Old salts tales, unadulterated

Published January 14, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mr. Fu

By José Abeto Zaide

The Department of Foreign Affairs released a report about the Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv disclaiming any involvement in a Christmas party of a Filipino group in Israel that included a strip show for entertainment. Philippine Ambassador Nathaniel Imperial said the embassy had no hand in the program and denied allegation of a blogger, who was neither present at the event nor based in Israel, that the party was organized by embassy officials. He asked to put a stop to fake news that may have a detrimental effect on the image of Filipinos in Israel.


Differently in times past. In the early seventies, my classmate Ernie Fajardo accompanied his father-in-law, the late Dr. Felix Maramba Sr., to a seminar on alternative energy (biogas) in Bremen. During their Hamburg stopover, I took Dr. Maramba and Ernie on inspection of wurst or sausage factory. After a surfeit of a wurst, my wife Meng prepared them home-cooking at our Norderstedt flat; and I would introduce them to the lights in town. Because one does not see the harbor lights in Hamburg in the evening, Ernie was hesitant (as all young men would be towards their father-in-law). But I suggested to the patriarch of the Maramba clan, “I am sure that for a man of your age and experience, nothing would be new to you…”

So off we went to see the lights of Reeperbahn. Dr. Maramba had a rollicking time at the Salambo, which combined the usual follies and frolic with beautiful music and humor. He especially enjoyed Rene Durell’s interpretation of Dracula air-to-air refueling. I do not know which part of the visit to Germany our venerable guest recalled best – the biogas seminar, Meng’s cooking or the Reeperbahn. But he remembered to invite Meng and me to his 90th birthday party.

Reeperbahn is to Hamburg what Pigalle is to Paris or Mabini was to Manila. But you need not turn up your collar there when visiting the district. It has a mix of discos, cinemas, bowling alleys, the carnival, and the carnal. Reeperbahn is actually one of the safest places in Hamburg. The David’s Wacht (David’s Watch), as the police precinct in the district is known, has an excellent record of peace and order. In enlightened self-interest, the retainers also police their own. The precinct commander, a lady, was a former grade school teacher. Her only rule was that no x-rated establishment opened within the perimeter of schoolchildren crossings.


We brought other respectable visitors to the Reeperbahn. Nanay Charing and Tatay Meling were the first couple to welcome me into this world. Tatay Meling was a doctor and elder brother of my mother. During the Japanese Occupation, he delivered me at birth, with his wife, my Nanay Charing, doubling as nurse and holding the flashlight above because there was a blackout.

When they visited us in Hamburg, Meng and I suggested that they might want to see the lights of Reeperbahn. “Kalokohan lang ‘na” (“That is all a lot of foolishness”), my very conservative Tatay Meling said, declining the invitation.

“Oh, but that is educational,” my less conservative Nanay Charing countered. And so off went the four of us, Meng and I, and my Nanay Charing and Tatay Meling.

As we entered Salambo, Nanay Charing’s jaw dropped, “Abaw, actual gali!” (“Oh, it is live show…?!”) She didn’t know what she was getting into. She thought it was just one of those x-rated films. But the live program had humor, music, and choreography, and my Nanay Charing and Tatay Meling had such a rollicking time. And they never stopped telling their friends and acquaintances about their Reeperbahn experience.


After our Independence Day celebration at the Hamburg Intercontinental Hotel, Meng and I took a dashing Philippine Air Force colonel, our compadre, and comadre Demi Camua (he  was godfather to our youngest, Paolo), and his ex-stewardess wife Helen (nee Nierras aka Batwoman) to “see the lights in town.” We visited the same Salambo. Hey, these two sophisticates were the last mortals who needed lessons on the birds and the bees. It was nearly dawn when we went home. But, talk about old dogs learning new tricks: Helen turned day into night and, nine months after, she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Michaela, to whom Meng would be ninang.

Incidentally, our youngest is named Paolo, after the Sankt Pauli district which encompasses the Reeperbahn. (He could just as well have been named Saulo, after the famous preacher, before he fell off his horse).

Culled from Bababa, ba? Anecdotes of a Foreign Service Officer.