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DESCRIPTIONJasmin, a native to the Philippines, dreams of escaping the harsh realities of life. Growing up in a cross cultural shock, Jasmin dreams of falling in love. Like so many young Filipinas, Jasmin’s quick to dream of starting an innocent romance with one of many American tourists. Jasmin’s colorfully expressed tale of teenage romance is unlike any before it.EXCERPTJasmin was starving. She felt hungrier than she could ever remember as she looked furtively upon the rows of fresh, tempting mangoes on the table in the Carbon Market in Cebu. “How I wish I had five pesos to buy one honestly,” she thought to herself as she dug into the empty pockets of her disheveled clothes. She dreaded the daunting prospect of having to do three hours’ worth of laundry to earn the simple five-peso coin, and only if she could actually find someone who needed laundry done. She contemplated the shameful prospect of stealing a mango or two, despite the reservations of her conscious. “It would be easy,” she thought to herself, watching the bustling throng of people clustering about the narrow aisles “The market is so busy, no one will notice.”Compelled by the inescapable hunger which drove her, Jasmin set her plan to action, and cautiously emerged from her place of hiding. She walked tentatively towards the table of mangoes, keeping out view of the store-keepers, who were a brother and sister tending busily to customers. She discreetly hid behind one of the customers, a slender woman toting several plastic bags of fish and vegetables, so she could maneuver in reach of the fruit she so desperately wanted. She carefully extended her hand and grasped a mango, quickly pulling it close to her chest. Realizing she had been undetected, she grew bolder, and decided to purloin another fruit. Again, she grasped one of the mangoes, but as she pulled it from the table, the lady whom she was hiding behind accidentally bumped into her.“Oh, excuse me dear.” The lady said to Jasmin before turning and walking away. Jasmin said nothing in reply, the pair of ill-gotten mangoes in her hands in clear view of the two shop-keepers.“Are you planning to pay for those?” the woman asked. Jasmin was quiet, unsure of what to say or do. “They’re not free.” the woman continued.“I’m hungry,” Jasmin said softly at length, throwing herself upon the tender mercies of the shop-keepers. The young woman’s glare softened, replaced by a look of pity. Jasmin’s hopes began to rise as she saw the woman’s face, believing she could keep the precious fruit she held. But the bitter scowl on the face of the woman’s brother told a different story.“It’s okay, big brother. Let her keep them.” The woman said sympathetically as she turned to tend to another customer who had approached the table. “Look at her, she hasn’t bathed in a week and she’s obviously hungry.
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Published by Lot’s Cave
Island Girl, © 2015, Marshal Gibson
All Rights Reserved
Cover by Moira Nelligar
All Characters In This Book Are Age 18 Or Older
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this ebook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to the Lot’s Cave website and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Lot’s Cave Novel
New Adult Romance
The sun was bright and the sky was clear. It was a perfect Sunday morning outside of the picturesque church, exactly as the way Jasmin had always imagined this special moment in her life would be. It seemed like a whimsical fairy-tale.
Looking down through her gossamer veil at the colorful bouquet of flowers in her hand, she enjoyed how vibrant the colors of the petals appeared in the bright morning sun. She admired the elegance of her wedding gown, exquisitely adorned with patterns of gleaming sequins that gleamed with an angelic brilliance.
“You look beautiful, Sis,” her older sister Rosalyn said to her with a beaming smile, gently making one final touch to the orchid set in her silky, black tresses. Jasmin smiled back, unable to speak as she felt tears of joy welling up in her eyes, overcome with the mix of excitement and joy of a bride-to-be just before her wedding ceremony. “I’m so happy for you.” Rosalyn said proudly to her younger sister. “We all are.” She gave Jasmin a quick peck on the cheek before putting her arms around her in a warm but gentle embrace. “We’re all so happy for you.”
Rosalyn stood back from her younger sister and looked her in the eye. “The next hug you will get will be from your wonderful new husband,” she said happily.
“I can’t believe…” Jasmin managed to say through her tears.
The doors to the tiny church opened, and a tall Filipino man in a light colored suit emerged. He walked out of the church and briefly surveyed the activity of the wedding party that surrounded him. He conspicuously cleared his throat, then clasped his hands together. “Very well then,” he began as the members of the wedding party turned towards him. “Everything seems in order. Is the bride ready?” he said with a loud but gentle voice.
