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2 - Encounter

Journey Into My Heart 1
The events that you will read in this blog are true and accurate.
However, you will see that I have drawn my own conclusions from the events that have happened.

The section from here (Journey Into My Heart 1) up until August 10th (Journey 16) is left - untouched - from when it was just a private blog - I was happy and proud of my miraculous romance.

It was originally started in July 2007 as a private photo-record of my diary, written during my journey to the Philippines - & it was hosted at first on MySpace. Tierra Maria Estates were made aware of my blog in August 2007, I had sent them the URL in an email - I was still keeping it updated on the unfolding story - as the events happened - but it was not always public. However after I wrote the evidence about the fake-scar in October and made the blog public - one hour later - the account was hacked and everything disappeared. MySpace, after security checking, were very helpful in eventually rescuing the files for me. I now keep them separately backed up.

Some of you may view this as simply unashamed self-publicity, maybe as the trumpetings of a middle-aged man - finding some excitement during a mid-life crisis.
Please let me assure you that these poems, my diary of events, originally were thoroughly private affairs of my heart - they are only posted here to be read as such - and to give me something to do that keeps me close to the wonderful memories I have, while I wait for my situation to resolve itself.
It all started with a growing discontent - at the rut I was in.
My wife and I had been steadily drifting apart for too many years.
Happy in my work, but tired, really tired of being financially drained every month - life was seemingly going nowhere.
The mortgage hung around my neck like a slab of concrete - the house became a burden, not a home.

Out of the blue - cyberspace is blue you know - I received an invitation from a young Filipina to become friends on Friendster. She was very pretty, as indeed a great many of them are - we started an exchange of communication. Somehow, the forwardness of her admitted affections made them seem rather perfunctory - but it is all too easy to be swayed by the satisfaction this brings, the soothing massage to the ego. Before too long, I suspected that I was about to be scammed for money - she started to mention that her family could no longer afford her tuition fees as a trainee nurse - he, he - again, it all seemed far too business like - and stuck out like a red flag for what was supposed to be a developing relationship. Not particularly subtle at all. I've read and I'm sure you've heard tales of the sort of behaviour that goes on - so I cut off communication.
But a seed had been planted in my head.
To be honest - hopefully you will have detected by now, it is not my intention to hide anything from you - I have always been attracted to an Eastern look, the dusky skin, the raven hair - I read a great deal on websites associated with the Philippines that they have great respect for the elder members of society (see where this is going?) - were not too particular about the physical appearance of their partner, appreciating more the attributes of loyalty and honesty - "God-fearing" - as they would say.
I will openly admit to my feelings and accept what my taste is - I see no cause for shame either - I am not intending to use force or deception. Provided that I find reciprocation and mutual understanding, I will stand by my particular attractions - free from any burden of guilt that some would wish to accompany them.
I am in search of the miraculous.
I was God-fearing, but now that fear has all but evaporated - replaced by an attitude of wonderment and love - sometimes overwhelmingly so, especially recently.

So I joined a website specifically designed for dating Asian women.
The process is standard - fill in a profile, submit a photo - search through the profiles and lodge messages of interest etc.
My first night, having only just completed my profile - photograph still subject to approval - I got a message back from a young girl in Manila - "Curly Hair."
"hi how are you doing? are you new here? do you have pic? wow musicia here you are! wana be my friend?"
She worked as a "Property Consultant" based in the Tierra Maria Estates sales office in Paranaque City. This was on April 14th 2007 - I remember it so clearly - the start of my adventure, my new life.

[Mayen was aware - right from the start, because I had mentioned my previous encounter, that I was extremely cautious - she admitted that there were a lot of fake people on these dating sites - but assured me that she was all genuine. My research had suggested that the girls on dating sites who lived in the large urban areas, such as Manila, were potentially more risky - in terms of finding a scammer - I was reassured, initially, by the fact that Mayen's profile indicated Southern Leyte as her home - it wasn't until later that I understood she was actually now in Manila.]
Profile picture from DIA
We both seemed to be excited at our new found friendship - indeed we returned day in, day out, to keep the torch burning - as it were - despite the difficulties of actually meeting in real time - due to the seven hour time difference.

[I was enthralled and fascinated also by the mystical charm of the Philippines and the culture there - exploring a new world that seemed to represent a perfect paradise for romance.]
I wrote of my feelings - often in poetry - for I was falling deeply, most surely, most ridiculously in love with this young girl - only 23 years old - what exactly does one feel across the internet - just one simple photograph - but within those eyes, I detected so much - a face that seemed to promise so much to me - way out into my future - I felt such a deep stirring in my heart - much deeper than a simple infatuation.

Tides never cease to come and go,
Or draw back with a sigh,
Nor stays the peace,
My spirits flow,
From sinking low,
To rising high.
My heart,
As if a pebble thrown,
Caught fast upon that sloping shore,
First rolling up,
Then tumbling down,
Till a stone no more -
By waves that move too deep inside,
To ever understand,
But prove me brave
To never hide -
Just one
Of countless grains of sand.

I was very alert to the possible madness of what I was allowing to happen to myself - oh yes, I was wary, very wary . . .

Now we both must shed the veil,
And tear to shreds illusion's sail
That doubt or fear may no more find
Propulsion here of any kind.

. . . but instead of it fading - every day brought increased vigour to our relationship - we definitely saw each other as an answer to a long held secret prayer - and soon it came to the point of having to meet each other - to have continued, in this purely text-based world, with the depth of feeling that we both admitted to having, would have been impossible. We'd reached the end of all that words could do - so we had to prove it, finally, positively, by meeting person to person.

As a shell, upon the ear
Close pressed, will bring the sea,
Within my heart, so faint, yet clear,
Is whispering to me
A voice, in kind, to silence near,
A zephyr, stirring constantly,
As soft as only I may hear,
Yet recognise with certainty.
Lucid, though no word be told,
Insistent, as a drum,
The burden of its message holds
A distant, sacred sum,
Another region of my soul
Is calling me to home,
For it be one, yet not the whole
Of all it may become.

How soon could this happen? I enquired when her holiday time was, not wanting her to be pre-occupied with her work while I was there.
Very soon, dates were suggested - confirmed - meeting with her first in Manila - then meeting with her family, seeing her environment - the province where she was born and brought up. I visited my mother - it was the first time she had heard about my domestic situation - she was very happy about my plans - not understanding much about the internet was puzzled as to how I could be in love with a girl I'd never met - but she gave me her blessing.
The next morning I got a call from my sister in Portugal "What's going on? Mum's had a dreadful dream - her guardian angel told her that you are in danger." I facetiously remarked that my phantom lover on the internet was maybe more real than my mother's guardian angel.
This all had to proceed very secretively - I was certain that my marriage had come to an end - I wanted to move on, release the capital that was tied up in the house - but I wasn't prepared to burn my bridges completely at this stage, so secrecy was imperative.

