Marlene (on right) at Pagsanjan Fallls
It was on Thursday, February 8, 1973 that Rolf first met Marlene on a Pelota Court in Manila. Within 6 weeks she was appointed as his administrative assistant. They were very close until Rolf's last visit to the Philippines, when she dropped him off at the airport on Sunday, March 14, 1982. At the time he did not know that it would be the last time he held the woman in his arms. In fact, Rolf was considering to become a permanent resident of the Philippines.
It was on Thursday, February 8, 1973 that Rolf first met Marlene on a Pelota Court in Manila. Within 6 weeks she was appointed as his administrative assistant. They were very close until Rolf's last visit to the Philippines, when she dropped him off at the airport on Sunday, March 14, 1982. At the time he did not know that it would be the last time he held the woman in his arms. In fact, Rolf was considering to become a permanent resident of the Philippines.
The Philippines - Marlene
The Philippines - Marlene
- Born on June 12, 1953 in Manila, The Philippines, Marlene was raised by her father and a number of nannies. Her father, Ed Martinez was in the process of rapidly becoming a prominent real estate developer in the greater Manila/Makati area. She never knew her mother who had died giving birth to her.
By the time she became a teenager, her father had become very wealthy and they lived in a luxurious villa in a sub division with several servants and two nannies. She attended a private school and after graduation was sent to Hawaii by her father to attend college, which she did for two years. She returned to the Philippines in the beginning of 1972 after a short lived romance with an American naval officer stationed in Hawaii. Marlene broke off the affair when she realized she would not be able to deal with the prolonged absences and the fact that she missed life in Makati.
She decided to apply for a secretarial job with an American Insurance company, mostly to have something to do, not for need of having to earn any money. She was accepted and started to build her own circle of friends. Her relationship with her father continued to be very close.
Marlene was a very beautiful woman and was well aware of the fact that she drew many appreciative glances from her male coworkers. She dated occasionally but nothing serious ever developed.
She had joined the department Pelota (The Philippine version of Racket Ball) team which met three times a week early in the morning to play for a couple of hours against other departments prior to going to the office.
One morning she woke up early and decided to go to the club. Donning her company provided sportswear she called her driver to pick her up in 15 minutes. When she arrived at the club only one other person was at the court warming up. He was a young executive on assignment from head office, who she had met and played against. She never really had talked to him and aside from the fact that she knew that his name was Rolf, had very little information about him. Asking him if he was game for a little warm-up she proceeded to chase him all over the court. He was good; but no match for her.
Rolf had noticed her during the past couple of weeks and certainly appreciated the beauty of the woman. When they walked off the court he asked her if she would like to have dinner with him that night. She told him that she would be happy to do so if he also took her dancing to one of the big clubs in Makati afterwards. The legendary love for music in the Filipino blood is well known.
They went to a very nice restaurant and had an enjoyable dinner. Marlene felt comfortable talking to Rolf and he seemed to be very pleasant. After dinner they danced the night away and did not leave the club until after 4 AM. Rolf was acutely aware of the woman he was holding in his arms and was mesmerized by her beauty and her body moving against his. He sensed a spark between the two of them.
She asked Rolf to go to the beach with her a little later, where they could spend the day. Rolf was happy about the invitation, was beginning to wonder about his feelings and was for the first time in his life at a total loss on how to handle the woman.
It took about two hours to drive to the beach and they spent a beautiful day swimming and relaxing. Marlene started to probe Rolf a bit about his life, but felt that he was uncomfortable talking about it.
When Marlene got to the office on Monday she thought about the weekend and wondered if Rolf would call her. He did not. It was not until the following morning that she saw him again at the Pelota court. He came over to her and smiled at her, apologizing for not having thanked her for a lovely day, telling her that he had been involved in all-day meetings.
“Could I make up for that by asking you out again tonight?” he asked. She had hoped that he would like to see her again. This time they just talked. Rolf told her that he was settling into his house in Singapore and that he was married and had a son. He said that he spent very little time at home because of his need to travel all over Southeast Asia and Japan/Korea. Having made some discreet inquiries about Rolf she was aware of the fact that he was married and felt good that he was honest with her. She had been told by Rolfs Filipino assistant that his marriage was basically dysfunctional and that he was rarely in Singapore.
They started to meet almost every night and Marlene generally drove him everywhere they went and took him home to his apartment. After the first couple of times, when they just shook hands to say good bye, he kissed her but almost immediately drew back and got out of the car. After about a week of this she was beginning to wonder if something was wrong. That night he put his arm around her and lingered on her lips, not pulling back. She pulled him close and kissed him deeply, telling him “You seem to be afraid of me, I know you want to make love to me, what are you waiting for?”
