Just about everyone taking care of us on the Orion—waiters, bartenders, housekeepers—is Filipino. They are the most gracious people in the world. I’m particularly partial to Ray who makes me a latte every morning before I even ask for it and gives me a particularly generous pour of Tasmanian Pinot Noir in the evening. These people seem born to smile and seem genuinely happy to be doing their jobs. Despite the fact that they are thousands of miles away from their villages and families and, on average, work for four months solid on the ship before going home for a break. Let’s face it: It’s not an easy life.
So I have very confused emotions about the staff. I like them, I respect them, I appreciate what they are doing for me. But, to be honest, I also feel more than a bit embarrassed when they address me as “Sir David,” or when I see them setting up the dining room at six in the morning when I know they were still working at eleven last night.
Here’s the other curious thing: Almost the entire Filipino staff wears badges bearing Anglicized names. Ricky, Ray, Eric, Alex, Charles. Would a Filipino mother in a little village in Cebu or Batanes really name her baby boy Alex or Eric? Or is that just the name they take for themselves on the ship to make it easier for white boys like me to remember them?
Last night when Ray came over to my table and asked me how my day had been while slowly pouring me a glass of Frogmore Creek Pinot, I asked him if I could ask him a question.
“Certainly, Sir David.”
“Is Ray your real name?”
He seemed startled by the question. But he gathered himself, put a light hand on my shoulder, and smiled. “Of course, Sir David. What else would it be?”
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