Somewhere out there on that horizon.
Out beyond the neon lights
I know there must be somethin’ better
But there’s nowhere else in sight
It’s survival in the city
When you live from day to day
City streets don’t have much pity
When you’re down, that’s where you’ll stay
In the city, oh, oh. In the city
~ The Eagles ~
Tok – Tok – Tok. Tok – Tok – Tok
“Hi… Is Elvie in?” I opened the door to see who’s outside.
“Who you looking for…?”
“Elvie. Is she in?”
“No. She is not. I think she was “bar fined” last night.”
The lady paused for a moment… a confused expression painted her face. Then the lady said…
“Aww… OK. I come back later.”
“Who was that?” My half-sister asked, with a towel wrapped around her head, and another towel wrapped around her body. She just came out of the shower.
“I don’t know. It was a lady. She asked where Ate Elvie is.”
“What did you tell her?!”
“I told her – Ate Elvie was “bar fined” last night. That’s why she’s not here!”
“Aahhh shit! Why did you tell her that?”
“Because that’s where Ate Elvie is… right? I heard you talked to Ate Mary, you said ‘she was bar fined’ last night…”
“Jesus! You’re not supposed to tell people that! Her family doesn’t know that she works in a bar. They think she works as a teacher!”
“Oww. I hope she doesn’t get in trouble. But I didn’t know. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it…”
“I didn’t know it was a secret. You didn’t tell me it is supposed to be a secret.”
What’s bad about working in a bar? I wondered… What is a bar? My sister and her friends always talked about bars. They met guys at the bars, and then they go bar hopping. Or they go eat at restaurants. Women find boyfriends there. And then they get married and go to America or Australia. But some women are too picky, so they get old and never marry. And many bear illegitimate children whose fathers they’ll never know. Others get left behind by their boyfriends, who after three or four years of living together, the American boyfriend decide to not marry and off they go. Nine out of ten, the girlfriend goes back to the bar, hoping she’s not too old to find another boyfriend. And the quest begins all over again.
Angeles City is one of the two sin cities in the Philippines, where Clark Air Force Base was located. The largest American Air Force Base in the Pacific at that time. The other is Olongapo City. With Subic Bay, home to the U.S. Naval Base. Both cities’ economies were dependent on the bases. But when the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Naval Bases pulled out in 1991 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, both cities suffered tremendously, displacing hundreds and thousands of Filipino workers, both on and off the bases.
Both Angeles City and Olongapo City had a thriving night life. They owe it to the U.S. Servicemen who were stationed there. And the tourists from Australia and Europe. It took at least five years before these cities start to recover. But even if it recovers. It will never be the same. Like how it was when the U.S. Forces were there.
In a way… Angeles City is like Las Vegas. Both are considered sin cities, full of promises for those who wish to improve their fortune and or gamble their lives. While Las Vegas is famous for its gambling, entertainment, and its luxurious hotels which could make anyone dizzy and disoriented when they first step out of McCarran Airport, Angeles City is famous for its night life. The bars and the girls. This city is a haven for foreigners looking for a good time, and maybe lifetime companions.
Ate Elvie is Ilocana. She came from Ilocos – the southern part of Luzon. She has a degree in Elementary education. She has smooth light skin, round face, and short wavy hair. I liked Ate Elvie, especially her rugged and non-pretentious personality. I never find out if she got in trouble with her family about the “bar fined” issue. All I know is, since that morning when that lady was asking about her, they stopped talking around me about anything, especially about the bars and they guys they met over there. And then we moved to another apartment a month later. So I’ve never seen or heard of Ate Elvie again. Years later, my sister told me that she’s in America, married to an American.
At 13, I wish they could take me to the bar. The more they did not want to talk to me about it, the more I wanted to know. I wanted to see what all the excitements were all about. I wanted to see what’s in the bar? Why do they seemed animated and exited every time they talk about it? It sounded like a fun place to be. And then I always hear them giggling about the men they met. But I remember Ate Elvie saying… “No – no – no. You’re too young. They don’t let young girls in the bar.” I wish I was grown up like them so they could take me. They seemed to be having so much fun. I want to have fun too. What a silly girl I was.
Two weeks before the school was to begin. Ate Elvie accompanied me and my sister to Angeles University Foundation to help me enroll in first year high school. She said she knew somebody there, which will make my enrollment a lot easier. So we went. I remember getting into a long line, and waited for almost one hour. Ate Elvie spoke to the girl she knew. My sister paid and I was set to go to school in two weeks. Except for the uniforms. I had to order my uniforms – a green and white checkered skirt, and a solid white jacket style top.
I was excited and terrified at the same time. My new school is so big, with too many students. Only in the Philippines where they can get away with it. In the same school and inside the same campus, the building to the north was the elementary school. The high school building was on the east side and five stories high and on the other side, in the west side was the building for college students. Several guards are stationed at the gate to check for school IDs. No IDs no entry.
I memorized my jeep route so I don’t get lost. I had to take two different jeepneys to get to school.
This whole thing – being new in a big city, going to a big school, seeing people other than Filipinos, these were all dizzying to me; exciting and scary and the same time. But this was my dream. I wanted to live here. No more planting rice in the mud; no more going to the farm to dig up sweet potatoes and cassavas. No more carrying fire-woods on my head; no more basket full of foodstuff on my back while walking in the rain and muddy foot paths. No more! I got away! Yaaayyy!
