Many readers of Ian Fleming's Bond stories were seduced by the rich life of the jet-setting spy. Monte Carlo, chemin de fer, caviar, champagne. In my forthcoming book, The Ninja and the Diplomat, there is a light scene in an eatery in a shopping mall (for the parking). The following graphic is not of Manila as the street scenes would not look different from similar scenes anywhere else. But the rice terraces of Banaue are something special even though they do resemble rice terraces elsewhere. (Image found by searching the internet for the "rices terraces of Banaue.")
“Wow, that was easy,” declared Mariam. “The rest of your trip should be so blessed.” Chen shrugged and Emilio merely smiled as he declared,
“I missed breakfast this morning.”
They walked into the warm sunshine as a light breeze brought smells from the harbor. Chen looked gratefully at his companions and declared,
“I must tell you that what you are doing to help us is very much appreciated. The weapons that had been stolen included some very dangerous devices. I need to be sure that none of those arrived here. If at any point it gets uncomfortable for either of you, however, please let me know.”
“All right,” remarked Emilio. “Just keep in mind Hashim is not just a very good friend, he is like our brother.”
In the food court of a shopping center nearby, where there was parking and a selection of international eateries, the three made their way to a Korean barbecue stall. Mariam turned the radio on her smart-phone and placed it on the table. Chen recognized it as a good way to thwart electronic eavesdropping and that the music was the light pop that he remembered from his previous visits to the Philippines.
“I’ll have the bulgogi,” announced Emilio. “I just love the charbroiled, sweetish soy sauce flavor. I understand what we taste includes what we smell so the sizzle must help. Are you going to stick with those cold noodles as usual, Mariam?”
“Yes, Naengmyeon. They don’t have the best buckwheat noodles here but they do the beef broth, cucumbers, beef and kimchi−all perfectly done, and something cold right now sounds good.”
“I noticed a stall where they make halo-halo next door,” remarked Chen, “that would be my choice for a cold treat after lunch.”
“Oh, you like that?” cried Mariam delightedly.
“Everybody likes halo-halo, even Hashim,” Emilio retorted.
“Why doesn’t he like halo-halo?” inquired Mariam.
“He does. But he keeps talking about the dates and chopped nutmeg treats from his youth; I think he is just hanging on on to his memories,” explained Emilio.
For his lunch, Chen ordered bibimbab with extra seaweed and mushrooms and without the egg even when assured that it would be cooked first. “Do they put chopped up preserved radishes in this?”
Mariam nodded and declared, “My mother always included it in her fried rice, with left over pork or duck sausage if we had that.”
“Well, I think of bibimbab as a variety of fried rice and a good test of a Korean restaurant. Besides, I like the crunch of the radishes; it reminds me of home cooking.”
“So what do you do in your day job?” inquired Emilio, abruptly changing the subject.
“I’m a policeman,” replied Chen to an explosion of hysterical laughter from his companions. “What’s so funny?”
It took a while before either Emilio or Miriam stopped their raucous braying and for the restaurant crowd to turn their attention to each other and their food. Emilio still chuckled as he explained,
“That was precious. You are so straightforward. I guess we thought you would have a whole story made up. I mean we do know why you are here, but for you to simply announce what you do is … just … amazing.”
“Well, I’m new at this,” admitted Chen, which sent his companions into more hysterics. The other people in the restaurant simply shook their heads thinking their table must be having a good time.
“Well, could you try to be more sneaky?” advised Emilio before he dissolved into hysterical giggles.
After lunch, the three made their dessert stop, where they had extravagant versions of mixed fruit, beans, shaved ice, rose syrup, sarsaparilla flavoring, and a choice of evaporated milk or coconut milk. Mariam oohed over the glistening macapuno and suggested Chen add jackfruit to his order. Emilio ordered extra red beans, prompting Chen to ask for the same and then he asked for more “grass jelly” because it was “healthy.” As they left, Chen excused himself and returned with a small paper bag.
“New phones,” he explained. “They are my present to you and Hashim, although you don’t have to tell him who bought them. You should dismantle and throw away the ones you are currently using soon.”
“We know about this tactic,” protested Emilio. “We don’t need to do this now.”
“No,” agreed Chen. “But you will soon.”
“How will we know when?” asked Mariam.
“You will know,” declared Chen.