I sold some shares to raise the air fare, arranged for a dear friend to purchase the tickets online - all untraceable to my bank account - very devious goings on - and all the time, I was feeling so much love in my heart - praising God regularly for this miracle - yes, things even improved at home - well they do if you're feeling love in your heart, don't they.
The trip to the Philippines happened to fall on 10 days that were free - sandwiched between 2 visits to Jersey for work. I would simply extend my visit to Jersey to cover the gap - and to cover my traces.
Or so I thought.

12 hours on this - to Hong Kong - then a 3 hour wait - 2 more hours to Manila.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


3 - Preparations

Journey 2

Flames? - oh, very yesterday,
Fire & brimstone? - so passé,
Old Nick has now a better way,
To torture souls (who go astray)
He sends them back to Terra Firma,
As far afield as France and Burma,
And once his players are on set,
He puts them on the internet.
"Sounds just fine" I hear you cry,
But wait - and here's the reason why,
Once they're sat there, up above,
He'll make damn sure they fall in love.

A definite landmark in this period came when she sent me her cellphone number, in an effort to quell my doubts and fears about who she really was - it is impossible across the internet to know for certain - and once faith and trust are put aside, even for a moment - it can all start to turn upside down.
I immediately phoned her up - I will never forget the sound of her golden voice - hearing it for the very first time - hearing the excitement that she was feeling - her wonderful bubbling laughter. The memory of that moment proved a positive lifeline as I started to become engulfed by an ocean of suspicion - unfortunately - the cost of phone calls and the often poor quality restricted, almost entirely, their use.

[Mayen sent me two new photographs of herself after I had pleaded with her to let me know more about her. She teased me on the phone, saying "What you want, sexy pictures?" The two pictures that did arrive were thankfully modest - but made me realise, with a shock, that I had been focussing my love around one solitary photograph - and that I did not really know Mayen at all.]

The intervening time was rather painful - on several fronts. I started to feel a dreadful ambiguity - on the one hand I really wanted this to be genuine, I prayed that it would turn out as it appeared to promise to my heart. But on the other hand, what if I arrived at Manila to find the whole thing a big scam - finding someone unrecognisable there meeting me? Compounding the horror of this dichotomy - no matter how much I tried, I could not communicate this fear any more strongly than the subtlest of hints - virtually undetectable hints - without it becoming very insulting. Trying to get to the truth across the internet is well nigh impossible - words are cheap and honesty is indistinguishable from deceit.

What brought this issue to a head was the fact that I was recommended a hotel that was newly built and had no internet presence. Best advice is always to leave word with a friend of where exactly one is staying when abroad, especially in circumstances like this - I could find no trace. I even went as far as contacting the British Embassy in Manila - they wrote back saying "We are unable to confirm the existence of this hotel."
"Great" I thought - "I'm walking right into a scam" - so I confronted the poor girl with my fears, spilling out all my doubts and suspicions - it was a great relief. After initially getting angry & upset at my wavering trust - she eventually saw the funny side - me fearing for my life - kidnapping - extortion - entrapment. Well it does happen you know.

[So it does exist after all - and very comfortable it was too. This was our home for the first week and our final night together.]
During a discussion about decorating the house - my wife discovers that I am planning on selling up - she immediately, intuitively jumps to the conclusion that I have met somebody else - wow! I cannot deny it, confess everything - except the proposed trip - shh! that's still a secret - well it was. Even that secret seems about to be exposed - due to a phone call that I received at Heathrow, the day I returned - waiting for my connecting flight back to Jersey.

I am so convinced that destiny is about to reveal someone very special - I float around for the remainder of the time before the trip.
I have managed some secret shopping on my previous visit to Jersey, so all that I'll need for the trip is over there - anti-malaria tablets, cool clothes, a new suitcase etc.
Hectic exchanges over the internet approaching d-day. My wife digs her claws in at my plans to sell the house - refuses to divorce, refuses to sell the house. All is doomed as far as I'm concerned - with no money to buy a property in the Philippines or start a business - both have been discussed - I might as well not bother going.

Things go dreadfully quiet and tension in me mounts for a couple of days - waiting to hear the verdict from afar and I am more than relieved to hear back that she is still interested in meeting me - despite my seeming poverty now.
The next day, things calm down a bit at home - we discuss the virtues of splitting up - and I think we both see the wisdom in doing so. But it is frightening to see how hope can paper over the cracks, cover up so many important, crucial details - or maybe it's a case of where there's a will, a way will come. The law of attraction at work.

Yes, I've been doing quite a bit of uplifting, inspirational reading recently - The Secret, Conversations With God, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - all telling me the same thing, the same message. The world is abundant, have faith, create your own future by attracting it towards you - keep the thoughts clearly on target, be thankful - it so much makes sense - I am changing, day by day.

[My goodness - yes - some of my detractors are correct. Regarding my marriage, looking back, I can see now, I was being a selfish pig.
I am not going to attempt to excuse that behaviour.
I can only say I was certainly very unhappy & had been for a long time. I made a mistake with the marriage and considered further time spent in it, for either of us, was wasting the best we could bring to a relationship.
I am only now - over a year later - recovering from the effects of this adventure - reclaiming my life from being absorbed in the detail - and find myself right back where I was - with perhaps a little more insight - when it started.
I won't go into details here of why we are both unhappy - we have both been admitting it for years - here was perhaps the catalyst for change - that would set us both free again - allow us to both reset our lives. Divorce is not pleasant - and adultery as the grounds would not be on the cards (mutuality being a clue) - but separation - after 14 years - was not going to be without trauma - but there comes a time - such a time as this - when decisions have to be made.]

My heart has long since
Been restless,
Tethered and caged,
Enslaved in an artifice,
This human zoo.
Where concrete and glass
Confuse the sky,
And each day's passing
Sees my ancestors,
My roots,
My sense of belonging,
Become a distant memory,
Locked behind closed doors.
I want to tread, barefoot,
In my wilderness,
Cast off the grey shroud
Of a murky, out of focus world,
Step away from today,
Hang it up
Some place,
Like an old set of clothes.
I hear a voice calling me,
From my past, yet, within me still.
My inner nature, demands release,
To know that my heart shares
Its beating with the tide,
To know that my breath
Was born on the wind,
To know that within me,
There burns the sacred fire of life.
This dream arrives
From loving you.
You are my wilderness,
My proud, prowling lioness,
You, my inheritance,
My past, my blood,
My breath.
Let us bathe in each other's warm seas,
Let us roar to the same horizon,
Let us discover,
The wild,
The sun,
The moon,
This spinning orb,
The earth,
Our mother.
Our father
Of the spirit.
Becoming one
To create new life,
And let us not heed
The clamorous place,
Nor listen to the brazen voice
That lures us to its way.
I know a secret yesterday,
And want to live it once more,
With only you by my side.
My love,
This you bring to me.
Let our days spin,
Like the spokes of a wheel,
A perfect circle
Around its hub,
Two hearts,
Become one,
At our centre
United in spirit,
Welded together
In a deep,
But silent
An unspoken answer,
To a secret prayer.

