Picking up where I left off (almost 2 weeks ago – sorry!), my stateside brother and I had just had a meal of fish and rice, followed by with some delicious pineapple pie, and were ready to go back to the mayor’s office to talk with our brother.
When we arrived, our brother was there, but wanted a private audience with the mayor. So, stateside brother and I waited on the ground floor of the municipal building. I’ll take a moment here to describe the building. The building was 2 floors. From the outside it was what I can best describe as tropical colonial with a colonnaded entrance and balcony. The main section was flanked by wings. The main entrance opened into a large open room with a grand stairway in the center. There was a display of local agricultural products near the entrance, what appeared to be space for public meetings in the main part of the room, and various doorways and rooms at the perimeter of the main room. The mayor’s offices were upstairs.
The finish materials were nice – marble and wood. It was fairly cool inside even though the weather outside was warm and muggy.
There were a lot of chairs stacked off to the side in the main room, presumably for when meetings were held, so we took a few off the stack and sat down to cool our heels while we waited for our brother to see us.
Meanwhile, one of the mayor’s employees (who was also the proprietress of the place we were staying, and the mother of the mayor’s very capable assistant) sat and chatted with us. At some point our brother’s landlady also appeared and spoke to us for a bit. Both conveyed their concerns about our brother’s health and well-being.
Finally we were summoned upstairs to the mayor’s office. When we arrived, our brother was pretty agitated with us and said that he didn’t want to leave the Philippines, but instead wanted us to help him stay there. The mayor had already told us that he thought it would be best for him to return to the States in order to improve his health and get a prosthetic leg, but, citing his many friendships and connections in the village, our brother said that he wanted to stay.
I was there with a goal, which was to get my brother out of this bad situation, but I also know that there are limits to how much one person can control another. At the same time, I ALSO knew that I couldn’t stay forever while my brother vacillated.
I would be pretty frustrated to come all that way only to return to the States with only one brother, not two as I had planned. But I didn’t think that getting angry would do any good. So, I calculated how long I could reasonably stay without running out of paid leave from work, and decided what day I would need to leave. I then told my brother that I loved him and that I wanted what was best for him and for him to have the opportunity to improve his health and life, but that I also had other other things in my life that needed attending to, not to mention the need to continue to make a living. I told him that I would be leaving in three days and that I hoped he would be with me, but that if he chose not to come, I would probably not attempt such a trip again. Stateside brother expressed similar sentiments.
He was angry with us, but it couldn’t be helped. Eventually we all left – stateside brother and I to return to the guesthouse and Philippines brother to return to his lodging. We cut our Cagayan d’Oro driver loose since we weren’t going to be going back that way for at least a few days.
Before we left city hall we asked the mayor about safety. He said that he would appreciate it if we would keep close to the guesthouse and that we should message him if we needed to go anywhere and he would provide a car and driver. In fact he provided a car and driver to take us back to the guesthouse.
The driver was going to take us directly to the guesthouse, but we asked to use the ATM next to city hall first. He supervised us as we tried to use it (as did the guard, who, apparently, would be stationed there all night), but unfortunately it didn’t work with our cards. So, we got back into the vehicle, which was a super-cab truck. We were immediately jolted into high alert when another guy jumped into the bed. I seriously started thinking about whether it would be feasible to jump out of the truck while it was moving. My brother told me later that he had the same thoughts. I mean, really, how could we know if the person who had just jumped in was friend or foe?
As it turned out, the guy in the driver’s seat was actually a bodyguard, not a driver. The driver had jumped in the back, initially planning to let the other guy drive, but then apparently decided against it, so they switched (or, it might be that the bodyguard stayed behind – I can’t remember exactly). In any event, neither of them was working for ISIS and we were delivered safely back to our guesthouse. Tune in next week to learn how you manage when you’re 7000 miles from home and you can’t get your ATM card to work.
(Note: the photo is of a building similar to the city hall where we spoke with our brother for the first time in the Philippines. It’s not the actual building, because, in order to protect the privacy of the city employees, I’m not saying what municipality this took place in.)
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