by David ‘Mac’ McAllister
It was a hot sultry night in the Philippines. I lay in bed, skin wet and clammy with passion spent, perspiring, the stale taste of beer on my breath. The oscillations of the floor fan across my body lulling me to the brink of sleep. The last thing I remember before dozing off – rats scurrying on the window sill in the moonlight.
It was close to dawn as my internal alarm clock faithfully started to rouse me from my slumber. As I lay in that glorious twilight between sleep and consciousness my mind drifted back to the night before. Prolonging the inevitable as long as possible I remembered the Hole in the Wall and the terms of the Ugly Contest. As the reality of deeds done set in, my senses raced to wakeful horror. Fully awake now, I was afraid to open my eyes for fear of what I may find next to me; besides, there was something nibbling on my feet – RATS.
As my eyelids snapped open like window shades, there she was at the foot of the bed; that fucking baby duck, the one I bought and didn’t have the heart to feed to the crocodile at Pauline’s, in her hands allowing it to peck at the soles of my feet. Reflexes brought my legs and torso upright, knees meeting at my chin. As my vision cleared and the San Miguel haze abated in the dimly lit room, I noted all she was wearing was a pair of golden hoop earrings. Jesus, I wasn’t even going to be in the running for the Ugly Contest, what a movie star! I think I was probably going to be late for morning muster at the Hole in the Wall.
Walking out onto Rizal Ave I was greeted by the already hot tropical Sun searing through my bloodshot eyes, two or three dozen roosters crowing and some nitwit singing out “BAAALOOOT!” Hopping in a Jeepney I bounced along in the dusty heat towards the main gate, and my destination.
Now the Hole in the Wall was a little one step go down joint that served as a starting off and finish up hangout for us hole snipes. Depending on how you looked at it, it was either the first den of inequity encountered or the last outpost of passion before crossing the bridge that separated Olongapo from the Naval Station.
Ugly Contests, for the uninitiated, were a cross between and animal act and charity with a little machismo thrown in for good measure. Usually occurring after a day or so in port, the basics are as follows: All participants put twenty or thirty pesos into the pot, then scour the night for the ugliest girl they could find, take her home and meet up the next morning with her in tow. The lucky sailor with the winner, as judged by his peers, got bragging rights plus a small portion of the pot; while the majority of the winnings were given to the girl.
Stepping out of the jeepney, I was greeted by the aromatic stench of Shit River which was met on its way down by last night’s beer trying to come up. Swallowing hard, I negotiated the returning crowd of sailors, stepped down into the Hole in the Wall and quickly ordered beers for the crew awaiting my late arrival. Picking mine up, I inspected the label ensuring it said Philippines and not Manila, wiped the neck on my shirt tail and finger popped the bottle opening. Little trick’s, learned the hard way, to avoid the horrid San Magoo’s. A long pull on the cold sweet beer settled my rebelling stomach and washed the bad taste of the river smell away. Not having a horse in the race, I was relinquished to spectator status this morning. So leaning against the bar, sipping on the beer, I settled in to watch the festivities.
From bad past experiences, the Ugly Contest was always referred to as a beauty pageant while the contestants were present. You know ugly girls can get real ugly when their feelings get hurt. A great spectacle was always made and many of the contestants were paraded about by their sponsor’s so as to show off their most despicable qualities.
MM3 was one of those individuals that could shit, shower and shave, put on deodorant and foo foo, then don a brand new tuxedo and still look like crap. His standards of excellence regarding the fairer sex were well below those of an inbred red neck snorkeling after his sister. Consequently, he was hard to beat at these affairs and his notoriety was legendary.
That being said, our newly reported aboard BT1 stepped down into the Hole in the Wall hand in hand with what I would classify as a poster child for revulsion. There wasn’t really one defining trait that set her over and above the rest. It was just that, as they so frequently say on “American Idol”, she had the total package. Thin stringy hair, a few beetle nut stained teeth and eyes that creepy pale color associated with cataracts, she was beyond homely. Her body shape was that of a time piece alright; rather than an hour glass, that of a clock – round.
Totally surprised by this unusual turn of events, BT1 was beside himself to be unanimously, although inconspicuously, without contention judged to be the hands down winner without so much as having to do anything but walk in with this lovely.
Well, after the awarding of the grand prize BT1’s honey jumped for joy and hopped around the joint, as well as her chubby little legs would permit, singing “I be d’weenner, I be d’weenner” over and over. Picking up her winnings she placed an unforgettably nauseating lip lock on old BT1 and up and out she went, disappearing into the humanity of the morning rush. As everyone else was left to distance themselves from the specimens that they had drug in, I clapped BT1 on the back and said “Let’s head out shipmate”. Across the bridge we went, tossing Pesos to the Bonka boat girls, thru the main gate and into a taxi, off for Alava pier. Busily jabbering away congratulating my new shipmate on his victory in unseating MM3, I finally noticed his lake of enthusiasm, response or reflection upon his good fortune. So I poked him in the shoulder and said “What’s up with you? Aren’t you proud of that shit?” as we jumped out of the cab and started up the brow. He gazed at me through watery eyes and said “I don’t mind winning, it’s just that that was my wife”.
“Oh!” say’s I.
Now what the hell do you say to that?
I thought to myself ‘Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone’, but instead, said “Well shipmate, beauty is in the eye if the beholder” and left it at that.
He and I became regular shipmates; however, never did see him in the Hole in the Wall again.