Monday, 17 March 2008

Buggered by a gorilla. Five days Filipino scamming.

Today we met some members of Zi Ting's extended family. We then set off to watch a dance and acrobatic show. The performers were mainly from Ghana and the Philippines. The show even featured a pair of magician midgets! We saw examples of Spanish, Thai, Hawaiin, Maori, and Indian dancing. The belly dancing was good as the costumes were amazing. There were incredible acrobatic and fire displays too. A pretty good experience. Zi Ting even got dragged on stage to try the grass skirt Hawaiin dancing.

Little niece. See that Chinese thing hanging on the wall in the background? Every house here has one of them with joss-sticks, two red lanterns, little glasses of rice wine and other ceremonial bits-n-bobs.

Mam, Dad, a couple of bairns and someone in a surgical mask. This is their little country shop.

Demonstrating the awesome power of the Harley. Have you seen how flat the land is? Like a supermodel's chest.

I've fulfilled a few ambitions on this trip. None as spectacular as this. Getting bummed off a massive plastic gorilla.

Gorgeous. Pull up a bollard and I'll spin you a dit!

Just like Faslane, the UK's submarine base on the Clyde. Well, apart from the sun, small oyster fishing vessels, lack of submarines, nuclear missiles, endless security checks and more importantly the presence of........a gorgeous woman!

This is Longshan Temple about 1km from the shop. These things are everywhere in southern Taiwan. You start to not notice them after a while. This beauty is on our doorstep and we're blase about it - crazy really.

I've always thought that if you want to worship something, why not do it in a dazzling place like this as opposed to our more somber churches.

We set the timer and tried to do a joint pic. Whaddya reckon? This small jetty has big rusty holes just behind the camera. It was a daring photoshoot given the difficulty of reaching the location. The whole pier could have collapsed at any moment. This added spice for me but unequivocal fear for her!

This is cool. An African, Asian and European together. Ghana, Taiwan and England respectfully. This fella was one of the acrobats. He's fluent in Chinese. He came to the shop to buy some tabs where he was quizzed on his hair, extensively, by Zi Ting and her Mother. He can hold burning coal in his hand for ages while I could only do it for a second.

I am currently reading 'Parsifal' by Robert Ludlum. It's an espionage thriller about potential nuclear annihilation. My favourite laughable line this time is:

"He scanned the text of both documents, as if studying the deformed appendages of an obscene, horrible thing."

Class or what? This kind of writing really makes me chuckle.

Five days in the Philippines

I've just returned to civilisation after five days in the hot, cheating but beautiful Philippines. This is my fourth time there. I travelled for 15hrs to get from my small, relaxed, quiet Taiwanese village to the madness of Calapan City on the island of Mindoro off western Luzon. This involved a 3hr bus ride from Jiali to Taoyuan. A 1hr wait at the bus station for a 15m transfer to the airport. Wait around 2hr at the airport. 2hr flight to Manila. Jeep to Pasay. 2hr bus to Batangas (I was lucky, this was fast). 3hr ferry to Calapan.

Leave village 0730, meet Don in Calapan 2230.

By 2300 I was in a karaoke bar opening my first Red Horse beer and sparking up my first smoke in exactly five weeks. We got very drunk.

Next day we had planned to go to Puerto Galera. We walked around Calapan for a while and thought 'Sod it - let's just go to a bar here again' to avoid the 2hr jeep. I'd done enough travelling the day before. So we headed to a local beach resort called Anahaw. We drank there all day talking to German George and Swedish Ulf the only other foreigners here. The next day we did the same again. Two days and three nights of no-memory, except it been a good laugh!

On Sunday morning I went for a little swim where I cut my right hand pretty bad on rocks. I also walked into a recently cut tree branch (as sharp as a knife) which split my head open. There was blood everywhere. Since I was still drunk from days on the lash I ignored it and carried on swimming. The rest of this day was spent trying to cope with a severe hangover that was gaining momentum by the hour! Also sunburn from the morning's swim was beginning to make itself felt. There was a huge Mardi-Gras festival in Calapan this day so the streets were even more packed and noisy than usual. Live bands and all sorts going on. However, I wasn't feeling up to it so I grabbed Don's key and went back and watched Rambo 4 in Burma.

I then attempted to sleep on Don's 2 seater sofa. This was fine. It was the noise that was the first problem. There are constant tricycles passing his house.

A tricycle is an very very loud unmuffled motorbike attached to a sidecar with a roof. They are impossibly loud. You can't have a conversation next to one. These things drive past his house all night.

Jeepneys complement the crescendo with black clouds of noxious fumes belching from their exhausts.

Next was the mosquitoes. Nightmare. It was my worst night for being eaten alive. I covered myself in a blanket for protection but then you sweat your arse off. Suffice to say, I never slept well that night. Don NEEDS to move house.

The next day I headed back to Manila. This was a good scam day. At the ferry terminal I wanted a bottle of water. I made the mistake of opening the bottle before asking the price (I should know better).

I ask "Magkano?"

