BRAWL IN A PORTUGUESE VILLAGE BAR * excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust

Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal
eastwind memoirs
By Bernie Lopez,
Excerpt 02
This is an excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust, the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self, a true story of the daring adventure of a Filipino Programmer in New York turned drifter, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 years across Western Europe and North Africa. More than a travelogue, it is a guide to discovering one’s inner self.


CHRISTMAS OFFER. Send this book to friends anywhere in the Philippines as a Christmas Gift at a click of a mouse, no muss, no fuss. Only Php 400, including shipping, sent directly to their homes by JRS courier in 2 to 4 days. (To US/EU longer, $30).  Email the author at on how to order the book.
But first read the excerpt below, and decide if the book is worth it as a Christmas gift.


expectation is the enemy
the higher it is, the greater the crash
let things come as they come
whether total darkness or blinding light
be ready to soar or go on a tailspin
either way it will be exciting
just brace yourself and go with the flow


I spent winter in the Canary Islands. At the onset of spring, like the albatross, I headed north from Las Palmas to Cadiz in Spain by boat, then hitchhiked to Portugal in search of the bull fiesta. I reached the border village of Vila Real de Santo Anto­nio. It was dusk. After hitching the whole day, I sat outside a noisy bar, tired and hungry.


Hitchhikers do not normally carry a heavy guitar, but I did because, for me, it was a magic wand on the road. Somehow, it attracted true adventure. I peeked into the crowded bar. Everyone was talking loud. The barten­der, seeing my magic wand, beckoned to me. As soon as I entered, everyone stopped talking and stared at me in awe – from chaos to dead silence. I was like an alien from the sky, dark, in my dirty canary-yellow ski jacket, and hair to the shoulders. It was an all-male group, all in different levels of inebriation.


The bartender pointed to my guitar. So I took it out of the case. He told me to play a tune. I obliged. The drinkers, mostly middle- and old-aged, gathered around me, staring si­lently, waiting for me to sing. I did not have stage fright. I felt like singing. There I was, sing­ing a Filipino Christmas carol in April, Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit, (Christmas is Here), the same tune I played in Morocco for Vicky and in Munich at the plaza, and in Copenhagen at a local night bar. It was a good ice-breaker, being very ‘Filipino’ and sounding flamenco-ish. In reality, the minor chord progression was Spanish in origin. It was also for lack of other better songs to sing.


In the middle of the song, a huge mug of cold beer slid down the ramp and screeched to a halt in front of me, frothing with anger. Then a large salami sandwich came next. They knew I was hungry. After my song, there was pandemonium. They grabbed the guitar. One sang a sad Portuguese folk song while I ate raven­ous­ly.


That night, I had about six mugs of beer, some­thing I had not done for a long time. It was a far cry from the meditative gofio of Lanzarote, where I lived in a cave for a month. I was out of Africa, back in Europe were alcohol was king. After the silence of the cave, the noise of a bar was heaven. It was good to mix with the rowdy Portuguese.
A guy put an arm around my shoulder. I did not know it was easy to understand Portuguese if you spoke broken Spanish. With a little help from non-verbal communica­tions, I felt at home in Portugal.


“Listen, my young man, where are you sleeping tonight?” he asked.


I shrugged my shoulder, “I don’t know. Perhaps in the park outside. I often sleep in parks when there are no hostels.”


His eyes widened in amusement. He laughed aloud until he choked. “You sleep in the park outside? That’s terrible. Nonsense, my young man. You sleep in my house tonight.”


“You’re sure it’s no trouble?”


“No trouble at all. It is my privilege to have a Filipino for a guest. We never see Filipinos around here, you know.”


“Okay, muito obrigato.” I did not remember if that was Catalan or Portuguese, but he understood and laughed.


“Fine. I’ll see you later.”


He left to join others who were singing. There were no videokes or karaokes then. I joined others who were trying to talk to me. Everyone had to shout to be heard. Another guy called me aside. He almost fell on me.


“Where are you sleeping tonight, my friend?” he said.


“Someone offered me to sleep in his house.”




I pointed to the guy who was by now trying to sing.


He said, “Sebastian? Nonsense. You’re sleeping in my house tonight.”


I shrugged my shoulders, “Doesn’t matter. Anywhere is fine.”
“No, you sleep in my house,” he insisted with finality.


“Talk to him,” I smiled.
He marched straight to the other guy. They had an argu­ment. The others were siding with one or the other. The chaos was reaching a climax. Then I knew it would happen. The two had a fist fight. One went down on the floor. The other dove at him and they grappled like children on the floor to the amusement of everyone. Everyone was shouting like they were in an American wrestling match.


I felt so privileged that in my first Portuguese village, people were fighting over me to sleep in their house. The feeling was nice. But if I did not leave, there would be a dilemma. I took my guitar, and gave a signal to the bartender, who gave a thumbs-up. Quiet­ly, I slipped away and walked to a nearby park. The pandemonium vanished away slowly. Then there was a deafening silence, the sacred Portuguese evening.


I slept in the park. There was no rain. I preferred sleep­ing in the open alone rather than feeling rigid as a guest in a house whose host would be over-hospit­able. It was good I left. And it was also good they fought over me. That was something I would never forget ever, my first encounter with the boisterous and lovable Portuguese. The whole night, before sleeping, I was laughing aloud to myself like a lunatic. The Portuguese were very much like Filipinos, I thought, warm, over-hospit­able, easy to befriend, noisy, over-acting when drunk, unassuming, and reckless. I looked forward to Algarve, to the bull fiesta at Vila Franca de Xira, and to Fatima, where i would take a pilgrimage, walking 80 kilometers for seven days to say hello to Mama Mary.
Book Cover
Excerpt 03 – PILGRIMAGE TO FATIMA, The 7-day 80-km hike, Portugal.
In search of myself, I drifted through Europe and ended up making a pilgrimage. No tent, no umbrella, just a sleeping bag, beach sandals, and a 1.5-kilo backpack.
Excerpt 07 – A SWEDISH DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, Canary Islands.
Evading security, I sneak into a tourist beach at night. From atop a tall 5-star hotel, a maiden sees me fixing my sleeping bag, and, like an angel, descends into my realm.
Excerpt 14 – CHRISTMAS WITH ARABS AND JEWS, Athens, Greece.
What was my loneliest Christmas became an awesome experience.


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