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Just as I had stood for the invocation and was about to remain standing for the national anthem, my favorite Ceres Tours bus came into sight. I was in Brgy. Sto. Nino of Malabuyoc yesterday afternoon hoping to get a glimpse of this year’s Sinulog Festival before I was to travel back to the city. I hopped into the bus, which was paused by the driver for a couple of minutes: in order to pay respect to our national anthem which was still being sung during the opening of the program. The driver’s singing along gamely out loud inside the bus made most of the passengers, including my handsome seatmate from Down Under, laugh and ask what’s going on outside.

I explained. And then I introduced myself to him, whose name is Chaz, as well as to his older brother Jake who was seated at our back but cool enough to chime in with us in our conversation.

They were both cold and exhausted, I was told. Can you imagine waking up at five-thirty in Bohol to be able to catch the early-morning fast craft sans enough sleep the night prior and to take the bus to Oslob right away upon arriving in Cebu for the must-watch whale sharks and then another bus which we’re on for a few days of beachcombing or swimming or scuba-diving in Moalboal? Sleepy would be the perfect word to describe these hottest brothers I have ever seen together. But even as they were short of sleep and rest due to nonstop wayfaring or seafaring or flying or sightseeing from the day they set foot on Philippine soil two weeks ago, they looked uber fresh I couldn’t understand why.

Chaz, my seatmate who’s nicknamed himself as Jake after his brother, was incredibly gracious because even if he was too tired to carry on with a conversation, he bore with me as I kept pestering him with any questions and topics I could think of to kill time while the bus didn’t arrive yet at his destination, Moalboal.

I had to keep apologizing because I couldn’t help telling him to his face every now and again how hot he and his brother were, and how jealous I was of their vivid blue eyes. “You know what, you are really very hot, and you have to forgive me if I can’t keep my eyes off of your eyes. Tell your brother that I think he is a dead ringer for his own namesake, Jake Gyllenhaal. If both of you lived in the Philippines, for sure you would become two of the country’s sought-after models in no time,” I said.

“Thank you. You don’t have to apologize for being honest because that’s such an admirable trait you have. I, too, can’t believe that you’re forty-one years old,” said Chaz.

I asked, laughing, “What are you trying to imply: that I look fifty-one?”

“No, Ariel,” the nineteen-year-old International Business graduate was quick to say that I looked way younger than my age and added jokingly that “yes, you looked a little like Miss Universe 2004 Jennifer Hawkins” from his home country, Australia, when I said that I can only wish I had a little resemblance to her because she’s one of my favorite Miss Universes.

I admitted to having a special fondness of Caucasian men like him and his brother but preferring women of color at beauty pageants. I also said, “I think Australians have the most delicious accent in the world. And I also think that Australians are very friendly people.”

“Delicious? What a choice of word! Let me also tell you that one of the best things about traveling to your country is that Filipinos are very hospitable and welcoming. Thankfully, my brother and I haven’t had any bad experience here, and we hope that we won’t. We’ve been to Manila, Palawan, and Bohol. From Cebu, we will be flying out to Boracay and to other places before going back home to Melbourne,” Chaz said.

I knew what he meant, but just for the sake of having something to say, I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Look, you’re talking to me now—which is a very good example of the warmth of Filipino hospitality,” Chaz smiled.




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