Our waiter brought us all wine. He took our menus and our orders. “I’m surprise they serve wine. In deference to Muslims, I thought they wouldn’t,” Nick said.
“One of the reasons I come here is because they cater to Western tourists. I used to observe all of the dietary restrictions of my neighbors and stayed away from pork. I observe all of their holidays and give my employees the time off. They’re also able to be with their families for Christmas and Easter. I don’t discriminate. That’s why I’m tolerated. Now let me hear about you all.”
Nick bit his lip and then said, “You know I’m all about change…in the way we view each other, in the way we think…and I’m always focused on tomorrow, and optimistic that the world will change for the better.”
Tom didn’t respond, and then Nick said to Tom, “I suppose you’re satisfied with the way things are.”
We enjoyed our prawn meal. Afterwards, Tom excused himself and then walked a ways away from us, where he lit a cigarette. Tom said it was a nasty habit that he enjoyed very much…enjoyed all his vices from smoking to drinking. “But I can modify my behavior,” he added with a smile. “Over time I’ve learned to do that. You might say I’ve learned to adapt my behavior to the customs of the people around me. Happily I can afford a private life and all of my vices once and while.” When we said goodnight to Cecelia and Tom, they were heading to a room in the hotel, but they weren’t in a hurry.
In front of the hotel, pedicabs vied for our business, but instead we chose to walk along the waterfront, where there were warehouses filled copra. When we came to the main wharf, we decided to stroll to the end of it.
“This is where we’ll board our ship to Jolo and ports beyond, but it’s not here yet.” Nick then pointed out the ferry to Basilian, which was docked for the night. “Actually there was one thing I wanted to say to our American friend,” he continued. “You see I regret that I didn’t tell him about my relationship with Elaine; in any case, it’s not the same as his relationship with Cecilia, but when he talked about her being the boss, I could see that happening to me.”
At that moment, Nick looked forlorn and torn and slightly angry with himself, but whenever he mentioned Elaine he seemed to perk up. Until he met Elaine, he never envisioned himself dating an American, and the fact that she was the daughter of a Navy Commander “amused” him. Since then he said he hoped his standing, as a radical hadn’t diminished. If anything, according to him, it had increased.
I asked Nick how he really felt about dropping by Tom’s house for dinner.
“I must admit that the thought of it disturbs me, but a speed boat ending sounds exciting,” he said. “Inconsistency, I guess, has been my hallmark. As long as I make contact with the rebels, I’ll be happy.” After Mawari, he had no preconceived idea about how they would receive him, he added, but he thought that they would have many things in common. “To catch the ferry, we’ll have to get an early start,” he said, as we stood in front of the ticket stand. “Actually I think I can hold my own, and I have the credentials…that should impress them. I know we’ll have our differences.” From there, he launched into a history lesson. It started with the brutal Christianizing of Manila by the Spaniards. “With the defeat of the Rajah Sulayman, Legazpi moved all of the Muslims outside of the European-styled walled city. With natives out of gun range, the Chinese then became the Spaniards’ major worry. Educate Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them adjacent to Manila, where there was considerable density of population… Demographically, since then, Christianity has been moving steadily southward. Even today, there are more Catholics in the metropolitan Manila region than in …. Spanish colonization has been painted as an attempt to spread Christianity while downplaying the angle that Christianization was only a tool… By Christianizing the Filipinos, the Spanish Catholic …. to run the government in Manila, the main city, and to continue Christianization…” Nick obviously knew his Philippine history and often had used his knowledge to drive home a point. After a moment, Nick said, “So you see, we’re brothers.”
When we got back to our hotel across from the plaza, we said “good night” to Nick.