49. With our termination date approaching, we told our families that we weren’t coming home soon. Peggy wrote my mom that even after we left the Peace Corps she would still have the American government to help her locate us in case of an emergency. Peggy reassured her that we would always let her know what country we were in and the American Embassy in that country would be responsible for us. All she’d have to do was to cable or write the American Embassy of that country, explain the emergency, and they’d locate us. “It might not be as fast as going through the Peace Corps, but you could always get a message through to us if you had to.” Also, our passports said to notify our parents in case of an emergency, and the U.S. government would take care of it. At the same time I was concerned about not finding affordable international insurance, which we never found but never needed because in every country where we needed treatment we were treated free because of socialize medicine. The first country we used socialize medicine was in Singapore because we thought Peggy might’ve been pregnant.
Our approaching termination date made us also think about saving dollars that was sent to us for our birthdays. We also had to think about packing everything that was going to the States and paring down to what we could carry with us. (Before we left we moved into the Mabuhay Hotel for debriefing and medical exams.) We had already done considerable housecleaning and throwing away; sent some packages to Texas and others to New Mexico; and it was beginning to frighten us to think that we had to be completely finished by a specific date. All of this before we decided where we were heading next!
Yes, before we decided to fly to Singapore. We really wanted to go to Singapore by boat because it would give us time to relax. … to get over the rush of leaving and to prepare to enter a new culture. But there were no boats (at least around our termination date) that went straight from Manila to Singapore. They all went via Hong Kong and Bangkok, which meant the fare was much higher. So, we could fly cheaper than we could go by boat. (We saved $50 … a large sum of money then in Asia.) Imagine! leaving the Philippines and arriving in Singapore (2,000 miles away) 2 hours and 40 minutes later! At least we were going from one big city to another, and would be able to speak English in Singapore.
Our idea then was to spend a week or less in Singapore … we expected lodging and food to be quite expensive there. (Only one hitch: Peggy was possibly pregnant.) From Singapore … well, Malaysia was next door, and I still wanted to explore Borneo. (On one vacation we spent a wonderful week on a boat sailing the Sulus and came very close to Borneo … just how close? We thought we could see it off in the distance.) From Singapore we finally decided to head north through Malaysia to Bangkok. My friend Ray Hubener, who stayed with us in Manila, was in Bangkok by then, and he said the drama opportunities there were good. He was also teaching English, so we thought we shouldn’t have much trouble getting jobs there if we decided to stay for a while. My latest dream then was to buy bicycles in Singapore and make this trip by that mode of transportation. (Only one hitch: Peggy was possibly pregnant.) But at the same time I was also still talking about Indonesia, especially Bali (which we thought would probably be just a tourist spot before very long).
As far as a mailing address, we told our families that as soon as we began heading somewhere, we would let them know and they could write us care of the American Embassy in the capital of the country where we were going.
50. The two months leading up to this were quite busy for both of us. Peggy had lots of little things to finish up at school. “The Chairs,” which I directed in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, had a successful run, playing the last week in March and every weekend in April. Peggy was involved as the ticket seller. (We had two extra performances for the cast of another play that was brought to Manila from a city in the south.) Then Peggy and I were able to take off for four days at Easter to go to Marinduque, a small island southeast of Manila. On Easter Sunday we saw a beautiful pageant, built around a legend of a Roman soldier who became a follower of Christ when blood spurted in his eyes as he pierced Jesus’ side. We bought one of the masks used in the pageant, and it became a keepsake.
51. Like I said Lino Brocka named the puppy Peta after the Philippine Educational Theater Association. She must’ve been about three months old and was really a housedog … the only time she wanted to be outside in our tiny backyard was when someone was out there playing with her. At night she even slept in the hallway upstairs because we were mean and wouldn’t let her sleep in our room and that was as close to Peggy and me as she could get.
Peta was a native dog … just a mutt … but she was supposed to like rice and fish and to be rather slow to learn. Well, Peta liked fish, but she didn’t seem to care for rice. (Dog food was quite expensive in Manila, so dogs generally ate the same thing people did.) As far as training her, she learned her name and “No!” very quickly, and it took only a few meals to teach her to stay in her box while we were eating. (Sometimes she got out, but she knew the commands.) But we couldn’t housebreak her. We were almost sure it was because of abstinence and not stupidity, but after weeks of cleaning up puddles, we were rather fed up. Even after she was whipped though, she came sidling up, wagging her tail, and it was impossible not be friends with her. We left the puppy behind with Linda.
52. The finial six weeks were even busier than ever … as we were getting ready to leave the Philippines, our summer projects were in full swing. I was following a really hectic schedule:
10-12 Mime class (I was a student)
1-3 or 4 Directing (I was the teacher)
6-8 Mime class
8:30-11:00 “ Maynila,” an improvisational show I was directing. I took the improvisational group to a huge tenement building in Tondo (a slum area) for three performances.
10-12 Playwriting (I was the teacher)
1-3 or 4 Stagecraft (I was the teacher)
6-8 Mime class
8:30- 11:00 “Maynila”
During a performance of “Maynila” in the dungeons of Fort Santiago, there was an ugly incident involving a nun “getting touched in dark,” and I resolved the incident (proudly) by being “more Filipino than Filipinos around me.” I held the hand of the man who was upset while I calmed him down.
To further complicate matters, my classes were held at three different places, so that I had to spend a good deal of time just coming and going. Needless to say it was a busy six weeks.
Meanwhile Peggy was teaching two classes of kindergarten children. The classes were under the sponsorship of the Social Welfare Department and were only for very, very poor children. In the morning she had about 15 three- and four-year-olds. Her afternoon group was about 30 children, ranging in ages from 3 to 7. The children were fun and she enjoyed working with them. But it was a challenge. What a challenge! She had watched her mother work with this age group, and of course she had done a lot of babysitting. But being in charge of that many children for two hours a day required a lot of imagination. So she quickly exhausted most of her ideas. She was handicapped because there were no Filipino picture books, and her Tagalog was not good enough to do much storytelling. She luckily found someone who could teach the children action songs in Tagalog.
Peggy and Randy Ford