The CuriousPages Sketchbook

A burgeoning industry in the Philippines

My friend Ricky, a Filipino guy with character and integrity (of which I’m sure there are many), was telling me of some of the exploits of his close friends, partly for gossip purposes, but also, perhaps, as a precautionary tale.

One of his best friends, Adrian, has bad debts amongst all the neighbours in their village; he is well known for his talent of spending other people’s money. Apparently, he is an extremely good actor, very convincing. And he can invent a convincing sob story in the wink of an eye. “I just need 2000 peso to pay for my mother’s medication, and my friend is paying me back this 2000 pesos next week and I’ll give it back to you when he does, promise,” and so on, which, apparently, so great is his believability, people are taken in by and hand over the money, even though they know his reputation. Of course, they never see the money again. And these are people who really ought to know better, as you’ll hear below.

Ricky was telling me about Adrian’s last boyfriend, who was an American called Dan. Dan would pay for Adrian to take a trip to California and spend months with him, gaining an even bigger appetite for the trappings of the West than even he had previously had. Then Adrian would come back to Bohol, in the Philippines, and Dan would finance his appetites from afar. Over a period of many months, Adrian worked on his creative talents, exploring every avenue of the sob story, like some long-running soap opera. At some point in the soap plot, Adrian’s father had died, which, no doubt, required the injection of many American dollars to keep Adrian’s grief sicken family from the streets. With these dollars (as Rick related), Adrian would take his group of friends to the local casino, hand then 2000 pesos each, and encourage them to have a good time.

After several months of such spending sprees, Dan happened to message Rick on Yahoo, and he started asking him about Adrian. For some time Rick had been feeling sorry for Dan. Dan must have become suspicious and he asked Ricky if Adrian’s father was dead. Ricky told him, “No, he’s very much alive. He drives a jeepney most days.”

Dan told him that he had no money left, that he had mortgaged his property and now the bank owned most of it. He asked Ricky to get Adrian arrested. Ricky told him that he would have to come to Bohol and hire a lawyer to do that.

Of course Ricky felt very sorry for Dan and when he confronted Adrian about what he’d done, Adrian said that he’d worked hard for that money—he talked to Dan online for six months before Dan would give him anything.

When they were talking about it, Adrian estimated the amount of Dan’s money that he had gambled away to be about 3 million pesos. Ricky told him that he could have bought a nice house for that amount, but of course the money had no value to Adrian: easy come, easy go.

Then, the next day, Ricky was telling me about some of the Western boyfriends that his older brother had had. The last one was also an American. He would fly over a few times a year and take Ricky’s brother on holidays to Singapore and Malaysia, and, Ricky then told me, this was where he had died, on a railway station in Malaysia. His brother was with his American boyfriend on the station and the boyfriend died of a heart attack, right there on the station. I asked how old he was and Ricky said, “Seventy five. And he’d been suffering from cancer as well.” We discussed the fact that he hadn’t, as far as they knew, mentioned Ricky’s brother in his will.

Ricky has also mentioned, with some distaste, that a number of his other friends are often saying that they need to get themselves a sugar daddy.

I think this pastime is perhaps becoming an industry in the Philippines. “Catching” a Westerner is seen as a legitimate (and respectable) career path—and, why not? There are not many opportunities for advancement there, and it is perhaps easier than working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and earning just enough to eat and pay the rent, even if this Westerner-dating job does sometimes involve the “hard work” of chatting online to someone for six months before you see any returns, and, at other times, accompanying a seventy-five year old man around the world and constantly readying yourself to catch him when he falls, lifeless at your feet.

This scene does conjure up in my mind a new meaning to the phrase: “always take precautions when having sex”.

 

17 September 2009

 

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