So - the time arrives - first I have two days in Jersey, I fly back to Heathrow Sunday evening - I'm being hidden away at a friend's house while I wait for my flight late on Monday. Getting off the bus from the airport in my local town where my friend is to meet me - who should go sailing by in her car? Yes - my wife. Fortunately I had made myself invisible as I stepped off the bus.
Many messages to write before I go - last minute things. Flight day - final communication is via an internet terminal at Heathrow - then on to the plane, although I do manage a brief SMS message exchange with - I forgot, I haven't told you her name yet - Mayen - while waiting at Hong Kong.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.

4 - Arrival

Journey 3

I decided to keep a daily journal (my diary) of the adventure, as it was happening - as a detailed souvenir of this glorious first meeting.
So here is that journal, started on loose scraps of paper I found in my bag - accompanied by the photographs - and some of the poems written before we had met - but I assure you that these dreams are all coming true - and I do believe in miracles.

I knew in an instant,
When I first saw your face,
What more can time achieve?
I do not need that space -
It merely makes a place for fear,
For un-answerable questions.
I cannot get much closer here,
My heart knows its direction.
If all the pages
Of every book
Described you to perfection,
It still would only take one look
To win my soul's affection.


The first flight was a struggle - keeping it together emotionally & physically - stuck in my seat for 12 hours - I felt at times like a force fed battery hen might feel - no excercise - I did little stretchy movements regularly and meditated, which dipped into sleep occasionally but kept me reasonably calm and centred - despite the whirlpool of thoughts circling around inside my head.
Mayen and I had a brief exchange of text messages while I was waiting at Hong Kong - until she realised that I was still "roaming" on my cellphone - they stopped abruptly.

The second flight introduced me to Philippine food for the first time and my neighbour on the plane - a Filipina returning home from Sweden.
Finally stepping off the plane in Manila - the heat, the humidity - just incredible - like walking in to a hot shower room. Gradually getting used to this - changing gear dramatically - collecting baggage and all the other airport formalities were painless. Through all this, despite surrendering to destiny, having tired of chasing my thoughts any more - there was one sole preoccupation throughout my entire being - meeting Mayen.

Eventually I find the airport arrivals greeting area - a cacophony of car horns and police whistles, crowds of people, straining at the barriers, bustling and shuffling to catch sight of their loved ones - the culture shock was immediate. Again that recurring phrase appeared in my mind "What am I doing?"
After a couple of cellphone calls and about an hour waiting, there is a flurry of girls approaching me - Mayen - chaperoned by two of her friends - just over two months since it all began - my first real glimpse - aware for the first time of her young, small frame and the vibrancy of her personality, smiling, gleaming from every pore - and that hair - that luxurious wavy hair.

Our mutual delight was still evident, although mixed with other feelings - relief, overbearing excitement and the surreal - meeting someone you feel so close to although you have never met physically. It was holding hands, lots of wonderful smiles and kisses, gripping me tight and leading me like a blind man to our driver "dadda" - Marivien and Miss Ann sharing the passenger seat in the front - my heart was pumping with love and desire for Mayen - I was engulfed with such strong, natural love for this girl - there was no ice to break between us - it was all instantly melted to water - I felt what I have felt all along for Mayen - now she was right next to me, my arm around her shoulder in the back of a cab - as we all danced through the late night traffic - looking for a money changer - something I had overlooked at the airport in my eagerness - despite the offer from a couple of security guards to change my money. [Yeah - into thin air probably.]

We arrived at the hotel and I checked in - unsure of what was going to happen for the rest of the night, although it was very late by this time - my flight had landed at 10:30 pm. I photographed the exterior of the hotel while Mayen, with her friends, viewed the rooms for me, kindly choosing one that was away from the traffic noise. We arranged to meet in the reception next morning - deciding that it would be a good idea to get some rest - we hugged, said a farewell and Mayen left the hotel with her friends and went back to her room - suddenly - I was on my own.
At the end of day one I slept like a log.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


5 - In her hands

Journey 4


I wake, shower and go down stairs for breakfast. Mayen appears shortly afterwards - this is strange - we didn't talk much last night in all the excitement.
I am completely in her hands at the moment - not knowing a thing about this new land - but we are happy people - about to have our first whole day together.

We spend most of today tasting a variety of transportation - taxi cabs, metered/unmetered, with or without air-con, jeepneys, motorised tricycles - in an effort to find somewhere to change my traveller's cheques. Ended up going to Makati - trusty, fiesty Mayen by my side, holding the money for the cabs - negotiating good deals - getting more and more exasperated at her fellow countrymen - treating "foreigner" here like the Golden Goose - the penultimate taxi driver typifying the bad deal - unmetered, no air-con, challenging us for a healthy tip even before we start - he took a "short cut" through shanty town, the squatters in the fishermens village - crowded, narrow, rust coloured streets - we made sure the doors were locked - the cab showing more and more signs of something terminally wrong with it - eventually giving up completely in a gas station - the driver pouring buckets of water over the engine to cool it down - hood up - we were told to find another cab. I don't think we gave him his healthy tip.

[Here again, my detractors have really tried to make a meal out of me using "Golden Goose" - an innocent enough phrase - surely preferable to the phrase I hear later in this adventure "Fat White Monkey."
Unfortunately, it is an inescapable reality - it is not a posture one has to assume - it is presumed by many who see "foreigner" - that here is an opportunity to "up" the going rate. It is an undeniable truth - proving anyone who cares to argue this point has either never been to the Philippines - or that they are a liar - trying to conceal the truth behind their words.]

During the day I broke a tooth on some hard pork we had for lunch [I had heard that the Filipinos loved their food - what an understatement!] We shopped for a SIM card for my cellphone to lessen the expense of texting. Sat outside in the new and enormous Mall of Asia, on the Baywalk - drinking coffee.

We go to Mayen's room in the early evening - she takes a shower - a simple room, rented for her by the firm she works for, and shared with her work colleagues occasionally - a bed, a water cooler, electric fan, rice cooker, basic kitchen utensils, clothes neatly folded in a large suitcase type bag, a bed for guests folded alongside the dining table and chairs. This is a small, hot room. I go outside for a cigarette while Mayen showers - waiting on the stairs as I prepare my roll up - the door of the room at the bottom of the stairs opens - out steps a girl dressed in just a slip carrying some freshly washed item of clothing to hang on the drying rails - seeing me lurking there on the stairwell, she apologises and - embarrassed, disappears straight back inside her room. I go out beyond the gate for a smoke. A grubby and almost skinny white cat of Siamese variety lounges on top of the perimeter wall - the security guard lounges on a plastic chair just inside the entrance to this little compound.
We then go to Mayen's "homebase" as she calls it - the sales office and greet her friends and colleagues.