Old battleaxe woman "50piso"

I laugh thinking she's joking as it's normally 20piso. It's hot and I can't be arsed fighting with her so she wins. Another whitey cheated. Even though I tell her I know the real price, she relies on whities not been arsed to argue. This time I accept defeat.

Next, at Batangas I'm deluged with 'friendly' locals offering me a ride to anywhere I want to go. Aaaaah, nice guys. They shout at you 'Where you go?' This time I choose to ignore the harrassment. I make another mistake of answering one of these dirty, thick muppets. I say "bus terminal". He has no English except "Where you go" and "xxx piso". The xxx is a monetary variable that will certainly be ludicrous. He knows nothing else about anything in any language.

These people can't point to the Philippines on a map of Asia. All he can do is drive a Tricycle and cheat people. I walk away. I look for someone who doesn't seem to have a business but no luck. Pretty much everyone here will scam me in some way. I finally find a jeep driver. I know that where I want to go is very close and walkable, however, I've stupidly forgotten exactly where it is.

I ask him for directions "Please, can you tell me where Batangas Express bus terminal is?"

He screams, reasonably "YOU WANT RIDE. YOU WANT RIDE?"

"No thankyou, can you just show me which way to walk?"


"OK, fuck it, how much?" feeling like I'll never get there.


"Me give you 10piso" I say, adopting slow baby English.

"OK my friend let's go"


We drive about 10secs and he stops saying.


"Thanks you f*cking tosser"

The whole jeep is laughing at the stupid whitey with the cartoon-sized round eyes!

I've read many Philippine tourism brochures that comment on the supposed friendliness of Pinoy folk. I'd like to meet the authors and take them on a tour. Some are OK but most would scam you at any opportunity. Theiving cheating bastards. These traits are exacerbated when foreigners (particularly whities) are involved. Many expats call it 'skin-tax' and 'TIP' (This is Philippines). Nothing is free. They will not help you unless they financially gain. They will not even give you directions man! I could give you millions of personal experiences.

One more point I remember is that whatever you buy Filipinos will always say 'only' before or after the amount. For example, whether I'm buying a house or a cigarette the price will be:

ONLY xxx piso


xxx piso ONLY

I have queried this but nobody knows the reason for the pointless addition of 'ONLY'. The locals reckon it's a habit. I think it sounds strange. Perhaps it's a business ploy to make everything sound cheap. But Pinoys are not known for their business acumen so it remains a mystery.

You may be wondering why any Westerner would tolerate this madness. Well the Philippines has natural bueaty beyond your wildest imagination. I remember being blown away when I first arrived in December 2006. This weekend we witnessed an amazing sunset followed by a large red-coloured moon - exeptional! This was followed by a Mardi-Gras fireworks display. Also, desite being over-charged constantly it's still a cheap destination by Western standards. There's also the omni-present sex industry which I'm sure attracts many.

Compared to the rest of Asia, Filipina food is crap. Not in Taiwan though. In Taiwan the food is great. It is only marginally more expensive than the Philippines but the quality is vastly superior. The people are relaxed and friendly and treat foreigners the same as locals. Like I said the last time I returned, it's like travelling from the Earth to the Moon. People here don't look at you like you're a walking cash spewing idiot.

It was a canny laugh for five days but it's nice to be back home.

Jeez, I suppose Taiwan is my home now!


If someone had said to me that in 2008 I'd be commuting between Taiwan and the Philippines I would've laughed. However, this is my reality now. I'm still teaching mundane English to kids with memory spans that even goldfish would be ashamed of. My Chinese is far superior to their English. I've only studied Chinese for three months whereas some of these little muppets have been doing English for four years. Some of them still can't introduce themselves! For crying out loud man! Some of them are great though! I need to learn patience me thinks.

I bought a new Chinese book for studying. Really useful. My vocabulary is OK but I still struggle with the four tones. This is probably the biggest obstacle for foreigners. I met a Vietnamese bloke the other day and chatted with him in Chinese. He's been here one year and his Chinese is mint but I explained that he already speaks a tone-based language whereas I don't. So it's far easier for other Asians to learn Chinese than Westerners. I'm currently listening to a Chinese language CD while typing this. I understand everything on the CD but when listening to normal people talking at normal speed, it's like they've ingested amphetamines. They speak way too fast.

Jiali is a nice little town. When I cycle 15 minutes to work past palm trees and rice paddies, it always strikes me how lucky I am. Working an easy job part-time in a nice hot climate - EASY LIFE. The only drawback is that you arrive at the school layered in sweat. However, as the slimy tentacles of darkness envelope this land a refreshing coolness follows! This is when it's nice to go and chill out in the night markets eating Taiwanese food, drinking ice green tea and cooling down with an ice cream.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Stevie,

    Good to catch-up on your travels. I check in periodically and must admit to being slightly jealous of the freedom you are experiencing from giving up your material life in blighty!

    I hope that you can eventually pull yourself away from Asia and come visit us in New Zealand.

    Cheers mate!