“It is good to meet an English speaker,” the man said. “We do not get many tourists here compared to places like Boracay. You’re a tourist?”
“No, I have been here for some time,” John repeated. He did not want the stranger to think that he was totally new to all things in the Philippines. The man might think that he was more vulnerable if his intentions were not good. John could not help but think that there was something more behind this meeting. It was just a feeling, but he could not dismiss it. He had a lingering sense too that the man was determining, perhaps even hesitating, whether to act upon his real purpose. Warily, John watched the man slip a hand casually into his jacket’s pocket.
“His intention is armed robbery.” In his mind, John clearly heard these words. He felt the adrenaline rising in him but relaxed just a little upon thinking maybe the hand had become cold from the sea’s chilling breeze. Even while thinking these things, John was telling himself that he was being too imaginative, which was supported by the dark loneliness of the beach. Still, he considered his physical chances against this stranger. The man was not large, but that did not rule out that he was strong and able. That and he might be carrying a knife or some other weapon.
“What do you do?”
“I am a missionary.”
John then was positive in his own mind that the next question the man would ask is ‘where’. He realized that he had stayed too long with this person and must now excuse himself and get away.
Then, further down the beach, he saw another shadow coming towards them. The man turned to face the shadow seeing that John was being distracted by something. Gradually, the shadow turned into Pastor Gabriel who had come down to fetch him. John was relieved to see the pastor. Gabriel was not a big man, but John was confident in the experience and personal authority that he possessed.
When Gabriel had drawn close to them, John even in the darkness caught the concerned look on his face. Without saying a word at first, Gabriel looked intently at the stranger. John knew right off that he was suspicious of the man’s intentions. They had some words, nothing unfriendly, but regardless, the man suddenly left to return up from the beach again, soon appearing as a shadow. John realized he would disappear in the darkness as if this meeting had never taken place at all.
Walking back to the restaurant, at first little was said. John felt sheepish thinking that Gabriel must have thought him naïve to be talking to this stranger who suddenly came out of the dark from nowhere.
“It did seem strange meeting up with that stranger,” John admitted.
“He was asking a lot of questions. On one hand, he seemed friendly, but I did sense something was just not quite right with him.”
“His intentions may not have been good,” Gabriel agreed. “Anyway, I talked to him and very quickly he showed that he was no longer interested in staying around once I came on the scene. He just wanted to leave.”
“In the end, it turned out well,” John concluded. And he was glad of that.
Sitting at the restaurant table now with Keren and Sheila was Gabriel’s wife, Elisa. The food they ordered had just been served. Sheila was taking careful nibbles from hot ‘barbecue on a stick’.
Keren announced when she spotted the two men trudging up from the beach through the dry sand: “Pastor Gabriel you were able to find my husband.”
“Oh, he was not far. He was just taking in the beauty of the night down by the shore.”