It may be true: life becomes more serious the more we grow older. Work commitments make us have more responsibilities and have less time to enjoy time for ourselves or with our friends. Moreover distance may come in between and we live more apart from friend and family. I myself live far away from family and friends and though I have made new friends living far away, I miss the friends back home and the relaxed feeling of being around a table in a countryside restaurant where we are linked by the memories of the past and the friendship we have now.
Then one evening we had friends over for dinner. He is German and she is from Philippines and they told us the story of Paking. Paking is an old man today, he is a carpenter who lives in the same islands in Southern Philippines where the two friends have their house. Actually is Paking himself who built the house. He is a very thou rough worker, they said, maybe a bit slow and taking breaks now and then disappearing for some days , but when he is back one can be sure that he will do a good job, paying attention to details and quality of the work.
Paking comes from a family of carpenters. Originally from the North of Philippines, his family moved to Manila where his father could find job as carpenter. The family was poor and Paking had to learn the job quite young in the beginning helping his father and learning the right skills. This was during the 1960s and at that time there was enough work in Manila. Then came the 1970s and the oil shocks, the situation was no more good, people started to look for jobs abroad. Paking did as well and went to Saudi Arabia getting a loan form a local money lender to pay for the flight.
So Paking went off. He got a first job in Saudi Arabia, probably Riad and then another one. Starting from simple carpenter he got more responsibilities and became the supervisor of several workers at the same time. He did not find too difficult to find jobs as one building after another was then build in Saudi Arabia. So time went fast and year after year he collected nine years in Saudi Arabia earning a good salary, repaying his debt, sending something home and saving for the day he was going back. Finally that day arrived and he was in the plane that brought him back to Manila. He was probably looking at the sea down under from the little windows of the plane, then the thin line of the coast and the slow decent towards the airport that make the tiny details of the land, his land, growing more familiar. He landed and finally could breathe the air of home. He was again in Manila, time to meet the friends again. He phoned around and collected some people and gave them appointment to a famous pub in town: Ekuna. He went there met the friends and family friends and offered to drink paying with the savings he was still carrying with him. Then he offered another round and another one. Another one. Things got a out of hand and he decided to rent the all pub for the whole night, everybody could be his guest. The pub got full very fast and the rumours spread around fast about a party going on there. The Paking decided to rent the pub for the whole week. Everybody his guest, he got also some girls and dancers to come to the pub, then more girls and the pub rented for second week. Follow of people kept coming for days and nights, girls, young men, old men, friends of Paking and many unknown people. Music was playing loud, the air heavy of alcohol and smoke. But Paking did not gave up and rented the pub for a third week. And then the third week ended and Paking, like awakening from a sweet dream, realised that he had finished all the money he had saved in the years he worked in abroad. He was broke.
He went back to his island down in the south and started again with small carpenter jobs as people remembered well about his skills and had also heard about the great three weeks in Manila. Today one can hear Paking still telling this story, without regret. He is doing nicely, working for himself and slowly bringing up houses and buildings. Our friends told us that he sometime still feels the flame of the youth and goes for swimming. For swimming, I asked? Doing some sport in the nearby beach? No, swimming means, they said by moving the two harms in front of the like swimming, to play majung a Chinese gambling game made with stones like domino that have to be mixed on the top of a table moving the two harms like swimming. He goes there, makes some debt and come back to work the money he needs to repay them. His wife in the beginning was upset, then decided to follow him to one of the swimming session and now is more addicted than him. It is easy to spot them around the swimming table, in that island in the south of Philippines.
7. February 2004