Rosalyn looked over at Jasmin, waiting for her to answer. Standing there in her resplendent beauty, she was speechless, overwhelmed by the momentous question.
“Are you ready, Sis?” Rosalyn asked her gently.
“Yes.” Jasmin replied simply in a soft voice. “Yes, I’m ready.”
“She is ready, sir,” Rosalyn conveyed on her sister’s behalf. She stepped aside from Jasmin so she wouldn’t obstruct the view of the celebrated figure around which the jovial occasion revolved.
The man approached the bride with a kind expression on his face. “My dear,” he began with a noble voice. “You look as lovely as one of heaven’s angels. Jasmin smiled, yet looked down in demure deference to the flattering compliment. “Very well then, my dear,” the man said at length to Jasmin. “Shall we begin?” He stepped aside and began calling for the wedding party to take their designated places for the procession. “Just as we rehearsed it,” he added with earnest.
Jasmin took a long, deep breath as she watched all of those who were taking part in her special day assembling in front of her. In all her life, she never would have imagined that the type of man she was about to marry would be ever her husband. The entire event was the result of many unlikely circumstances, all finally culminating into this miraculous moment. She looked at her brilliant, white wedding gown, carrying in the back of her mind the remorseful fact that she wasn’t truly worthy to wear such a color of purity. The circumstances of her courtship had not been a whimsical fairytale, and she would have done things differently if she had been afforded the choice. The man she was about to give her whole life to in Holy Matrimony was not the type of man she had ever imagined that she would marry.
The door to the church opened slowly, and beautiful strains of Handel’s Wedding March began flowing from a string-quartet inside the church. Jasmin, standing in her beautiful wedding gown, peered down the aisle at the priest standing in front of the altar; the pews crowded with friends and loved ones. As she came to realize this moment was real, her conscience was suddenly overcome with a tide of memories. Jasmin closed her eyes, and recalled how it had all began….
Jasmin was starving. She felt hungrier than she could ever remember as she looked furtively upon the rows of fresh, tempting mangoes on the table in the Carbon Market in Cebu. “How I wish I had five pesos to buy one honestly,” she thought to herself as she dug into the empty pockets of her disheveled clothes. She dreaded the daunting prospect of having to do three hours’ worth of laundry to earn the simple five-peso coin, and only if she could actually find someone who needed laundry done. She contemplated the shameful prospect of stealing a mango or two, despite the reservations of her conscious. “It would be easy,” she thought to herself, watching the bustling throng of people clustering about the narrow aisles “The market is so busy, no one will notice.”
Compelled by the inescapable hunger which drove her, Jasmin set her plan to action, and cautiously emerged from her place of hiding. She walked tentatively towards the table of mangoes, keeping out view of the store-keepers, who were a brother and sister tending busily to customers. She discreetly hid behind one of the customers, a slender woman toting several plastic bags of fish and vegetables, so she could maneuver in reach of the fruit she so desperately wanted. She carefully extended her hand and grasped a mango, quickly pulling it close to her chest. Realizing she had been undetected, she grew bolder, and decided to purloin another fruit. Again, she grasped one of the mangoes, but as she pulled it from the table, the lady whom she was hiding behind accidentally bumped into her.
“Oh, excuse me dear.” The lady said to Jasmin before turning and walking away. Jasmin said nothing in reply, the pair of ill-gotten mangoes in her hands in clear view of the two shop-keepers.
“Are you planning to pay for those?” the woman asked. Jasmin was quiet, unsure of what to say or do. “They’re not free.” the woman continued.
“I’m hungry,” Jasmin said softly at length, throwing herself upon the tender mercies of the shop-keepers. The young woman’s glare softened, replaced by a look of pity. Jasmin’s hopes began to rise as she saw the woman’s face, believing she could keep the precious fruit she held. But the bitter scowl on the face of the woman’s brother told a different story.
“It’s okay, big brother. Let her keep them.” The woman said sympathetically as she turned to tend to another customer who had approached the table. “Look at her, she hasn’t bathed in a week and she’s obviously hungry.
