"..a bardy view!"

Water water everywhere, and not a drop to drink…..

WaterAid_logoI've just received my half-yearly water bill of £200 from Thames Water, which works out at £1.00 per day.

I don't know if I live in an average household (I suspect not) but the shower is used at least three times a day, the dishes washed twice, the washing machine used once, the bog flushed at least ten times, and the kettle filled at least twice, and maybe some veggies boiled once.

Strangely enough, the amount of direct tap water drunk is minuscule in comparison. I haven't included watering the plants or the garden, because that's not everyday, nor even the number of times a day the molars get brushed and gargled. 

As for dripping taps (faucets) there may be a wasted pint here or there, but that's nothing that a good rubber-washer couldn't stop. I certainly don't waste water washing the car because that's what car washes are for, and besides, you get a polish and buff thrown in. And who uses water for washing windows nowadays? That's what Mr Muscle is for. In fact, I doubt I have seen a window cleaner cycling around with a ladder, bucket and shammy for over twenty years. 

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October 17, 2011 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Science, The Philippines, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cautious Optimism – Philippines’ Style……

The Philippines Department of Tourism has revealed that the top five foreign markets for tourism, according to rank for the first 6 months of 2011, were South Korea, USA, Japan, China and Australia. Nothing new there then!

In a drive to increase tourism under the slogan "undiscovered treasures and hidden gems", the DOT has a goal to increase international visitors to 6.5m by 2016 (they ditched "Wow! Philippines" some months ago – personally I thought it was pretty good, but then again it really didn't mean anything, except that "wow" in this case meant "world of wonder" – but how many knew that?) 

They have some way to go to catch up to Malaysia which had 23m visitors last year, and Singapore which had 15m. I notice they didn't cite Thailand's figures, which, as pleased as I am, they may now consider to be an unrealistic benchmark. Besides, Thailand is more of a British playground which attracts the slightly more affluent 18-30 booze brigade bored with Spain and Greece, so they are welcome to it.

Not that the Philippines is entirely free from those types – but they are more likely to be Australians ranting and raving on Boracay. 

So "access and connectivity" are the new buzzwords to push for rapid expansion with secondary international airports, together with "strategic access infrastructure development programs".

When infrastructure and development are used in the same paragraph as tourism it should sound alarm bells. Words which are generally on the same side of a coin, the reverse of which is written conservation, environment, and ecology.

Which leads me to their other statement "..following the direction of President Aquino, we’re encouraging combined public-private sector partnerships to safeguard and preserve natural and cultural sites and vulnerable groups, such as native people, animals, or treasures, for posterity.”

Well, that's a nugget for the magpies to pick up!

But why are "public-private sector partnerships" required for these safeguards? Why cannot a government make statutory decrees to protect its heritage? Whilst private investment should be encouraged to aid tourism, are they saying that it is crucial for preservation? The commercial sector exists for profit, it is not renown for philanthropy.

Whilst the Philippines' government should be applauded for its perceived new vigour in recognising its natural assets, this proposed marriage will invariable have one dominant partner – the one with the dosh!

Increased tourism will be essential for providing jobs for an ever growing population, but getting the balance right will take more than grand gestures and sound-bites. Cautious optimism may be the appropriate phrase to end this post.

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Philippines and Rabid Enthusiasm……

An update from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises travellers to the Philippines that Rabies is a serious problem. They regularly give updates to their advice (which has not changed overall as they are keen to point out).

Anyone contemplating a visit to the Pearl of the Orient would think twice if they took this stuff seriously. Typhoons, kidnappings, rabies, terrorism, warnings against travel to certain parts, entrapment, sea travel, road travel and so on – the list is endless. Yet I'm challenged to recognise any of these as dangers – but then again, I'm biased.

But is it really necessary to post a bulletin about rabies? Most travellers anywhere must be fairly savvy to beware of dogs, particularly in countries in the Far East, but this problem is equally present in Latin America, Africa, India, China and certain parts of Europe. Rabies in the UK is rare which is no doubt a result of the draconian quarantine laws, yet the infection does not have to come from canines.

All warm blooded animals are potential carriers of the virus, and they in turn can infect domestic livestock. India has the highest number of infected humans, mainly from stray dogs. China, Vietnam and Thailand follow close behind. Yet the tourist boom to these countries is increasing, and rabies is very low on the radar of most visitors.

The Philippines rank fifth on the World Health Organisation (WHO) of high endemicity or prevalence, where on average 400 Filipinos die of Rabies each year – half of which are children – and invariably the cases are specifically regional. Yet common sense dictates that avoidance of stray dogs or any animal which displays dangerous tendencies is a smart move.

The British like to get up close and personal with their pets, especially dogs, and for some reason they all believe that they have special powers to bond with them be they in Devon or the Dominican Republic. That is not a viable course of action in the Philippines, or any other country aforementioned.

Dogs are treated differently in the Philippines, and the faint hearted can be distressed by their plight, but an act of kindness could be misconstrued. Our faithful friends are not human, and don't hold the maxim of "dont bite the hand that feeds you". So beware.