They decided to go to Baggio in the Luzon mountains for a week. She dropped Rolf off at his apartment and told him to be ready in a couple of hours. She was going home to pick up a few things and stop off at the office to make arrangements for a week’s vacation. On her desk was a letter informing her that she had been transferred and was now permanently assigned to Rolf as his administrative assistant. She had known that Rolf was looking for someone and was pleased that she was selected for the position.
She stopped at home and told her father about her plans. He looked at her and said “I hope you know what you are doing, I do not want you to get hurt!”.
“Daddy” she told him “Don’t worry, Rolf is very nice and for the first time in my life I feel comfortable being with a man. I think I am falling in love”.
Driving to his apartment to pick him up she was wondering what it would be like to be with Rolf, he seemed to be a little too reserved. Smiling to herself she thought that she could quickly change that.
Rolf was waiting and looked at her. She felt his eyes on her and could sense his urgency; wanting his arms around her. Marlene smiled at him and told him that she had made all the arrangements, gotten a suite at the Hyatt and that they had a dinner invitation tonight at one of her father’s friends. It was a dressy affair so Marlene would wear a traditional Filipino dress and Rolf would wear a long sleeved Barong. She added that they would have all afternoon for themselves.
When they got to Baggio, Rolf expressed his surprise at the beautiful temperate air which was a pleasant change from steamy Manila. Once settled in their suite Rolf took her into his arms and said “You have no idea how much I want you, I want to make love to you and I want to feel your lips and hands on me”
They made love for a long time and she felt that for the first time in her life she was truly happy. She had never imagined that it was possible to feel this way. Looking at Rolf in wonder she touched his face and looked into his eyes. “You are a dream come true” she said, gently kissing his lips.
They got dressed and drove to the dinner party, which turned out to be an opulent affair for the couple’s wedding anniversary. There were a number of other guests at the hosts beautiful home overlooking the valley. Marlene was impressed with Rolf’s demeanor and his easy going style mingling with the people at the party. The host told her that she looked radiant and that they made a beautiful couple. He proceeded to invite them to his private island retreat a couple of hours out of Manila and told them that they would be picked up and taken to the place in three weeks, They would remain there for a whole week, being completely out of touch with anyone.
Marlene felt Rolf’s eyes on her, he seemed to like the idea. She knew that if they were to go that it would cement their relationship and bring it from the casual affair into a somewhat permanent arrangement. There were many issues that had to be resolved and his current marriage certainly was a major stumbling block, but she had decided never to put pressure on Rolf. Only time will tell, she thought.
In the meantime she was not to let anything or anyone interfere with her happiness. Telling the host that they would be happy to accept their invitation, Marlene looked at Rolf and told him ‘We are going to be living like two natives in Paradise. You will be all mine!” He just smiled at her.
It was mid-morning that they finally got back to the hotel.
For the rest of the week they explored the countryside, hit the nightlife and ate at all possible hours. They talked a lot and grew closer.
When the time came to return to Makati, they knew that they were facing a busy two weeks, visiting a few of the branches and getting some reports out to head office. Soon it would be time to head for the island. Rolf was starting to really look forward to that experience.
By the time they returned from the field visits, everyone in the office was aware of their relationship, as it had become known that an invitation was extended to them to stay at the island. As the Filipinos never forego any opportunity to have a party, a big bash was thrown for them the night before their departure.
Marlene stayed at Rolf's apartment the night before they were to leave. the driver was to come shortly after 4 AM to take them to the boat, which was going to take them the rest of the way.
All they took with them was swimwear, some t-shirts and some personal items, along with sun screen. They would have no need for any type of clothing. The owners had told them not to bring any money; there was no need for it. He said that he will take care of the residents, but there was simply no need for money, as there was no place to spend it. Rolf felt very strange, he had never been in a position of being totally isolated. The driver was right on time and about two hours later they arrived at the landing in a little village where a local Filipino was waiting with a small outboard motor boat. They got in and after about an hour they saw the island ahead of them. It looked peaceful, covered with palm trees and surrounded by white sandy beaches. The boat pulled into a little inlet and hit the beach, where a few of the residents and a bunch of curious little kids were waiting.
The Filipino told them he would be back in exactly one week about the same time and left. Rolf looked at Marlene, they now were in paradise. One of the islanders motioned for them to follow and he took them up a little path to an open sided hut shaded by palm trees. There were tatami mats on the floor, a large hammock suspended in the middle, covered with Filipino Batik, a large bamboo table with fruit, a bucket of bottled beer, sodas and water; and there were flowers on it. Several bamboo chairs and a large bamboo sofa covered with Batik pillows stood around the table. In a corner was a large tub with seawater. They were told that a meal was being prepared for them, which would be ready in about an hour.
Marlene came over to Rolf and sat on his lap, kissing him. He felt her body against him and started to get aroused. "Let's go for a swim", said Marlene, smiling, "We have all the time in the world after lunch for that!". They ran down to the beach and went into the crystal clear water. It was beautiful.
