The Death of a Gambler in Boracay

You could say that Boracay is to Koreans what Cancun is to Americans: a warm, well-priced tropical getaway. You don't get a lot of drunk college students on spring break; you get drunk teachers who need to escape the heat from Kim Jong-Eun. So I boarded a plane in Seoul, landed in Manila, then boarded another plane to Aklan island. In Aklan I took a long bus ride through lush scenery dotted by picturesque, simple homes. If anything, Aklan looked like the Dominican Republic, and I felt as if I was back in the Caribbean; I half-expected a hurricane to just out of nowhere ruin the merengue party.

But unlike the Caribbean, the Philippines has a rainy season. Sure, I shoulda done my homework and checked to see whether two weeks in a small island during the rainy season was the best idea, but in retrospect I'm glad that I went when a mass of foreigners weren't trying to enjoy the same patch of sand, partly because it forced me to interact with the locals instead of just other drunk teachers from Seoul. At least that's what I would like to tell myself. The truth is that even though it was rainy, and not so warm when it rained, there were drunks from Seoul seemingly following me around.

Even as I got off the bus in Aklan, I noticed two peculiar individuals. One looked like a typical American guy, the other like his bearded, emaciated, barefoot twin. We got off the bus at the harbor where we would board a boat to Boracay, and there he was: walking barefoot on jagged rocks on a strange island. We failed to get on the first boat because the tides were too high, so we had to get back on the bus. Most people around me were concerned about jumping on a boat during crazy weather, but I simply couldn't take my eyes off his feet. “How the hell does this white guy just walk on all these rocks without even glancing at the ground?”

The bus got to the next port and we very unsmoothly set sail to Boracay. The boat was compact and everyone was chatty and introducing each other, but I simply wanted to address the elephant in the room, so after staring at that guy I eventually said: “You know you look like Jesus, right!”

Jesus laughed, and said, “yea, I get that all the time.”
It was an ice breaker, and I eventually learned why he didn't wear shoes, but too much time has passed and I have forgotten. But I do remember that he was doing some hippy things in Thailand, and that he was an expert on magic mushrooms. His brother, on the other hand, was just another teacher like us, living in an industrial city and doing what all the foreigners in Seoul do: drink. Before we got off the boat, Jesus' brother and I had already made plans to drink together the next morning.

The next morning we ended up in a pool hall, and his brother stayed in bed. Jesus' brother and I had some Boracay coconut rum for breakfast, and I started telling him how concerned I was for Jesus.
“I wouldn't worry, he's been doing it for years. He walked barefoot around Manila and Bangkok without a problem. The only place where they gave him a problem was at the airport.”

I asked: “aren't you afraid that he's going to step on glass or a dirty needle and die?” Hell, the dude was frail and his frailty was further highlighted by his beard, which made his face seem all the more bony.

So, Jesus' brother and I began talking about death. I don't remember exactly what he told me, but I do remember that he made a joke about his brother outliving everyone due to some immunity that his feet would help him develop.

And with that joke, we began looking at the pool table next to us. A couple of guys were playing for 10,000 pesos and the game was down to just the 8 ball. 10 bystanders were sweating just watching, and the guy about to hit the cue was sweating enough for 10 men. He hunched over the pool table and as a he took the shot, Jesus walked in from behind. I noticed Jesus, and then I noticed the 8 ball come just shy of the hole. Everyone watched for a couple of seconds for the ball to fall into the hole, but it didn't, and the guy who took the shot collapsed right there in the pool hall of a heart attack.

The first person over the newly deceased was a man who looked like Jesus, and that was not lost on the other people there. I hear that the islanders in Boracay still talk about the time Jesus entered a pool hall and cleaned it out.