Tag Archives: strangers

Backpacking South East Asia: the Say What?! incident turned blessing in disguise

(I strongly suggest that you first read the “Borneo Quick Summary” before continuing with this post.)

As promised in the previous post, I will be posting  more  about my arrival at Senai Airport in Johor Bahru just to get it off my chest already. Hahaha. No, it wasn’t anything serious or dreadful, I just want to relive the moment before I forget the details of that night. This is the SAY WHAT?! situation I got in when I decided to go with and spend the night at the home of a half-Malaysian and half-Filipino guy and his family living in Masai, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. This one will be quite detailed so, bear with me, ok?!

Meet Jhulson
Meet Jhulsona and his newly-bought scarf at a Muslim fashion store (around him are not pants but the Todong donned by Muslim women

Day 5, about 11pm: We touched down at Senai Airport 30 minutes too late for the final bus to the city center. As I was warned by couch surfers not to take the taxi which will just rip me off and I have no prior hostel reservation, I chose to accept the offer of Jhulson to sleep at her Aunt’s place. He was the guy seated on the row behind me, who I thought was complaining about my reclined seat. It was only until he spoke Filipino in a bit louder voice that I realized he just wanted to talk, as he wants to brush up on his Tagaloog (he is of Zamboanga descent and understandably, knows very little Tagalog). I wanted to talk to him but I was too tired and  groggy from waking up early, crossing from Brunei to Miri, and walking continuously for five hours within the city. And so, I told him I would like to rest a little and that I would talk to him later. This never happened as I woke up upon landing.

So, his act of kindness of offering me a place to stay was totally unexpected. In his words, “Huwag ka na hiya. Ano ka ba naman. Siyempre, Pilipino, tayo na lang tulungan.” Since he was picked up by his uncle (wearing the usual Muslim hat/headdress) and a little boy in tow plus an Indian driver friend, I assumed that they do not belong to any syndicates who are into human trafficking. So, I went with him.

I texted my Johor Bahru couchsurfing contacts and asked them where Masai is coz that’s where I’m headed. Of course, there was still doubt in my mind! One of them replied and said it’s about 30minutes or so from the airport. I also sent a message to Rajie, my Malaysian co-volunteer and told her what happened. I was under stress at the time and I didn’t know if I called her, she called me or we just texted each other. But then, perhaps Jhulson had more trouble about my presence since his phones were beeping with messages and ringing off the hook.

I did not understand what was happening but with the very little Malay I learned in the past five days and with him mentioning Miri, Tagalog and Singapore in a succession of words for almost each call I figured I had something to do with it. So I asked if the conversation was about me and he said yes.

Apparently, his brother, sister and sister-in-law are panicking coz HE IS BRINGING A GIRL HOME. I told him to clear with them that I am just some helpless stranger to whom he had shown kindness. I already did, he said. By the time we reached their place, which is about 30minutes of being in the car, his Aunt has welcomed him in open arms and though she genuinely welcomed me into their house, she looked at me warily. Continue reading Backpacking South East Asia: the Say What?! incident turned blessing in disguise