Before we did anything else, and even ate, we found a hotel. I asked, as we walked along, “Nick, why are you godless?”
“Gutless! Godless! Who said I was godless?”
“But you claim to be a communist.”
Now I was confused. He said he was a Maoist. Nick told me he was a Maoist, and had Mother Teresa for a mother, and his girlfriend was an American and he applauded Mao, not the West, but the East. And if he wasn’t a communist, what was he? It didn’t make sense to me. But I learned that it wasn’t always clear, so I decided not to pursue it.
Then while walking across plaza and heading for the hotel, he tried to explain, “I’m not a communist.”
“But you went to China, Red China.”
“And does it make me a communist?
“And you said you were a Maoist.”
“I may have learned a lot from Mao and went to China on a vacation, but … ”
“Red China … “
“Red China. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love my country. I love my country more than anything else. I’m more of a nationalist than anything.”
“But doesn’t one have to be consistent,” I asked.
“Consistent? I think I have been … consistent. I think I’ve been consistently inconsistent, except when … “
“Except when it comes to Marcos. And you don’t have to be religious to do good things. Too many people have died in the name of religion. Here in Mindanoa too many people have died in the name of religion. Here in Mindanoa we’re seeing good Christians kill Muslims and you can understand why Muslims are fighting back. I wasn’t a radical until an American GI raped a Filipina in Angeles City, city of angels and prostitutes, and he wasn’t tried in a Filipino court. He was tried in an American court. And you call it justice. Now wait a minute. It’s not true. I grew up a radical. I was never Americanized, and when I got the chance, I went to China, Red China, on a vacation. Thanks to my parents I was never Americanized and got a chance to go to China. I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t want to go?” Nick concluded, “If given a chance, wouldn’t you go?”
We stopped at the curb across the street from the hotel. We had a choice of more than one hotel. The plaza was full of venders, color, flowers, smells, and people. “Here we have a choice,” Nick said. “We can take a little time to enjoy what’s here, or we can rush into the hotel and see if they have room for us? One of my favorite things is right here: halo-halo, with ice, fruit, beans, and cream. I’m thirsty and hot. Then why do you suppose we’re in such a hurry?”
“I don’t know. But ask Susan. I bet she’s focused on one thing … the WC. So you can have your halo-halo.” I said, taking Susan’s arm. “I know my wife. She’s been awfully quiet.”
Nick smiled. “I can see why you’d want to pacify her. If Elaine were along … “
“You’d be different. I know … “
We walked across the street and approached the hotel door
“I’ve learned to compromise, or she’s outfoxed me. I can have halo-halo anytime. I hope you develop a taste for halo-halo, because it’s Filipino, and it’d a shame if you don’t take tastes from the Philippines with you when you leave.”
“Why wouldn’t we love halo-halo?”
I knew that Nick liked many American things … an American woman and hamburgers in particular. I understood. But if he claimed to be Maoist, he was certainly a communist. And I didn’t believe he went to China on a vacation. But he loved his country. I was sure of it. When we reached the front door of the hotel Nick held it open for Susan and me. It was kind of him, or was he simply playing a role?
“Now I’m going to let you take care of my bag: you two check in, go pee or whatever, while I become your halo-halo man.” Smiling, he added, “I think we all could use a lift.”
He ran back across the street. By the time he got back with three halo-halos we were already up in our room; and we had a room for him next to ours. The three of us enjoyed our halo-halo.