Tony’s first experiences in the Phillipines were both alluring and alarming.
Tony was a still a teenager when he was assigned to serve in the Air Force at Clark Air Base on Luzon Island. It was 1974. The island provided much that was beautiful. He was drawn to the magnificent wood carvings available in the street shops. One of his first purchases was two very large, beautifully detailed masks. He remembers carrying them through the streets on his way back to the base to the wonder and amazement of those around.
Luzon Island also provided much that was alarming. Tony was cautioned early on by his superiors not to venture too far into the mountains on his bike. Although the Igorot and Kalinga peoples had formally abandoned headhunting in the early twentieth century, Tony was warned that some highland peoples still engaged in cannibalism. Soldiers were forbidden to go to the mountains alone.
The combination of the allure and alarm left a deep impression. Tony eventually retired from the Air Force, studied art, began collecting additional non-western carvings, and started reading more and more about the culture of the South Pacific. Tony found an original copy of Thor Heyerdahl’s book “Kon Tiki,” and it captured his attention so much that he wanted to build a replica of the famous raft. After spending some time searching through the various vintage plastic models from the 1960s, Tony knew he could do better. And, that he did. Tony meticulously built a 1:10 scale model of the Kon Tiki from scratch using the same materials and methods of construction that Thor had used.
Tony’s Kon Tiki raft and his large masks from Luzon Island are now proudly displayed in his home tiki bar, the Driftwood Lounge, along with more than forty years of additional collectibles. There are model ships, glassware from long-gone restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, tiki carvings, signed photos of Thor, hula girl lamps, rum barrels, an Explorers Club medallion, and an impressive wall of sea creatures including a sailfish, hammerhead shark, a piranha, and a tortoise shell with a large portion missing from a shark bite. Tony also has an extensive collection of vintage rums, all in his relaxing lounge next to the pool.
For the visit, Tony had prepared a Kamehameha Rum Punch, a 1960 drink from the King Kamehameha Hotel from Kona, Hawaii. He ladled my drink from a vintage Myer’s Rum glass bowl, poured it into a vintage Pan Am glass with a mint garnish, and served it to me on top of a raft. I couldn’t have felt more like a king. As we talked, Tony laughed as he recalled his Air Force days. Apparently, the Kamehameha Rum Punch was much better than the “Shake ‘Em Up” drink (a hasty combo of fruit juices and some kind of alcohol) that he remembers being served during his days in the Philippines.
As for me, my first experience in the Driftwood Lounge was alluring, but never alarming, especially when drinking my second round of rum punch on this amazing raft.