When they returned to the hut one of the islanders was setting lunch on the table, consisting of a huge spiny lobster, some vegetables and fresh mango. The both of them were very hungry, they took a beer, which was surprisingly cool and proceeded to devour the food. Marlene said to take a walk around the island after they finished. A little further down the path was a clearing which was cultivated for growing all kinds of vegetables. There were a large number of pineapple plants bearing fruit, banana plants and several large mango trees. On the other side of the island was a little village where the permanent residents lived. Marlene and Rolf said hello to all of them thanking them for their hospitality. Some of them spoke English, Rolf was pretty fluent in Bahasa and had no problem communicating with them.
They all were actually employed by the owner and in return for being able to live on the island and feed themselves they kept it in shape. All their needs were taken care of by the owner. There were some pigs, chicken and ducks. A monkey was sitting on the roof of one of the sheds and threw nuts at them with an uncanny accuracy, bouncing them off their heads. A couple of dogs and cats rounded out the population. The island was self sufficient for all food.
They returned to their hut. It was late afternoon and the sun would soon set. They had some candles and flares, but there was no electricity. Rolf took Marlene into his arms and kissed her, telling her that he wanted her badly now, wanted to feel her and love her. They pulled off their bikinis and went to the hammock. It took a bit of getting used to, but it was surprisingly comfortable. They were lost in each other's passion, ultimately drifting off to sleep. When Rolf woke up it was dark, he had no idea what time it was, nor did it matter. He looked at the beautiful woman laying in his arms and wondered if he was dreaming. He touched her gently, nuzzling her ears, whispering to her. She turned to look at him, not saying a word, touching his face, starting to pull Rolf over on her, gently guiding him inside her one more time.
After a while they got up, grabbed a beer and went back down to the beach to go swimming. There was a bright moon reflecting off the water; and there was total silence. The water was refreshing.
When they got back to the hut Rolf said "I am not really tired, can we just sit and talk, we can sleep whenever we want". Both of them felt cool, they had not worn anything for the swim, so they donned a t-shirt and wrapped a Batik blanket around them. Marlene put her head in his lap and looked up at him. "Minamahal Kita", she said, "You are a dream come true, I do not want this to end, ever".
Rolf had been fighting an emotional upheaval. They had only known each other for a couple of months, but he had not experienced such powerful feelings in a long, long time. He fondly thought of Karin for a moment. "Neither do I" said Rolf, "You have given my life a new meaning. Soon, while we are here, I will tell you a bit of what my life has been like. I cannot and will not ask you for anything or make promises. I will accept every minute you give me as a precious gift".
Marlene looked at him with those beautiful eyes. There were tears in them. The early Filipino sun was starting to rise and soon it would be time for breakfast.
Someone brought them fresh papaya, scrambled eggs and pineapple juice. The woman smiled at them and inquired if they had a good night. She asked if they had everything needed. Rolf thanked her and said that they were fine.
So they fell into an easy routine; sleeping, swimming and making love whenever they wanted.
On the next to last evening Marlene said to take some blankets down to the beach, they could spend the night there. Rolf realized that she silently was waiting for him to tell her about his life. "That sounds like a great idea, let's take enough beer, I have a feeling we are going to be up all night" he said.
After dinner they went to a little cove on the beach, hidden by palm trees, where they put down their blankets, leaning against a sand barrier. Rolf took Marlene's hand into his and told her "I want you to know that in all my life I have had problems talking to anyone about my feelings, fears and needs. Only once, before I left Germany have I been truly close with somebody. So if you are willing to listen, I will try to tell you everything".
Marlene nodded and looked at him. She had never seen the expression on his face now visible in the dim light. It was not the easy going, carefree Rolf she knew; his lips were drawn, there seemed to be a deep sadness in his eyes. She pulled him closer to her and put her head on his shoulder. "I am here for you, my love" she said, "I always will be".
He started talking, haltingly, going back to his earliest memories. He told her everything, several times choking back tears. It was early morning and the sun started to come up when he finally finished. Rolf was emotionally drained, he turned and took Marlene into his arms and broke down. It was a long time before the tears stopped, she just kept stroking his head and held him close.
She looked at his face and saw the pain and for the first time in her life fully understood what it felt like to love someone.
They fell asleep for a little while, woke up hungry and returned to the hut. They had not figured out yet how the islanders kept track of them, but within a short while breakfast was brought to them. The girl told them that tonight there was going to be a pig roast for them, as they were going to be picked up the following morning. Just come to the village at sunset, she told them, adding that they would party all night.
Marlene looked at Rolf "That should be fun, we better get some rest later", she said taking his hands in hers "How are you feeling? He told her that he was fine, just tired. "It has been a long time since I have been able to talk to someone. I am finally in the process of accomplishing my goals, but I still have problems dealing with the price I paid during the years after my arrival in the US. I know that the nightmares from my childhood will never leave me".
