My first drink was in a bar called Moondogs, a Baileys on ice, but let’s start from the beginning.
In the early 90’s, Boracay was not the renowned beach destination it is known today. The stretch of white sand was not akin to a beach mall filled with tourists. It was known to a small few that could brave the difficulties of going there. My relatives once told me that they had to hire a helicopter to bring them to the island the first time they went. Those same relatives bought a piece of property in the island years before it became popular. I remember going there a few summers. Nothing but white sand throughout the three kilometer stretch with hardly anyone in sight.
The day of my first drink, my older cousin and I, it’s always because of the older cousin, decided to walk the Boracay beach. He said I should have brought a pair of dark sunglasses. It was midday and the sun shined bright. It didn’t bother my eyes, but the glasses weren’t for the sun.
Boracay was not the tourist destination it is today. Back then, the beaches were secluded and people were more carefree. It was normal for beach goers to sunbathe topless out in the open. Men and women bared all to the shining sun. Suffice to say, my pre-teen mind was blown. After just a few minutes of walking, I couldn’t help but feel awkward as we made our way through the beach with my eyes looking every which way. There were no sunglasses to hide my eyes.
The long walk ended in Moondog’s. The awkwardness turned to nervousness. Many questions flashed through my brain. Will I feel different after one sip? What’s it going to taste like? I hope I don’t get drunk, my parents are going to kill me. I wonder if I’ll like it?
My cousin knew the bartender on a first name basis. Little did I know, this would be the first of many situations following him into a bar. On the wall, it boasted photos of almost a hundred people, the wall of fame. Finish Moondog’s drinking challenge and you were enshrined forever – Gulp down an insurmountable row of hard drinks, don’t vomit, and continue standing, you win a shirt and your name on the wall. I was surprised by the number of names on the wall. Was it crazy to aspire for this wall? There’s something about a challenge and immortality on a wooden wall that makes you want to step to the plate and give it a shot. Or more aptly a lot of shots.
The Baileys on ice finally arrived. The bar served it on a glass that looked like a jar. Did all alcoholic drinks come in a jar? It reminded me of a chocolate drink. The familiar whitish brown color and soft layer of foam would have been gulped down in seconds. But this version in a jar, I approached tepid and slow. Sniff, it didn’t smell like anything different. I could feel my cousin looking at me, rolling his eyes as he took sips from his drink. I made my lips touch the glass and took a sip. Sweet with tiny zing in the end. I liked it. I liked it a lot.
I didn’t feel any different after a few sips. Maybe the wall of fame should be up for consideration? Fortunately, my cousin knew better. There was no attempt for the wall. I took one drink and decided it was enough. I tried alcohol for the first time and I was happy. This isn’t the story of the first time I got drunk. That’s another tale with, you guessed it, that same cousin. After the drinks, we called it a day and walked back home through the beach. This time, I didn’t care where my eyes landed.