“Okay,” the man relented. “She can keep them.” Jasmin gave a sigh of relief as she heard the words, grateful for his ostensible kindness.
“Thank you sir, ma’am.” Jasmin said with gratitude. “God bless you for your kindness.” she said, bowing in dutiful respect.
“But I’m still going to teach you a lesson, even so, for stealing.” The brother declared. He walked up to Jasmin and held her firmly by her wrist, then began to lead her down an alley.
“She’s just a poor beggar girl.” The woman exclaimed to her brother. But the man didn’t pay any attention and pulled Jasmin to a narrow doorway that he unlocked. Jasmin stood silent and afraid, still clutching to her two mangoes which she refused to give up. She expected to be whipped, but the suffering of the belt she was prepared to endure as the price to pay to fill her empty stomach. She understood all too well that life for many in her country meant making difficult choices and sacrifices.
The man pushed her into a small, cluttered storage room and closed the door behind him. He turned a small chair to face the wall and began loosening his leather belt. “Face the wall.” He ordered Jasmin, who cowered at the authority in his voice. “Pull down your pants and bend over the chair.” Jasmin did as she was told, shaking uncontrollably as she timidly pulled down her tattered shorts down to her knees, exposing her thin underwear, then bent over the back of the chair to receive her punishment.
The pain felt like a hornet sting as the leather belt whipped across her buttocks. “Arayyy!” she exclaimed in a high pitch. The man whipped her again, the biting sting penetrating her tender skin even more.
“Count,” he demanded firmly. “Didn’t you go to school you filthy beggar girl?”
“Usa, po!” Jasmin cried out as tears began to fill her eyes from the humiliation of the ordeal. The belt fell upon her again. “Duhá!” she exclaimed.
“How bold of you to steal from an honest person!” the man scolded Jasmin as he continued to whip her.
“Tuló!” Jasmine cried out in pain. Again and again the whip fell upon her, stinging her bitterly like a nest of hornets. “Upát po, lima po, unom po!” she cried out in between her mouse-like squeals of pain.
Then at last it was finally over. “I’m done with you.” The man said with indifference. “Take our mangoes and go.” He told Jasmin as he began to replace his belt through the loops of his pants. Jasmin carefully pulled her pants up to cover herself. She reclaimed her now hard-earned mangoes and turned towards the door. As she did, she caught a glimpse of the look in the man’s eyes that sent chills of terror through her. She knew that look. “Wait,” he told her roughly with a tone that only affirmed her fears. The man tipped his head slightly, his jaw slackening slightly. Jasmin’s heart raced in panic as she discerned his malevolent intentions for her. “There’s something else I want from you.” the man said with a dark voice. His eyes seemed to walk up and down her figure.
“Never!” Jasmin screamed in defiance at the top of her lungs. “I’ll tell the police!”
The man smiled at her with arrogance. “Ha!” he jeered. “Who will believe a pathetic beggar-girl like you?” Jasmin stared back at the man with an icy stare of contempt and resolve, grinding her teeth and tensing as her adrenaline rose, looking for a chance to escape the confines of the dank, dimly lit room. “Face the wall you filthy beggar.” The man ordered. “Pull down your pants again.” His fingers manipulated the top buttons of his trousers.
“No!” Jasmin screamed with all her might. She threw one of the mangoes at the man’s face and then kicked the chair over against the man’s shins.
“You disobedient bitch!” he yelled at Jasmin as she bolted for the door. She charged through it, running as fast as she could in her thin slippers. In her hand she clutched the precious remaining mango, dodging customers and shop-keepers as she raced through the busy carbon market and out to Escario Street. She turned left towards Quezon Street and the bay, but then turned around to run north towards Magellanes Street instead. With her prized fruit clutched tightly in her hand, she darted through the bustling traffic, nearly being run-over by a rogue jeepney. She ran and ran, not slowing down or looking back, even when she had lost her right slipper.
Jeepney (or Jitney) – A cross between a taxi and bus in the USA, fabricated from old World War II Willis Jeeps left in the Philippines by General MacArthur.
