rather over the top version of the Beatles “Obladi, Oblada,” you know, the one that goes “la la how the life goes on…..” The dancing is still going on, as the hopping around. At any moment I am expecting one of these coots to do a backflip off the stage and break a hip.
I’m aghast – mortified even. Embarrassed for my fellow expats since they are obviously far too senile and gone to be embarrassed for themselves. Rolling my eyes, I continue to drink my drink and look down my nose at the goings on.
Then – quite suddenly – it hits me. It’ during the second chorus of “Obladi, Oblada” and just before my fish and chips arrive: A shit-eating grin has plastered itself across my face, and I’m getting it.
These guys are living the dream.
If they were back in the US (or France, or the UK or Australia…), their families would have most likely already shipped them off to a nursing home (ahem, “residential care for the elderly facility….”) and all they’d be looking forward to is the odd game of backgammon, bad food and Saturday morning sing-alongs. Here in the Philippines, they’re out and about and living life on their own terms. They don’t give a rat’s ass that some slightly younger dude is over in the corner judging them – they’re too busy having a good time and realizing the full potential of life to be concerned about such things.
I take a sip of beer and realize it’s not their shit that is so offending my sensibilities – it’s my own shit.
“Old folks” in the West are marginalized and typically put out to pasture in their Winter years. Their best days are seen as well behind them, and the younger folks don’t want to see them out and about – it causes them too much fear and anxiety about their own inevitable mortality.
Here in the Philippines, it’s different. Old people are afforded greater respect and nursing homes don’t – outside of Manila – exist. The elderly are still allowed their autonomy and self-direction. They can breathe…..
A few more sips of my beer.
And then I think to myself, “With god’s grace (and a lot less cigarettes and sisig), I hope I can have what they have someday…….”
Doing the funky chicken at 75 with my hands in the air and not giving a hoot…….