Tag Archives: Phillipines

Randy Ford Author-someone to lean on or the Philippines, a grateful nation

           By evening Ted wanted to the leave the camp, but really had known for some time that he didn’t belong there.   Nick said, “The Constabulary and the Army know we’re here, but we have a truce for now.”   Ted said, “That’s good to hear.”   Then he thought, “If I got caught here, what would they do to me?   I would have a lot of explaining to do.”

      He asked Nick, “What’s next for you?   You seem happy at the university.”

      Nick said, “I’m doing well, and the movement needs me there.   But who knows about tomorrow.   I’m one of the few who has a grasp of the big picture and am actually one of the few who’s been to China.   When I came back I saw the Philippines differently.   I hate the Americans.   You can say I woke up.”

      Ted said, “But Elaine and I are Americans.”

      “I think you have to make a distinction between American influence and policy and the American people.   To be against everything American would be counterproductive.   To rid ourselves of everything would be impossible and set us back a hundred years.   We can’t ignore our history, the good or the bad.   But to see what’s happened can break your heart.   But generally common people don’t know how to speak for themselves; and they tend to forget what the Americans have taken from them.   So it’s up to us who are articulate.   I don’t think I have to explain myself to you.   You came here to help.   We accept your help, but we may not be as grateful as you think we should be.   In the end you will go back to the United States.   We’ll send you off with a fiesta, but we’ll still be here, and we’ll have to live with the choices we make.”

      Ted said, “I want to say that I’m different, but I’m still who I am.   An American from Texas and a Texan through and through.”

      And as they wandered around the countryside and all over town, Ted began to tell Nick about growing up in his home state.

      Back in Manila at home the days (Ted said) were by and large the same.   Their maid (Linda) took care of everything in the apartment…the cleaning, the cooking, the washing and the ironing (yes ironing because that was the way it had always been done).   Having a live-in maid was affordable, even on the stipend the Peace Corps gave them, and when it wouldn’t have been affordable at home.   All of the apartments in the building were basically the same, with an upstairs and a downstairs, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room down, with the bedrooms up, and in the bathroom a porcelain toilet without a lid or a seat.   People around the world would’ve been familiar with an apartment like that, even those who would’ve been envious.   Unlike other apartment buildings in Manila, Ted and Susan’s building withstood the great quake of that year.

      Somehow Ted got back to Manila, without totally compromising his position with the Peace Corps and without anyone knowing how close he came to calling it quits.   And thank goodness he hadn’t been kidnapped.   He had come home safe.   Nick had seen to that.   Incidents from the trip and the struggle that was obvious seemed to fit the goings-on on campus.   He waited all the time after that for a knock on his door.   That knock never came.   Sometimes he would glance over his shoulder to reassure himself, and more than once he thought he spotted the woman warrior.   Saw a face like hers.   A face in a crowd would appear and he was aware he had seen the face before.   There were voices in his head, then something like a fist in his chest, then screaming and shots in the dark, all somehow connected.   Immediately after the shaking stopped their neighbors lit candles which made them think that their building was on fire.

      He couldn’t focus on anything.   He knew everything that was expected of him, classes at the university during the day and drama at the fort at night, the long bus and jeepny rides; the familiar bridges, Quiapo Church,and the Luneta…the midnight rides down Mabini Street; and when he would finally lay down to sleep…the sleep he needed to keep going…sleep wouldn’t come.   And why?   Way too often he would see himself surrounded by arm militants and among them a woman warrior with a sidearm.

      He relied on Susan, on her strength and her common sense.   And just as he knew he had screwed up, he knew, as he had known from when they first met, that she would stand by him.   He believed in her.   Some of this had to do with his thinking that she was more intelligent than he was.   He believed that she was essential to him and, as long as she was there, that they could get through anything.   It may be because she was use to picking up after him; she really helped him get through college.   And of course, he naturally leaned on her or went back to her whenever he made a mistake, and this was one of those times.   He depended on her being there for him.   And there was no way that you were going to change his mind.   He hardly knew, however, why she would go along with moving to a foreign country, when before she had even been afraid of flying, except it was her idea to join the Peace Corps.   He loved Susan and believed in her.   Somehow they had stuck it out together.   And since she had her own ideas about the Peace Corps and Peace Corps service, he could use her as a sounding board.   And that was important to him because he wasn’t always himself sure.   You probably know couples like them, where dependency came with the marriage.   So he loved Susan, for all she did for him and because he could depend on her.   He knew she would do anything for him.

      Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author-loss, and a Machiavellian Filipino

      Elaine told Nick about herself.   “I always wanted friends.   Instead I would end up in a new place without any, and I was expected to adjust.   We lived the life of gypsies.   And as people on the move, we quickly learned to take with us a few essentials.   We’d have to choose and our choices generally boiled down to objects rather than people.   And I would have a good cry.   Over the nanny or the girlfriends that I had to leave behind.   I couldn’t help myself.   It did no good to ask or to plead: there was no way to avoid it, and the losses were frequent.   It was stupid of me to ask, making it harder on my parents.   That was what it was like being a Navy brat.   I always wanted to stay put.”   As though she had a choice.

      Nick said, “I always wanted to get an education.   I wanted to study Ambition, Greed, and Paranoia.   And that meant looking at America.   I wanted to be like Machiavelli.   People who are shrewd, pragmatic, and insightful are generally happier than those who are not.   As Filipinos, we would all be better off if we were more like Machiavelli.”   Then he thought that he was probably being too cynical.

      And then another time when she and Nick were alone Elaine said, “Nick, you’re so against Americans, and yet you’re sitting here with me.   I could be married to an American now or have an American boyfriend.   My parents don’t care.   They don’t care who…who I’m involved with.   They don’t hold it against you for being a Filipino.   I went to school with Filipinos in Hawaii, and I was taught to respect people of all nationalities.   I’ve lived in Europe and the Middle East.   I’ve been around more kids from different countries than from my own, and now I’ve found a wonderful man.   He happens to be Filipino.   I want to show him off to my parents.   I want my parents to get to know him and see how wonderful he is.   After that, who knows?   I know not to pressure you.   You don’t seem to want to be that open about our relationship, and I can understand that up to a point.   People who know about it are expecting us to break up; bets are on.   I haven’t placed my bet yet because it’s a risky bet.   These days fewer and fewer people are staying together.   It should be easy for me because in my life I’ve had to leave so many people behind.   But, as the song goes, ‘breaking up is hard to do.’   So you have this pushy broad on your hands: who would like for you to meet her parents, and she would like her parents to the meet this wonderful man she happens to like.   So I come off as a pushy broad.   That’s one scenario.   Here’s another.   There is this unhappy American woman in college.   She is smitten by one of the professors.   Now the professor has a dilemma.   He already sees this woman.   They’ve had a few good times together, but she wants more.   More would make her happy.   More of what?   And he wouldn’t know.”

      And Nick knew that he felt close to Elaine, but he didn’t want to get too close to her.   What would it hurt for him to meet her parents?   However he couldn’t see himself going to Cavite, except as part of a demonstration.   “Oh, but they live in Forbes Park.”   Still he felt trapped by her; at the same time his feelings for her increased.

     This old boyfriend I had: he was a Chinese guy from Bolivia and his name was John Woo.   He said he loved me and wanted to marry me but his parents would never approve.   I thought he was joking and wondered what my parents would say about that.   A Jewish Navy Commander’s daughter’s name and his name on wedding announcements and his parents refusing to recognize me as their daughter-in-law.   He’s back home in Bolivia living with his snooty parents, where he wanted to take me.   Now doesn’t that take the cake?   Woo is me, and he wanted to take me home collared with his name.


Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author-A cloud over the Sulus

      Don offered a standing invitation to Susan and Ted.   He encouraged them to come see him in Zamboanga.   Before moving there he lived briefly with them and made himself useful.   How useful?   Quite useful.   Susan knew, and couldn’t imagine adjusting without him.   It was as though Don had become part of their family.   So much so, that when they didn’t hear from him, Susan worried.   But it wasn’t uncommon for members of the Peace Corps to lose track of each other; they never seemed to know what other volunteers were doing; and that was Don’s m.o. too.   But knowing that didn’t keep Susan from worrying.   And she didn’t have an inkling why she worried so much.   She just knew how it felt, and how it made her feel terrible.   She had a six sense about worrying: about when and when not to.

      Occasionally Don wrote them.   Ted never looked forward to his letters.   He had premonitions, with some certainty, when something serious was about to happen.   Simply seeing Don’s address on an envelope sent shivers up his spine, and he would have Susan read his letters first.

      Dear Susan and Ted,  I know that you sometimes worry about me.   If we don’t stay in touch, there’s no way we can prevent that, or even know if we’re still alive.   Ha, ha!   Ted, can I take an extension course here through your university there and learn more about the Moros?   We have all the signs of trouble coming, and sometimes I don’t see how I can outrun it.   I’m wondering what your situation is at UP.     

      Ted thought, “I don’t think I dare worry him about what’s going on at the university.   I don’t want to raise a red flag because I don’t want jeopardize my position.   Besides I don’t think it would change anything.   Then Don raises the issue of the Moros and expects me not to worry.   He must be right in the middle of it, or why else would he bring it up?   He’s over there, and I’m over here, so how can we be beneficial to each other?   And it doesn’t do any good to worry.   I’m not his mother.”