Over a year ago, she was an average sixteen year-old Filipina, living simply in the mountains of Northern Cebu in the little township of Malbago. Her father had become injured and lost his job as a security guard at the local PLDT office, and the family was deep in debt. One Friday afternoon in March, she was returning home with her older sister Rosalyn after a day at school to discover the family’s landlord waiting outside their simple house. The family was twelve months overdue in rent with no money to pay their debt, and the landlord had come to resolve the situation. In the customary way, the family was presented with the three expected options: pay the debt in full, vacate the residence, or surrender one of the children to serve as indentured property. Jasmin knew the incredibly difficult choices that had to be made, and the sacrifice that she would be expected to bear for the benefit of the family.
For the next year, Jasmin stayed with the landlord in the Seaside town of San Remedio, where she was forced to sleep on the floor of a small closet beneath the stairs on a thin mat. During the daytime she labored with household chores under the indifferent and unsympathetic control of the landlord’s family.
Jasmin’s new life of servitude was miserable. She constantly struggled with the pains of homesickness, the harsh ridicule of the family she served, and the never-ending labor she performed as payment of her family’s debts. Life in her country could be so cruel.
The slightest infraction brought the punishment of the whip upon her, which occurred on almost a weekly basis. The discipline was so common, and in response to such trivial misbehaviors as to suggest that it was administered as mere amusement for the family to witness the bared flesh of her behind under the cruelty of the whip. The laughter by those who watched further convinced her of the cruelty of their true intentions.
For day after day, week after week, month after month she suffered nobly for the honor of her family in spite of their debt. Hers was a common burden in the Philippines. However, it was the landlord’s older brother who ultimately would compel Jasmin to flee to the wilds of Cebu City. On two occasions, he had extensively groped her between her legs, telling her crudely how he enjoyed watching a virgin bleed. He forced himself upon her late one evening after everyone had retired for the evening. Jasmin fought him with the ferocity of a feral cat, scratching his face, and crushing his scrotum with all of her might. Her actions so incapacitated him that she was able to escape from him with her innocence intact and even managed to quickly scrape together a handful of her belongings before fleeing into the night.
Over the next three weeks, she made her way to Cebu City, where she struggled to live day-to-day in the bustling swirl of the Carbon Market. And for the last two months, she lived among the beggars, doing laundry and begging for pesos so she could eat. At night she would lay upon a piece of scrap cardboard in a rubbish strewn alley, filthy rats scurrying about her in the darkness. She thought of her family whom she missed so dearly, and she would cry herself to sleep.
And now, six weeks from the milestone of her eighteenth birthday, her plight had deteriorated so miserably to the point that all she had were the clothes on her back. Her few belongings that she had stashed in the Carbon Market would be lost by the morning. Her menses would be coming in a day or so, and she had only the underwear she was wearing and nothing for hygiene. “What a curse it is to be a woman.” she thought to herself.
The only thing of value she had left was her own precious virginity. That sacred space within herself, guarded by the fragile barrier that served as a mark and a sacred seal of her God-given innocence was her most precious asset. Her mother had raised her to guard it well, for it was a sign of honor as a lady, and a gift for the man who would be her husband. Following her mother’s words of guidance, she protected it fiercely. She felt it was the only thing of value she had as a woman to offer a man, so as to win him as her husband. But as she looked at herself in this deplorable state, she wondered how a man would ever be attracted to her.
Finishing her mango, Jasmin licked the sweet, sticky juice from her fingertips and then wiped them off on the front of her shorts. As she did, she noticed something small and flat in her front pocket. She reached in and pulled out her older sister’s postal ID. Her sister had given it to her when she was forced to go with the landlord more than a year ago, and she often carried it in her pocket for safekeeping. She looked at the small photo in the corner and her thoughts were filled of her sister Rosalyn, her family, and her happy life before. A tear formed in the corner of her eye, and rolled down across her cheek.
As the sun began to set, foreigners began to prowl the environs of Pelaez Street in search of nightlife. Jasmin dried her eyes and cautiously emerged from her place of hiding and watched the tall, fair-skinned men walking about the hotels and bars. She walked north to Sanciangco Street where the always busy Our Place bar was situated on the corner. Standing on the corners of the intersection were already gathered the usual collection of prostitutes and touts, attempting to the lure passing foreigners with their charms.
