[Only then] did it occur to me that there had been underlying tension in Saigon during those last days. May 25, 1975

Martindale, continued

May 25, 1975

         During the last days of Saigon, things seemed to be normal in the city. There did seem to be more people and more Hondas to be sure, but the mood of the people going about their daily business appeared to belie the danger that had progressed to just a few miles from the city.

         Only after I reached Manila, a week after leaving Saigon, did it occur to me that there had been underlying tension in Saigon during those last days. The people were not as carefree and there were not nearly as many children in the streets as before. It struck me when I encountered the carefree attitude of the Filipinos in Manila.

         At first I thought how fortunate these people are compared to the Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese who remained face such uncertainties, families have been separated, thousands of additional people are jobless, all facing survival as a first priority. And there is a complete stream of South  Vietnamese refugees extending across the Pacific Ocean into the United States. How much unhappiness these once happy people must be experiencing. And here in Manila is an altogether different world.

         While I was thinking about how fortunate these people are, it dawned on me what trying times they themselves had faced thirty some add years ago. During the early 1940’s they had been occupied by the Japanese armed forces. But those years are beyond the memory of so many of the Filipinos you encounter in Manila today.

         A tourist first encounters the hustlers at the airport. For instance a taxi fare is “$15 only.” Beware of that word “only.” The regular taxi fare is less than $3. I quickly learned to shy away from anyone using the word “only.” It always indicates price-hiking.

         Around the tourist hotels on Roxas Boulevard are droves of hustlers. They hit you the minute you emerge from the hotel with old coins, pearls, taxis, newspapers, shoeshines, jewelry, and offers of pretty girls for the night. The taxi drivers are all pushing girls. It’s almost impossible to get a conversation-free taxi ride. But the taxis are dirt-cheap.

         I took a short walk through the open park along Roxas Boulevard. Here were a lot of children, some with their families, some without, but playing together with other children. Here I heard a greeting I remember from another era: “Hello, Joe.” Apparently they recognized me as an American but obviously Japanese and other tourists outnumber Americans in Manila today. Had they learned this greeting from their parents or has the oldtime call to American GI’s lingered on? While I was reveling in the joys of this remembrance of previous pleasant greetings and the present apparent happiness  and smiles of these children I was brought down to earth by their next greeting: “You give me money?” Was this the same old Filipino hustler? But after further meditation, I recall that that was also the second part of the old greeting to the GI’s, worldwide. That just goes to show how we tend to remember the pleasant and forget  the unpleasant aspects of the “good old days.”

The Floor Show Was Quite Enjoyable May 24, 1975

May 24, 1975

Martindale, continued

         Well, I tried my first night Club in Manila. I’ve seen them advertised and I guess I thought they were all expensive, so I hadn’t ventured out before.

         I don’t even remember the name of the one I tried. There are a large number of them on Roxas Boulevard. There were at least two others within 100 yards of the one I tried. First I ate a bite in a restaurant near the night club. But on the way there from my hotel the taxi driver really did a job of hustling. A single male getting into a taxicab in Manila, and especially on a Saturday night, must expect to be hustled. This taxi driver kept telling me that girls in the night clubs would cost $50 a night but the place he was promoting was cheaper (I never even checked to see how much cheaper).

         Well, I entered the club at about 9:00 P.M.–no cover charge, no minimum. It was dark but I was ushered to a table near the dance floor, by flashlight. I soon got used to the flashlights as that was about all the light there was. It was quite a large place. I would guess it would seat 2-300, aside from the dance floor and the stage.

         When I got to the table the waiter told me I could view girls through a one-way mirror near the men’s room. He said they cost 50 pesos an hour (about $7). I said I’d have a beer first–a little over $1. Since seeing female flesh exhibited in a like manner in Bangkok I was curious about this. So halfway through my first beer I went to the men’s room. Sure enough, there was a one-way mirror. And there must have been about 30 beauties in all sorts of dress and undress. But what surprised me was that so many were playing cards–using the real large cards. I saw right away that they weren’t playing bridge–I think they were playing some variation of rummy. While I was there another fellow or two were also looking. But there was a woman there too. I don’t know whether she was looking for a daughter, a girl friend or what.

         After I went back to my table, I noticed there was a lot of action in that corner. There were two doors, one to the men’s room and one-way mirror, and the other to the room where the girls were. Attendants went into the girls’ room and brought some out. I saw that they took them to men at various tables. I asked a waiter about that and discovered that the 50 pesos an hour was for companionship at a table. What a comedown! So maybe the taxi driver’s admonition about $50 a night was right.

         There was a very good band playing for dancing–with two very pretty girl singers. They put on a good show, including dancing, themselves. At 10:00 P.M. the floor show started. Lo, and behold, it was put on by the girls from “The Room.” All the girls poured out, some were in the show, and others on the sidelines heckling. Needless to say, the card games broke up. I don’t know how they got the actresses back who had been selected for companionship. The costumes were becoming, a few strips of cloth on some pretty nice bodies. The first act was comical–about six lovelies rolling and wrestling on the floor while the other card sharps on the sidelines cheered. The other acts were various dances but not stripping. Occasionally dancers would go through the audience and the lights would come on. Then there was a boogie-woogie contest, won by an American dancing with one of the girls from “the room.”

         I had three or four beers. It must have been three, as I was only charged 25 pesos, 65 centavos (a little over $3). The floor show was quite enjoyable–not overly artistic. But, hell, what can you expect for three bucks.

The Fever Has Passed, Saturday, May 3, 1975

Saturday, May 3, 1975

Martindale, continued

         I had 8 good hours of sleep and sweated out the fever. This morning my sheet was wet (from sweat). I found out today that I’m to go to Manila for 60 days TDY as Acting Controller until the new Controller, Charlie Christian, comes out. Maybe, I can still avoid Washington. Now we can probably look forward to another RIFF. Meanwhile, I can’t keep my mind off Mr. Ba and Mr. Minh, who are probably still in Saigon while their families are waiting for them in Guam.