Hashtag Him Too!
Paul and Andrew arrived in The Philippines with a bang. Literally! Their small plane hit the equally tiny runway with such force that Paul had expected the ‘Brace. Brace’ command at any second. Luckily the reverse thrust kicked into overdrive and they managed to stay on the tarmac – just.
The boys had eventually arrived in Bohol. The tenth largest island in the Filipino Archipelago – far south of Manila towards the equator. Home to the Tarsier and ‘The Chocolate Hills’, plus countless typhoons and earthquakes. It had taken them twenty four hours to complete the journey.
Three flights, four fights and countless shites.
Something had obviously not agreed with them prior to boarding in the northern Thai city of Nan.
A delay, which necessitated a layover of nearly twelve hours at the completely undomesticated ‘Domestic Terminal’ at Manila’s airport, had not helped. They had queued for hours amid masked bores with minimal manners. It had stretched both their patience as well as their bowels!
Andrew had made the situation somewhat worse by insisting on calling Bohol – ‘Butthole!’ Paul knew his partner was on the wind up, but had to call on his last reserves of energy to find it remotely amusing.
At times he found it difficult to carry on when Andrew’s ‘Carry-On’ humour was so relentless! He knew it was probably his own lack of humour which caused this impatience – but only probably!
Thankfully, The Philippines more than matched up to their expectations.
Within the first few hours of their arrival, Paul and Andrew knew it had been worth the hours of aviation. The island of Bohol was paradisiacal. Palms and orchids lined the scruffy lanes. The beaches were white and soft as talc and the sea cerulean blue. The natives too could not have been more welcoming.
The inhabitants obviously had a love of music as there seemed to be singers everywhere. In the shops, on the streets, scattered along the beaches, everyone seemed to be singing a tune. The devastating earthquake of 2013 which had almost flattened the island had not destroyed the people’s love of life. The place was a hum with musicality.
Guitars strummed through the tropical night and even the karaoke was charming. Paul often didn’t find this to be the case on the Costa Del Sol, where ‘karaoNOke’ was the order of the night as far as he was concerned. But in The Philippines the joy sung through.
Nobody seemed to want to be a star, only sing to them.
Even when their intonation was less than perfect, which was fairly rare, it was still bearable. The sheer joy was infectious. When he and Andrew were woken at 6.30am with a tuneless version of a Whitney Houston classic they could not help but laugh. It had been the lad’s birthday after all.
It was music to their ears.
More discordant was the poverty that was at once evident. After being in Thailand, where begging was relatively rare, the almost ‘Dickensian’ scenes on Bohol came as a slight shock. Yet only slight, as Paul had done his research and knew there to be much disparity of wealth throughout the whole island chain. It was an unnecessary evil any traveller had to witness when visiting such far flung places, yet it always struck a bad chord.
Children begged outside the twenty-four hour McDonald’s in Panglao. They were ragamuffins with appeal and were not short of ‘Mcmuffins’ for their trouble. But Paul was troubled, especially when one of the youngsters, who could have been no more than five, rubbed his crotch and said he could touch if he wanted,
……. ‘For money!’ He had beamed innocently.
The mixture of innocence and experience would have shocked even William Blake.
There was nothing poetic about it.
But in general he and Andrew’s experience was good. The small island appealed in so many ways.
One evening, however, after he and his partner’s first proper row of the trip,(it had been nearly eight weeks – so they ain’t done bad!), Andrew had stomped off into the night. There had been a rather clumsy, bare-footed, Kung Fu kick on Paul’s part, so he was not surprised his partner had left to find his kicks elsewhere.
Unfortunately for him, the locals had been a little too friendly that night.
Taking a wrong turn, after taking a little too much ‘Red Horse’ lager at 6.9 percent, Andrew had lost a percentage of his wit and had got lost in the coal black night. He staggered along a starlit road, in entirely the wrong direction, towards a fate unknown.
