In the Philippines. On the island of Guimaras, in the village Kati Kati, I stayed for a week in April. I ate a large amount of mango in between morning visits to hospitals and outpatient clinics in the area. I stayed with a family in a two room house made of branches and breeze blocks with no running water and occasional electricity. The brown outs came mostly at night.The yard was filled with chickens and ducks and dogs, who often made their way into the house. In the afternoons we took part in cultural activities and toured the island.
The Filipino people I met, especially in the week in Kati Kati were real straight talkers. Subtlety doesn’t translate well. The family I stayed with, they must have thought I was a giant. 5’7′ and plus size. I was basically Brienne of Tarth in comparison to my hosts and this did not go without comment.
We had a guide with us who was particularly excited about my size. She was very concerned about where I would sit on the trike so that it wouldn’t topple over. She made comment at dinner that of all their guests, I was most certain to float in the ocean. When we went island hopping she advised me against swimming through a caved area because I would get stuck. Each comment slightly more humiliating than the last.
We’d taken all the village kids with us on this trip to the islands and whilst we were waiting for the jeepney to take us back to the village they found a karaoke machine. I can sing a bit. I do an average Adele impression. So I sang Rolling in the Deep.
The kids all lost their minds.
It turns out that being good at karaoke is a BIG deal in the Philippines. The tour guide wasn’t there when I sang but word got back to her. She had missed Brienne of Tarth singing and she was well upset.
The following day, after some weaving in the local village hall, myself and the other students I’d travelled with were waiting to be driven back to the house when the kids started arranging chairs in front of us.
Then I was told to sing.
The hall full of children fell silent. My face reddened as I explained that I didn’t have any backing music and I didn’t want to sing alone. The tour guide found Rolling in the Deep on her phone and the song began to play.
“Sing,” she said.