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“Why don’t you take off your shades? I think you’d look really hot without them,” I suggested, three minutes into our conversation, because I was beginning to feel conscious as to which part of me chest up that my seatmate was gazing at while being enthralled by each other’s stories. If I were a woman, for sure I would feel harassed if later on I found out that it’s my cleavage his eyes were actually glued to all the while.

He obliged and thanked me for my compliment, which he described as intense and unexpected. “My name is Florent. I’m from the city of Lyon in France.”

“See, I told you. I was right. I’m not saying that you don’t look desirable with glasses on. But you just look way more handsome if you toss them away. My name is Ariel. I’m from a southern Cebu town I personally call Magnificent Malabuyoc,” I told him.

Florent is a twenty-seven-year-old backpacker en route to Moalboal yesterday with a degree in International Bachelor in Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering under his belt. He said that he opted for that six-year program instead of the plain and simple mechanical engineering course because he’d like to have an international license, meaning that he had to spend his first three years in the university in Lyon, France, to accomplish his fourth and fifth year as an exchange student in Dublin, Ireland, and to return home for his sixth year before he earned the degree.

What struck me most was that part of the agreement stapled to the program was that the local state and the European Union paid for his study in Ireland, while his local school in Lyon took care of his meal and accommodation allowance in Dublin through his bank account.

Currently he’s unemployed, after the company for which he’d worked as mechanical engineer declared bankruptcy two months ago. Of course, I asked how he’s surviving and trying to make both ends meet now while traveling. He said that in France, when you get laid off by your company, you’re given one month’s worth of salary. And the French government provides you monthly allowance, equivalent to your monthly salary, for the entire year. I expressed astonishment while listening. And he explained that an iota of the tax they’re paying there is saved for such a rainy day.

Florent arrived in the country four days ago and related his not so pleasant experience some twenty minutes into his first taste of Filipino hospitality. As he was already inside the taxi en route to his hotel which was located only two kilometers away, he and the driver had made an agreement that the meter be used. When Florent answered the driver’s question as to his country of origin, the latter said, “Ah, so you’re using euro. Let’s stop the meter then. You pay me one thousand pesos.”

Of course, he declined, saying, “Stop the cab. Stop the cab. I will get off. We had already agreed to use the meter, and now you’re asking me to pay you a thousand pesos.”

The driver said, “Sorry about that. Never mind. Just give me five hundred pesos instead.”

Florent managed to get off, believing that even a five-hundred-peso charge did not seem right, because the hotel was only two kilometers away from the airport. He was happy that he was able to hail another taxi right away, but then again, the same echoed his previous predicament. The meter was stopped, and he was asked to pay five hundred pesos. For fear that the second similar incident would echo a third which could be the worst and put his entire vacation in jeopardy, he just paid without complaining.

I was at a loss for words. All I could afford to say to him was: “I am very sorry, Florent. I am deeply sorry that you had to go through such kind of tragic experiences which were totally unexpected by you and embarrassing for me. You take care of yourself, my friend. May that or any untoward incident never ever happen to you again.”

This blogger, Ariel Allera, with the French passenger on Ceres Tours bus

Ariel Allera with Florent on Ceres bus

By Ariel Allosada Allera
Beauty Spotted by Ariel Allera
Malabuyoc, Cebu, Philippines

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