Remember – romance can bloom in the most unlikely places
Whenever there’s a tale of unusual romance or love blooming in the most unlikely of locales, I’m all ears. But when I haven’t even heard of a nationality, I not only tune in, but yes, admittedly, feel a little stupid. Have you heard of the Bagobo people? Thought not. Yes, we are all philistines for failing to know about those from southern Mindanao, Philippines. Read on for proof that international love can overcome all…including differences of nationality, culture and language.
From the snow-capped mountains of freezing Europe to the rice paddies of steaming-hot Bansalan, Davao del Sur, it’s a long way half around the world for Fritz, a Swiss in his 50’s to find a pretty Bagobo wife Maguinda who bore him four beautiful half-Swiss, half-Bagobo children.
When Fritz insisted that I join his family for Chinese dinner at Ahfat Seafoods behind Victoria Plaza Mall a couple of months ago, I turned up on time in the early evening, not because I really wanted to go, but because I turned him down for some stupid reasons, the first time he invited me.
This time, I didn’t regret showing up because the whole Bagobo clan of his wife came down from the mountains of Bansalan, filling half of Ahfat and turning it into a Bagobo village pow-wow for the night.
I was seated three tables away from him when he noticed me, his arms upraised, calling me.
“Over here, Boyaks! Seat beside us! I just ordered some big crabs,” he yelled above the din of the Bagobo dinner crowd, all Pinoy relatives of him and his entire Swiss-Bagobo family.
They included his wife’s mother, father, sisters and their families, brothers and their families, wife’s brothers and sisters and all their families, as well as his wife’s grandmother and her families.
It was probably the biggest family reunion I’ve seen in my entire life.
Seated beside me at the round dinner table was Simon, one of his two big sons in their early 20’s, while seated next to his wife Maguinda was his other son Lehman and teen-age daughter Monique, who didn’t look like Swiss or Bagobo either.
At least to me, they look like Brazilians, if you can imagine a Caucasian who had stayed too long under the tropical sun, turning their white skin into deep tan, almost too brown for comfort.
Simon, who can talk English rather well for a Swiss, confided to me that he’s joining the Army after he finish school in Switzerland, a neutral country that never fought in any war in its history.
I was a bit confused, knowing that the Swiss don’t know how to fight a war, being so nice and all. All I can think of a Swiss Army is their “Swiss Army Knife” and those medieval guards in colorful Shakespearean costumes with swords and lances guarding Vatican, the smallest nation on earth.
“Don’t tell my father, I’m joining the Army”, he whispered.
“Ya? I thought your country doesn’t have an army,” I said, keeping my voice low above the din of blabbering clan.
“We do have an army, not everyone knows that we do.”
“Y-You mean you have a secret army?”
“Not so secret of course, it has its own website.”
“Do they train you to kill?”
“Not really, we help people stay alive.”
“You mean, you don’t learn to fire a gun and shoot?”
“No, we’re trained to dismantle guns, clean them and.…“
“And learn to pull the trigger?”
“Not really, we keep the guns safe for people.”
Our talk was going nowhere, so the impression I got from him was that the Swiss still remains the most peaceful people on this raging planet, probably the only refuge for restless, trigger-happy Pinoys who want nothing more than the smell and touch of a .45 or an M-16 and the sound of a firing gun.
What excites Simon and his father Fritz more than anything else is their big concrete house which is almost finished in the mountains of Magsaysay, also in Davao del Sur near the villages of their Bagobo relatives near Sultan Kudarat who have become an adopted family to them, all these years when Maguinda made Switzerland, the world’s richest country, her home.
Probably by Swiss standards, they don’t see themselves as “rich” but modestly well-off enough to have their own home in a picturesque mountain near Zurich, a place so beautiful you don’t need Heaven anymore, because you’re right there.
Besides having their own beautiful home there, their children all go to school from grade school, high school to college–all for free.
Zurich, as we all know, is the place where Swiss banks stashed all the billions of dollars and euros from greedy companies that don’t want to pay taxes and government officials who hide their huge cuts from multi-million dollar deals.
These idiots trust Swiss bankers so much because they know how to keep their mouths shut, even Hitler’s money and treasures were kept safe for many years before they were discovered.
Make no mistake about their lifestyle–they don’t want to stay in a world-class hotel like Marco Polo when they visited Davao early this year. They checked-in and settled for a week or two in a small, run-down hotel at C.M. Recto Street that had cockroaches crawling on the blankets of their beddings at night and rats peeping thru small holes under the hotel doors.
Fritz walked around this city in a worn T-shirt, unkempt hair and rubber slippers, looking like a street hawker, but he quietly bought a couple of big condo units at the soon-to-build Ayala condo project Aeon Tower along J.P. Laurel Avenue, Bajada, paying them in full because he couldn’t stand stashing too much euros in his bank account because he feels more secured with Swiss francs more than any currency in the world.
“Who’ll stay in your condos when they’re finished?”
“My children will, of course,” Fritz said.
“And if they won’t?”
“It’s an investment for us here, isn’t it?” he winked.
RMA/LOR/Aurelio A. Pena/ldp