I found this story on a Philippines website, from a publication that is now defunct. The name of the author is not known. It gives insight into the gay pageant scene in the country and across south-east Asia, and also reinforces the observation that the ‘gay’ and transgender scenes are closely intertwined.
A pageant can be a small local affair with a stage set up on the back of a truck, or as grandiose as the Miss Tiffany contests, held in Thailand, or Super Syrena, in the Philippines.
Kumusta! Hello from the Philippines! I must apologise to my regular fans, because for the last six weeks my life has been in upheaval. I had much to do to prepare to come to the Philippines this year and it occupied nearly all of my time. As a result my regular blog posting and YouTube uploads were in temporary hiatus.
I actually left my home in France on the 29th of November, and, after a comedy of errors that will surely find its way into a memoir, made it to Paris Charles de Gaulle. Further comedic excellence followed, in which I was obliged to repack my bags beside the check-in desk and ended up carrying hand luggage that must have weighed 15 kilos.
I met Denis Poulot by the old lavoir as I ambled down to the Salle des Fetes. We’ve known each other for 24 years now; we’ve never been especially close but we share a relaxed camaraderie. We paused in our journeys to shake hands and exchange formalities, then carried on. Inevitably, this being Bastille Day, 14 July and we were both going to the ceremonial vin d’honneur, we chatted about Bastille Days past.
Denis drew up and looked into the distance. ‘It’s not the same any more.’
Molinot is a village deep in the Arriere Cote of Burgundy, has been a part of my life since 1993. In those days, the village was famous for the extravagance of its Bastille Day celebrations and people would come from miles away to enjoy them. Indeed, ours was so popular that many villages around had their celebrations on another day, since all the locals were at ours; and of course we reciprocated, making for a thoroughly convivial week.
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.
It’s Easter. In fact, this is the 60th Easter I have passed on Earth, although I don'[t remember the first few. Or, for that matter a good selection of those that came after. However, Easter is an important time. It is the beginning of Spring, officially defined as the first full moon after the Spring Equinox and, perhaps more importantly, the moment when the year comes into bloom. I know this might not be apparent in Canada and suchlike airts, but still. You should have left them to the Indians.
As the beginning of the year of fertility, Easter is a great Goddess festival and was such, long before it was hijacked by Christians. Indeed it was celebrated in ancient Sumer, 7,000 years ago, when the High Priestess would take a young man as consort for the year. We do not know what his fate was at the end of it. Still it is a time of giving thanks, when we should express our gratitude. And so I do.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Mount Arayat National Park in Pampanga, here in the Philippines.
I’d been invited by some friends to spend the day, with a walk in the mountain park in the morning followed by socialising later. This meant first taking a bus to San Fernando and then another, local bus. We wanted to be there for sunrise, which is why I found myself sitting in a taxi at 3.30 am, hurtling through Quezon City at speeds in excess of 100 kph. It was a good adrenaline rush to start the day.
Most people have at least heard about jeepneys, the ubiquitous, colourful and incredibly noisy backbone of the Philippines public transport system. For those who have not, you’ll catch up.
The first jeepneys were in fact modified Willys Jeeps that the Americans left behind. The enterprising pinoys lengthened the chassis and fitted seats. Now they are custom built with stainless steel, all-enclosed bodywork and diesel engines.
Most jeepneys are 20-seaters; 18 in the back and 2 in the front, guv. This makes them unquestionably the friendliest form on transport on the planet, because actually there’s only enough room for 16 in the back and we are talking kitten-hipped pinoys here.
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.
This is hard sport, and women are seen as true warriors.
I first read about the Songlines in the late Bruce Chatwyn’s eponymous book, and even then the concept fascinated me. The Songlines are massively complex, but essentially devolve to the creation mythology of the First Australians. In this, every animal had an anthropomorphic first ancestor—so there was Kangaroo-Man, Koala-Man, Lizard-Man and so on. Each human tribe is also derived from one of those ancestors. In the dawn of time, these ancestors walked through the world, literally singing it into existence.
The words they sang are the Songlines, handed down through the millennia of human life on the continent.