So here’s what happened. It happened on my first night in El Nido. After a 5 hour ride from Puerto Princesa, I was ready for something to eat. I had done some research, as I always do before traveling somewhere on vegetarian friendly restaurants. I found one online that was only supposed to be a few doors down from my hostel, but I had no luck finding it. So I just began wandering down the main road until I came across this restaurant between my hotel and El Nido proper.
It seemed like the kind of place that could be busy on the weekends and slow on the weekdays. I walked up the steps and turned the corner to be greeted by a man who would turn out to be my waiter, Toby. He was probably in his 50’s. I asked him what they could make that was vegetarian, he made some suggestions, I said ok and took a seat with what I thought was a pretty incredible view.
I was the only customer in the restaurant at the time, and Toby came to chat me with. Asking normal questions like, “where are you from?” “Is this your first time to El Nido? The Philippines?” “How long are you here for?”
We had a good conversation for about 15 minutes. I learned he’s lived on Palawan his entire life. While he works in El Nino, his family lives in Puerto Princesa and he makes it back to them a couple of times a month. He also gave me some suggestions on things to do while in El Nido.
Eventually we were interrupted by someone from the kitchen who delivered my food to the table. Toby’s attention turned elsewhere while I ate and another group of people took a seat.
I was about 5 minutes into my dinner, when we experienced one of Palwan’s infamous blackouts. The power just shut off. A few minutes later, Toby came by with a small candle and placed it on the table. I thought and chuckled to myself how I was now eating what could be a romantic candlelight dinner all by myself. Little did I know what was about to come.
The restaurant’s generator kicked in just as I was finishing, and I hear Toby getting closer behind me saying in his Filipino accent, “He’s American.” I turned and he’s walking with another restaurant employee. A ladyboy.
(For the record, I have nothing against ladyboys. In fact, I have nothing but respect for them, as I do with everyone. I believe in living your life to be s the most authentic 'YOU,' you can be. That being said, I’m not attracted to them in any sense other than friends.)
She’s starring pretty intensely, the look you give someone you have a crush on them type starring.
Toby said, “she wants to know where you are from.”
I reply, “America, I lived in Wisconsin last.”
The ladyboy then says, “Trump, he’s your President.”
I let out a sigh, and rolls my eyes a bit and say slowly “oh Trump. Yea. He’s the president.”
Toby then jokes, that I know Trump and I’m his nephew.
“REALLY?!” She asks.
I shake my head and boldly state, “No.”
All three of us talk for another minute or so before introducing ourselves. Her name is Pinky and her friends call her PinkyPinky.
Are you ready for what happens next!? Brace yourselves….
Toby blurts out, “She’s single! You should take her out on a date.”
My eyes open wide, look at her as she continues to stare pretty intensely giggling. I let out a nervous laugh, and play it off as a joke. But something in me felt like he wasn’t joking. I felt myself getting more red, and sweat began to break out.
“How old are you,” Pinky asks me.
Trying to just act as if it’s normal conversation, I tell her I’m 30. She said something to the effect of “oh 30!? Oh Lala.” Then I debated in my head, do I continue this conversation or what do I say to just be normal? And the only thing I can think of is, “how old are you?”
She tells me she’s 24 and her birthday was just last week. I wish her a happy belated birthday and asks what she did to celebrate. In my head, I’m thinking ok, yes, I did it, we’ve moved on from the comment about a date. But you know it doesn’t end there.
Pinky asks if I speak Tagalog, one of the Philippines officials languages. I tell her no. I say the only word I know is salamat, which means thank you. She tells me to repeat after her. I’m thinking ok cool, free language lesson. I repeat her words, and she says to me, “that means, I love you.”
She then continues to tell me the worlds for handsome and pretty: guapo and maganda, incase you were curious.
That’s when Toby enters the conversation and says, “isn’t she maganda?!”
I’m so embarrassed, and I don’t know what to do next. I feel so uncomfortable, yet almost flattered at the same time. I think she’s waiting for an answer. She seems like a super nice person, but again, I’m just not attracted to her in that way and I don't want to lead anyone on.
I repeat the word to avoid any more embarrassment, and then Pinky says and I kid you not, “so Kyle, are you single?”
“Uhhhhh, yes,” I say cautiously.
“Me too. I’m single, but unavailable,” she says.
I nervously laugh and say, “that’s the way to be, single but unavailable.”
It was at this point Pinky’s assistance is needed somewhere else in the restaurant and is called away.
She did shout goodbye to be as I was leaving, I smiled and I told her to have a good night before I began walking to my hostel, replaying that dinner in my head.
I wanted part of my trip around the world to be an excuse to get out of my comfort zone, and that dinner certainly did it. Mind you, I probably would have been just as uncomfortable had he tried to set me up with anyone, but the fact that this was with a ladyboy makes the story epic.
UPDATE: 2 days later, around 8:30 at night, the sun had already set and I was passing by the restaurant. It was pitch dark outside, there are no street lamps, but Pinky knew it was me passing by and shouted “Kyle!” waving her hand with excitement! How she could tell it was me I don’t know, but I guess thats love. Right?! ;-)