Our first full day together - hand in hand - as close as two bodies can be - growing, expanding in our love and trust for each other. We all went for a meal together at East 19 [I think it was called] overlooking Victoriana housing project, with lightning flashing all around on the horizon - but a fresh breeze blowing.

My cellphone doesn't like the heat. I love Mayen so completely, so deeply - I am changing.

Unto the four winds did I shout your name,
And kept alight that sacred flame
Before the altars of Sun and Moon,
Underneath a vault of stars,
I offered prayer, that Oh, so soon,
Our eyes could share and know the same.
So simple, yet, now plain to see,
I know no more, no less of thee
Than I imagine, stars of me,
Who dwell a hundred lifetimes hence,
Who's light and sight I only sense
From long ago, when present tense.
Accuse me of idolatry,
Of worshipping a beam,
My faith, alone for company,
To temper, so would seem,
The steel of my temerity,
The colour of my dream,
All is unknowing, no consolation,
Save for the glowing
Of a new constellation.
After this first full day together, I get a bad case of the blues - having to say goodnight - I give Mayen the perfume that I bought her. After she had left me, I sent her a text saying that I wished I was her teddy bear - I spotted it earlier on her bed in her room.
Flick through the channels on the TV. I am growing to detest the world as it is portrayed in the media - so unreal. I doze off in bed for a few hours - but I am disturbed by a dream - cannot sleep any more - so I dress and go outside the hotel for a cigarette.
I rolled one for the security guard - he'd never tried a roll up with liquorice paper - he enjoyed it. I was surprised at the activity on the highway - colourful jeepneys, plying their trade.

Crammed with, amongst others, many immaculately uniformed schoolchildren, dilligently, serenely and with great humility - boarding to get to school on time. Now this was 4.30 in the morning! Schools open at 6.30 - yes there are different "shifts" so to speak - but go on until 4.00pm. That's a ten hour day.
I sometimes feel ashamed at the respect, near to reverence that I am shown by these sweet people, so beautiful [but I am reminded later - in fact Sir Francis uses these very words - that there are many "snakes" as well.] Me, lurking, trapped behind the disguise of money - courtesy of the exchange rate and appalling standard of living here. The illusion of wealth is all fake - I don't do anything consciously - it is assumed for me by those who see "foreigner."

I awoke this morning from a vivid dream. A black man, doing some menial labour had developed a deformed foot from the constant repetition of his task with the appliance provided for him - he pleaded with his boss for a moments rest. The boss, unseen, just a voice - but distinctly an unsavoury type of person replied "That's one less bone for you then!"
In my dream I was moved to such depths of pity for the man's suffering, I reached into my soul and found healing powers, felt God running through my fingertips as I massaged the man's foot back into shape - to the amazement of us both.

[At this point in writing, everything welled up inside of me, all the relief, the love, the emotions of this dream - I could not continue writing and broke down into a great sobbing in my hotel room.]

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


6 - Taal Lake

Journey 5


When I meet you
Face to face,
For a moment or two,
I'll shut my eyes,
Breath deeply
Into my heart,
The knowing,
The comfort,
The love
That lives there,
Flick through memories,
And paint my eyes
With the colours
I have seen you wear,
Dip into the
Refreshing waters
Of a pool
Already overflowing.
Our company
Already shared,
To love you
I've already dared.
I've come to meet
You from without,
Yet reach you still
And soul will greet
Another soul,
As close
As they have always been.

Not sleeping too well after my strange dream - I was woken by the phone - Mayen was obviously already in reception - we had arranged to meet for breakfast.
My goodness, I was so pleased to see Mayen again - we greeted like old friends, close lovers. After breakfast we retired to room 304 - I had a shower - and we just hung around in the room - I had the occasional doze.

The latter end of the morning - via tricycle - jeepney - we found an air-con van that would drive us to Tagaytay and Taal lake - the site of a volcano.
The driver, Elmer, after all the other passengers had left the van, was ours for the rest of the day - all the Tagalog chat that had taken place between him and Mayen was her negotiating a fee.
As we approached the high ground - essentially the rim of the giant crater - it started to rain, very heavily - and any good views down to the lake disappeared in mist, so we stopped at a small roadside cafeteria for food and rest.
First we were persuaded, by a street seller who had followed us inside, to buy and taste Espasol - a sort of powder covered jelly, made from coconuts and rolled in paper wraps - hmm - a little tasty, but disappointing really - next, a large pot of Bula - a big joint of pork in soup. After a strangely sweet cup of coffee, the rain seems to be stopping - back into the van - climbing up again, we find - a Starbucks - yeah!

A very good view of the lake, the top deck of the place is open - good - a smoke and coffee with chocolate cake - with the woman I love and am going to marry - perfect.

Many text messages going on - back and forth - I get to speak to Mayen's boss on the phone - Sir Francis. He's very kindly offered us his services for a day out - he'll take us to see the Tierra Maria Farm Estate housing project and maybe a beach if we'd like - we agree that will be Saturday.

How kind, I thank him very much - Mayen and I do much talking. She really appreciates having such a "kind, humble man" for a boss.

Picking up Elmer and the van we drive back to Manila - en route stopping for some Buko pie [again from coconuts - again very disappointing] some fresh mangos and pineapples. We put them in the fridge at homebase and go out for an evening meal after showering at the hotel - together.

The chinese restaurant was just in the process of closing up for the night, but they served us - we did not finish the food and it was wrapped up in plastic bags for us to take away - Mayen - ever thoughtful - wanted to take it for her work colleagues (her closest friends really) to eat the next day.

Now - this morning, walking to catch the tricycle, Mayen looked at me and said, quite simply "Timmy, I will sleep with you tonight - I missed you last night," quite matter of fact.
Needless to say, the effect those words had on my heart, mind and body were immediate and very pronounced - I had to adjust my shoulder bag to continue walking without embarrassment.
I had not anticipated, nor had I any expectations of physical love - slumbering dreams yes, that I had dared not awaken - but I had never dwelt on the thoughts. We had never discussed this, nor, I hope, will we - it flows from the soul - it accompanies my love for her - a deep and intrinsic part of the whole of my feelings for her - and completes the perfection of finding my soulmate.

I shan't go into details here - we showered before bed - very gently, supremely tenderly, my whole being overflowing with joy - we let our passions slowly rise and rise - deeper and deeper we reached into our hearts - I had come home - I cannot express how wonderful it was to be living my dream - to perfectly act out the scenes etched upon my heart. It was a long, hot night - continually returning to drink from each other's tenderness.

My heart wide open.
Never before in my entire life have I experienced such utter bliss, such a fullness of being human.
Eventually after a light sleep, we rose for breakfast.