Nevertheless, I have noticed an increase of dogs being regarded as pets in the Philippines, which although commendable is still not a guarantee of safety. When in doubt don't! Its worth noting that although there was a slight increase in Philippines Rabies Morbidity Rates in 2007, that was still a good 70% less than in 2001.

So lets get down to the knuckle. the UK (just like other countries) give advice to raise awareness, but equally they can cause unnecessary concern. Its a fail-safe device, intended to limit their consulate's or embassy's responsibility. Remember that travel insurance companies can easily make a policy redundant if they can suggest that you did not heed official advice. So check your policy and make sure that you adhere to their terms and conditions.

The fact is that if every tourist plodded through the pages of concerned information provided by their governments, few would bother to get on a plane.

My advice is take everything with a pinch of salt, identify risk, and above all exercise common sense.

Oh, and by the way – be daring and visit the Philippines. Everyone loves an adventure, and everyone loves to talk about it.The Philippines is one of the few countries left in the world where the word adventure actually means something.

Go on, be adventurous!

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Dogs, Education, General, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thai Trouble – Pinoy Praise….

Thailand receives ten times more tourists annually than the Philippines and is the destination of choice for visitors to South-East Asia. It's festering anti-government sentiment has been building for several months, yet throughout, the country has continued to draw international visitors seemingly oblivious of the dissent. Now with civil unrest escalating its only in recent days when the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against all travel, and the US Embassy is repatriating its staff.

The Philippines by contrast, and for all it's economic and social problems, have conducted its presidential elections with quiet dignity. Traditionally marked with violence and dispute, the elections have gone surprising peacefully, even though a new automated voting system has been implemented which had the potential to cause great confusion.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the challenges to get 50 million voters to democratically and fairly cast their vote in an archipelago of 7000 islands would task the most organised country.

Whilst in the UK we managed to avoid murder, we did not avoid mayhem. Several polling stations closed on the dot at 10.00pm leaving scores if not hundreds suddenly disenfranchised. In some stations they even ran out of ballot papers – which is astonishing when they knew how many legitimate voters were on the electoral roll. In the past the occasional ballot box went astray, but was recovered, so it can only be assumed that 13 years of a UK New Labour government successfully created even more incompetence right down to the wire.

So the Philippines should be praised and complimented on their organisation. But this is a country which knows the value of democracy, and whilst it can be criticised for pandering to celebrity and personality, the people queued for hours to stamp their mark. Now they have made their choice and a new era dawns. Or does it?

Whatever the future holds the world should look with respect upon this nation. It struggles in adversity and is challenged by colonialist legacies and influences. It strives for identity and seeks to re-enforce pride in its people. It sits as a beacon of hope amongst neighbours much more volatile than the rest of the world cares to acknowledge.

The Philippines continues to build a nation. It is not a tourist playground like Thailand, whose citizens finally appear to be waking up from a soporific coma. Nevertheless, if you were considering popping off to Bangkok or Phuket for your holidays, why not go the few extra miles to the Philippines?  It's just as beautiful.

But remember – it's the best kept secret in Asia – so keep it under your hat!

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Politics, The Philippines, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Durian – A patient fruit……

I was delighted to learn today that my Durian tree in the Philippines is now bearing fruit since first planted seven years ago. 
Durian Being bordered on each side with magnificent trees such as the Durian and Mango takes patience and loving care, although the Mango tree has been a fixture for well over twice as long and developed into a most majestic and aesthetic friend.

The Durian fruit has the distinction of smelling like hell and tasting like heaven. Yet this exceptional fruit is highly regarded the world over, and for those in the know, nothing compares to it.

Whilst also native to Indonesia and Malaysia, its roots are abundant in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines and typically take three to five years to reach fruition. It's great news that in Laguna, several hundred miles further north, the Durian has succeeded, albeit a few years longer than the norm. It's even better news that its thriving on my own little patch. I stand akimbo (smuggly)!

Often regarded as the king of fruits, highly prized and commanding a significant price, the Victorian British Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace described its flesh as "a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds". Unfortunately such is its pungency it engenders feelings ranging from joy to disgust, and is not on the menu of some sensitive hotels.

For size and shape think of a spiky rugby ball or a Jackfruit, which incidentally also has a tendency to pong.

Thailand is particularly taken with the fruit and exports it with abundance. It will be celebrating it's annual World Durian Festival between the 1st and 9th May in Chanthaburi. According to the Thai Gov website it sounds like a barrel of fun and is a major tourist attraction.

I won't be attending, but I am comforted in the knowledge that I now have my own supply. Patience is a virtue, and seven years certainly demonstrates patience in abundance.

Durian, Mango, Papaya, Coconut, Rambutan, Banana, Lanzones (yes – those too!), and jackfruit, are just a few of the tropical fruits which I now harvest and find great joy.

I shall blog about them in the future – but please be patient!

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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