We decided to visit the Fisherman’s Wharf on our third day —the day Keren and Kay depart for Manila, and the day Meryll and I explore the different side of Filipino hospitality in Macau.
As it turns out, the Fisherman’s Wharf is best visited at night, just like Sentosa. There was hardly anything to do there except to let the sun burn you while you enjoy what little you can see that bright, sunny morning. We headed to Sands Macau for lunch, and at around 12:30, Keren and Kay got on the free hotel shuttle leading to the airport, while Meryll and I went back to Senado area and retrieve the bags we left at our hotel.
The day before, I had already made arrangements for Ate Belinda to drop by our hotel, pick us up and bring us to their apartment. Meryll and I remained optimistic, though the cautionary vibes weren’t far. Kay’s words were still reverberating in my ear. “They’re out to con you.”
“I’m wearing black po, and you’ll see me naman with a big hiking bag.” I told Ate Belinda on the phone. At around 2:30, our agreed time, we saw two ladies walking towards us. Mukha naming mabait.
“Hi, ikaw ba si KZ?”
“Opo, ako yung nakausap ninyo sa phone.”
“Kaya niyo ba yung dala ninyo? Gusto niyo ba mag punta na agad sa bahay o magikot ikot muna? Nakapunta na ba kayo sa mga casinos?”
“Um, dumaan na po kami sa Venetian, pero hindi naman kami nag casino. Sight seeing lang.”
“Ah ganon? Sayang naman ang lapit niyo na sa Lisboa, sa Wynn. May mga shows dun, tsaka tignan lang natin para makapasok kayo sa casino.”
She explained that she meant no harm but she wants Filipinos to experience Macau for what it’s famous for. She was quick to say, “yung iba kasi nagdududa agad, hindi naman ito scam. Syempre, bisitahin niyo lang, wala namang mawawala, tignan niyo lang yung loob, may free water pa naman dun.”
They told us that going back to their place would take a longer time, and so in the interest of using time well, they suggested we visit the casinos and then just head home later. I was already suspicious by this time, though I tried to keep quiet about it and give them the benefit of the doubt.
We went to Grand Lisboa which was just a few blocks away from our hotel. They had us deposit our bags in a depository area of the casino. Then they made us register. That means, getting like a free ticket/pass to the casino with a credit of 50 MOP. That card is available for everyone and you go to the center of the casino and you play a game of chance where you click on something and if you’re lucky, you get this certain amount. Gambling.
After not winning, which I thought was a one in a billion chance, we went to the next casino. At this point, I already motioned for Meryll to get my signals. “I’m scared. This doesn’t feel right.”
“Me too, but let’s see.”
As we were walking along the streets, I told meryll, “okay, code names. When I use “Voldemort” in a sentence, it means I’m scared. When I use “Nike” in a sentence, let’s do it. Let’s get the hell out of here. Let’s scram, okay?”
The two of them, Ate Belinda and this other lady whose name I don’t remember anymore, were actually trying to ease our fears and dispel the notion that we are being ‘scammed’. They were defensive, sure. They were quick to say that visiting casinos is harmless, that they just want us to experience casinos, and that they’re from a church (Jehovah’s Witness), as if to convince us that they’re good people. I thought, if they’re church-going people, why are they visiting casinos? Wasn’t that ironic?
The next casino, Mocha, was the real deal. Upon entering, the guard stopped me and asked for my ID. He didn’t believe I was 26 years old (3 days ago I just turned 26) and thought I was below 18. I didn’t take that as a compliment, because the mere fact that I was stopped by the guard caused me to fear all the more. My heart was pounding. Why are we here and why should we visit these casinos???
Meryll seemed relaxed. She told me, “let’s just wait it out, but I get you.” I told her that our other option was to go to Hong Kong, meet with my friend Ate Delight who was staying there, and just come back to Macau the next day for our trip home. “I mean, we would save more if we stayed with her, we’ll just spend on the ferry. I’ll contact her.”
Upon entering, we did the same thing they had us do in Lisboa. Sign up, register, get our cards. I found out that these cards contained credits which, when played, can be converted to cash. Now I get it.
“Meryll, did you finish book 7 na? I can’t wait to watch part 2, the fight between Harry and VOLDEMORT.”
She looked at me and I was really distressed at this time. The guards were also on the lookout. Casinos have cameras everywhere. So I tried to act cool because I didn’t want to get attention. Deep inside, I was hating every minute I was inside and I thought to myself, “why am I even scared? If I’m not here, I won’t be scared. Why are we here?”
The guy that we talked to the day before, the guy who referred us to Belinda, was there. We noticed him immediately, and he was there with a dozen more Filipinos just huddled up in one corner. I thought that was odd. I was alarmed.
And then, he approached me. “Asa sayo yung card mo?” I said, “Andito, bakit?”
“Ilaro natin, sayang naman yung points.”
When I gave the card, I quickly moved away so that I don’t get associated with them. Oh Lord, what is all these?
Minutes later, he gave me the card, but it was patago. He said, “kunin mo to, itago mo.”
STRIKE THREE. THAT DID IT. I freaked out.
“Huh, ano pa yan? Ayoko yan. I don’t want anything to do with that. Meryll, let’s go.”
I freaked out and suddenly, the guy freaked out, too. Probably because If I go on, I will attract attention, which was actually what I wanted. My heart was pounding. That did it. If it were legal, why hide it under the table? If it were legal, why the whispering? Freaks, I do not know you and I want nothing to do with this. I freaked out.
Meryll told me to be calm but I said I’ve had it. “No, this isn’t right. If they wanted to help us find an accommodation, that would have just been ALL they would offer us. Accommodation. Place lang to stay. Why all the casinos?”
She got my point, and we just left.
Belinda, the other girl and the guy followed after us. Belinda was apologizing, explaining that I just lost trust in them.“Nagduda ka kasi kagad, sayang yung points na yun, malapit na yun, ibibigay mo nalang para ma claim.”
She just didn’t get it!
“But that’s the point: I don’t want to claim points, I don’t want to be in a casino, I don’t want to be doing any of these. From the start sabi naman po namin hindi kami nag cacasino, and if you wanted to help us, you would have just led us to the house, period.”
She stammered in her explanation, trying to find the right words, but I was done being polite with them. It’s time we get smart and prove to them why we’re educated and not ignorant tourists.
Meryll and I told them we’re thankful for the offer to stay at their place, but we’ll just stay with our friend. This wasn’t entirely true; Ate Delight was sick and I knew we weren’t going to Hong Kong anymore, but we had to get out. We literally took off, sped like crazy, got our bags from the depository area, and went back to Senado.
We got away from these Filipino scammers who took advantage of our being tourists, but now we don’t have a place to stay in Macau for the night. No, for two more nights. We were homeless.
(to be continued…)