Still desperate to eat, Jasmin took to begging from the well-groomed foreigners, holding up her hands and pleading in her best English: “Please sir, I’m hungry.” After two hours, she was fortunate enough to receive some twelve pesos, and she used some of her money to purchase some pancit bihon from a street canteen. Even though she was still hungry and wanted to buy more to eat, she knew her menses would soon come, so she reluctantly used four pesos to buy some napkins instead.
She went out for another round of begging, but this time she did not fare as well as before since the growing number of street hookers chased her off. Exhausted and dispirited, she despairingly made her way back to the alley-way behind the New Century hotel. She pulled a few scraps of garbage to make a make-shift bed for the night. She kneeled down and made a sign of the cross, then proceeded to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, she curled up on her simple bed and fell asleep.
Jasmin was roused from her blissful slumber by the cacophonous noise of a jeepney amidst the growing rush of early morning traffic. She raised her head and blinked her eyes several times as she fully regained her senses. A stray dog cautiously walked up to her and started sniffing at her feet. Jasmin picked up a nearby empty Cali bottle and hurled it at the intrusive canine, which darted away.
She began to feel a slight cramp in her lower abdomen, telling her that her menstruation would soon arrive. She used her only hygiene, thankful that she had the forethought to purchase it instead of another serving of food.
In her pocket were two peso coins from the night before. She set herself to begging as the growing pedestrian traffic filled the surrounding streets, hoping to make enough money to buy some fruit and another napkin for her hygiene. While most people brushed her aside, she heard the occasional ring of a coin hitting the pavement.
“God bless you,” she would say gratefully as she retrieved the small coin. She made her was to the back of Our Place, and sifted through the broken San Miguel beer bottles that could not be returned and other garbage, desperately looking for a scrap of food to eat.
“Hey!” a loud voice called out to her. Startled, Jasmin looked up, ready to flee. She saw the cleaning boy standing by the rear entrance, holding an orange. He tossed it to Jasmin, and she managed to catch it. “Now go.” The boy said simply, turning away. Jasmin said nothing, and scampered to the nearby alley-way by the Golden Valley Inn to enjoy her breakfast.
After breakfast, she walked along Peleaz to a sari-sari store and purchased some much needed hygiene. Her eight pesos bought her four more napkins, which she hoped would be enough. She was still incredibly hungry, and had she been a boy, the eight pesos could have bought several boiled eggs or a pair of nourishing balút. But buying hygiene was a sacrifice she had to make as a woman. She had little choice.
Still a bit sleepy, she returned to her little place behind the New Century and managed to get a short nap. After an hour, she arose and ventured out along Peleaz up past Sanciangco to Del Rosario Street. She saw the Mister Donut across the road from the San Carlos University for girls, and walked over to go through the alley to the back. As she reached the opposite sidewalk, the large double-doors of the University opened up, and a swarm of well-groomed college girls attired neatly in their blue-and-white school uniforms spilled forth onto the street. Many of the ladies walked into the Mister Donut, passing by Jasmin with disdainful scowls. The Mister Donut was quickly filled with the throng of young college girls, merrily laughing and conversing while enjoying their merianda.
Jasmin looked at the young women streaming by her, at one moment smiling happily, but their faces turning to looks of revulsion as their eyes fell upon her. She looked with envy at these young women, some scarcely older than herself. How lucky these ladies were to be able to afford to attend college and wear such impressive uniforms. Her heart became filled with disappointment at the bitter fact that she could have been one of these girls had her family not sent her away to serve their heartless landlord. She felt crushed inside, wishing how she could be one of these ladies, attending college, spending time with friends, so beautiful and well dressed. How proud she would feel inside if she could be like these ladies. How cheated she felt by her miserable life.
As the crowds of young girls proceeded to flow from the open doors of the University, Jasmin retreated to the corner of the Mister Donut, peering through the glass at the people inside. They were all laughing and smiling as they enjoyed their daily recess. Jasmin’s empty stomach ached with hunger, and the sight of people with such an abundance of food merely intensified that painful sense of emptiness.
After a time, girls began to leave and return to the University. One particular girl carried out a part of her sandwich and offered it to Jasmin.
