Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I wouldn't have you think I'm an ill-ntempered sort of chap. From time to time, it has been suggested that I am but it's just the fall of my face and what Nature and Time have done to its contours. No, I am normally really tolerant...to a fault I might say.

But I must get my sleep and some nights here it's difficult..

Take last night...an errant mosquito penetrated the defences of the netted doors and windows and bit me on the arm. It’s not the first bite I’ve suffered here and I have to say they are not as bad as some I’ve occasionally had in Europe. Even so, my legs at times have the dramatic effect of a Turner sunset and they itch like hell. I have been regularly using a spray on my legs and arms. It makes great claims, this stuff, to keeping mosquitoes at bay but apparently the mosquitoes cannot read. Certainly last night's couldn't.

But it’s the dogs who are the real menace with their incessant barking all night. They are all yard dogs. I don’t think they ever get into their owners' houses. They’re mostly lean and pale or gingery and they're content to walk along the roadside or along the middle of the road where they stop from time to time to scratch their fleas and lick their behinds in a world-weary sort of way. They manage to avoid cars with the slightest insouciant twitch of the hips and they’re away, escaping wheels and bumpers by a hair’s breadth. But it’s at night when they’re skulking round the home territory that they begin their constant yelps and screeches and barks. Then, just before dawn their shift ends and the cockerels start up.

These blasted birds continue for what seems an eternity. There’s only one which seems to merit an audition to introduce Pathe News (as was, but ask your Granny if you don't get the reference), only one out of what seems like hundreds who sounds at all in his right avian mind. So many of the others sound quite deranged, many as if they are suffering from a form of Tourette’s disease which obliges them to shriek at very short intervals the words 'Dirty bastards.' On and on it goes, the loonies echoing each other way down the road and God knows how far beyond but the sound comes doubling back so that I feel like shouting at them, 'Shut up, you silly buggers.' But I know what they’d say in reply.

I wonder if some of them aren’t punch-drunk veterans of the local cockpit. We saw some the other day being caged, jaunty enough looking chaps with fine handsomely coloured feathers and proud upstanding tails, but each one I suspect with a mad gleam in his eye and looking forward to the next championship bout. It wouldn't be surprising if they were unhinged. Their owners or trainers, for these birds are professional ring-craftsmen, cosset them like babies, stroking them, smoothing their feathers and generally pampering them. But they must - the birds, that is – be quite astonished when clouds of tobacco smoke are blown in their faces. This is said to made them mean-tempered, just what is thought to be necessary in a ring-ready bird. The ones that lose the fights - fought with razor blades tied to the legs - return home oven-ready.

All of this nocturnal hubbub of dogs and cockerels, in this rural hideaway, is played out against a ceaseless background of traffic noise, particularly from motorcycles and tricycles tuned to sound sometimes like farting wasps. At other times huge lorries race down the road, sounding like Jumbo jets preparing to land just outside the front door.

This is in rural Luzon. If it were sprawling MetroManila I'd understand it but here we're in a land of beautiful trees, farms and rice fields of the most delicate shades of green. It would be heaven if it weren't for the night noise. And don't start me on when the women in the family get together talking, you'd think, through loud hailers...

A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES by WH Johnson will be published as an e-book in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


Well, as I told you, I'm a married man and long past the first, second and third flushes of youth. In fact I'm past the first couple of flushes of old age.

That said, what strikes me in the Philippines is how beautiful so many of the women and young girls are and how they don't seem to age as Western women do.

Now hold on, ladies of the West, I'm not being critical of you. I'm not disparaging you. But I think if you're fair about these matters, if you look at them objectively, you must admit, even if you don't wish to, that Filipinas look good and wear well.

Take the day I was persuaded to go to the dentist in Manila – well, my dentist in Eastbourne had recently quoted me £90 for a filling – and in minutes I was ready to trade my immortal soul for an evening wirh Miss Asia who apparently was doubling up as receptionist. By the time we'd finished the preliminaries she could have had every remaining ivory in my head and then to cap it all in came the nurse to lead me to the surgery and she could have been Miss World. I followed her to the throne of blood with a light step. (And for the record the filling in a beautifully appointed surgery cost me £10.)

But away from shoddy commerce and back to beauty.. In fact back to the supermarket this time where even in their uniforms, with their hair tied back into a tight bun and their faces exquisitely made up, the cash-out girls look like a line-up of glamourous chorus girls in a Hollywood spectacular. I never thought I'd say this but paying at the till in supermarkets in Cabanatuan - and Gapan and Manila for that matter – is an absolute pleasure.

When we went to the rice farm owned by Lito, my 68 year old  nephew-by-marriage, I was introduced to his daughter, a healthy looking girl called Michelle. In my interested schoolmasterly voice - and I have a kindly understanding smile to accompany this voice – I asked her how she was getting on at school but was told that had already left. And then, as if she anticipated what I was going to say next, she said 'I am the mother of three.'

Such a child to have such a brood already and I wondered if one or more of the village lads had been taking advantage of her innocence. I then learnt that she was thirty-four! Incredible. These women here, they look so young.

Have I ended up at the fountain of eternal youth and beauty? It certainly seems so.

'A Virgin in the Philippines' is due out as an e-book in the next week or two

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Okay, you've got so far but you're not sure. The title...not the sort of reading you'd normally go for. I understand that. Somebody wrote to tell me that it was 'no-no' title, that it was going to encourage pervs, white slavers and all sorts of other undesirables. Only thing I can reply to that is I don't much mind, provided they all buy a copy of the e-book when it comes out.

But to set your mind at rest it's a perfectly respectable book. Suggestions that it is 'not a book you would wish your wife or your servants to read' are far off the mark.

Look, it's about a well-worn old boy, a widower, WH Johnson, whose life takes a sudden change and he's as surprised as anyone. This is what he says right at the beginning of the book:

'Three years ago I'd never given a thought to visiting the Philippines. It wouldn't have appeared in even my top hundred places to visit. Come to that, I'd never thought of remarrying.'

But that's exactly what he did do. He did visit the Philippines and he did remarry though not in that order.

And by the way, he didn't go through a dating agency and he didn't sign up his beautiful bride through ebay.

And in a couple of visits lasting six months the author has put down his thoughts and impressions in an e-book, A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES which is to be published soon with illustrations by Leonardo Malgapo. He makes no claim to being an expert: this is not a guide book but he does reveal much about his experiences in this beautiful land.

Want to know more intimate details about the author? Want to know about the trauma which led to his shorts anxiety? Or why sometimes he goes into Alec Guinness/River Kwai mode? How he responds to the exotic driving that he encounters? Want to hear about Gina, the woman in the background? About
what he has introduced to the community in which he finds himself? Or which of his physical features is so highly regarded? Why is he so attracted to funerals and the once-despised karaoke? And on what particular occasion did his wife enjoy a Tina Turner moment?

Well that's taster. Do come back for more. There'll be an extract or two next time. Sign up as a follower. It'll be great to have you.

And Senior Citizens, remember I'm a really long-serving member of your group. My only advice: don't just sit in the corner for the rest of your days.

SNIPPETS FROM THE PAST is for the moment suspended and will resume in a few weeks time.