"Do you mind if I tell my father about some of those things?, asked Marlene "He was born in 1931, so he was eleven years old when the Japanese invaded. He rarely talks about it, but I know that he also has nightmares about those terrible years. He vowed that he would work hard to get out of poverty after the war. He was too young to join the resistance. When the Americans came back he was happy. After a little while he got himself a job at the base doing dishes and ground maintenance, making enough money to feed the family. He saved every penny he could. A vision started to form in his mind as to what he wanted to do with his life. What you see today he built all himself; and he is very proud of it".
Rolf was fascinated by her story, he told her that she was free to tell her father anything she wanted. He put his hands on her face, pulling her closer to him. She melted into him and they made slow passionate love for a long time, finally falling asleep in each other's arms.
After they woke up they went to the beach for a swim and walked over to the village. All the islanders were there; the girls all had orchids in their hair and were busy organizing the meal. Marlene and Rolf made their rounds saying hello to everyone, thanking them for their hospitality. In the middle there was was a big fire with a pig roasting over it, wrapped in Banana leaves. On the open hearth were all kinds of pots. The whole area was surrounded by flares. An older Filipino sat on a stool with a guitar and was singing. A bench had been covered with pillows and batik and they were told to sit there. Rolf felt like he was going to be crowned. Five little girls, about seven years old came over and danced for them to the music. It was delightful.
A couple of the men started to carve the pig, and the food started to be brought to Marlene and Rolf. There were all kinds of Adobos, vegetables, fruits and sweets; all grown or raised and prepared on the island. And there was an endless supply of San Miguel Beer, although Rolf noticed that none of the islanders drank any. The beer had to be brought in by boat from the nearest town; about 2 hours away.
After a while the food slowed down, Rolf thought they never wanted to eat again, although he knew that they would continue to do so through the night. The girl who had brought them breakfast came over and pulled Rolf up, smiling at him, telling him that she would now teach him how to dance the local version of the hula. Someone had started to beat a drum and the party was on. A young Filipino had gotten Marlene and they joined them.
Rolf let himself go, completely. He glanced over to Marlene, who looked natural doing this. She had put on a grass skirt over her bikini and was simply enchanting. He looked at the girl with him trying to get him to move the right way. He soon caught on. He asked her what her name was and she told him "Aika". After a while Aika took him over to Marlene, telling them that they now were on their own. The islanders formed a circle around them and started chanting and clapping, the drums were beating; Rolf was entranced. The two of them danced in the circle for a long time, joined by the younger islanders. When the sun started to rise and things slowed down, they fell back on their bench, exhausted. Rolf got up and waved his hands for silence. He told them how much they had enjoyed their stay here and thanked them for the great party. One by one they came over to hug them, The little girls gave their orchids to Rolf.
It was about six hours before the boat arrived to pick them up. One last swim and they crashed for a while. Aika came with breakfast which they barely touched. Marlene smiled and told Rolf that if he had come alone to the island, Aika would surely have been his companion. "Geez" Rolf grinned "The last time I made love to a sixteen year old girl I was sixteen. You should have told me last night!' That comment earned him a whack over the head with a pillow.
They gathered their few belongings, took a couple of beers and went to the landing. They sat huddled together, waiting for the boat.
By late afternoon they were back in Rolf's apartment. After a long shower they relaxed for while and talked about the week. It simply had been a beautiful experience. It was Friday, so they had a couple of days to wind down before going in to work.
Their schedule called for them to visit Bacolod, Cagayan De Oro and Cebu before closing out their reporting. Rolf would have to go on to Japan and Korea for three weeks, before returning to Singapore.
Marlene made all the necessary travel and hotel arrangements and told him that they were scheduled to spend three nights in the guest villa at the Del Monte pineapple plantation near Cagayan De Oro. They were a big account and it would be interesting to see their operation.
She also told him that they were invited to her father's mansion in Desmarinas for a reception the day before they were leaving. Marlene looked at Rolf smiling and said "I had a long breakfast with my father this morning and we talked about you. I told him some of the things about your life. He was fascinated and asked me some questions I did not have answers to. He wanted to know if you, being German, had ever faced rejection or dislike. He also was curious about your feelings toward the Russians, for what they did to Berlin".
Rolf told her that he had absolutely no resentment toward anyone; and that he had spent a good part of his life studying the history of Nazi Germany trying to find out what had happened. He had heard about resentment toward Germans in some of Europe's areas that had been subject to extreme Nazi terror. Rolf also knew that a lot of Filipinos still disliked the Japanese.
There were a lot of preparatory meetings for the upcoming trip and Rolf was extremely busy getting organized. When the day of the reception came, he asked Marlene what the party was about and what to wear. She said that it should be official Filipino business wear, meaning long sleeved Barong and black pants; or he could wear a suit and tie. Rolf never even brought suits and ties to the Philippines, as he loved the local dress and owned a large selection of casual and official Barongs. She said that her father had such receptions twice a year; and that they were attended by most of the business leaders and politicians in Manila and Makati.