My first day of school came. I sat on the front row, close to the window. Our classroom was on the third floor. There were about 30 students in my class. And I was surprise to see that one third of the class were grown women – married and have children. What are they doing here? When I was in fourth grade, the oldest girl in my class was 19 years old. She decided, after having gone to Manila to work as a house-girl, to go back home and finish her elementary education.
Now in my high school class… I found out that the older women in my class, most of them are married to Americans. Amercano as we call them.
Gloria is 37 years old who’s married to a Master Sergeant. She has three children. Her oldest child – a daughter is 13, and going to middle school. I didn’t know what middle school was back then. Because in the Philippines, we don’t have middle school. We have elementary school and high school. No middle school. So while her kids go to DOD (Department of Defense) school at Clark Air Force Base, she was going to first year high school at AUF. And there was Maggie. She was tall. She was from Cebu she said. She looked like she is mestiza – Filipino mixed with Spanish blood. Her features proved it. White skin, pointed nose, large round eyes with brown lashes, brown-reddish, wavy hair. She has two children. Both in elementary school.
And then there was Ate Nelly. She wasn’t married but she was living with a steady boyfriend. She told me she’s 27 years old. She’s about 5 foot 7 inches tall. Skinny with long black hair, down to her butt. And then there was Grace. She’s only 16. She’s probably about 5 foot 2 with a gap on her upper teeth. One day in class, she whispered to me… “I have a boyfriend. American boyfriend.” I know what that means. I don’t know how I know. But from then on, when a girl tells me they have an American boyfriend… that means, they are no longer virgins. They are having sex with their American boyfriend. I was only 13 so I never had a boyfriend. And Mirasol. Very pretty girl. She has flawless, white Asian skin, thick long, wavy hair down to her waistline. She seemed always tired and sleepy when she came to school. I found out that she worked as a dancer in one of the bars… Of course she didn’t announce it to the class. Grace is friends with her and that’s how I found out…
I was keeping tab as to who is who and who is doing what. I have always been a curious little girl. I listen with full intent about people and their lives… I think it’s very interesting. So different from mine. That’s probably why I like to read biographies and memoirs of people. Interesting famous people and sometimes bad people too.
My stay in Angeles City was short lived. My sister or half sister. I prefer to call her my sister instead of half-sister. To me she’s my sister. Though when I call her half-sister that is my urged to get even with her back when I was 13 and living with her. She’d introduced me to her friends as her half – sister. It’s true. She’s my half – sister. But it bothered me. It hurt me. Why couldn’t she just introduce me as her sister? What’s the difference? I looked up to her and loved her like she’s my full sister. But that was then. This is now. Now in her early fifties, now I am her sister. Yeah. Ah huh. It makes me wonder…
Like I said, my stay in Angeles City was short lived. After two years, I was sent back home, to the province. My sister married an Air Force guy who was stationed in Korea so she had to go with him. I finished high school in the province. And two years later, I was back in the city, Angeles City.
It was in Angeles City that i first tasted pizza. It was a small place off Fields Avenue. That place was always crowded. Everyday. Their pizzas or at least the ones I tasted were cut in squares. I don’t even remember what kind of pizza that was. All I remember is – it was good.
This pizza – if you can call it pizza. But i will call it pizza… is quick to make. I made this yesterday for my husband to eat at work. I always try to think of a more convenient way for him to eat out there – when he’s working. Something good and less messy. So when i was at the grocery store the other day, i picked up a package of Pita Bread. I didn’t know exactly what i was going to do with it, but told myself – “I’ll think of something. And the result was amazing.
Pita Pizza Squares
(Serves 2 – 4)
4 Pita Bread – squares
1 TBSP. olive oil for brushing
2 Fresh Italian Sausage (I used Hot)
2 large cloves garlic – peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary – chopped
8 slices Pepperoni – 2 slices per pita square
6 slices Provolone Cheese – 1½ slices per pita square
¼ medium onion – sliced
12 medium sizes Mezzetta Hot Chili Peppers – sliced (3 peppers for each pita square) – you can use olives if you want
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Remove the casing from the Italian sausage. Add the sausage into the heated skillet. Crumble the sausage into bite size pieces. Stirring until cook, about 6 minutes. Add minced garlic and chopped rosemary. Stir another minute. Add the onion slices. Stir and remove the pan from the heat. Divide the sausage mixture into four portions.
Line a Baking sheet with aluminum. Lightly brush with olive oil.
Place 4 pita bread squares in the pan. Lightly brush each bread with olive oil.
Top each pita square with the sausage. One portion for each.
Add slices of hot chili peppers to the sausage toppings.
Tear each pepperoni slices into four pieces and also add to the sausage toppings.
Tear the provolone cheese and add to the toppings.
Bake Pita Pizza Squares in the preheated oven at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove pizza from the oven.
NOTE: For crunchy pita squares, after 10 minutes in the oven, remove pizza from the baking sheet and slide each Pita Pizza Square on top of the oven rack and bake for another 4 – 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the cheese.
Tess’ Kitchen Secrets:
#1 – Placing the Pita Pizza Squares directly on the oven rack, makes the bottom crust crispy. Which makes it easier to handle. Of course you can serve it unsliced.
#2 – You can use different toppings if you like such as olives, Canadian bacon, Anchovies, etc. Just try not to put too much toppings so you don’t weigh down the bread.
#3 – You can serve this as an appetizer or party food. Just slice each square into four little squares.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!