Tales from Coco Beach: Happy Hour

This is part two of a series of posts about my stay at Coco Beach Resort in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, from June 10-12, 2006.

Indulgence was really the name of the game at the resort, and every group of guests had their own way of going about it. While my companions and I ate and drank between swimming and jacuzzi sessions, the European women marked time by burning themselves under the heat of the tropical sun. Even though they were already salmon-colored by the end of their first day, the next day would find them taking up their poolside positions again. I guess for them red natural sunburn beats orange fake Mystic Tan?

The thing about going on vacation is that diets are usually thrown by the wayside, and this occasion was no exception. After weeks of semi-starvation in order to fit into a bikini (okay, not really), we let everything go to waist once we got to Coco Beach.

Carabao Restaurant Carabao English menuIt started with lunch on our first day; despite the atrocious grammar and laughable descriptions on the restaurant menu, the food was good and we ended up ordering too many dishes. We kept making the same bad choices, vowing to eat less and save money, but gorging ourselves on food nonetheless. Mornings were a special problem since our vacation package included free buffet breakfasts; we kept going back to the buffet table for more helpings.

Pigging out continued when we discovered the resort’s Happy Hour promo: from 4-5pm, we could get two mixed drinks for the price of one. Over the course of two days, we indulged in mai tais, screwdrivers, margaritas, and rhum citrus coolers (not all at the same time, hopefully! *hic*) while lounging in a jacuzzi beside the guests-only Silent Pool overlooking the ocean.

Coco Beach sand and surf The lack of structured activity for my brain coupled with the addling effects of too much food and drink only served to make me more observant of the other guests at the resort. We had come over from Manila accompanied by a large tour group of Rotary Club women (on holiday from their husbands), an Indian family, and a lovey-dovey young couple (look, Ma, no wedding rings!). Already there at the resort were: a Hispanic man, his Asian wife, and their toddler; six fat white men (more on them later); an African-American dad and his teenage son; a family from Holland; a young French family of four; and a couple of middle-aged German women.

I noted with some amusement that this international cast of characters needed only a murdered victim and a fastidious Belgian detective with a curly moustache in order to turn into a typical Agatha Christie mystery novel. (I overfilled my brain with too many such novels back in March.)

While Filipinos are generally reserved and don’t go out of their way to make conversation with strangers, these foreigners tended to provide a whole lot of information about themselves to each other. Hanging around them (actually, eavesdropping) showed me the advantage of being bilingual in Filipino and English. I could listen to them talking in English, and then gossip in Filipino with my companions. It was great fun — until I realized the guy I was talking about wasn’t Fresh Off the Plane; he had been living here in the Philippines for quite a while and his son had just graduated from an international school here. I’ll bet he understood more Filipino than he could speak, too. Yikes. My bad for indulging in gossip.

As for the six fat white men I mentioned earlier, they indulged themselves by engaging the services of three young local women. Sad but true: the illicit sex tourism trade is the dark armpit of the nascent tourism industry in the country.

This sickening mixture of colonial mentality, exploitation, and objectification was laid out for all to see during Happy Hour on our first day. We were minding our own business at the Silent Pool when all nine of them burst onto the scene and started roughhousing in the pool. I felt the bile creeping up my throat when one of the men said to his girlie, self-congratulatorily, “You look tired.” They all seemed to think they were virile, macho men; how funny that they had to go to a Third World country and pay to get laid.

The girls naively wanted to please these men so much that they effaced themselves. Here’s a typical scene: my friends and I were on our way to our cottage one night and happened to run across two of those guys and one of those girls. One guy was saying to the other, “I’ll take care of my girl and you’ll take care of your girl.” The two had a short argument and one said to the other, “You’re an asshole.” The girl giggled and agreed, “Yeah, I’m a [sic] asshole.” I couldn’t decide whether to slap her or to scratch those guys’ eyes out. I indulged neither impulse and went to bed. The next morning, the six guys were through with their “vacation” and were on their way off the island.

Happy Hour that day was much happier.

To be continued…

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