Okay, so I promised that I would start off with a post this Saturday and I’m good to my word. That’s despite super typhoon Hagupit (Filipino name Ruby – although Hagupit is Filipino for ‘smash’) rapidly approaching. Obviously, if it makes landfall while I’m writing this then it may end abruptly. I’ll try and hit ‘publish’ before saving my
wife significant other girlfriend partner and child.
Anyway, where do I start?
I guess the obvious place is at the beginning – hence the imaginative title – but how far back should I go? Hmmm.
Okay, here goes…
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Whoah, whoah, whoah stop right there James!
Firstly, you’re an atheist and secondly, if you start back that far, you’ll die before you even get to the good stuff.
Fair point. In that case I’ll start by telling you how my love affair with the Philippines began.
My first trip to the Philippines was back in 2007. It was a 10-day (could have been two weeks) motorbike tour with my father and four of our friends. We’d done a similar trip to India the year before and absolutely loved it. There’s nothing quite like exploring a new country with a group of friends on motorbikes.
To cut a long story short, we had the time of our lives and I vowed that I’d return as soon as I could.
When I got back to the UK and my job in Southampton, I found myself withdrawn. All I could think about was the fantastic holiday we’d just had and to satisfy my yearning I would listen to Filipino radio stations online.
Needless to say that the few weeks immediately after our trip were highly unproductive for me.
Typhoon update: still calm and not a spot of rain in sight.
We returned from the Philippines in March and my father, equally smitten with the country, decided to make a knee-jerk reaction and move there permanently the following month. Wow! Talk about out-of-the-blue. This was a man who’d spent his entire life working hard and was still reaping the rewards of that hard work.
It must have been a difficult decision to make, I thought to myself at the time. But the more I think about it now, I believe it was easier than it appeared on the surface.
You see, my father, despite all his prosperity, was an unhappy man. He is living proof that money doesn’t make you happy. Okay, so maybe it makes some people happy, but not him.
At the time I was slightly bemused by the situation and noticeably affected, but I knew that he only did it in search of happiness.
So now, not only was I back at work in a job that didn’t really challenge me, but my best friend and the person I looked up to more than anyone else in my life was halfway round the world.
I had to get back to the Philippines ASAP.
Later that year I quit my job in Southampton and voyaged to London; following in the steps of Dick Whittington – although I didn’t have a cat. Like Dick though, I too was lured by rumours of streets paved with gold and was a little disappointed to find that they weren’t. Instead they were paved with shit.
Not even the excitement of a new job and life in our nation’s capital could stop me thinking about the Philippines.
My next trip would come a full two years later in September 2009 and it was another two week affair. Motorbikes were involved, but only for Dad and I to go to the local town and back.
He was now living in a beautiful house right on the beach and had a gorgeous Filipino girlfriend. His days were spent under the sun enjoying life and supping beer. It was what I dreamed of…
Again, I returned to the UK on a high, which soon disappeared when I got back to work. Fortunately, online Filipino radio was still on-hand to satisfy my craving.
Typhoon update: still all clear here. Looks like I’ll finish this after all.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long though before I saw Dad again. In October 2009 – yes just one month after I’d returned – he and his now wife Madelene came to the UK for a break.
She found the cold weather difficult to cope with but they nevertheless they both had a great time. We even managed to satisfy Madelene’s hankering for small fish to eat. My local Sainsbury’s sold sprats by the pound and she was in her element.
Now you’re probably thinking, sprats? Isn’t that what old ladies buy for their cats? And you’d be right.
Dad and Madelene left and life went back to normal again. I was still working in a job that I hated and which hated me, but with the benefit of hindsight, things could have been worse.
Despite the mundane day-to-day life I was living, the light at the end of the tunnel was that I’d be going back to the Philippines again very soon.
In fact, I found myself jetting off from Heathrow to Hong Kong again in April 2010. At the time, there was no direct flight to Manila, so it was always a tossup as to which route to take. Either way, it involved around 14-15 hours in total on a plane and I spent the majority of it drinking in the hope that I’d sleep. It never worked.
Evidently, Philippine Airlines now fly direct to Manila, but I’ve not tried their service yet.
Much like Dad several years before, this trip would be my last before I made the bold move to emigrate permanently.
Next week, I’ll enlighten you on my last few months in the UK and the host of difficult decisions I had to make. Like what I should do with my job, car, house, live-in partner and loads of other stuff.
Final typhoon update: starting to think it’s just hype. Famous last words Devonshire…
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