Took life toll on him, or does he lie like print?
Tagbilaran (Philippines), February 28th 2010

It is already after six o’clock in the evening when Peter joins us for a beer. We are sitting in the restaurant of a low key beach resort on Bohol and just witnessed a great sun set. We did it again. We again found a picturesque place to relax for some days, with waving palms, white sand beaches, an azure blue sea and a cold San Miguel beer for less than € 0.50. But that’s not so difficult in the Philippines, because the country is abound of these beautiful places.

We immediately notice that Peter had already a lot of beers today. With a drunken expression he starts telling us that he lives already for four years on this island. At the beginning we thought that Peter was a typical backpacker, because he wears shorts, a sleeveless shirt, is almost completely covered with tattoos, has flying manes and a full-grown beard. Short after, he begins to tell about his life. He had a bad youth in Europe and became already father when he was fifteen years old. The mother of the child was only thirteen. He was already addicted for years to hard drugs when he decided on an age of eighteen, to leave Europe. He wandered over the earth for a while and finally decided to settle in the Philippines. He never saw his daughter, and to be honest, he doesn’t care. He tells proudly that the Philippines is the country where he managed to get rid of his addiction to hard drugs. The country saved his life is his opinion. But he is still addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. The beers are emptied in a high pace and the number of cigarettes that he takes must be an attack on his health.

Peter is thirty-three years old and tried for several years to set up a diving business. But the activities he undertook were never a success and when the global financial crisis also impacted the number of tourists in the Philippines, he decided to stop the activities. Since then he is unemployed. But somehow, he still has some reserves. He is not only able to maintain himself with his expensive alcohol and cigarette addiction, but he also maintains his Filipina wife, which he married four years ago. She is still going to school. And that’s not all. He also maintains two sisters and a brother of hers. He does not only provide them with food and a place to stay, but also pays their education costs. However, Peter is smart enough to live far away from the other family members of her, because he knows that he will also be the ‘wallet’ for them if he decides to live in their neighbourhood.

But Peter doesn’t care. He lives by the day as he mentions it, and he will see where life will take him. He lives a life like many Filipino’s. And he is ready to take risks; the way he did already several times in his life. He tells for example that he once smuggled a kilo of cocaine from Venezuela to Europe to pay off some debts. ‘And that was very easy’, he says with twinkling eyes. ‘But it is not a suggestion, I would never do it again’, is what he assures us. However, he also tells us that he said goodbye to hard drugs forever, but that he was caught last year with a little bit more than a gram of marihuana in his pocket. He was jailed for a month and paid a considerable amount of payoff to be a free man again. But he is not as free as it seems. He is not allowed to leave the country, and once in a while he must visit a drug testing centre to see if he is still clean. ‘But don’t be afraid, it is easy to fraud the test’, he says with a smile while he signals the waitress to let her know that he is expecting another beer. Short thereafter, two men arrive in the resort. They park their car and take a place on a bench just outside the restaurant. Peter bents a little forward and whispers: ‘these guys are from the undercover drug police’. ‘They are here to observe me’.

If we ask him what he expects from the future for himself, but also for his wife, he is silent for a short moment. ‘The doctors diagnosed stomach cancer’, is what he says quietly. ‘I have only a couple of more years to live’. ‘But nobody knows, even my wife is unaware of it’. Soon after, the restaurants closes and we say goodbye to Peter. While we walk back to our room, we have a dilemma. Is this a guy whose life so far already took its toll on him, or does he just lie like print?

© copyright - / 2010