“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Was among the famous lines delivered by Robert Duvall from one of my favourite films, possibly amid some of the best films ever made in my opinion, a visual and audio feast. It just so happens it was filmed entirely in the Philippines. If I could I would like to change one of the words to Frankincense, as if to inform us that the newly established church just up the street from me is busy trying to add the final touches for its grand opening I expect just in time for the big day. On my ceremonial morning bladder runs at around 4.30 am, I hear singing (even before the cockerels know what is going down) and get my first lung full of the new day, in such a fragrant way. This deific scent as it breezes this way every day now must be similar to the bouquet of sausages and bacon to the noses of starving construction workers on their 10 o’clock search for digestible, divine intervention. A smell that always touches me in a way I cannot describe, no wonder then if it was a prestigious offering among the three other gifts of gold and myrrh. 3 wise men to the Christians, to the Greeks there were 3 rulers, the Romans believed in 3 graces, to the Norse 3 goddesses of destiny, 3 in Buddhism is synonymous with the three Jewels, but for me ……
“3 pints of larger and packet of cheese and onion please John.” Will do for now as it’s almost my festive day too, the 21st December, as I look up in awe at constellation of Orion.
As if by pure coincidence, 3 star fish are drying out upon the turrets of my fort. Children I presume had found them, or had been presented with them and similarly to me they felt the urge to examine them further or play with them. Therefore I guess they never got taken back, having witnessed children gleefully carrying these creatures back to the land after finding them on the sea floor. On a walk one day I happened to find about 5 or 6 of them, marooned upon the shore, evaporated and sadly, sucked water less of their life force, drowned in the air. I brought them home to dry out, to possibly make an image using them, though really I want to take them home to place on my wall as my personal flying geese triptych as a special collector’s item, otherwise, equally a trophy of my venture capital or of my unexpected, unrelenting stardom here. Or I could just place them next to my plastic shake and make, winter solstice, snow scene contained within a dome, for my mantel piece.
“Oh star of wonder
Star with royal beauty bright
Guide us to thy perfect light.”
Out on the road again, 2 riders were approaching.(but lacking of any howling wind) One was holding the hand of the other in a carefree lackadaisical manner as they conversed about their hair dyes and matching Micron exhaust systems as if out on a Sunday afternoon stroll along the promenade. While Chelsea tractors hurled past a brake neck speeds, you could almost distinguish the white knuckles of one hand aloft of the steering columns through the blacked out widows, while the other punches the numbers on his Filofax. Mostly male dominated, imported items, both the motor and the monster driving it. The rule of thumb out here, and throughout Asia it seems, is the bigger the wagon, the greater the aggression’s and the idea of supremacy of the road. Not a great deal of respect is given over the minions whom travel with due care and attention as they flow upstream against the currents of these metallic moving 4×4 ‘s. I’m jealous I know. Have you ever seen a tobacco chewing old lady get out of one?
When the lights go out it’s not uncommon to see (or perhaps feel the presence of like dark matter) bikers sometimes with up to 5 people aboard, driving with no lights on. A whole family upon a bike made for 2. Sometimes the only vision they possess is that of a mobile phone light, to guide them home. One unilluminated bright spark even pulled into the police station where I was chatting to a very relaxed cop about his bike, but no eyelids where blinked?
Some of the police cars I have witnessed are more reminiscent of ice cream vans. if you got the dosh, you can own a vehicle with all the police tackle, more than they have it seems, but just without the brand name. I pulled over the other day to let what I thought was an emergency vehicle past with more alternating, flashing lights on it than a Christmas tree only then to find a great grey white aboard a Californian highway patrol officers,(or “chips” lookalike) hog. Must have just come from Helmuts bar where the other fish live.
Panglao lights are now on full beam, a dazzling array of beautiful paroles and other irradiated objects are hanging from the trees in the park. The construction of the giant star is now fully complete, fired up and took up central stage adjacent to, and in stark contrast to, the dishevelled church and 18th century watch tower there. The middle of the star was cut out and inside that were the 3 kings, as well as the gathering of other invited guests around the megastars manger. Well I say there, not literally! The majority of the smaller paroles are white but interspersed with these are odd trees carry stars reflective of the whole coloured spectrum. The tempest winds sweeping the typhoon across Mindanao were coming ashore, while these flimsy paper decorative stars began to pick up speed in an increasing, oscillating motion they looked as if they needed to be rescued for the night.
It’s a traditional Spanish, Filipino style town and I relish going there especially of an evening and all the more so recently, with the addition of these festive luminosity. Many smiles and wishes of merry Christmas were delivered onto me there, as group of guys who worked at a hotel nearby stopped me and handed me some San Miguel then asked me where I was from and what were my impressions of the Philippians, and in that moment of reflection, I felt very secure. Away from the shops and an endless countdown to consumerism’s jingling smells, it feels like a tangible spiritual ambiance here, where the only real spirit is that of being and giving and where the family is the top of the fictional tree. The end of the darkness, give praise and thanks. Which is wrapped up not with brightly coloured paper nor is disguised in plastic figurines of some weird conviction, but is the celebration of hope and love in deeds and actions. It feels real here. An overview!
It feels like there is a genuine pleasure to welcome me here, with sincerity most people I meet are incredibly beautiful, which is touching and reassuring given the massive cultural differences. It’s rare away from the cities or where the hand of the great grey gods has only taken just the sweets, to feel any animosity, you really are viewed with unpretentious appreciation, on the whole. The majority desire nothing more from me than to engage with them, even when I contemplate that’s not the case, I surprise myself. Sure, the odd person is or has ulterior motives, but not so much out here, in the sticks anyway, away from the inner city horrors.
If you have no musical ability at all, are tone deaf, and will never even make the audition to get ridiculed by that white toothed shark, Simon Cowell with his entourage of vampires, you can receive critical acclaim just for turning up here. I shit you not! Especially if you have some of the traits they don’t have, fair skin, height and blue eyes. You, if you really wanted to, could be a cat walk model when a second glance back home would be a privilege. Rock star status, in an instant, guaranteed.
And the moral is … thou shalt not steal!
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s bucket.
My neighbour, who has now gone, left behind (almost as if he knew and as it was festive offering to boot) outside a beautiful red bucket. As soon as I saw it, I thought I was made, so quickly swapped over the buckets,( my green for his red) added the 3 ice containers, got naked, while dancing around perspiring and singing …
“ Ding dong merrily on high” waiting for the bucket to fill, only to find, the song had to be replaced with the dear Liza tune, once I discovered the miniature bullet holes in my replacement container. Add one more new bucket from the shop across the road and you have now 3 buckets of bullshit!
“Yes sir, yes sir 3 bags full!”
The son the farther and the holy ghost where’s the woman in that threesome, it could go on and on right?