Noise, Courtesy, and Scumbags

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The Philippines is a loud place. It’s seriously noisy here. The cities and towns are choked with diesel-belching jeepneys (sort of jeep/minibus hybrids) and tricycles (motorcycles with side cars attached); eardrum splitting music is piped out from EVERY store, business, and from many of the homes, as well; TV’s blare around the clock; dogs bark at the air and roosters – which are omnipresent – do their thing at all hours. Something I learned long ago is that a rooster does not need dawn to crow.

The Philippines is a loud place. It’s seriously noisy here. The cities and towns are choked with diesel-belching jeepneys (sort of jeep/minibus hybrids) and tricycles (motorcycles with side cars attached); eardrum splitting music is piped out from EVERY store, business, and from many of the homes, as well; TV’s blare around the clock; dogs bark at the air and roosters – which are omnipresent – do their thing at all hours. Something I learned long ago is that a rooster does not need dawn to crow.

I’m currently in the town of Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital of Palawan, the long far-western island of the Philippines where, I’ll spend the next two and a half weeks. I’m with my buddy Sam, who I’ve done a hell of a lot of travelling with over the last five years. We’re staying at a small cluster of cottages a bit out of town, close to the beach. It should be quiet here, but the owner and staff have deemed it fit to keep a TV fired up all day, which pretty much only plays an American cable network dedicated to true crime re-enactments. While I can usually get down with these types of programs, I have a really hard time writing when a TV is screaming in my ear. So, while the owner was out, I took the liberty of shutting the fucker off.

I brought a laptop with me this time – borrowed from a friend in Busan. Amazing enough, they have a wifi zone in the restaurant/bar area, so I’ve had easy and quick access to the internet this whole time. These things never cease to surprise me. This is one of the most remote islands in an undeveloped country and the net is still at my fingertips. Of course, we are in the one populated part – the only one with regular electricity and ATM’s – but the fact I’m able to post this right now is simply astonishing.

So far it’s been a great trip. After a brief stint in the ragged environs of Manila, we headed north to La Union to visit our friend Sonny. We spent six days at his palatial beach house, heading up to the little town there to carouse with the local surfers. It was a fun and crazy time, complete with a cast of characters that could never be invented. I’ll write about them in detail later.

My general reflections of this country are positive. Yes, there is the noise, but for the most part the people are gracious, courteous, and extremely friendly. They’re probably the best I’ve met in all my travels in Asia. Sometimes the service can be a bit surly, but they’re being paid very little and are overworked, so I give the rude ones a pass. These are the exception, though, as most Philippinos are very curious about visitors and go out of their way to make sure that our stays are good ones.

What really fascinates here are the expats, who are generally older men who have escaped their former countries to come here to drink, drug, and bang younger girls. Up in La Union they were all surfers, spending their days on the waves on their nights on intoxicants and women. This place where we’re kicking it now is owned by a grizzled old Kiwi named Andy with a massive gut, who rules over the place like a kicked-back duke, train-swigging rum and cokes and growling at the guests. He’s actually a nice guy, but has that look of any old white man who has been here too long.

What you find about these old boys in the Philippines is that they are absolutely shameless about their hedonistic lifestyles. It’s as if the constant sun has baked their brains, and now they exist on a pure level of physical satisfaction, one without consequences or santion. They are proud scumbags, breast-thumping douches. They brag about their exploits, while guzzling booze and chain-smoking cigs. They’re strange bellowing animals, with sun-leathered hides and bloodshot eyes. Sitting down with one of these cats can be a good session, but after a while you begin to feel a strange mix of anger and pity, or, in my case, fear: Fear that twenty more years in Asia will turn me into one of them.



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