Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Spanish Fly

Please excuse the chronological hiccup.

Waiting in line to check my bag for the flight from Manila to El Nido (technically Puerto Princesa), an older woman (60s or 70s) kept standing much too close to me. I would inch forward and, when she noticed, she would inch forward as well. While this invasion of personal space was annoying, it wasn’t the end of the world - what really made the whole thing truly annoying for me was that she, oblivious to her surroundings, would turn to talk to her husband and, in the process, hit me in the back with her bag. I stayed silent and did my best to rearrange my position in line without making a fuss, but it was a constant struggle of dodging her unwitting attacks.

I, being who I am, never brought it up and wouldn’t be making this post had the incident been limited to the hour or so we stood in line.

As mentioned in the previous post, I flew to Puerto Princesa, spent the night, took a van up to El Nido, and met up with some friends. As we walked around town that night, I saw the woman and her husband and pointed them out to my friends, somewhat amazed that they had come the same way (they could have been checking their bags for any PAL flight out of Manila). I passed it off as a chance to kvetch a bit and nothing more.

The next day (oh, how these things ramp up) I helped one friend get to the clinic so she could treat a bug she’d picked up. Guess who else was at the clinic, crying and wailing in despair? The old Spanish Woman, of course. She’d transformed from an annoyance to a novelty to a woman beside herself. She spoke no English. She could barely put a sentence together in Spanish. Nonetheless, either recognizing me from the airport or just picking me out as a friendly foreigner, she began haranguing me about her husband dying on dengue fever and how terrible the clinic doctors were (they seemed fine to me). Eventually she left the clinic and went to get food. My friend and I made our escape.

The next day we went back to the clinic to turn in samples, get results, and get medicine. We once again ran into the Spanish Woman, with all her attendant manic energy. This time was similar to the day before, although with a happier ending for her: her husband did not, in fact, have Dengue Fever. I don’t know what he had, but it was less extreme.

Over the next two or three days I saw the Spanish Woman every day, usually at some random place or other. A clothing shop. A cafe. A bar / restaurant. I actually walked up stairs, asked for a table for my group, saw her, and walked right back down the stairs to tell my group that we had to find someplace else to have dinner. On her final day in El Nido (guess how I know this) she walked into a bar where I was drinking for a bit with a friend. She sucked up another twenty minutes of my time trying to explain how she needed to get food for her husband (but nothing Filipino - he’d only eat Spanish / European staples) and how they were headed to Coron the next day. Eventually directing her to a burger joint a few blocks away, I was (mostly) rid of her.

I saw her once more, walking back with her burgers, as I walked back to my hostel intent on extending my stay in El Nido for an additional few days.