Rolf was pensive, he was not sure what Ed Martinez was thinking about him; or how he would react to seeing him and his daughter as a couple at an official function. When they arrived, the driver dropped them off at the gate, where a long line of guests were waiting to go through the reception line, being greeted by Ed. When their turn came he hugged and kissed Marlene and shook Rolf's hand warmly, telling him that it was a pleasure to finally meet the man who took most of Marlene's time. "Please remain here after the party, I would like to spend a little time with the both of you" he said.
The two of them made their rounds. Rolf had met some of the guests at various business functions and felt at ease talking to everyone. Since he was obviously attending as Marlene's companion there were going to be some rumors flying around as to their relationship. On the terrace was a lavish spread of food and drinks; and wait staff was circulating offering all types of delicacies. Some guests approached them and asked them how they had enjoyed their time on the island. News travels fast, Rolf thought. Marlene took his hand and said that she was going to take him on a tour of the house. It was a huge sprawling mansion, with large tropical gardens, a pool, and a big terrace. Rolf estimated that there were about 200 guests. They walked through the rooms, a big library with an adjoining office and meeting space. There were eight large bedrooms, all with their own bathroom, a large den and Marlene's apartment, which consisted of three rooms, beautifully furnished. She closed the door, took Rolf into her arms and kissed him. He thought that this was not going to work here, he gently disengaged himself, smiled at her and teasingly said "You want to get me into trouble?"
Marlene told him that twenty-two permanent employees lived on the property and about ten more came during various times for maintenance, gardening, etc. Rolf was impressed.
They rejoined the party and talked to some more people. Rolf was actually enjoying himself, he felt proud to have Marlene by his side. After a while guests started to leave and soon there were only about a dozen left. They all sat at a table by the pool, drinking San Miguel.
One of the women, the wife of a prominent politician, asked Rolf what his relationship to the Martinez family was. He smiled and told her that he was a friend of Marlene's. Ed, who had overheard the conversation jumped in to say "Rolf is an executive with an American Insurance Company and Marlene also works for him". After a little while everyone had left and the three of them talked about Rolf's early childhood in Berlin. Ed said "We have a lot in common, they way we grew up. From what Marlene tells me, you are still very emotional about those experiences. I can well understand that". Rolf felt uncomfortable for no apparent reason. Ed was pleasant and they talked about business, Rolf's constant travel schedule and his obvious love of the Philippines. They never touched the issue of his relationship with Marlene.
Marlene was staying at the mansion for the night; she would pick him up on the way to the airport at four AM for the 6 o'clock flight to Cebu. Rolf got up shook hands with Ed, who told that it was a pleasure to have met; and Marlene walked him to the driveway where the car was waiting to take Rolf back to his apartment. He kissed Marlene good bye and twenty minutes later was back home.
He was not returning to Manila for over two months as he was scheduled to visit Pakistan and South Vietnam for three weeks before briefly stopping in Singapore on his way back.
As it turned out Rolf almost did not make it back as his visit to Saigon took an unexpected turn.
It was Monday, May 5, 1975, early afternoon that Rolf's flight from Singapore touched down in Manila. He was waived though customs after his passport was checked and went into the hall where Marlene was waiting for him. He took her into his arms and held her for a long time. She looked at him concerned "What is the matter, my love", she said "You look terrible, is something wrong?". He told her to go to his apartment, he had a long story to tell. When they got there Sanya greeted them, brought them beer and some snacks. Rolf Looked at Marlene and told her how happy he was to see her. "A little more than a week ago I thought I was not going to make it out of Saigon"
Saigon, Vietnam - April 1975
On April 14, 1975 Rolf landed at Ton Son Nhut Airport in Saigon from Karachi, Pakistan, being totally in the dark how far the situation in Vietnam had deteriorated over the past two weeks. He was supposed to close the office, remove all cash to Singapore and make arrangements for the manager to get out of the country.
He was taken to the Metropolis hotel. They went to the rooftop nightclub and looked down at the Mekong River and the city. They could see the flashes from the Mortar Fire. Cholon, the Chinese quarter was under heavy attack. The airport came under mortar fire two days later.
Rolf started to get worried, he wanted to get out, fast. That proved to be impossible, as the situation had turned chaotic and all services had broken down. There were no more regular flights.
Rolf went shopping and for pennies on the dollar bought ceramic elephants and other antiques that were supposed to be shipped to Singapore. Miraculously the arrived six months later. He was beginning to realize that was facing capture by the North Vietnamese army. Efforts to get to the embassy were unsuccessful and he was rapidly running out of options. There was nothing he could do for the Manager, as he was carrying a South Vietnamese Passport. They had some great meals at heavily barricaded and guarded French restaurants.