“Thank you, ma’am. God bless you.” Jasmin said to the girl as she accepted the half-eaten meal. The girl nodded silently with a slight smile, then pulled a five-peso coin from her pocket and dropped it at Jasmin’s feet, before turning to the company of her girlfriends. Jasmin silently retrieved the five-pesos, then ran shamefully around the corner of the building to eat the sandwich, grateful for the kind charity of the university girl.
After eating, she considered returning to the alley-way by the New Century hotel, but decided it would be a good idea to explore the uptown district of the city. She headed out along Del Rosario to Osmena Boulevard, and headed north along the busy thoroughfare.
Passing by the YMCA, she spied a loose sandal in an alley-way, and slipped it on her bare left foot. Reaching Pond Street, she followed it to the right, and down the intersecting Ramos Street to the little Beehive Restaurant in hopes of finding a morsel to eat. Down the road stood the Diplomat Hotel, with several foreigners standing outside. She walked over to them to beg for money, and for doing so she received nine pesos.
“God bless you,” she said softly in her usual way to the foreign gentlemen.
“You’re welcome,” the tall white skinned man with dark hair said before turning away. As she grasped in her hand her most recent handout, she caught the eye of one of the foreigners facing her. He was quite tall with an exceedingly handsome face framed by thick, curly blonde hair, and an oddly crooked nose. His eyes were bright blue and seemed to cast a mysterious energy upon Jasmin as she captured his gaze. After a moment, he shifted his eyes back to his companions, and Jasmin turned away slowly.
“You know, if she got cleaned up she would be ok,” Jasmin overheard one of the foreigners remark with a low voice. She turned her head to look back to notice the foreigner with the dark hair looking over his shoulder at her.
“Damn Andy,” the dark haired foreigner said as if to chastise his friend.” She’s still a kid.”
“Well, even so.” the blonde foreigner replied. “She’ll be a knockout in a few more years. Look at her figure. Look how slender she looks.” he said admiringly. Jasmin felt a slight smile come across her face as she understood the ostensible compliment, pleased with her ability to understand their English.
“That’s because she’s starving, you idiot.” the dark haired foreigner chuckled. They turned their attention back to their circle, and Jasmin walked away with an ambivalent mix of melancholy and flattery at the unprecedented comments about her. She felt inspired to know she was attractive to a man, especially a handsome, wealthy foreigner, despite her deplorable appearance. And in the same moment, she felt insulted that these foreigners laughed at her plight. Even as she walked away, she couldn’t help overhearing them talk about her. “I don’t understand. Why doesn’t she just sell her pussy if she’s so hungry,” one of the foreigners jeered callously. “That’s what all the poor girls do here, isn’t it?”
Jasmin was overcome with rage at the cold-hearted words she wished she could not understand. She stopped in her tracks and looked down at the nine pesos in her gritty palm. She turned and yelled angrily at the men. “Yes, I’m hungry, talaga.” she spat vehemently. “But I’m not a dirty whore!” She threw the nine precious coins on the ground before spinning around and walking away, fuming with anger, and immediately conflicted with regret for throwing away the money in spite of her pride.
“Ooh,” the blonde foreigner said with noticeable surprise. “She’s quite a little spitfire, isn’t she?”
Jasmin stepped vigorously up the street towards the Fuente-Osmena circle, filled with a melancholy of emotion following the encounter with the group of foreigners. At one moment, she was completely enamored by the handsome blonde foreigner and his ability to see through her disheveled appearance to appreciate the beautiful young woman she really was underneath. But she also felt indignation at their collective arrogance towards her, for which she had discarded their pesos in defiance of the condescending charity. The instant she threw those nine pesos, she had immediately regretted her actions. She was hungry, she hadn’t bathed in a week, and now she was walking in the hot sun while on her period. As she walked away angrily she played in her mind the last remark he had heard the blonde foreigner say: “She’s quite a little spitfire.” Jasmin nodded to herself in agreement. Yes, she thought. I am a little spitfire.