Like a church, a quiet place,
To you, my heart fondly returns,
To where I feel that flow of Grace,
The peace my soul so dearly yearns,
A comfort, an oasis found
Upon life's choking, dusty road,
Where waters cool and clear abound,
And disappears my heavy load.

For Adults

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


7 - Shopping

Journey 6


Lips close around a lover's seal,
Much more than just a kiss,
And doors in hearts
Swing open wide,
Secure and safe in this,
Souls escape and flying high,
Free as birds inside the breath,
They rise to meet,
In a long moment of play
With their own reflection,
Absorbing the warmth of another sun,
Sharing, knowing another love.
Two spirits, dancing as one,
Lost in the clouds of ecstasy.
To some, maybe, it's just a kiss.
But you and me, I pray,
Such bliss.

We went shopping - Mayen wanted to buy presents for her family - we were going to fly south to her province later in the week.
OK, before we go into the "golden goose" theory - I know all about that - and now I have seen, first hand, the desperate poverty here as well - it is cruel - really hard for people. Mayen, on our first day, calmly walked into a shoe shop and bought herself some new slippers [posh flip-flops] with my money - I'd given her control of it - hadn't worked out quite what it was worth - she enjoyed the feeling of having money for a change - I enjoyed the feeling of generosity - what is mine is hers. Making a peso here and there is as instinctive as breathing. Amidst all the religious slogans pasted everywhere, their faith is a sugar coating for the very bitter pill they consume daily, just scratching a living.
But - with exceptions of course - they are wonderful, sweet and joyful - bahala na - they would say - I love the country and the people - Mayen I would die for. I didn't enjoy feeling like the golden goose, nor did I wallow about in my new found role as benefactor, courtesy of the exchange rate - I am all too well aware of my own struggle back in the UK - all relationships are a trade off in some respect - I don't mind this one tiny bit - I am hopelessly, divinely in love and Mayen is a wonderful, kind, bright, humorous girl, full of joy despite her struggles - and I don't doubt the genuine love she has for me - it's just in her terms, through her eyes - as much as she is the answer to my prayer, I am the answer to hers.

Shopping here is an unbelievable experience. Due to the struggle for employment and the horrendously low minimum wage [£3.00 per day!] stores are hopelessly overstaffed - by devoted, conscientious and stunningly beautiful and courteous employees - desperate to cling on to their jobs. Nothing is too much trouble - everything is folded, packed in a meticulous way - and all with such a genuine smile - it's amazing.
We bought baby socks for a new family addition - baby shoes - there's a baptism happening, but poor Mayen will miss it - accompanying me back to Manila - she has to resume her work. Chocolate - very expensive - lots of chocolate, T shirts for a brother's birthday. I already had some gifts for mum and dad - some perfume and cologne.
I was touched earlier to see Mayen, in her room, sort through all of her clothes - hard earned - to find what she no longer needed - to pass on to her sisters or nieces.
Bought a new battery for my cellphone - you can probably get anything in Manila - every nook and cranny outside the big SM malls is crammed with every conceivable type of shop, work shop, repair shop - everyone scratching a living in their own little niche market - and working hard as well.

We had lunch in the open air on a deck of the mall - Gerry's - it was the franchise owner's birthday - some of the staff were partying outside as well - I made the mistake of ordering a "western" dish - a club sandwich - it was awful compared to the succulent, fresh food that Mayen ordered - of course there was enough to go round - a delicious Buko Pandan - lime jelly, condensed milk and scrapings of fresh Buko (young coconut flesh) Masarap! a word I think I got to use more than any other - delicious!.

Did I hand you the key to my heart?
Or, maybe you saw it lying there -
Mostly buried in the mud?
One lucky reflection,
Shiny serendipity,
Glinting in the sun light,
Catching your eye.
Or have you always owned that key?
Just how old is destiny?
To me, an eternal mystery.
And just what is it I feel
As my heart begins to open?
A burning desire -
To love you,
A desire I allow
To consume me
With it's heat,
A flame to be protected
But never fully enclosed,
Never denied liberty,
The oxygen
That keeps it bright.
Hope -
To dream with
Through the night,
Hope -
That rises
With every new dawn.
Faith -
That lock and key
Together should be.
Faith -
That one is you,
The other - me.
But wisdom reminds me -
There are no guarantees
That do not extinguish,
There is no security
That does not dim,
No mechanism
That might not seize,
A grape may shrivel
On the vine.
For love is alive -
It breaths -
It moves -
And glitters with
Ever changing brilliance -
It fascinates -
It lures -
It listens -
As free as the wind -
It does not like restrictions -
To be clothed in
Anything smaller
Than its universal size.
Gentle yet strong,
Master yet servant,
Free yet full of need,
Destination and journey.

No pictures from this day - in the afternoon we travelled north to Quezon City to visit Mayen's sister there (she has sisters in a lot of other places as well.) We used the MRT [Manila Metro Rail Transit System.] Very hot, humid - noisy - we strayed into an area of the platform reserved for children, women, disabled, or aged - the guard blew his whistle at us and we toed the yellow line waiting for the train - which was air-conditioned. It was a relief to get on board. Travelling almost the entire length of the route we got out at Quezon City and hailed a cab to take us to the house.

The sister, Adelaide, embarrassed and giggly - with two children - Precious and Vincent, ushered me in to the house to sit down. I was privately bewildered and amazed to see an array of all sorts of general household goods hanging around, as if on display - cards full of small shampoo sachets, plastic tubs full of lolipops, cans of this, packets of that. Were they into smalltime crime I wondered, lightheartedly? Shoplifting?
Then I became aware of a plastic chicken wire grill covering the window facing the street.
The explanation for all these goods - this was some sort of shop. A concept I had not come across before is that every street has its sari-sari store - it means "almost anything" - where the children come for the treat of some sweets and the neighbourhood can get all the things that you run out of at inconvenient moments.

I chatted to the neighbour from across the road, who was just emerging from the enclosure in which his prize fighting-cock was held. They're into that in a big way - but mercifully I didn't see any of the fights - just heard and saw the cockerels - especially hearing them in the mornings - it was like a call to prayer - crowing near and far - summoning people into the day. We sat ouside the store front under the awning - in the warmth of the early evening. Dusk happens very early here - it can be dark by 7.30 pm even in July. The neighbour told me that he had a Baldwin piano in his house - nowadays it wasn't played and it was rather the worse for wear because of the rats.
He knew Mayen well as she had lived here with her sister for a while when she first arrived in Manila seeking work - he confided in me that she came from a good family - she was a good girl. Travelling the 2 hour route we had just taken became too much and so Mayen left here and moved into her present room.

As we ate our delicious evening meal that the sister had prepared - a chicken stew and rice - masarap - the husband, Audie, returned home from work. He was an "FX" driver - [a chunky four wheel drive vehicle for hire as a taxi cab.]
We chatted briefly and then, after his day of exsertion at the wheel, very kindly offered to drive us both back to the MRT station.

