Having a Wall and a Gate is typical in the Philippines

Might be Good To keep People Out, but it is embarrasing when the person it is Keeping out is You

You’ll recall last week Daisy and I had visited Valencia market when I got nature’s call. I was dropped at our apartment gate, none the worse for wear except for the ruckled skin on my one hand.  My driver who had been paid in advance by Daisy so I would not have to haggle, moved off.

I unlock the 8’ high, solid metal gate with the key entrusted to my care, but sadly the gate had been further locked with a bolt – on the inside. It shouldn’t have been. That’s not supposed to happen. Tenants are instructed accordingly. But it was. Now I was caught standing on the edge of a busy, concrete highway, sun blazing, badly needing to go, and had no way to reach anybody. I yelled and rattled the gates but to no avail.

I case the joint. Is the wall climbable? Where would I climb it if I were a burglar? This is not easy. These high walls are mostly solid, built to keep people out. At least there’s no jagged glass lining the top. Based on prima facie evidence there is no way. The wall is too high. But wait. It does have some weak spots. There are wrought iron moldings, design stuff thought up by some unthinking architect unaware that this might facilitate that which is not intended. The design of the fence is such that if I tried to squeeze through the wrought iron, sideways, near the top, the only apparent option, I might well get stuck. I am of an age with not quite as much alacrity as I used to have. To become wedged is all I need, to be caught in the act by Dumaguete’s finest – likely with smelly pants at that…me that is, not the ‘finest.’ If Daisy were here there’s no way she would let me make the climb. Perhaps I won’t even let myself? But then, nature becomes more insistent. My eyes narrow to bring into focus that which I think I am recognizing.

The wall is built the same height all the way along. It is not all solid concrete but includes those wrought iron elements. Some of the wrought iron breaks could be used to step. But these breaks in the wall are not reachable – unless you look to the furthest end of the wall. Because the wall is the same level all the way along but is built on a road that travels uphill, there comes a point where the wall becomes, in effect, lower. If I were to make my climb there I might just do it. The wall must be 12” thick. It runs parallel to a 6’ deep concrete trench being built as a drainage system alongside the road. The drain is set back from the wall maybe 12”. It is half filled in places with drainage rocks. If I haul myself up to the very top and skip the squeezing through bit, it will be a lengthy stretch to hook my fingers around the other side of the wall so I can get the grip I need. There is no second chance. If I fall backwards it won’t just be to the ground, it will be into the depths of the trench – with its rocks. The other problem is of course what will the local population think about a white boy burglar committing a daylight break-in? “These darn Westerners…think they own the place.” I traverse the narrow grass way between the wall and the trench, one foot in front of the other. Passengers in the pedi-bike traffic and the occasional Jeepney all gaze at me standing there as they pass by. I am clearly out of place, suspicious-looking one might even surmise – Lurking.

We are sufficiently far out of town that there is the occasional lull in traffic.  Minutes pass. As soon as it seems like the road may be clear for 30 seconds traffic appears from nowhere. Not yet Tony. I see in the distance downhill. There is nothing behind that Jeepney. I look uphill. A pedi-cab whizzes by, nothing behind it. In moments the Jeepney has passed. Now! Or dirty pants. I begin my climb. I’m heavier than I think. Now I’ve got my foot in between the wrought iron and can’t get it out? Oh no, I can’t get stuck here, I’ll never hold on. I work the foot free. Later I will notice the grazed skin. I reach for the top, and with my hand with ruckled skin from the pedi-cab haul myself up, reach over the top but can’t reach the other side to grip. I have to leave the comfort of my foot support if I am to get my fingers round the other edge. I push off in a short spring to get my fingers over the top of the wall. I no longer have foot support. My feet are dangling as I hang on for dear life by my forearms and knees, fingers flailing. Pull yourself guy! You have no choice. Stretch those fingers. What were you given them for? I sense the opposite edge with my fingertips. They alone are the difference between making it, or falling backwards. My fingertips grip for dear life. You haven’t seen acts like this in any Jason Bourne movie. I inch them further, a millimeter at a time. Slowly my fingers curve around the edge. I grip like never before and haul myself up. Moments later I’m sprawled flat out on my stomach across the top of the wall, breathing hard. I hear traffic coming. I swing my legs tentatively so I may begin to lower myself. No footing. I’m slipping! A toe hold, no! Not holding, falling, push away from the wall, land on feet. Steady now. Thank goodness. I’m in and upright. The traffic whizzes by.

Oh, and by the way, if your daughter instructs you to wear KC Royals colors from time to time, don’t. (see photo) You attract attention. Some guy calls out to me in the market, “Hey Kansas City.” Of course I knew he was calling to me. I smiled hoping that was it, but no, “You a Royals fan?”

“Well, I, er”

“Tell me, who’s the greatest player they ever had?”

So embarrassing.

Matulog na ta, Tony