A friendly young Filipino had come up beside him on his bike and offered the drunken Westerner a lift east. Andrew had taken up the offer, being entirely unaware of his whereabouts and ‘whoseabouts’ at that early hour. He was driven in a direction he had not desired and had become the object of desire to his new found biker pal.
The motorcycle had pulled up in a dark alley. Unlit and quite off the beaten track. It was here that it’s rider made it clear he wanted to beat Andrew off. Or rather –
‘Suck his pee-pee!’
Andrew had pushed his amorous friend away, only to be roughly rebuffed, as the guy grabbed his genitals inside of his jeans and thrust his tongue hard into his mouth. Andrew pushed his assailant back once again, with a firm but mendacious,
‘I have to go back to my wife!’
The hell’s angel was still having none of it and in a devilish fashion lunged furiously at Andrew once again. Andrew took his attacker’s arm and twisted it hard behind his back causing a help of pain. He repeated again,
‘I have to go back to my wife!’
The guy was not taking no for an answer and reached desperately for Andrew’s balls. Andrew then pushed his randy friend to the dusty ground and staggered off into the blackness. The ardent attacker had apparently realised he had been dancing to the wrong tune and had luckily not come after him, he had been very fortunate to flag down a tricycle and fling himself into it with flabbergasted relief.
‘I was gob-raped’, he’d slurred to a practically unconscious Paul, when he eventually found his way home and recounted the sordid tale.
‘You probably deserved it’, Paul drawled, his voice thick with unnecessary Valium.
He was only irked at having been described as a ‘wife’. But he knew he didn’t mean it. The whole episode had obviously been quite a trial for Andrew. And he knew his husband was not the type to be easily shocked. In fact, Andrew had remarked that he may have allowed the situation to continue had his attacker’s breath not been so rancid!
But Paul knew that Andrew would only hashtag me too had it been a particularly horrible experience.
In the morning Paul hugged Andrew close.
He, and his husband were well aware that anything could have happened. He had been incredibly lucky.
‘Maybe you’ll think twice before riding on the back of another guy!’
Paul couldn’t resist.
But he was secretly relieved that he had Andrew back safe – and almost sound!
The rest of the time the boys spent on Panglao passed without further drama. There had been an unsavoury incident at a barbecue shack, when a drunken Italian had accused the young waiters of stealing his wad of cash. He had insisted on frisking each of them in turn in a most aggressive manner. Andrew told the inebriated git that he was ‘out of order’ and asked him if he would like to check his pockets too. Paul couldn’t hold back either and stood and offered his body to the drunkard in order to be felt up.
‘No you two are ok. It is one of this ones who took it’ he slurred.
‘How d’you know that?’ Paul asked.
‘I know’, the idiot retorted.
‘You’re out of order man’ Andrew remonstrated, ‘would you do this in Europe?’
The entire situation had had nasty overtones of racism and no money was discovered. The silly sot lurched off on his motorbike – decidedly off key.
The remainder of the boys stay was happily more melodious.
The beach was beautiful – even if the tropical downpours were far too regular. The food was unexpectedly exceptional – the ‘Lechon’,(charcoal-smoked pork belly), so brilliant that they had both leched after it continually.
In fact, Paul had discovered there was nothing better than being porked daily – in the culinary sense of course, and not in the manner which Andrew’s easy rider had had in mind.
But by far the first and most lasting impression of The Phillipines had been her magical melody.
The unabashed musical spirit, which nearly all of her people seemed to possess. The desire to belt out a tune – whether good or bad.
It was unashamedly joyous.
And for that Paul and Andrew had nothing but gratitude. In the words of those musically industrious Swedes, Benny and Bjorn,
‘Thank You For The Music.’
When it came to The Philippines Paul and Andrew would sing along anytime. For them it was Karaoke all the way.
Although both of them would probably think twice before thumbing a lift again. Neither had any desire to be played like a bass fiddle by a base fiddler.
That was entirely unharmonious!