Exiting the railway system at Magallanes (Manila) we immediately became embroiled in the evening rush hour - this was about 9.00 pm - the traffic was horrendous - fumes filling the air, stinging the eyes and throat, car horns creating a wall of sound - chaos - but the daily chaos here - a long line of busses blocking the traffic as they waited to fill up with passengers - jeepneys, tricycles all stopping and starting as they passed us - hoping to pick up the foreigner - we eventually got into an air-con cab and sat out the traffic in relative comfort.

That evening, already fed, we retire early to the hotel room - both feeling rather tired from the days travelling about. We wrap ourselves around each other in the heat - with the room air-con left on all night - a sound that reminded me of the ocean.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


8 - Day with Sir F

Journey 7


We meet Sir Francis after our breakfast - breakfast is a strange affair - "Korean or American?" we are asked, "Coffee or juice?"
Korean is - rice, an assortment of fishy things, a salad - I tended to go for American, which was - rice, a sausage or leg of cold chicken on alternating days, a salad, a fried egg. But the staff at the hotel [part of a Korean chain of hotels] are so respectful - bowing to us upon our appearance - always a cheerful smile.
We meet at the homebase - I meet his colleague George Mendoza - [responsible for the edited photograph of Mayen - which appeared on her profile at DIA] - a big time broker and we all discuss the possibility of me setting up a website in the UK as an outlet for Tierra Maria Estates - strangely echoing thoughts I had much earlier when contemplating Mayen coming to the UK.

After a couple of hours drive in Sir Francis's 4 x 4 we arrive at Lipa City, the town just outside which is the housing project.
It took me a while to understand all this project business - and it was kindly explained to me on the journey as we listened to a double CD of Cliff Richard - the simple lyrics tugging at my heart strings. I was missing being close to Mayen - she was only on the back seat - and occasionally I would reach around behind my seat to give her a gentle foot massage - often turning round and blowing kisses.
The Americans redistributed the land after Spanish colonisation. It was broken up into subdivisions of titled property lots - mostly farm or agricultural land. Roads were built and houses, shops, churches, motor repairs etc. sprang up alongside these roads, mainly in a single line, behind which is agricultural land or forest.
The Islands are split up into Provinces, regions, Cities & Municipalities, which in turn are split up into Barangays or Barrios and houses are built upon subdivisions of land within these areas. Housing projects are springing up all over the place as the Philippines undergoes a rapid transformation and development. They consist of lots of land - cleared or uncleared of forest - laid out with roads and utilities such as water, electricity and telephone.
The purchasers usually make their own arrangements to have a house built to their specification upon the land, conforming to the guidlines of that particular project. The newer projects are often very pronounced affairs, enclosed behind perimeter walls with grand entrance gates, security, sometimes with a clubhouse and communal pool.

The Tierra Maria Estate is slightly different in that it is designed to appeal to those who are interested in residential or backyard farming - fruit, vegetables or aquaculture and as such it is a stipulation that each individual house may only occupy up to 25% of the total lot area. The land is thick with coconut palms, some very old trees and coffee trees producing a special coffee only grown there.

As we drove around to a commentary from Sir Francis - I fired off many questions - and sat with a board on my lap - a large map of the whole site, with coloured pins marking the sold or unsold lots.
The site's developer, a cousin of Sir Francis, is a very religious man - hence the name of the project - Ground of Maria - Mary's Ground - and statues of the Virgin Mary are erected in the grounds. There is a meditation park - it's all very lush, fresh and peaceful. Marketed towards retiring people, or as second homes or investment.

tierra maria website

After the tour we go into the town for lunch. Sir Francis thinks I will enjoy Crispy Pata - he was right - masarap! - a delicious meal of a large, deep fried knuckle of pork with crispy skin - with rice - a buko shake - followed by a coffee. Lots of good conversation - so good in fact - we go outside for a smoke and then climb in the car preparing to drive off - until Mayen shouts from the back, seeing the waiter come running after us waving the bill.

Should destiny thus intertwine
To rise as one, like tree and vine,
So tightly coiled in life's embrace
That even death may not efface,
Willingly I, at heaven's door,
Would surrender my fear,
Seeing clear once more
That fate and my heart,
For many a year
Held too far apart,
Now, at last, may keep apace,
And seek together the sky above,
Seeing forever through eyes of love.

We drive off to a rather exclusive and secluded beach resort -

Sir Francis with Mayen at the Virgin Beach Resort.

virgin beach resort website

We arrive at the resort after driving for about an hour - security let us through the makeshift barrier and park up. Wow - photographs - what a scene - tranquil - idylic - white sand, sea, mountains in the background behind us.

Tasteful but simple constructions - a bar - parasols along the beach [wooden hutches, roofs of coconut matting, mosquito netting for the walls - to spend a peaceful night in.] The entrance fee is waived - we only want to sit and relax and refresh for a couple of hours. Paradise just gets better and better - the generosity of Sir Francis, to spend the whole day with us - so kind - he is a good man.

Driving back to Manila, we are both tired - I am not so talkative and we both manage to doze off at some point or other. It's Saturday so the traffic is not at all bad - but it's already dark by the time we arrive.

We visit Mayen's home base, say a farewell to Sir Francis, thanking him for his splendid generosity and meet up with Marivien, Alberto and later on Miss Ann joins us for a giant pizza -

followed by the pineapples purchased on the way back from Taal lake - which I was taught by Alberto how to prepare.

You may be wondering, like I did, why we seem to spend so much time at their place of work - the home base. The answer is quite simple.
To enjoy the comfort of air-conditioning.

Suddenly it occurs to us that we really should start thinking about booking our flight to Tacloban, the capital city of Leyte - another Island. [Mayen's province, Pintuyan, lies on Panaon island at the very southern tip of Southern Leyte. Actually, Pintuyan is a Municipality within the Province of Southern Leyte - but the word province is also used to mean - in the countryside - outside of the big metropolitan areas like Manila.]

Good job we do - thanks to Miss Ann who mans the telephone and makes enquiries at Cebu Pacific Airlines - we learn that the only flight not fully booked for the entire week is tomorrow [Sunday.] Miss Ann books us onto the Sunday afternoon flight - she is very organised and competent - and we start to discuss all the preparations we need to make. We return to the hotel and start to pack our bags - only what we will need in the province.

After missing each other the whole day - not being physically close - our reunion in the hotel room is warm and passionate. We sleep early - ahead of a busy day.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


9 - To Leyte

Journey 8


Light and shadow, equally,
Can show how much I feel for thee -
Love's just begun,
But there is pain -
One brings the sun,
The other, rain,
Yet both allow my heart to see
How precious you've become to me.

A busy day - I'll keep it all brief. Breakfast - taxi driver doesn't show up, despite Mayen texting him the night before, so we hail one from the kerbside. Tata - the beginning of quite a morning with Tata - we have to be at the Cebu Pacific office before ten o'clock to collect and pay for the tickets.

