The Philippines has become very important to me over the last four years. It’s now the focus of much of my life and I want to spend more time there. The winters in France are just too cold for me now.
When you visit a country for longer periods, months at a time, as I do, you can’t do quite what the holiday tourist does. It’s partly to do with budgets but also with burnout. You have to learn to chill and take it easy.
Flying out to the Philippines
Before the start is always the bit that has me in a fankle. I get travel stress a week before The Flight. No matter how long I give myself for preparation the last few days are a nightmare — and I always forget something. (This time it was the sandwiches for the train — but I had time to go back.)
Because I live in rural France, just getting to the airport is a journey. I take the train from Chagny to Charles de Gaulle airport. You can either go direct to Paris Gare de Lyon and then get the RER across to Roissy, or take a direct train. I do the latter. And after nearly missing the flight on a previous trip to the Philippines — because of a train delay — I always leave a lot of time now.
When I find myself on the platform at Chagny, it’s OK. The pressure goes away. I’m in the pipe now, and at the other end of it is the Philippines. All I have to do is get on the right trains and planes and I’ll get there.
Manila: Meeting friends.
I had planned to meet my then girlfriend, Crissy. Within a week it was clear that the relationship was not going to work. It ended on Christmas Day, which left me on my doup with nobody to play with. So I began meeting friends. I went on trips, one to Mount Arayat in Pampanga.
San Fernando Palenke
I love Filipino palenkes, or ‘wet markets’. Although they can sometimes be a bit whiffy, the quality and variety of produce, and the sheer scale of the places, is mind-blowing.
I dated a few girls and had some fun. I was enjoying my freedom to be honest. I hope I didn’t upset too many people. Then, one day I met Jelly.
Jelly was my companion for the rest of the journey and she is my girlfriend now. I’m not sure she has really got a handle on what I’m like yet, but she’s a fine lass and we really have fun together. I took her to meet my Pampanga friends and we had a rare night, ending up at Padi’s Point in Angeles and being quite a bit drunk.
The band had a TS singer, whom nobody was batting an eye about, and I invited her to come and have a drink with us between sets. I mean everybody in the company was TS except me. In the Philippines, transsexuals — locally often called ‘ladyboys’ are discriminated against but they are generally tolerated and widely accepted.
By the way, never be tempted to use the term ‘bakla’. They call each other that all the time but you’re not allowed to.It’s the Philippines equivalent of the N-word.
The Wet Market at Pasig is famous throughout Manila. It’s HUGE. We were living in a condo (actually three) in Hampton Gardens in Pasig and we actually had a closer market at Rosario, but I preferred the big one at Pasig Palenke. I mean it was only 14 pesos on the jeep.
To be continued.
Also published on Medium.