Jasmin walked past the Robinson’s along Fuente-Osmena circle and continued up Osmena Boulevard. Reaching the intersection of Maria Cristina, she encountered another cluster of three foreign gentlemen, each accompanied by what could only be a prostitute, discernibly by the way each lady was dressed. Jasmin put out her hands, softly declaring her desperate circumstances. One of the foreigners deftly placed a peso coin in her palm while the prostitutes mocked her with ruthless cruelty. As the group of gentleman and their escorts walked away, one of the ladies turned, and Jasmin heard the familiar ring of several coins bouncing off the pavement.
“God bless you,” she called out to the Filipinas.
“Stay away you filthy street rat,” one of them replied. Undaunted, Jasmin retrieved the three pesos and stowed them in her pocket with her sister’s ID.
She regretted throwing away the nine pesos in front of the Diplomat. Had she swallowed her pride and kept them, she would have seventeen pesos to buy herself something to eat, and possibly even buy a shower and some extra hygiene. The afternoon heat had become oppressive as always, and her menstrual cramps were getting worse from it. She had always had the shelter of carbon market during the hours of high sun, and she was ill-accustomed to the heat of the open day. She needed to find a shady spot to cool off and get a drink of water. She went around the corner of Maria Cristina and proceeded to a cluster of pension houses. She found a shady spot in between one of the buildings where she relaxed for a few minutes.
Across the street stood a ramshackle arrangement of corrugated metal and wood scraps to form a makeshift shelter. Inside was a little old woman with long, white hair, offering simple items for sale. After a few minutes of resting, Jasmin approached the old woman in her simple sari-sari store in hopes of buying something to drink. But when Jasmin inquired, the old woman said nothing, and only pointed cryptically to the door of the nearby Verbana Pension.
A bit confused, she walked up to the door the Verbana and peered inside the modest lobby at the girl in the colorful uniform sitting behind the front desk. The girl looked up as Jasmin opened the door slightly and asked for some water in exchange for a peso. The desk girl retrieved a bottle of mineral water and a small paper cup from behind the front counter and brought them over to Jasmin, who gulped down the cool liquid. Moved by her circumstances, one of the foreigners sitting quietly in the lobby watching a movie offered a bottle of mineral water to Jasmin. In return, she offered pesos to the girl and the foreigner for their generosity, but they declined to accept.
“It’s a hot day today,” the girl said compassionately.
“Could you manage to let me take a shower,” Jasmin asked desperately. A look of regret filled the desk girl’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid it’s not allowed,” she said apologetically.
“Thank you for the water….” Jasmin said before turning away. Just as she did, one of the foreigners stood up and walked outside, handing her a five-peso coin. Jasmin bowed her head in silent deference to his generosity.
Returning to her shady spot in the nearby alley-way, she relieved herself behind the privacy of a 55-gallon drum, before laying down to sleep to pass the rest of the hot afternoon.
Jasmin awoke several hours later from some curious dogs sniffing her cautiously. She scurried them away from and she sat upright, taking in her new surroundings. The sun had begun to set and the air had cooled to a more comfortable temperature, and Jasmin ventured out from her latest enclave into the night. She followed the narrow little street down to Fuente-Osmena circle, and walked around it and across the fly-over at the southern end. She found herself amongst the throngs of foreigners walking about the very popular nightlife district.
Jasmin was unfamiliar with this part of Cebu City, and had never been exposed to much of its vibrant nightlife scene. The few foreigners she had encountered around the Carbon Market district were hastily heading for the ferries at the nearby piers or passing through to sights like Fort San Pedro or Magellan’s Cross. Standing near the Fuene-Osmena circle after sunset, she had discovered a whole new realm crowded with generous, happy-go-lucky foreigners. Jasmin’s eyes grew wide as she realized what she had discovered for herself beneath the electric glow of the neon lights, and the abundant opportunity it offered her.
Jasmin put out her hands to passing foreigners. Even as a kind foreigner slipped two pesos in her hand, her latest endeavors were thwarted by the bellicose intrusion of a door guard standing his post at the front of the Metrobank Plaza.
“No beggars here,” he barked with authority. “Scram!” he added, pointing his thumb over his shoulder.
After accepting the foreigner’s peso, Jasmin bowed her head to the man who seemed as shocked as she was by the guard’s intrusive charge, before retreating to the shadowy cover of the fly-over. She pulled out the rest of her money and counted out a total of eighteen pesos, more than enough money to buy something tasty and filling to eat from a street vendor.
