Category Archives for Philippines


The Friday Photo: Hobbit House

Hobbit House Manila-5

This is Hobbit House, Manila, a regular on lists of the world’s most bizarre bars. It seems, at first blush, like an absolutely horrible concept: a Hobbit-themed bar staffed almost entirely by little people. But it isn’t. These are the staff. They’re also the owners, now that Jim, the Peace Corps dude who set up […]


Farewell to Manila


There is such a thing, when playing hide and seek, as being too clever for one’s own good. In which category I would have to place depositing oneself in the deep end of a swimming pool by night, breathing through a snorkel, commando style. Yep. My son has definitely watched Dr. No one too many […]


The Museum of Doctor Rizal


Manila is not a spiritual city. It’s one of those big, dirty, urban sprawls, expanding organically, growing without control, the beating heart of an archipelago, maybe, but a cancered one at that. 12 million? 15 million? Honestly, who’s counting? Manila long ago outgrew its natural ties to earth: the river and the Bay. Before its […]


The Inflatable Waterpark

Ek biki inflatable waterpark, Santa Rosa, Philippines

This technicolour dream palace is indisputably special. Possibly a little “special needs” too. What is it? You may well ask. For this, my friend, is an inflatable waterpark. Occupying 5000 square metres of apple-green Astroturf in the middle of nowheresville, Luzon, EK Biki comes complete with dangling sharks, inflatable dragon slides, slightly forlorn clownfish and, […]


Working Girl

Bright white explosion as a firework goes off in the night sky.

MJ’s been working bars since she was fifteen. Standard shifts. 6pm to 6am. She was an Avon Lady before that, but this pays better. She’s seventeen, now, she says, almost eighteen, and works in, or more often, outside of, a tourist bar in downtown Manila. Nothing slick. But nothing especially seedy. It’s sort of a […]


Full-Contact Management

fish diving

We have Doc McGhee, the rock ‘n’ roll svengali who kept Motley Crue, Jon Bon Jovi and Kiss on the road, to thank for the term full-contact management. That’s punching people… Now, I’ve been considering training as a scuba instructor over the next year or so. It seems like a nice lifestyle, a good string […]


Assertiveness Training?

tricycle philippines

In most of South-East Asia, haggling, in its various shapes and forms, is part of everyday life. And I’m really impressed by how Z has mastered this vital skill. If a little unnerved by the implication that he feels himself now the man of the family. When it comes to bargaining, Z has a number […]


Full Fathom Five…

Imperial Japanese Navy ship Akutsishima

There is a sepulchral magic to a shipwreck. Viewed from underwater, with russet filigrees of sea ferns flourishing on the fractured edges of a shell hole in the side, lettuce corals unfurling from a rusting crane, the gossamer fins of lionfish undulating like silken flags outside a propshaft, a wreck is one of the most […]


Learning to Dive

We are still in Coron. That’s Coron Town, the meandering if unbeautiful little port of Busuanga Island, not Coron, the island, across the way. As is the thing to do in the Calamians, we’ve been diving. There are many amazing things about scuba. There is the feeling of weightlessness — neutral buoyancy — whereby you […]


Kirche Kuche Kinder


Every so often, while eavesdropping — or, perhaps, a more polite term is, err, “people-watching” — one comes across conversations that one, quite literally, couldn’t make up. Ever since we met Klaus in Marinduque, I’ve been interested in those mutually advantageous marriages that a certain type of gentleman procures in the Philippines, and elsewhere in […]