For my father, there were really only two mysteries that he was unable to solve in his life. First, he wanted to know if there were toilets in heaven. He enjoyed his visits to the bog. "It's time to broadcast," he'd pronounce before shuffling upstairs. If you were wise, you didn't go up there until it was safe, know what I mean?
Who killed Lonnie Paing? That was the really big question on my old man's mind. He had been posted in Manila in the days when Paing was florist to the stars of the Marcos universe. "Lonnie was a blast," my father would say as he hovered over the stove tending to a tinola he was cooking. "He was very quiet but knew how to go wild in second gear." They came from the same town in England and shared a taste for antiques. That's probably why somebody killed Paing, not long before my father returned to London. Broke into his house and gave him a good chopping before stealing away with some choice knick-knacks. "What fucker could do that?" my old man would ask, eyes wide and searching.
My father hated Manila. He was supposed to be posted in Hong Kong but the service played him dirty and sent him to Manila. That's where my sister and I were born. But I didn't go back until last year. They're never going to make a film "To Manila with Love" or write a song "April in Manila", know what I mean? It's a shithole.
I went to Lonnie Paing's place. I looked up the address in an old newspaper story. The house was gone. It's always like that.
12 December 2014