Both the manager and Rolf were carrying side arms. In addition Rolf had a very large sum of US Dollars from the office in his money belt. He was scared.
He had to be extremely careful as desperate soldiers would kill for the money to get out of the country. Rolf decided to try reaching the airport, abandoning all efforts to help the manager.
He put about $5,000 into his pockets to have available for bribes and started walking. Going through three checkpoints where Rolf had to pay to pass on he finally reached the outer parameter of the airport. An RVN officer came up to him and ask him if he wanted to get out. It would cost him $3,000. Rolf paid him, thinking he had nothing to loose. The man could shoot him and pocket the money.
The officer took Rolf’s gun and said to follow him to the runway where five other people were waiting in a trench. He explained that when the plane came in it would not be able to stop as the mortars could zero in. It would land, slow down and roll down the runway. The moment it touched down they would climb on top of a truck parked in front of them, which was going to pull up to the side of the moving plane. They had one chance to jump into the open door. If they missed they could be run over.
Rolf was the last one to jump, he was terrified. He crawled over to the galley and got violently sick. The plane was packed with people standing in the isles. They accelerated and were airborne moments later. There was no door. They tree skipped to Singapore. Rolf had visions of coming down in the jungles, where nobody could ever find them.
They made it safely landed at Changi and were herded into a holding room. Rolf was filthy. He shook like he had a fever. It started to sink in. He could not sleep for several days.
The episode left a scar that would not go away.
Six months later he was informed that the manager had made it out of Saigon a couple of days after it fell.
He had reached a US warship in a little boat and was taken to Guam, where he ultimately became manager.
The Climb of Mount Apo
May 1975 – Davao City, The Philippines
For some time Rolf had been thinking of climbing the mountain. Majestically towering over the southern Filipino city of Davao, close to 10,000 feet, it is a dormant volcano.
The subject had been brought up several times with his assistant, but Gumer seemed to be afraid to handle that. During a visit to Manila in January Rolf mentioned it to Marlene. While in Pagsanjan for a long weekend the subject came up again. It had never occurred to him that she would be willing to go with him. He should have known better, as her adventurous spirit had already taken them into the Mindenao Rain Forest and to some rather isolated islands. She told Rolf that several years earlier she had gone up with a group and always wanted to do it again.
Marlene said that she would start to make the necessary arrangements for the climb during their planned visit to Davao in May. To make it easier she was going to hire a couple of guides familiar with the trails; and they were to also carry the equipment needed to make it more comfortable for them and leave them free to take pictures and enjoy the lush vegetation on the volcano.
It was necessary to carry a tent, sleeping bags, warm clothing, rain gear, food and water. The nights were cold and frequent tropical downpours could come at any time.
The planned length was four days, so they had to spend three nights camping. It was unlikely that there would be many other climbers about; in fact they could be the only ones this early in the summer season.
They were sitting by the pool in Pagsanjan with Gumer and his girlfriend discussing the final details. Gumer just looked at them, shook his head, smiled and said “I think the two of you are nuts!”
Rolf told Marlene “Let’s do it, it will be a beautiful experience. Aside from that, I have never made love on top of a volcano!”
When Rolf arrived in Manila in early May, he had to spend some time in the office and visit a couple of Branches. He arrived in Davao, where he met Marlene, staying at the Intercontinental Hotel. The climb was scheduled to begin a couple of days later. They went to the staging area where they met the two Filipino guides, who were of small build but incredibly strong, having gone up the mountain many times.
Rolf glanced up the volcano, which looked much more menacing this close. It was almost 10,000 feet to the top of some very steep terrain. They were scheduled to spend two nights camped out going up, make the final ascend on the third day and camp out one night going down.
Rolf was pensive. Although there were no dangerous animals around, the physical challenge was on his mind. He looked at Marlene who seemed to be having a ball chasing the guides all over the place to make final arrangements. It was 5 AM; the sun was already high in the sky, as it always is in the Philippines. They soon were on their way.
The early going was relatively easy, but it became increasingly more challenging. Rolf took in the beauty of the fauna and the incredible beauty of their surroundings. They took frequent short breaks for a drink of water and at midday stopped to have a bite to eat. In mid-afternoon when the sun started to go down the air rapidly cooled and they donned their jackets. By 6 PM the guides indicated that this was a good time to stop and pitch the tent for the night.
That only took a few minutes; the guides build a small fire and proceeded to cook some food for them. It would be the last hot meal available until they returned to the base camp. It turned out to be a very satisfying meal. Rolf started to feel the fatigue from the long day and looked at Marlene who told him that the guides would disappear for the night and return in the early morning. She smiled at Rolf “Did it occur to you that no one in this world knows exactly where we are, and that just maybe we are the only humans in this vast park, aside from the guides?”
It had, Rolf was in awe, and he felt that he was doing something that would in his later life become a very important memory. It had not been one of his goals as he had never heard of Mount Apo at that time. But it could very well have been.
