Jesus on a Jeepney (Part 1)

This is an account of my journey to the Philppines in search of love. It does go on a bit, but I’ve split it into parts for easier digestion. A dose of prune juice and a stiff whisky should help too. If there’s sufficient interest I’ll continue with it. So here goes:

Something had disturbed my sleep and was pulling me back into my body. I was reluctant to return to the conscious state, my sleep state having been hard-won in the face of numerous obstacles and distractions. Sounds began to penetrate my consciousness from somewhere in the distance. Not pleasant sounds, but coughing, spluttering, snoring sounds and one or two babies expressing their discontent in a very vocal manner. I guessed that I had been snoring, as my mouth was hanging open and felt as dry as an old piece of leather. Tasted like it too. I lifted my sleep mask, blinking in what was still half-light. The blinds still covered the windows, but the soft lighting, although artificial, was enough to cause distress after the relative darkness that we had enjoyed for the past six hours. I calculated that I had slept for a maximum of two hours in total, as I had succumbed to the in-flight entertainment after lights-out. After the first thirty minutes of trying to figure out how the controls worked, I watched a decent feature film before being anesthetized by a Steven Seagal movie. It wasn’t just the movie. I had finally found a position on my cramped economy seat that was half-way comfortable even if my butt was wedged up against the woman in the seat next to mine. She didn’t seem to mind. From her lack of movement, I imagined that she might be dead anyway. Shortly after take-off she had refused any refreshments, had eaten an apple from her bag, drunk some water and then covered herself from head to toe with a blanket. She was still in the same position she had been earlier as if she had powered down for the night. I considered pushing the call button to ask the stewardess to bring the portable defibrillator, but my neighbour was stirring so I decided against the impulsive action. It would have been fun though if I could have guaranteed that my chair was electrically isolated from hers. Perhaps another time once I have Googled the mechanical and electrical structure of airline seats.


Regal Malaysian Airlines cabin attendants floated down the aisles distributing hot towels as a consolation for having woken us from what little sleep we had managed to claw back from the hours of darkness. I reflected for a moment that perhaps this was what it would be like after death….angel-like beings distributing hot towels with stainless steel tongs. Of course the tongs would be silver in business class heaven…but enough of those elitist musings. The fog of semi-slumber was beginning to lift and I remembered why I had chosen to exist in that cramped, claustrophobic, overpopulated space for 13.5 hours. I was on my way to Manila via Kuala Lumpur. For those who foolishly studied history at school instead of geography, Manila is in the Philippines, which is in Asia. It wasn’t the first time – and wouldn’t be the last time that I would ask myself why, oh why, did I choose to travel to Asia?! For as long as I can remember I have had an aversion to ‘strange’ places such as Asia and Africa, which in itself is interesting, as I was born in South Africa and lived there for most of my life. The thought of visiting crowded, dirty, stinking cities does nothing to boost my enthusiasm for holidays in third world countries. I prefer instead clean, neat, ordered cities where food and water can be consumed with a reasonable amount of certainty that I won’t need to spend the next 24 hours evacuating the contents of my stomach in a most involuntary manner. Another side-effect of having spent most of my life in South Africa is that I have also developed an aversion to crime and beggars. Both are, sadly, prevalent in third world countries.

The answer to my own question (why Asia?!!) was that the voice inside my head had been prompting me for a long time to look for my life partner in Asia, specifically the Philippines. As I have already made clear, this is the last place I would have thought to look for relationship material, but I always obey the voice – except, of course, when it screams ‘Kill them all’. One must exercise a modicum of discretion. Following this voice, hunch, urging (call it what you will) led me to find a likely partner in Davao City on the Philippine island of Mindanao. There is only so much that can be gleaned about someone via a dating web site, so I was on a romantic mission to see for myself. My friends and relatives said I was crazy to jet off to the Philippines and I thought so too. My coworkers expressed envy that I was travelling to ‘paradise’, but were confused when I expressed my reluctance to go. Add to this craziness the high threat of terrorism in certain parts of Mindanao. My research revealed that tourists had been kidnapped in the Western part of the Mindanao. Davao City is located more towards the east of the island, but was still marked on a map by the British government as ‘Advise against all but essential travel’. Translated from the polite British terminology, this mean ‘Oh my God, if you go there you are seriously crazy!’ Somehow I felt I should take the risk. The saying goes ‘If you risk nothing, you get nothing.’
“What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked myself. “So I get kidnapped and held for ransom. The joke would be on them. They would have to get in line behind the rest of my creditors.”
I also believe that when it’s your ‘time to go’ (die, pop off, peg, snuff it, kick the bucket) then there is nothing that will prevent the grim reaper from doing his (or her) dirty work no matter where in the world you happen to be at the time.

I had visited an outdoor store before my journey to buy some essential kit. This included, but was not limited to, sun hat with roll-down flaps, travel towel (to be used for extreme sweating) and insect repellent containing a DEET concentration that, according to reviews, would come close to taking off a layer of skin. If it kept the mosquitoes at bay then that was fine with me. The infestation map for cases of malaria and dengue fever indicated that Mindanao was not entirely safe from that threat. I tried to find a sun hat with flaps that rolled down all the way to my feet, but I was assured that such a thing didn’t exist and, if it did, wouldn’t be particularly practical. Of course I scheduled a visit to the local doctor to get all my inoculations before travelling. These were administered by a doctor who had the bedside manner of a troll – or at least what I imagine a troll’s bedside manner to be, having never met one in person. I left the consulting room in a daze, clutching the handy inoculation record card in one hand. I walked the pavements towards my car mentally checking my body for signs that it might be rejecting or allergic to the fluids that had just been injected into my body.


© 2016

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