Queue - we are number 19 - the counter is showing No 82 a long wait ahead - a kind man holding a young child gives us his ticket that he no longer needs for some reason - No 6 - aha - things are looking up. Later on Mayen gives our old ticket to a latecomer in the queue. Mayen is besotted by a beautiful little girl sitting astride her father's shoulders - maternal instincts coming right to the surface - we keep seeing this couple for the rest of the day. Collect the ticket - rejoin Tata who takes us to the duty free shopping mall.
Quite a lot of security - we buy some Fundador brandy for Mayen's father - I get some tobacco - the brand is called Domingo - and it's Sunday today - we look at some rings - I said I'd buy Mayen a ring - a token - there are not too many to choose from but we both like one depicting two intertwining hearts - but I've not enough cash and can't draw any more - so that idea gets put aside for a while.

Tata drives us back to the hotel - we check out [I've already booked the room again for Thursday night - our last night together - I don't want to think about that] - load our bags.
The other taxi driver shows up out of the shadows and really annoys Mayen by insisting on being paid for waiting for us - cheek - to get rid of him Mayen pays him - she is really upset to observe again her fellow countrymen trying their hardest to squeeze every peso out of her when they see her with me, presuming that I am rich - well it's only the exchange rate that makes me rich over here - I am not rich, only lucky - so lucky - in that sense I'm rich beyond imagination.

Tata drives us to the Festival Shopping Mall, in the same compound as the duty free shop - but first we drive via Mayen's room - deposit all we don't need for the trip - take some clothes to the laundry right alongside - and deposit Mayen's keys back at homebase for the other girls to be able to use the room. Tata crawls along back to the main road as we are still looking for a jewellery shop. No luck - we head off for lunch.
Tata joins us - noodles, banana shake - Masarap! - then off to the airport.

The experience of Manila Airport - the domestic terminal - it's hot and crowded - queue to get inside - first security check - queue to check in - queue to pay terminal fee - queue for second security check - the brandy is not allowed in our hand luggage - Argh!
What do we do? Sell it to one of the staff? No, we head back to the check in going straight to the front of the queue - they take it in the hold with all the chocolates - I hope they survive the journey - back for another security check with "Haven't I seen you before?" looks from the guards and into the waiting lounge. A chance to cool off in the only area so far with adequate air-con.
Great teams of airline support girls chat away behind their desks - again - overstaffing - but it's still a gentle chaos. The flight is twenty minutes late - but eventually we land in the relative peace on the Island of Leyte at Tacloban airport.
Very small scale compared to Manila. The chocolate and brandy have survived.

We are greeted by an airport taxi driver, employed by Cathay Pacific airline - there are no cabs in the city - only tricycles and jeepneys. The girl sitting next to Mayen on the flight suggested we try the Manhattan Hotel in Tacloban so we ask the driver, Ado, to take us there. All across the Philippines there are 3 main dialects as well as Tagalog, the language that is trying to establish itself from Manila outwards as a national language. Here of course, on the Island where Mayen was born, Ado speaks the same dialect - to her delight. The city outskirts are more open than Manila - there are some green spaces evident and it is generally more tranquil.

The Manhattan dates from around the 1930's and has not been kept in good condition. There are no lifts and the marble staircase contains a trick step, which gets you going both up or down if you forget that it is larger than any of the other steps. Funny how we quickly adapt to the rhythm of climbing equally spaced steps.

Our room 316 is a very odd shape - and seems to be occupied already - by a large family of ants. The room is on the corner of the hotel building and overlooks a busy crossroad. The shower works - but is more of a gush than a sprinkle - it reminded me of a female elephant having a piss. One of the lights doesn't work - the shaving socket and sink are in the shower cubicle when the curtain is drawn - the towels are thread bare and a dismal grey colour - but once they were white. We take it all in our stride - the other hotels in town are fully booked - the same reason that the flights were all booked - there is a big Fiesta in the area and many people have headed home from their places of work to attend it next weekend. I draw the curtain back to peer through the dirty window - dirty glass in iron framed sections - stained glass - by many years of grime.
Just about to take a photo of the busy street scene outside and the curtain rail topples down, smothering Mayen and me in the curtain. The room boy, still in attendance procures a quick fix and I get to take my photo as he turns on the ancient air-con unit.

Two single beds - we will only use the one. We shower in turn behind the elephant and emerge into the street in search of some food stuffs to take with us to the province - Mayen is very concerned about what I will eat - I'm still very vague as to what I shall find down there - I know it is very remote and Mayen has warned me that it will be different from anything I expect.

We hail a tricycle. You never have to wait long at all for a motor-tricycle. Sitting in the covered side-car, either forward facing - or sometimes there are extra seats at the rear, facing backwards - or sat side-saddle behind the rider - or sometimes all occupied at once - it is quite thrilling - the engine rasping away alongside - it's very snug - and you're at just the correct height above the ground to help clean up some of the traffic fumes - by breathing them in.
It starts to rain and we wander into what must be a first generation department store - no way could you really call it a mall, although it passes as such here in Tacloban. There is a strange smell that bites at the back of the throat.
The cause soon becomes apparent - again - overstaffing at work. In an effort to keep the linoleum floors clean for their customers - 3 boys are shuffling around the narrow aisles between the tightly packed shelves, sprinkling bleached water - from a pail each is carrying - onto the floors using their hands - it's all highly rhythmic and choreographed - followed by another three boys - swooshing along with mops - to join the dance - followed by another three boys wafting it dry with great sheets of cardboard.
This procession gradually snakes its way around the store as we decide to leave and go for something to eat.

Mayen really misses the food of her province and now she has arrived here on the island of Leyte is determined to make up for lost time.

She orders a stunning array of local food - a seashell soup, seaweed salad, crab, mangos, buko shakes - masarap!
Unfortunately this all gives me a very dodgy tummy in the night - some Imodium needed first thing in the morning - but the food is delicious and leaves you feeling good - as if you've just done your body a favour - all be it a brief one in my case.

Back to the hotel - another shower and sleep.
Both of us high on the spirit of adventure - somehow - we are entering the old Philippines now - and it is so irrepressible - so intoxicating. We decide on the bed near to the window. It's a noisy night - tricycles, jeepneys - a procession band in the early hours of the morning waking us up. Passion follows in the din, the air-con droning away - quite ineffectually - and we just lie there listening to the world waking up - so happy, laughing at the oddity of the hotel compared to the luxury we were used to at the Grami, back in Manila.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


10 - To the Barrio

Journey 9


The first thing after my shower I go to the Mercury Drugstore just across the road for some Imodium for my stomach.
They sell tablets individually - not everyone can afford to buy complete packets - so I bought four - and some fresh milk. I noticed as I was weaving through the traffic crossing the road that Mayen, with a towel wrapped around her head, was peeping out of the hotel window at me to see if I was safe - I waved at her. Had a cigarette outside the hotel soaking up the hubbub of the hot morning.