She bought a balút and two sticks of barbecue pork, paying twelve pesos for the nourishing meal. This left six pesos in her pocket. As she ate her simple meal, she savored each morsel she put in her mouth, wishing she had more to eat when she had finished it.
Balut eggs are fertilized duck (sometimes chicken) eggs that are at the stage of development where there is a nearly developed embryo inside. The balut egg then boiled and usually eaten with salt, just like a normal boiled egg.
Wiping her hands on her pants, she began heading towards the mid-town circle, passing the Uptown Cinema as happy movie-goers were leaving. Her pleas for money were rewarded by the familiar sound of pesos resonating like music as they struck the pavement, along with two foreigners placing their charity in her hands. Her chance encounter had gained her another six pesos to add to her six remaining. The thought of buying another balút crossed her mind. As she was walking to the now familiar environs of the fly-over, she was abruptly stopped by a door swinging open in front of her and a pair of foreigners accompanied by two well-attired Filipinas in tow striding out confidently in front of her. She looked up at the neon sign above the door to see the name Silver Dollar glowing in bright yellow.
Jasmin watched in awe as the ladies accompanied their customers, arms locked with theirs, carrying themselves with sophistication and poise. She was impressed by their beauty, their subtle air of refinement and graceful demeanor. These ladies, even though they were just prostitutes, were completely unlike the trash that prowled the realm of Peleaz Street. These two ladies, confident and smiling, reminded her of the prim and proper University girls streaming out of San Carlos earlier that day.
Jasmin watched with fascination as the ladies hailed a cab for a ride back to their customer’s hotel, admiring how exquisitely beautiful their make-up was, and how nice their satin jackets looked, emblazoned with the Silver Dollar logo. She also noticed how the men smiled with their new lady friends, and the happy look they had in their eyes. In her private thoughts, Jasmin had long-dreamed of a man to look at her in that special way.
In a few moments they were all inside the cab and being whisked away for a night of delightful pleasure together. Somehow enthralled by this sight of the nicely dressed ladies with their foreign suitors, Jasmin stood by the door, wanting to see more. For the next hour she stood in the shadows next to the Silver Dollar. People enjoying themselves in the mild night air streamed by her, but she did not beg.
Every time a person walked in or out of the Silver Dollar, her eyes became keenly affixed upon them with an inexplicable fascination she herself could not understand. Every lady that emerged from the establishment seemed so lovely and filled with confidence, their beaming smiles outlined with red-lipstick, leaving no question as to her profession, however sophisticated and exquisite she seemed.
The door swung open another time, and Jasmin caught sight of the tall, blonde foreigner with the slightly crooked nose, the one who had called her spitfire, walking out with a lovely Silver Dollar girl on his arm and a beaming smile on his face. Time seemed to move in slow motion as Jasmin observed every moment of the scene unfolding before her. She studied intently this man’s striking face, memorizing every angle and feature of his profile painted in the glow of the neon. She noticed how his curly blonde hair lay across his forehead in a haphazard way, the way his bold, angled chin and distinct cheekbones outlined his statuesque face. She observed with envy how he ran his hand along the slender lady’s back and down to the small of her waist, and continued to the top of her buttocks.
“I wish so much he would touch me like that,” was all she could think to herself as she watched, wishing she could be the one standing next to him.
Jasmin studied every feature of the lady; her smooth and shapely legs, the classy black heels with sophisticated straps crisscrossing her feet, her painted toes gleaming with red polish. On the lady’s ears hung a pair of gold hoops, partially covered by her shiny, black hair that broke upon her shoulders. And like all the other ladies that had emerged from the Silver Dollar, her lips were painted in bright-red lipstick, framing an affectionate smile.
All the animosity she had felt earlier towards this regal foreigner had now disappeared, replaced by a youthful infatuation for this handsome gentleman. She reconciled to herself how he had admired her beauty as a woman beneath the unattractive exterior of her present condition. In that moment, all was forgiven, and she wanted nothing but to be a part of his world. Somehow, someway, she wanted to be that lady on his arm with him.
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