Day 1,216: General Santos

Mon 30.04.12:

After arriving in the port of General Santos I met with Vincent, the local agent for Mariana Express, who took me to see Manny Pacquiao’s mum’s house. It’s a pastel-coloured concrete mansion off a dirt track – the dirt track on which the octuple world boxing champion himself grew up. The other houses in the area were typical concrete hovels, overflowing with people, with kids, with hustle and bustle. I don’t get it – Filipinos are some of the sweetest and most hard-working people I’ve ever met. Why do they have so little to show for it?

The other night, Third Mate Michael and I were chatting about the world and he said he wished the British had colonised The Philippines rather than the Spanish. I thought this was a bit of an odd thing to say – I mean, who wants to be colonised? But what he meant was that, given the choice, the British would have left a better legacy – and looking at the performance of Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Hong Kong in recent years, Mike seems to have a point – especially when you compare the woes of Latin America with the economic powerhouses of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But why is this the case? Why can’t I think of a single ex-Spanish colony that really done well for itself? One that’s a world player, a economic powerhouse, a beacon of justice and democracy for the rest of the world to aspire to?

Michael pretty much answered that question for me: religion.

While the Brits were happy, in general, to let the people in their colony’s keep their own religion – at worst pushing them to be quaint old Church of Englanders, the Spanish, Portuguese and French were gung-ho for converting as many people as possible to Catholicism.

And what goes hand-in-hand with Catholicism? Poverty! The Catholic Church’s retarded attitude towards birth control has been instrumental to the economic retardation of pretty much ALL of the world’s ex-Spanish, ex-Portuguese, ex-Italian and ex-French colonies.

Think about it: if your population is doubling every few years, you’re very soon going to run out of commodities, jobs and space. Take the Philippines: a country that is now pushing 100 million people. Tiny one-room apartments house up to three families. With millions living on top of each other in abject squalor, you’re going to very quickly see a situation in which people turn to crime in order to survive. And Catholicism lends a helping hand to criminals as well – it tells them WHATEVER THEY DO will be forgiven!!!

Is it any surprise that the Mafia comes from Italy? That Irish priests find it so unproblematic to live with themselves after repeated raping children? That Mexican drug barons are renowned as the most savage and ruthless in the world, all the while sporting a gold crucifix around their necks LIKE IT MEANS SOMETHING? Who cares how much suffering, how much pain, how much death you inflict on the world, YOU’LL BE FORGIVEN!!

Here’s a formula for ya…

No control on your population levels + an ‘all will be forgiven’ attitude towards lawlessness = every wretched and impoverished state in the world.

And the really sick thing? What little the people in The Philippines and countries like it have, they give to the church, presumably so The Pope (bless his paedo-enabling socks) can continue to dine off plates MADE OF GOLD.

I try not to go off on one about religion too much, this isn’t the blog for that. But does nobody else get absolutely irate by this transparent global SCAM? How much needless suffering is acceptable in order to propagate these childish beliefs? Are people that shallow, that pathetic, that needy that they can’t live without the fantasy that they’re going to magically survive their own death and see their dead family and friends and pets again?

Is that (quite frankly laughable) fantasy worth the life of a single child? NO. But it’s that same childish fantasy that is inextricably tied to the exploitation and misery of BILLIONS of real, living, breathing human beings. Right here, right now, on this the only planet we’ll ever call home.

So let me get this straight: we’re happy to cause real people to suffer and die just so we can cling to the fanciful notion that we are somehow immortal?

I’m tearing what’s left of my hair out here: For heaven’s sake, humanity: GROW UP!!

A-hem. Sorry, I better get down off my soap-box now. *stomp* *stomp* *stomp* Yeah, yeah, I’m being far too black and white about this, I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons why the world is the way it is, I just can’t think of any right now…

Where was I? Oh yeah, General Santos. He was a bloke you see, and they named the city after him. There’s actually a gold statue of him in the otherwise attractive central park. I don’t care how big or amazing you think somebody was, gold statues, well, they’re tacky as hell aren’t they? I’d be much happier with a bronze statue myself, preferably with an electric charge running through it so pigeons don’t shit on my head.

I then headed to the shopping mall (free wi-fi!) and began round 2 of my fight with HSBC. This time it only cost me £7, or as I like to call it ‘the price of accommodation for the night’. God I hate banks. With my cash card now rejuvenated and my website all updatiated, I headed back to the ship. I took a local taxi. Usually in The Philippines you get around in a ‘Jeepnay’, a classic pick up truck from the 1940s that is cared for and looked after by its owners to such an extent that they’re still running, fifty years past their use-by date. These Jeepnays are always very shiny and colourful – I don’t know, maybe they have best-in-show competitions or something, but they are quite groovy contraptions.

In GenSan though, there are no Jeepnays and instead you get around on converted Kawasaki motorcycles. And when I say ‘converted’ I mean ‘converted to fit SIX passengers’. That’s more than a standard hackney cab. And this is a MOTORBIKE?! Vroom Vroom! Whereas the autoricks and tuk-tuks of lesser mortals are set up for two, three people max, the mofo-moto-taxis of ol’ Santos town have two seats in the ‘side car’ part and two by two seats in the back, facing each other. It hurts my head just thinking about it.

After din-dins, I set out on the lash with Chief Engineer Arka, Second Engineer Luis and Bjorn, the Electrical Engineer.

Holy mackerel booze is cheap in The Philippines. A LITRE bottle of 6.9% Red Horse lager costs about a dollar. We sat outside a shack near the entrance to the ferry terminal. The night ferry up to Zamboanga was leaving soon, and so the port entrance was jumping with people, touts, street stalls and a bit of a carnival vibe.

After a couple of beers, Luis suggested that I try some Filipino street food. I’ll try anything once (except incest and country dancing), so I said I’ll give it a punt. I was presented with a hard-boiled egg, still warm. Only this was a duck egg. AND THERE WAS A BABY DUCK FOETUS INSIDE IT! Oh Jesus, it makes the chunks rise up in my throat just thinking about it.

So I cracked it open, I sucked out the juices and bit into the soft, mushy half-formed eggy brain goo inside. To be honest, it didn’t taste that bad, not far off a standard hard-boiled egg. But the sight of the yellow-grey veiny matter, the spongy texture and the very concept of eating what amounted to a duck’s abortion made me gag. I didn’t finish the egg. Luis gave the rest of it to a stray dog. Deep fried frogs legs though, with a bit of garlic mayo – now that s— was goooood.

After our crazy happy fun snack time, we left the port entrance and walked over the road to High 5, a karaoke bar. Our hostess with the mostess, Irish, sorted us out with copious amounts of grog before dueting with me for ‘Stay’ by Shakespear’s Sister (even though she’d never heard it before). I tried to fit her into my backpack and take her with me, but I thought Mandy might object.

So after a good night had by all, we staggered back to the ship. I cheated and took a moto-taxi.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. GrahamStalker

    *tears down the gold statue of Graham he was building and starts over* 🙁 *tears*

  2. Ken of California

    Another important difference was the economic system exported. Spanish colonization was so early in history, they were still working under the feudal model, and exported that model to their colonies. On the other hand, by the time the British ventured forth, they exported mercantilism and then the industrial revolution. Throw in the Enlightenment as the blessed agent that balanced the pH of the religious orthodoxies – and made so much of our economic, civic, and social life possible – and you have some very big differences in what those colonists were thinking when they tramped around on strange soil.

  3. David

    nice rant graham,think you hit the sad nail on the sorry head!
    I’m just down the road from you in sunny china now trying not to get scammed by too many chinese val act alike! c verde!……tc dm

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