We checked out of the hotel.
I thought that our original plan was to get a cab to the bus terminal and find a bus that would take us as far as Mayen's province - but all the dialect going on in the cab was Mayen negotiating with Ado to drive us all the way - and she had arranged for him to come and pick us up and return us to the airport on the Thursday. So we loaded our bags into Ado's cab and he drove us off to the Tacloban branch of McDonalds - McDoh as they call it - for breakfast.

Still rather cautious of how my stomach was feeling I ordered something safe - rice, egg, Longganisa (or something vaguely meaty) and coffee.

We purchased some oranges and Fuji apples outside on the steps - drove off to visit a grocery store for water and provisions for our stay.

After this we headed off for the very south of the Island - first taking a slight detour to see the San Juanico bridge - a very long structure that joins the island of Samar to the island of Leyte.

The journey to Pintuyan takes us about three hours with stops for photos. We wind through the small villages and communities scattered about the mountainous terrain, travelling south - always lush with some stunning scenery.

We eventually cross the small Wawa bridge connecting mainland Southern Leyte to Panaon Island - a small island of only four municipalities: Lilo-an, Pintuyan, San Ricardo and San Fransisco.
The island suffered dreadfully in recent years with whole barrios being swept away by severe landslides with great loss of life.
There is now a new road that sweeps over the bridge and continues down the island - almost finished - but ever improvising - the hot white concrete surface is already used to dry coconuts for the copra trade - every so often we had to drive around a great swathe of drying coconut halves.

The view from Wawa bridge, named after the serious whirlpools that occur in the channel between - Panaon Island on the left - Southern Leyte on the right.

Mayen on the Wawa bridge - behind her is Southern Leyte. There are no taxis here on the island - hardly any cars - the transport is motorcycle - or habal-habal - a motorcycle with an extended rear seat. Our first port of call is at Mayen's sister's house where we will be staying.

We are greeted by Susana, Mayen's mother - I notice the local greeting - bringing the offered hand up to touch the forehead - and the many members of Mayen's close and extended family - though not all - some are at the baringay - we are in the municipality of Pintuyan at the moment - some are travelling from other islands to arrive later - and one brother, I learn, is still missing at sea - now for 3 or 4 years - he failed to return home after a storm as he was out fishing on his own at night - leaving behind a wife and two children - both girls, who live in the baringay in Mayen's family house together with two other brothers, one who is "bakla" - gay - and walks around the house with a padded bra [I think] and a dress - it is just accepted here that some are born to be "bakla" - Mayen tells me she was the first to notice this when he would always prefer to play with her dolls - altogether, a confusing multitude of people - I will take a long time to learn who is who and even longer to become familiar with their names.
I am quizzed briefly by Mayen's mother about my intentions for her daughter - have I any children? - she is eventually happy, satisfying herself that I am a good man - I am to stay good.

Once we had settled in, said adios to Ado, we were driven 3 up on a motorcycle to the barangay - to the family house, where I met Mayen's father, we were joined by his only brother, Mayen's uncle, the widow of the lost brother, another brother and Mayen's sister in law and a variety of children, suckling babies, a bewildering assortment of family members.

I am being stared at constantly - veiwed as an oddity, a celebrity even - & worryingly - a source of money. They are so poor here but have peace, abundant food - coconuts, papayas, mangos, bananas, fish - a veritable harvest from the ocean - and a way of life, uncomplicated and unchanged for many years - apart from superficially.

We visit another house, a few doors along the road, where Mayen's grandmother lives and then we take ourselves off for a walk down through coconut groves to the sea as it starts to rain gently.

We bring with us a fan from the house and eventually find shelter in a hollow underneath the roots of a coconut tree on the shore. Mayen, concerned that I get my shorts dirty on the rock I was about to sit on, as it was covered in ash from a recent fire that someone had lit there, placed the fan down for me to sit on. Of course, we left it behind when we went back to the house.

We talk and talk about our future - Mayen is noticeably happier now she's back at home.

Returning to the family house for the evening meal, I am shocked - considering I had been asked to pay for the feast - that I was only served a meagre chicken wing and a small spoonful of rice - while the others piled in - mostly eating with their hands - to helping after helping - I was frightened by the spectre of the golden goose again - later rationalising that I had just been offered a taster, in case I found it disagreeable. I awaited an invitation for more - as my rapidly emptied plate was signalling a very obvious message - but none came. I soon got the hang of things at meal times - just piling into the food - it was delicious - it was a celebration - a wonderful happy gathering of the tribe, the clan.

A thunderous storm was breaking - the most torrential rain and the loudest booming I had ever heard echoing around the hills.
There is an electronic keyboard tucked up against the wall in the room - really the house is just the one main room - kitchen at one end, dining space in the middle and lounge seating at the entrance by the front door. Other small rooms all adjoin this one, with just a curtain for privacy. The windows have no glass and electric fans try their hardest to cool us.

I decide to ask if I can play the keyboard and discover that Mayen's sister in law is a singer - she used to sing in bars in Manila - so we got going with one or two songs - he, he. I think Mayen was impressed - she likes to sing as well. Oh my goodness how I love that girl.

The storm passes in time for our motorbike ride back to where we are staying - and a mercifully refreshing ride it is, to be blasted and buffeted by the air as we are driven along through the night - dogs asleep on the still warm road surface don't flinch or move out of the way.

We shower before we retire - outside the house I enquire of Mayen if we are sharing the same bed - yes is the answer - but we must keep silent with our passions.
The shower was an open plastic dustbin filled with water at those times of day when it's available - a small plastic saucepan with which to dowse oneself - simple but effective - I notice no toilet paper is available - so it's dowsing all round then - I'll soon get the hang of this.

I help Mayen's mother erect the mosquito net around our bed "Only in the Philippines" she said repeatedly - in an amused tone - we chuckled together. I think that generally there was a feeling of embarrassment, for their skills at speaking English, for the unfinished build quality of their homes and by an overall concern that I would be comparing it all to the "luxurious" standards of the western world.
Well, to be quite honest, we are spoilt rotten - we don't know half the hardships these people have, we take things so much for granted - all our amenities and facilities and we still are so ready to complain.
This is a really refreshing change - the sort of feeling you get when camping - making do, making the most out of things - they're only superficial things after all - life is about happiness, babies and food - only in the Philippines. Mayen and I get tearful in bed - contemplating that final hour when we have to say goodbye - it is too unbearable - we refuse to think about it - it will just happen in its own present - bahala na.

I hold a fragile cup in trembling hands,
Its content, this life's greatest treasure,
Fearful lest one drop be spilled,
The loving cup, once passed, demands
Of care and trust, beyond all measure,
Until each thirsting heart is filled.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.


Tim Cumperhttp://www.bebo.com/Ellumbra

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