Miss Fields Avenue-A A +A
Monday, September 9, 2013
ANGIE had been a sex worker long enough to know that she must never expect any man to marry her, or take her seriously, or even stay after sex — but not that long to still believe in Cinderella stories, where even a bar girl like her would someday meet her Prince Charming and live happily ever after, raising little kids with blond hair and blue eyes in a nice farmhouse with picket fences.
She was thinking that, of the hundreds and thousands of US servicemen cruising the entire length of Fields Avenue every night, back and forth, surely there was one who'd be young and naïve enough to fall in love with her and take her to America.
She'd met them all — wrinkled men, men with rotten teeth, men who were so fat she could barely breathe, and skinny boys who pissed in their pants before they could take them off. They had come in all shapes and sizes and odors, but none of them had stayed beyond the paid hour.
There was a song that Angie liked to play over and over at the jukebox, where a line went, once you have found him/Never let him go. It served as the soundtrack of her life as she stood every night at the door of the club, not just waiting but searching — for a look that might linger, a smile that might be returned, and the hope that lust could turn into love.
Shortly before June 1991, during those heady days when people talked about Clark Air Base closing down and a volcano erupting nearby, Angie suddenly realized that time was running out. She must find a boyfriend quick or she'd miss the last plane out.
That was when Danny walked into her life. They drank beer, danced all night, drove to the park where they lay on the grass and counted falling stars. At break of dawn they checked in a hotel and made love all day. She did everything to make him fall in love with her, and he did. By their second night he was telling her about his family in Pennsylvania, his former girlfriends in high school, and how he’d love to introduce her to all of them.
Angie would often stay awake on Danny’s chest weeping and thanking him for his kindness. After he went back to his barracks to change, she proceeded to the local church where she also thanked God for sending a man she certainly did not deserve.
On their third day Danny put a ring on her finger and asked, "Would you marry me?" Angie burst into tears and held him tight. "I am so afraid you might just leave me," she told him.
"Only God can take me away from you," Danny replied.
And that's exactly what God did.
From her room Angie heard the blare of sirens inside Clark which signaled the evacuation of thousands of US servicemen and military personnel. It was only June 10, but volcanologists had warned that the volcano might erupt any time, and Clark officials didn't want to take chances.
By midmorning a long convoy of cars and buses was snaking its way out of Clark en route to Subic Naval Base in distant Olongapo City. It was a scene of total chaos as local girls rushed to the Main Gate to say quick good-byes to their boyfriends.
Angie spotted Danny in one of the buses and ran to follow him, shouting his name. When he saw her he waved and shouted back, "I'll come back for you, promise!"
The plan of Clark officials was to have the evacuees stay at Subic for only three days and then return to Clark. But then Mount Pinatubo started erupting two days later, completely destroying Clark which was only a few kilometers from the volcano, and wreaking havoc on Subic, where the evacuees were holed up.
Angie lived through the worst weekend of her life, lying alone in bed as rocks fell from the sky and the earth shook all night, literally beating the daylights out of her. But nothing that was happening around her could get any worse than what she felt inside. She had one last chance at happiness and she lost it.
The Americans at Subic never returned to Clark. The very next morning after the eruption, the navy cruisers USS Arkansas and USS Rodney Davies transferred the first 900 evacuees to Cebu. The next day, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its support ships picked up 5,000 more.
By end of June an armada of 21 warships had transferred all Clark and Subic servicemen and 17,300 of their dependents. From Cebu they flew on chartered planes and military flights to Guam and finally to mainland United States.
Angie was among the hundreds of bar girls from Fields Avenue who rushed to Olongapo City in the hope of reuniting with their American boyfriends. They had heard rumors that soldiers in Subic were applying for quick marriage licenses so they could take their new wives with them to the US.
Angie, however, found out that Danny had already left with the first batch.
Back in Fields Avenue, the club’s owner leased the place to Angie, who then spent the next few weeks scraping the ash and sand off the roof, fixing the leaks, and repainting the walls. She reopened as soon as electricity returned to the city.
Today, more than 20 years later, Angie is still running the place. She and Danny never connected again, not even on Yahoo, Friendster or Facebook. But she still stands at the club entrance, watching all the men who come and go, even if they’re mostly Koreans and Australians now, searching for that one familiar face who’d step out of the crowd and take her hand and keep his promise to save her from this place.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 10, 2013.