By David “Mac” McAllister
It was one of those lazy warm afternoons in the Philippines; the trades gently cooling the effects of the glaring tropical Sun. I sat at an open air Nepa hut bar on the beach sharing ice cold San Miguel’s and hot sea stories with some local retired sailors I knew. It was just a thatched roof over a four-sided bar surrounding a chest freezer loaded with that infamous brew of which we had consumed quite a few. Far removed from the hustle of Olongapo, life here in the Barrio was not only quiet and reserved but free from the watchful eye and hassles of the shore patrol. Relaxed in cutoffs, no shirt and enjoying an afternoon beer buzz with pals, who could want more. Across the road at a Sari Sari store I noticed three elderly (to me) women, purchases upon their heads, walking away down the road; their rhythmic sway reminded me of a camel caravan trekking across a faraway desert as one of the old hands remarked something about “being something in their day” thereby breaking the spell. Most of these guys had been here longer than I had been in the Navy. Their life consisted of dragging themselves out of bed and plopping it down here at this little bar every day until paralysis sent in. Collected by some form of significant other in the late afternoon/early evening, the process would start over again tomorrow. I had a strange admiration for these guys that translated into the dread of becoming one of them someday.
Eventually, the Sun, as it can only do in the tropics, dramatically extinguished itself in the atmosphere all the while twilight, in an attempt to extend the day, fought hard against the encroaching darkness. The azure blue of a darkening sky harkened the approaching dusk which, like steeping tea, enveloped and concealed the stark poverty of the Barrio. Night slowly fell and a transformation as sure as a caterpillar to butterfly commenced. As the night lights brought life to the bars, the working girls materialized and the jukeboxes revved up; the Barrio hummed into life with its own kind of primal energy. The buzzing inaudible reverberating din of those on the prowl; all searching, some taking but rarely giving in an unending ebb and flow of human desire. A consuming energy that demanded you replace what you took. A tingling soulful Kundalini energy that radiated from your pelvis to your crown while causing the hair on your arms to stand up, your face to flush and your being to become aware of itself. It was what I referred to as being in liberty mode.
The old hands were fading fast as I bid them farewell for the evening and set off for the nightlife. Bars with the names like D’ Quails Nest, Irish Rose, Charlie’s Angels, D’ Wave, Magic Glow and many more I no longer recall beckoned me. The transformation into liberty mode was complete and I was one with the Barrio. My head cleared from its foggy afternoon lazy existence and my senses were sharply tuned to my surroundings. The sight of a hot pant, halter-topped young lady caught my attention. I fell in behind her as she walked down the dirt road exhibiting more action in those pants than two cub scouts trying to put up a Sears and Roebuck’s pup tent. I was feeling better than I should, thought I was better looking than I was and felt meaner than any other son of a bitch.
I arrived at my first stop, Charlie’s Angles, just as the BMC (ret) owner emerged, like a vampire, from under the bar where he entombed himself by day. First round, vodka for him a beer for me was on the house. As we caught up on the gossip since we had last seen one another, he told me of his latest edition; supposedly a real blowjob artist. Told me if he could find a couple more like her he would be giving Marilyn’s a run for her money. After a brief introduction and bearing witness to her antics, I was convinced that she was what he claimed and was silently glad that I always consumed my beer from the bottle. Making a mental note to never trust the glasses in my good friend’s joint again, I left with him in tow.
Next stop, the Irish Rose where the owner, an ENC (ret), welcomed us to the joint with his usual hair lip grin and jolly “Hey Mac” as the girl behind the bar opened and slid two frosty beers before us. After an update and demonstration of BMC (ret)’s recently acquired XXX rated sex toys, which he rarely left home without, and a briefing of his fledgling BJ task force we eventually settled into shooting pool, reliving days gone by and reminiscing about old shipmates with the help, comfort and company of some of ENC (ret)’s finest fillies. Somebody say food?
We dined at a beach front place across the road and down from the Rose. Fresh lobsters as long as your forearm caught that day, grilled to perfection with fresh veggies and rice; washed down with ice cold bottles of beer followed by vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate and dark rum syrup. An after dinner aperitif, consisting of shots of 151 rum, and we were ready. Topped off on chow and fully armed with Peso-nality, my two retired bar owner partners and I breasted out and commenced some high speed steaming and firing runs on the local watering holes.
The night pressed on through a litany of joints and dives named and unnamed, girls and drinks too many to remember. After a while we ended up at a newly opened place that held girls boxing matches, a phenomenon just catching on at the time. As we watched one particular match between a Mutt and Jeff pair up, whereby neither opponent could be considered contenders by any stretch of the imagination, we knew not what we were about to see.
As the bell sounded and after allot of windmilling and flaying of arms the shorter of the two got a lucky uppercut in on the tall one. Now enraged with a fat lip, Legs commenced pounding on the top of Shorty’s head. With that, Shorty was working over legs midsection. I guess Leg’s stomach and kidneys were weaker than Shorty’s hard head and her poundings subsided. That’s when her feet came into play and the kicking started. Now here Legs clearly had the advantage and she went to work on Shorty with the tenacity of a cross between a Thai kickboxer and a pissed off alley cat. Soon Shorty was swooning but not before she came off with her gloves and bare handed with nails bared went for the hair.
Well, it eventually degenerated from an honorable boxing contest into a full-fledged catfight. Kicking, pulling jerking, ripping, tearing, biting and screaming the blood came in fits and spurts and the clothes came off as they rolled on the deck. Having never been witness to the myth of banshees, I can testify to the fact that they were as close as I ever care to get. Truly possessed by now, I really thought these two Luzon Lady Zenas would, in fact, dismember one another. Frighteningly, I could actually imagine and fantasize them continuing to fight as broken disembodied naked pieces; finger against toe, armpit over butt cheek, head stuffed into the pelvis.
Finally, the so-called referee, a brave man, to say the least, managed to break them up. Wisely pronouncing the contest, a draw, the prize money was split and they were best of friends once more. I have always said that I would rather fight Mohamed Ali than an enraged woman. However, there’s just something about a naked ca fight that causes a guy to cast fate to the wind, check his better judgment at the door and get that bar fine money out.
Later back at the Nepa hut bar on the beach, legs was nursing her fat lip on a cold beer bottle while I sipped on a frost encrusted hurt your hand cold beer from the freezer. While basking in the silver light of a waning gibbous Moon as it soared overhead illuminating the bay and the ebbing carnival atmosphere of the night I thought in reflection: Is everyone living this dream or is it just me? I wonder what the unlucky bastards elsewhere in the world are doing tonight. Never did I imagine, dream or the thought dawn on me, that these glory days would too soon end and become the basis of which unbelievable sea stories would spring. As time has a habit of doing, the stories eventually became legend and now many of the legends exist only as myths; the likes of which will never be seen again.