This story is dedicated to the millions of OFWs scattered across Planet Earth.
This is a true story, with dialogue reconstructed and names changed. In the 70s, I was a daring adventurer, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 18 months, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa. On my second day in Athens, I met two awesome Filipino sailors in Syntagma Square. Monching was throwing a giant birthday party. Kardo was smuggling blue seals and making a killing. I hope they, in their old age, if still alive, can read this and reply to me.
GREEK WAITER (dressed in all-white) – Hey you, Filipino! ME – Hello. GREEK WAITER – You Filipinos are the craziest people I have met ever. ME – Really now. How come?
There were about ten waiters dressing up with white linen a long table about half a kilometer long across the entire square. It practically ended at the horizon.
GREEK WAITER – You see this table, 200 meters long all around? This table is for big shots like the city Mayor or a VIP. This table is expensive. Only rich people have their parties here. ME – So? GREEK WAITER – You see that crazy Filipino sailor over there? ME – Looks normal to me. GREEK WAITER – You don’t understand. He is a humble second officer in a Panamanian ship that just landed in Piraeus yesterday. He can’t possibly afford to hire this long table. ME – If he is a Filipino seaman, he can. GREEK WAITER – That’s what I mean. You guys are crazy. He saves his salary for five years. ME – I would say ten. GREEK WAITER – Then he spends it all in one birthday bash. He is inviting all Filipinos in the entire city of Athens, I mean all. Now, tell me he’s not crazy. ME – I don’t think you would understand if I explained it to you. GREEK WAITER – Try me. ME – Well, okay. Filipinos have a different way of looking at things. Money is not everything. You work your ass off, that’s okay. But for a Filipino seaman, you earn money to spend it. GREEK WAITER – I give up. You’re just as crazy. I wouldn’t kill myself for five years inside the belly of a lousy ship just for a birthday party. He’s crazy. ME – I agree. He’s crazy alright. But in a nice way. He likes a birthday bash. What can you say? I must meet this guy. MONCHING – (I walk over to him.) – Name’s Monching. What ship are you from? ME – Name’s Bernie. No ship. That waiter says you are crazy for having an expensive party. MONCHING – (Laughing.) You only live once. You’re invited tomorrow night. All Filipinos are invited, no matter who – nurses, musicians, bar girls, consuls, whoever. Tell all Filipinos you know. Listen, I’m busy. You go talk to my friend Kardo over there.
I went over to Kardo. He had a huge duffel bag with him.
KARDO – What ship? ME – No ship. KARDO – I am in the US Navy. Big warship. What are you doing here? ME – Not much. Just passing through? KARDO – And you’re not a seaman? ME – Nope. KARDO – That’s strange. You must be a tourist. (Whispering furtively.) Listen, man, I need help. You see this? Filipino seamen were not aware of Filipino drifters, hitchhikers, which were rare at that time. I did not bother to explain. He opened the huge duffel bag. I peered in and saw a ton of blue seal Salem and Winston cigarettes, green and red like Christmas decor.
KARDO – You help me. We sell this in the night bars. You get free drinks. ME – You got about $2,000 worth in there, right? KARDO – Shhh. Shut up. Five thousand. That’s just for this week. Unlimited supply. ME – I bet. You have a friend in the commissary. KARDO – Yes, Filipino also, my best friend. He gets 20%. Okay, okay, I’ll give you a commission. ME – I’m not interested in a commission. I’d like the drink though. KARDO – You’re on. Let’s go. ME – You navy men are crazy. KARDO – I smuggled Harley Davidsons in Corsica and Smith and Wesson in Rotterdam. I’m a businessman. ME – You got anything in mind aside from making money on the side? KARDO – Of course. Women. You want a woman tonight? On me.
I did not reply. So we went around the bars. I was amazed the bartenders knew him. He must have been smuggling cigarettes regularly for years. We had one or two free drinks in every bar. After about ten bars, we were dead drunk. The duffel bag was now almost empty. Kardo treated me to American steak somewhere. I could hardly walk. I couldn’t go home, so Kardo dragged me to his three-star hotel. Pretty good. I ended up with a hangover and missed Monching’s party. I could have met the entire Filipino community of Athens. Sayang. while on the road I met a lot of people in pain at times, you cannot see the pain it is hidden in Kardo’s friendliness and Monching’s willingness to share you have to learn to discern beneath the millionaire kardo I saw the pain of being lonely holed up in the engine room of a ship for years for monching, I could see the despair for ‘business’ as a way to escape spiritual poverty the same poverty I felt in new york yet their pain was nothing compared to those of others I met on the road my three-year adventure in europe gave me valuable lessons about life I always prayed for the many people in pain I met on the road, including myself my adventure sanctified me and lifted me out of the mire of spiritual poverty all of a sudden, there was meaning, not absurdity to all OFWs, hang in there your sanity and sanctity depends on being for others the secret in discovering yourself lies in discovering others eastwind This is an excerpt from the book WINGS AND WANDERLUST The Art of Discovering Your Inner Self To order the book, request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org 500 Philippine pesos, sent to your doorstep via JRS if you are in the Philippines. Read more eastwind memoirs http://www.sisterraquel.com/2014/04/eastwind-memoirs-collection Inspirational eastwind verses a04
no one can live your life for you gurus can only give tips in the end you fly your own plane you flap your own wings you find your own path in your own way in your own style when you enter the dark forest good and bad things lurk to make and break your soul take the chance, you will not regret it darkness and light will encompass you make the Lord your beacon for He is the Light in your darkness gather strength in His grace and everything will fall into place beyond your imagination amdg