It now was dark and very cold. Marlene reached out and took his hand. Rolf felt vulnerable, somehow he felt he was at the mercy of nature. She told him that she had made sure that they would have a very large insulated sleeping bag. They took off their climbing gear and crept into the bag, trying to keep each other warm.
Rolf put his arms around her, now totally lost in the sensations Marlene was creating and he surrendered to her, the night and the sounds of the jungle surrounding them.
His last words to her before falling asleep were “I certainly hope it does not erupt tonight”, causing her to crack up laughing. The volcano had actually been dormant for over 100 years.
They woke early, the guides were already back and very shortly they were on their way. Rolf looked up at the mountain; it seemed they still had a long way to go. The terrain got steeper and the air became thinner as they progressed. Crossing several small streams and some swampy areas, they were ready to pitch their tents again for the night. They were about three hours from the summit. It was windy and cold. They ate dinner consisting of dry cereal, some canned meat and fruit.
It felt like it was about 45 degrees, so they put on some sweats and went into the bag holding each other. Rolf quipped “this is not exactly comfortable and conducive to a healthy sex life!’
Rolf had trouble sleeping, he wanted to get going. When the sun came up he was edgy and told Marlene about his feelings. She hugged him and said “I can understand that, I am so glad we did this, it will be a memory that will be with us forever”.
They started the climb to the top, reaching it in mid-morning. Rolf looked around, far down lay the city of Davao. He saw the beautiful beaches and the jungle below them. He felt a euphoria he had never experienced.
Rolf hugged Marlene and thanked her. “You have given me something that I will treasure. I have had many experiences in my life that one day I will look proudly back on, this will surely rank among the top”.
Soon they started their descent, camping halfway down. The next early afternoon they reached the base camp and started to head back to the hotel, where they proceeded to take a long sorely needed shower.
Rolf took Marlene into his arms and simply said ‘Thank you”, looking at her he told her “before we do anything else, we need to celebrate, right now I want to make love to you”.
Later they went to the lobby where Gumer was waiting with his girlfriend. He had arranged a small party for them at a friend’s house. In typical Filipino hospitality a pig roast was done and they celebrated through the night, putting a big dent into the area’s San Miguel supplies.
Rolf was exhausted, emotionally drained and wanted a few days of relaxation. They extended their stay at the hotel by three days, sent Gumer back to Manila and never left the grounds.
- Rolf faced a busy schedule when he returned to Manila, he had meetings scheduled for the first three days and Marlene made plans for them to visit three of the Branches the following week.
On Friday morning she walked into his office and told him with a smile that he had a lunch date at noon at the Makati Country Club. A car would pick him up at 11:45. Rolf looked at her questioningly “With whom?”
“My father” she answered “I will not be there”, Rolf almost choked on the tea he was drinking. He had met Ed Martinez at a reception at his mansion once, but during the past two years never really talked to him. Ed was a well-known and powerful business man, who had made a fortune in Real Estate, developing luxury housing communities. Marlene looked at Rolf, who obviously had surprise written all over his face, telling him not to worry. “He really is a very nice man; he just wants to get to know you better!”
Rolf did not know what to expect and was nervous. He knew that Marlene’s father was well aware of their close relationship.
He was driven to the club and met at the entrance to the restaurant by Ed. They shook hands and were taken to their table by the manager. “I am glad you could make it” Ed said ‘I have taken the liberty to order lunch for the both of us so we will not be unnecessarily interrupted. There was an expensive bottle of wine on the table, which Ed poured. They touched glasses and Rolf said “Thank you for inviting me”.
“You are so very welcome” Ed told him. After an exchange of some pleasantries and talk about business, Ed looked at Rolf and told him how much he loved his daughter. “She is my only child as my dear wife died in childbirth. I never re-married”. Rolf had not known this, as he had never questioned Marlene about her mother.
That explained, Rolf thought, a discussion he had with Marlene a while ago where she had told him that she never wanted to have children.
“Rolf” Ed said, “I have heard many good things about you, both from my business associates who have met you and from my daughter, who obviously is very fond of you. You are highly respected by those you have been associated with. I just felt that I wanted to get to know you better. I also want to tell you that if you feel that you are ready to make some decisions about your future I am ready to assist you in every way I can. If you ever decide to make this country your home you will have the opportunity to work with me in any capacity you wish to do so. Last night I told my daughter that I would have this discussion with you”.
Rolf was stunned. “I deeply appreciate your kind words” he said “You are obviously aware that I have a family in Singapore; and the fact that things are not going too well there. I can promise you that I will always be honest with Marlene”
He continued on and asked what would be involved for him to stay in the Philippines as a permanent resident. “My friend” Ed answered, “This is my country and if I want something done, it will be accomplished very quickly, you can be sure of that”.
Rolf had absolutely no doubts about it.
