The Goddess is a big deal in the Philippines and goddesses are out in strength there this week. The occasion is the closing rounds of the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) women’s volleyball tournament, held at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. Teams with names like De La Salle Lady Spikers and Ateneo de Manila Lady Eagles, the Tigresses, the Lady Warriors and the Lady Bulldogs battle it out in front of huge, enthusiastic and thoroughly partisan crowds. And these girls aren’t kidding; this is serious stuff.
The audience is mainly young – but everywhere in the Phils is mainly young. That’s only to be expected in a country where the population has increased by a factor of ten in fifty years. And there are as many men here as women. Filipinos are as passionate about volleyball as Scots are about football.
Palawan is an island in the west of the Mimaropa Admistrative region of the Philippines. The Phils is divided colloquially into three regions, Luzon in the north, Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the south. Palawan is on the far west of Visayas.
It forms the northern boundary of the Sulu Sea and is only some 70 kilometres from Malaysia at its southern extremity. It is served by two airports, the larger being at Puerto Princesa, the main town on the island.
I had come to the Philippines because I had met, on-line, a transpinay called Crissy José and I wanted to meet her in real. At the time I was still recovering from the end of my marriage and a brief and failed affair with a women close to my age. (Which was an unmitigated disaster.) I’d been chatting to a couple of women but here was a click with Crissy that I didn’t get with the others. So I booked my ticket.
Spring and summer of 2012 I had passed sailing my yacht Misty around the coast of Scotland. She was sold in September and I wanted something I hadn’t had in a long time — a good chillout holiday and plenty of sex. Well, the Philippines trip got me one of those.
That first visit to the Phils was only three weeks — back then you only got 21 days on the automatic tourist visa. I had made my base at the Oasis Paco Park hotel in Ermita, Manila, and Palawan was the second exploration trip. The first was to Boracay, which I write about here.
(As an aside, I again highly recommend the Oasis Paco Park. It’s reasonably priced, clean and the staff are super-friendly. It also has a really good, if a tad pricey, Italian restaurant.)
We had booked our tickets for the Palawan tour through TravelTeam, and found ourselves on a Zest Airlines flight out of NAIA at 0700.
The main airport on Palawan.
Trip to the Palawan crocodile farm
My introduction to Red Horse beer
Evening light, Palawan
The next day we went on a coral diving trip. Crissy posed a lot.
As you can see.
And off we go.
Then we went for a really excellent meal
And we posed some more. I always liked this picture.
The picnic site.
‘Take me a picture.’
Idyllic. The Phils is paradise.
I like boats
Next day we went to the fabled Underground River, a World Heritage site.
Crissy doing her thing.
And we posed some more.
Inside the Underground River. It is amazing, these structures are maybe 12 metres high.
Then we posed.
The last day we went on an eco-trip.
Crissy fishing (joke).
Then on a zipline through the jungle — it’s really impressive.
I visited the Philippines to see my then girlfriend Crissy José in March 2013, and we went to Thailand for my birthday. This is a small selection of pictures from the trip. Most of the pictures were taken either with a Nikon D90 or a Canon Powershot G12.
We met at the airport, as before, but this time it was close to midnight. At least that meant it was cool. In late February the Phils has not really warmed up, though their idea of ‘winter’ is ‘tops off and down the beach’ for a Scot like me.
I had booked a few nights at the Oasis Paco Park Hotel, which I can highly recommend. It is reasonably priced, very clean, nice staff and very central. It’s under ten minutes’ tricycle ride to Luneta (Rizal) Park, for example, Manila bay is about 15 minutes in a taxi and Mall of Asia only a little further. Although Malate has lost the colourful gay night-life that gained it a reputation, it is still lively and nearby.
Gallery Philippines and Thailand 2013
Swimming party with Crissy’s family, Pasig.. She apparently has no male relatives.
A funeral in Laoag, Philippines, complete with marching band
Finals of the 2013 Philippines Universities Voleyball Tournament
Alcazar Cabaret, Pattaya, Thailand. Therre are no natal women on this stage.
In the street in Maybunga.
In one of Bangkok’s temples. I am not sure what the joss-sticks were for but never mind.
Crissy at Alcazar Cabaret, one of Pattaya’s famous ladyboy shows. Well, when you’re with the best-looking girl in the place…
Laoag city centre. It’s a lovely place
Holy Week procession in Maybunga. This is in Dr Sixto Avenue
Guess who? At some campanile or another in Vigan.
Crissy at the Temple of the Flying Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand.
Outside Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines.
Alcazar Cabaret, Pattaya, Thailand..
Eating at the hall opposite the National Bakery, Laoag.
Holy Week procession, Philippines.
A wet market near Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City. Probably the cleanest wet market I have beenin
This is what you actually do in Bangkok if you try to get anywhere by car. Sit in the same place for hours.
Crissy at the Oasis Paco Park hotel,Manila, just after I arrived
Paoay Church, Paoay, Philippines.. The church is in ‘Earthquake Gothic’ style — that is, MASSIVE
Street art, Dr Sixto Avenue, Maybunga.
A Holy Week procession at Maybunga.
Holy Week procession, Philippines.
Being tourist types in Vigan, Philippines. The driver proceded to get us lost in the countryside and I got mad
Night scene in Bangkok, Thailand.
Alcazar Cabaret, Pattaya, Thailand..
Empanada stall, Laoag. The guy on the right saw me with Crissy, and later asked if I was gay. I said no, just broadminded. He got it. (He’s gay.)
Wet marrket near Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City.
Paoay Church, Paoay.
Crissy enjoying a beer in Bangkok and looking cute (she’s good at that)
Crissy sleeping (she did that a lot). I likeed the juxtaposition: sleeping ladyboy with Camille Paglia’s ‘Sexual Personae’.
My plan had originally been to make my trip to Asia after Christmas, but Carla had told me that she was unlikely to be available then. I was in contact with a number of girls, but only she had that spark, and I knew I wanted to meet her. She was lively and enthusiastic, but had an edge about her and a depth too, that I liked. She had a way of just knowing what I was thinking, even before I said it, that always bodes well for a new relationship.
So I rearranged my schedule. In fact, November is the best time to go to Southeast Asia in any case. The typhoon season should have come to an end, and the temperatures are relatively low, with lots of sunshine. In addition, flight prices are twenty per cent or so cheaper then, than in March or April. I readily persuaded myself that making the trip sooner was justified on a whole raft of counts; other, of course, than my interest in getting to know Carla a whole lot better… Continue reading Travels With A Ladyboy 2: Culture Shock→
‘It’s as if a couple of jumbo-jets of Western culture crashed into a containership of Asia and the wreckage is still settling.’ These words jump out at me as I read over my notes. And it’s true; the Philippines is a cultural conundrum, a Rubik’s Cube of interlaced and interlocked themes, memes, images and sensations.
It’s not like India, where the veneer of Westernism added by a couple of hundred years of British domination is so thin it seems as flimsy as a bride’s veil, yet definitely attached, as if the bride herself is shy about lifting it, nor Thailand, where Western cultural influences seem grafted on, bizarrely co-exiting with something older and fundamentally opposed. Instead, the Philippines is a genuine melting-pot, a sculptor’s crucible where metallic elements are alloyed to make something completely new. The roots of European culture here go deep, deep into the fertile soil of Asia, and the resulting foliage is strange, at once familiar yet surprising. Continue reading Travels With a Ladyboy: 1. NAIA→