      This woman and I were about to get serious and then she called it off.   She really didn’t have anything to do with why I’ve stayed here.   She is attractive, that’s all, but of course I’ve had to be careful, and it’s better to be careful than sorry, and of course that means being careful about the company you keep.   I wish we could talk and were in closer contact, and then I would know if the rumors I’ve heard about what’s going on at UP are true or not, and know for sure whether or not…I’m not so sure I should put this in a letter.   There are little things I’ve learned here that you might find useful there.   I’ve heard about this New People’s Army.   Ted what have you heard?   It’ll be a while before I can get back to Manila.   When we can, I hope we can talk. 

      Ted thought, “I wonder what he knows and won’t tell me.”

      Then finally Susan and Ted took a vacation, and for nearly a week they stayed with Don in Zamboanga.   They stayed in his apartment near the plaza…they enjoyed the flowers before they really got around to talking, and they went around with Don everyday and planned to see the Sulus after that.   They never said what they intended to.   They bought cheap souvenirs, trinkets really, and ate really cheaply at Don’s favorite restaurants, went every night to a different one, and during the day, ate standing up at the market.   Susan loved the gardens and the flowers and filled herself up on all the fruits of passion smuggled in from Malaysia and other places such as Singapore.   They ran into other Westerners, and that made Susan feel more confident.   Susan never had much confidence and never had been on airplane before flying off to the Peace Corps.   The smell of copra made her feel sick.   Ted was worried about Don messing up somehow, somehow ticking off some Moro, or getting caught in between something bigger, and he was just as worried about him doing something stupid with some woman…clumsily doing whatever, something he would later regret…something really, really stupid, and cause him to end up in even more crap.   That was always the danger for a single person in the Peace Corps.   In every possible way, but still not knowing too much about what they were trying to avoid, Don and Ted, during the course of that week, danced a little dance.   Sometimes they were funny when they weren’t trying to be; sometimes not.

      Susan finally said, “I can disappear guys.   There’s plenty for me to do here.   Meanwhile, I’m on a vacation, and I want to enjoy every minute of it.”

      Ted said, “I don’t think you know.”

      “I know a lot more than you think I do.   But we’re on our vacation.”

      “And no one wants to get in the way of your vacation.   Nobody here or anywhere else.   Don, what do you think?’

      “Let’s make the most of it.”

      “Ah, I sense there’s something going here.   I suspected it before, but now I know.”

      For days they laid around on a ship that took them to Sitangkai and back.   They did it while they could still do it.

Randy Ford

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Randy-Finding the balls to write

      The time came for us to go into the Peace Corps.   We ended up in the Philippines instead of somewhere in Africa because the Peace Corp foiled an attempt by my draft board to get me by accelerating their selection process.   My wife and I lived the next two years of our lives in Manila, teaching, and, for me, also working in a theater in Fort Santiago, a national shrine.   To say the least, it was a very busy time in our lives; but no busier for me, as a self-professed workaholic, than I have been all of my life.   Then the question arises why in the world, after a very productive time as a writer at the Dallas Theater Center, I didn’t write at all during my stint in the Peace Corps (or for that matter while we traveled throughout South East Asia and around the world mainly by bicycle.)

      That has been my story, that creatively I have gone through stagnant periods when I lacked the confidence to write.   Yes, confidence, it takes confidence to write, and in my case, after losing contact with Mr. Eugene McKinney and Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center and the kick of an audience, I had to find the impetus to write within my self.   After many failed attempts at writing over an extended period of time (I don’t know how many years it was now), I became discouraged and honestly thought I couldn’t write.   I would go around telling people I was a writer, but basically I was lying, or was I?   Didn’t I keep trying to write?   Didn’t I put in the time?   It’s kind of a blur now, but it seems I as if did.

      Every time I responded to the urge to write by sitting at a typewriter, with pen and paper, or at a computer and actively commenced work…let me repeat “and actively commenced work”…something creative came out of it.   Every time?   I think so.   Not finding the motivation to start seems to have been my biggest hang up.   (I wouldn’t call it a writer’s block, because at all cost I try to avoid them (blocks), by not thinking in that way.)

      Mr. McKinney, what was happening here?   Why have so many of your students stop writing?   What happened?   Maybe all of those people are still writing, are closet writers, but no longer have the desire or whatever else it takes to put their work out there.   Perhaps they have been told they’re not any good.   Or they’ve told themselves that.   This can all be true.

      All of this was true for me.   But now I’m writing.   To me, I’m a writer, and that makes me happy. Though I may not be any good…published, produced or not and with all the complex baggage of writing without recognition brings…I have to think I can write before I can: here I have to not listen to myself when I tell myself I can’t.   And if I don’t do that, or not pay attention to other resistance out there, then I’m open for a joyous ride, which sometimes when I think about it makes me sad because I ain’t getting any younger.   And on that said note…

Good day, Randy Ford

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