Ed smiled at him and nodded, telling Rolf to call him anytime he wanted to talk. “I will always be there for you” he said “My daughter is a very strong woman, capable of giving much; I want her to be happy”.
It was obvious to Rolf what was implied. They shook hands and hugged each other. Ed said “I have a feeling that we will see a lot of each other.
When Rolf got back to the office he called Marlene and told her “Please put me back together again, I am exhausted! Let’s go out, I need a drink!” She laughed and gave him a kiss, telling him that he was cute when he was confused.
From that day on Rolf became a regular guest at Ed’s estate, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the close-knit business community in Makati and the regular office staff. He started to realize that if he decided to live here, Rolf would be moving about in Makati’s high society, with Country Club membership, a large house with servants; with a stunning wife. They had briefly discussed this some time ago and Rolf had told her that he may feel uncomfortable coming into the family without any personal resources. Marlene just had told him to not ever worry about that. He would also have a substantial salary, with him ultimately becoming a partner in Ed’s firm.
Rolf had never been afraid to deal with people in powerful positions; he was not intimidated by anyone. He had been introduced to the German President, met Vice President Rockefeller, many American Ambassadors to foreign countries; and been in the company of many movie stars, both German and American, but he was in awe of the powerful personality of Marlene’s father, whose daughter he was very much involved with. There would be a lot of soul searching and ultimately Rolf had to make some decision as what to do with his life.
Procrastination under certain circumstances was one of Rolf’s less desirable traits, as he was sometimes content with a status quo. However, this issue would ultimately have to be addressed.
Marlene – The last Good Bye
Rolf had planned for a week vacation in Guam on what turned out to be his last major business trip through the Pacific regions. He now was Administrative Vice President for International Operations. It would be a bittersweet return to some of the places Rolf had learned to love over the past ten years.
Rolf had asked his old Filipino staff to meet him in Guam for a reunion. They were all to fly to Manila, where Rolf was looking forward to rekindle his friendship with Marlene. What he did not anticipate was that Gumer would make arrangements for Marlene to come to Guam with them. When he went to the airport to pick up Gumer and Ernie, he was stunned when Marlene came off the plane. She fell into his arms, crying. “You don’t know how much I missed you”, she said, looking at him. “I thought I would never see you again”.
To Rolf the memories came flooding back. It had been almost two years since he had last seen her, but had never forgotten her. Now he realized how much she had meant to him.
When they got to their room, Rolf took her into his arms and held her for a long time, never wanting to let go.
Since there is not much to do on this small American outpost in the Pacific, they spent most of their time on the beach. On the second day they were all sitting around the pool, when Marlene suggested that they go scuba diving on one of the Mariana Islands and look at some of the WWII Japanese shipwrecks littering the ocean floor. Gumer looked at them; shook his head and said “Here we go again! Can’t you kids ever be happy just hanging around with each other?”
“Great Idea” Rolf smiled at Marlene, “Let’s go, we have never been under water together!” So they chartered a plane, took the short hop to Truk, had their 3 hour course on how to handle the dives and had a lot of fun in the crystal clear waters.
They would be very close during their three weeks together in Guam and Manila.
As the time to say good bye approached, she took Rolf to a secluded cottage on Laguna de Bay owned by her father, where they spent a couple of days.
“We never have talked about this’, she told him on their last evening together “have you ever given any more thought to come and live in the Philippines. I know that you love the country; and I think deep down you love me, although you have never told me so”.
With tears in her eyes she continued “Rolf, I love you, I always have loved you. You know that my family is very well known and wealthy; my father likes you and as he told you some time ago would offer you anything you want to work with him. And most of all you would make me a very happy woman”.
Rolf again was in emotional turmoil, he did not know what to do or say. He just looked at Marlene and told her “You have given me so much over the past few years. For that I will forever treasure you. Yes, I do love you; I am sorry for never having told you. I was afraid to do so, I did not want to give you false hope and hurt you. Right now there are still so many obstacles. You know that I have a family in the United States. The marriage has fallen apart, but I will have to make a clean slate before I make any decisions. I have been guilty of procrastinating. I cannot promise you anything right now, only that the next time I return here, I will be free”.
When she took him to the airport she looked at him with those beautiful eyes, and told him “Do not ever forget me, I wish you all the best, my love”.
As fate would have it, Rolf went through a couple of years of upheavals, both in his private life and in his career. He was seriously considering moving to Manila. Just as he started to plan the logistics for such a major decision, Patricia came into his life, forever changing everything.
He never returned to the Philippines, the memories are part of history. In retrospect Rolf’s long relationship with Marlene was the only time that he truly felt fully comfortable with a woman since he had left Karin; and he realized that he had been in love.
It was not until he fell in love with Patricia a couple of years later, which brought him the most powerful emotions he ever had experienced that he was able to come to terms with his feelings and finally found the peace of mind he had been searching for all these years.