There used to a wet season and a hot season, and they didn’t much overlap. Now is supposed to be hot, sauna hot: 35C is normal, and much higher is possible. It is endless and debilitating, yet labourers can be seen toiling all day on the construction sites that are marching across the capital and South into Luzon. However, these are local people: a brand of super-heroes whose Secret Power is skin like asbestos, and whose lungs have the capacity of a wind-tunnel. They are recognised by their characteristic clothing of a tee-shirt worn over the head and face. Westerners are advised not to emulate them.

They, like me, may have been pleasantly surprised just now by the gentle onset of an unseasonal shower. That’s how it began. The gentle pitter-patter of rain drops on next doors’ roof as I was tipping my rancid clothing into the machine in the Dirty Kitchen. This is not actually dirty but semi-outside and keeps the cooking smells out of the house.

The gentle raindrops, reminiscent of April in England, rapidly gathered force and became the sort of downpour that would have given W.S. Maugham food for thought. The noise of this phenomenon is, well, phenomenal, a real revelation. It combines the rushing of a waterfall as it crashes through the leaves of the mango trees with the deafening drumming of some ancient army on the march. It is common here to have steel roofing and millions of droplets hit hundreds of roofs simultaneously. It is great to watch it from the upstairs window, and see others doing the same.

The transformative power of such downpours is wonderful. The palpable pressure of the heat suddenly lifts, and lungs begin to function more easily. The temperature drops faster than the value of the pound under a Tory government, and cooling breezes slip through the open windows, rippling the imported net curtains. One’s body relaxes.

Outside torrents of water are flushing the drainage channels and sweeping away the mosquitoes that can breed in them. At the back of the house our concrete rain collecting tank, which I estimate holds about 4,000 litres, will by now be overflowing.

In lower lying areas with poor drainage, streets will flood and children will be merrily splashing about, despite their mothers’ protestations. Make the most of it, kids. Already the sudden deluge is ceasing, and tomorrow’s temperatures will be back to normal.


Tom Pinoy



Teleserye: I think that’s how it’s spelled, those eons -long soap operas in which the actors and their characters grow old in real time, taking in over the years the ups and downs of everyday life, and the major real-life historical events and crises, only with many more murders, sexual scandals, deaths, health shocks and sometimes encounters with aliens. As the pet priests on the morning radio are wont to say, “Sometimes our own lives can seem a little like that”.
Today we opted for a quiet day. First, we took the 11 year old 9 seater back to its ancestral home for a health check. The rear air-con fan is getting noisy, and I don’t like the clutch operation, too snatchy. The brakes likewise seem a bit ‘all or nothing’. I must admit that the two professional drivers who do all the driving that requires more than the 3Km run to the Hypermarket can’t see anything wrong with it. Mind you, they could handle a pick-up truck with a missing wheel without any qualms. 

The service centre had a queue of vehicles out to the street so we parked on the forecourt and La Serenissima went in to pick up a queue number, which was around 40. Not good. Fortunately, she spotted the Service Manager, who has looked after our stalwart all its life on the other side of the hangar-like workshop. I believe we have what’s called a suki relationship with this admirable man: a long, enduring, loyal and trusting relationship between supplier and customer which should never  be broken. 

It’s a Filipino thing, and it’s important. 

As soon as he saw our plight, he pocketed the queue card and, collecting a mechanic on the way, went straight out to the forecourt to investigate. Some quick adjustments were made somewhere in the depths beneath the bonnet and, as we have come to  expect from these highly skilled operatives, everything was rendered hunky-dory. 

Relationships are incredibly important here. At school you will make a best friend. You will be constant companions. You will walk down the street with your arm round his or her shoulder and they will do anything you ask of them, forever. Then there is the highly structured system of expectations and obligations between older and younger siblings. You respect your older siblings and in return they watch out for you, maybe even helping to pay for your schooling. Godparent relationships here also are very much more than the rather symbolic arrangement that prevails in the UK. 

Filipino society is built on a much more complex network of relationships than the average Westerner can ever hope to comprehend, but it engenders what might be described as a sense of affiliation. If you meet a Filipino in a far-off country they will soon ask your home province, then your town, then if you know so-and -so the former Barangay Captain. Well, he’s their uncle and knows your grandfather. Now you can go out for lunch, because you have a connection and can trust one-another.

To get any real insight into Filipino culture, I would recommend marrying into a Filipino family. After about 30 years you may still have problems following the plot, but you will find that you have assumed an interesting and rewarding role in the fascinating and never-ending Teleserye that is Filipino life.