I’ve been working in this pacific island for the past seven months and yet homesickness is still a constant visitor. In a place as small as Palau, (which literarily means you can’t hide anywhere because no matter where you squeeze yourself or your car in, somebody who knows you is always bound to see you), there’s not really much to do except go bar-hopping but its your pocket who would surrender first.
Woe to the nocturnal beings like me! Not much of a bar-hopper myself here in Davao before, I refused to go with my co-employees at first but after I’ve already memorized all the slits and slats and designs on my ceiling as I stare at it every night, or look out the grilled windows (yes, there are steel grills plus glass plus screen, whew! Occupants of the city jail must be feeling freer than we do) and listened to the crickets outside and memorized the constant litany of the bickering couple next door, I decided there’s not much choice but go with them. Sometimes ex-Sunstar buddy Cel and I would just lock ourselves in her room and swap stories over a couple of “six-pack” cans of beer.
Most of the entertainers in night clubs in Palau are Filipinas or Chinese. Unlike here in Davao, where Rex and Jun and I would just sit on the rooftop of Cogot’s and spend more hours in a few bottles of San Miguel light and nobody would mind, these scantily-clad entertainers hover about the tables, ever ready to tilt the bucket (beer is served by the bucket on some clubs, and a bucket contains 5 cans of Budweiser, or San Miguel light priced at $10.) every few minutes, silently prodding you to drink and be quick about it. For us who belong to the kuripot type, we drink Emperador or Fundador, or buy “six-pack” cans of beer for only $5.10 at our barracks (boarding house) first before going to the clubs. On paydays, the bars we usually go to are brimming with Filipinos plus a handful of Palauans. There are also bars which are patronized mainly by Palauans but we very rarely go there.
The most unpleasant part in barhopping is in going home, and that is usually between 2 to 3 a.m. (the bars close). If I’m not driving, I don’t set limits in drinking but if I take my car, then I really have to set aside my last ounce of sanity to reach our barracks still in one piece.
I had a drop too much when we got out of the bar last pay day when I found out that my co-employee who was supposed to drive us home was already in the car, snoring and very drunk. It left me with no choice but to drive my other companions home. They were very noisy and I have to exert a gargantuan effort to concentrate on the road. I thought I succeeded when suddenly, I saw multi-colored lights flooding the street ahead. I blinked my eyes and yes, the road was paved with an unusual orange glow. I thought I must have been more drunk than I thought I was so I slowed and then I saw the flashing blue lights from several cars which could only mean one thing- the police! They were conducting a random patrol and any car which runs over the orange markers on either side of the road are flagged down and the driver checked if he’s drunk. The line of flagged cars was getting longer as the bars closed. Fighting the rising panic, I warned my companions to stay still as I poured all my efforts to stay free from the orange markers. Fortunately, we didn’t end up at the rear of the line of cars and we got home intact.
By the way, all my road accidents (average of once a month!!!) happened when I don’t have a single drop of alcohol in my body. Otherwise I would have been a constant overnight visitor in Koror State jail- and even the thought of it makes me shiver with fear. And- don’t get me wrong, we don’t go barhopping that often, only when its pay day, and you know it’s not that often!