Living the Dream


Monday, 15 February, 2011

Palawan, Philippines

In last week’s blog, I discussed the large amount of old men that travel from the west and fall in love with young, beautiful Filipina girls – evidently, the feeling is mutual. Well, I’ve seen a lot more of that, so we’ll once again start this one with the creeps.

We’ve spent much of our week in El Nido, or perhaps El Peado, if you’re as into your puns as much as I am.

One particular grandfather? Great-grandfather? Great-great-grandfather? I’m not completely sure of the correct title, anyway, a very old man and his ‘lover / great-grandson’s mate’ came on a boat trip with us. The boy appeared to be no older than sixteen, it was very disturbing.

The scene became even more depressing when you realised that the boy was clearly overjoyed to have been ‘selected’. He had the glow of a prizewinner as he sat with a creepy, sleazeball who had presumably gifted him the fake medallions that he was proudly swinging around (much like a kid would).

The boat trip would stop at various points, offering the opportunity to stretch your legs while admiring the lagoon or beach that particular island boasted. At each stop off point, the exploited boy was happily getting close to naked, wearing only his tight underpants, as he rubbed sand all over his body for the eyes of a drooling pensioner – it was all very stomach-churning.

Neither man nor boy seemed to feel any shame as they displayed a performance for each other either. In fact, the kid appeared to think he was some kind of diva on holiday with a footballer – mate, when your creep was young enough to play the game, the ball was still a pig’s bladder.

Talking of football, they love the sport in Asia. It seems that kids are kicking a ball about in every park or field you walk past – Leeds United send some scouts!

In fact, there have only been two countries on the trip so far, in which, football has not been the common sport of choice. In India it is all about cricket, while here in the Philippines, it appears that basketball is the nation’s favourite.

Seeing football played so frequently reignited the hunger I had as a boy, and with that, came my new goal – to finish the trip off with a trial at Bangkok United in April. Obviously, they would just be my stepping stone club before moving on to Barcelona and then eventually Leeds United, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.

If all of this was going to work out though, I was going to need to start training sooner rather than later. Well, we saw a couple of lads playing football in a field we walked by yesterday, and I suddenly realised that that was the perfect time to begin my training.

I got there and I couldn’t do it, I suddenly had no courage. All that I needed to do was ask a bunch of kids if I could play football with them. Yet, I was approaching the task with the nerves of a pregnant fifteen-year-old on the verge of telling her parents. As a consequence, I was left watching from the sidelines.

After a little while of watching the play, a lad hits a wild shot that came rolling towards my feet. If I didn’t pipe up then, I was going to regret it for the rest of my life. The dream was entirely dependent on this next move. The goalkeeper came over to retrieve the ball and then asked me if I wanted to join the game.

I was about to live the dream, and I didn’t even need to develop courage to do so. What a result!

As I came off the bench to make my Palawan debut at a pivotal point in the game, I knew that life may never be the same again – the future was now. Bangkok United. Barcelona. Leeds United. All of that was about to start with that performance.

Unfortunately, as I am still two years away from my sponsorship deal with adidas, I would be left to play barefoot (it was that or flip flops).

Within minutes, the ball bobbled into my direction and I was perfectly positioned to hit a half-volley into the roof of the net – my finished did not disappoint, the crowd erupted. I was on my way to a career in the sport, no question.

The adrenaline and high lasted all of ten second though. My throbbing, barefoot had just hit a ball that I’m going to guess had been filled with concrete, thus, presumably ending my season in the process. I carried on and ouplayed each Filipino kid ready to step up, but my future as the greatest footballer alive will need to be put on hold for now.


After El Nido, we had two nights in a beachside resort on Cacnipa Island – a pretty ideal place to rest up and recover after that devastating injury I suffered only days ago.

This place was pretty cool – some trees had dartboards and others had hammocks hanging from branch to branch, what more could you want? I guess, just a room. Well, they tried their very best to take ours away from us. The added bonus of darts becomes less appealing when you’re using a live crab as a pillow and the sea’s tide as a blanket at night.

On arrival, we casually questioned the possibility of taking a boat trip to a fishing town on the fourteenth – this request seems innocent enough, right? Especially as they just said that they’d get back to us and that was how the conversation ended.

Well, as we were playing a bit of darts on the beach, a member of staff approached us to explain that they had misunderstood our day trip request and in the process had given our room to somebody else. It was clear as day that they had just double booked the room and they saw our previous conversation as an out.

He then cut to the chase, explaining that they would need us to leave tomorrow. I must admit that I admired his balls. He had just approached a man holding three sharp darts, to explain that he would be spending his Valentine’s Day hopelessly searching the streets with a big backpack looking for a place to stay.

We were being used as a ‘get out of jail free’ card, and frankly, that didn’t sit too kindly with me personally. There had already been a few instances in which we were being treated with less respect than the other guests (presumably due to our age) and this was the final straw.

I explained (lied) that I write hotel reviews for a popular European website called,, and this was the reason for my stay.

The man apologised, disappeared and left us to our game of darts – not really offering any kind of solution. After three more rounds of darts, the guy came back, only this time with a tent – ok, now he had my full attention and concern. I immediately asked him who the tent was intended for, to which he replied, “The new guests.”

Imagine, just imagine…

”Darling, I’ve booked you a holiday in the Philippines for Valentine’s Day.”
”Oh Steve, you’re the best!”

11 hours later:
”Ok, so this is your room and that tree over there is your bathroom.”

11 months later:
You’re sitting at home watching yourself on ITV’s new series of Holidays From Hell.

On the evening our food was the first to be served and we even got a free postcard in a ‘thank you very much’ envelope. The moral here is to use fake importance to scare people.

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