I haven’t blogged in a while but now I feel I have to.
My first international lecturing trip in 15 months, to a country I had never been to. And I love traveling. Welcome to The Philippines.
by Karel Segers
Leaving Sydney airport is a high in itself: no queues, relaxed atmosphere. At the Apple counter I can’t help checking whether my new landing page for the Story Series – Sydney is optimized for the iPad. It is.
Belgian beer while waiting for the gate to open. Then a perfect flight, with heaps of leg room. When you pre-check in online and you travel economy, make sure you pick the first row of the section. In my case this was row 30 for both flights.
The first minutes of my two hour stopover in Hong Kong, I spend looking for a power outlet for my laptop. Believe it or not, this is where I find it in the last 30 seconds of battery power.
Too bad I have brought four different power adapters, none of which fitted the British style three-way flat pins. I researched Philippino plugs, not the Hong Kong ones.
All around me people are having ramen breakfast and I’m a sucker for ramen, so next up is a generous bowl of scallop ramen with gyoza. The free WiFi is free but not fast. I give up and start taking pics of the airport using my favorite iPhone app ‘Hipstamatic’.
I’m a terrible photographer but this app saves me some embarrassment.
On the old 747-400 I am seated next to the great grand son of the composer of the national anthem of the Philippines. We talk about Europe (he lived in even more European cities than me and currently resides in Paris), about Philippino family business empires and music. He owns a Bosendorfer piano and refreshes my memory on the great romantic composers. I am pleased to not completely sound like a dimwit when I refresh his mind on the name of that Polish contemporary composer Penderecki.
Landing in Manila. It’s hot and humid. It always is.
Picked up by Rob, the producer of the lecturing tour. He is a legend. When I had my doubts about the feasibility, he powered on and moved mountains. Rob and his team managed to mobilize pretty much the entire film industry, including the top names. They’re all endorsing our seminars. I’m truly humbled.
After a short taxi ride that reminded me of Bali – the only other truly Asian place I’d ever been – we arrive at the hotel, a small boutique place in the heart of the city ‘Intra Muros’. The 1,000+ hours of Latin I once studied keep paying off. It means this is a walled city and we’re safe on the inside. Well, the ‘safe’ remains to be seen. Some people warned me about that.
The hotel exudes a simple charm and reminds me of the Best Western in Mexico City I once stayed at. I adore this type of places. Give me this any day over a Marriott, Hilton or a Hyatt.
At the hotel, a TV crew awaits me and they want to dive straight into it. Did they really not notice the sweat marks? the smell and the walls under my eyes? Okay, Sophia gives me 30 minutes and I thank her from the bottom of my heart.
I used to do a lot of TV stuff back in the nineties but it has never really come naturally to me. I can sound convincing but I don’t like my style. Anyway, the interviewer from Philippines Star is happy and we go to lunch. (Update: when it hits YouTube, I’m a “leading Australian Novelist”. I’m sure ‘novelist’ is the Philippino word for ‘story analyst’.)
Lunch is great. Even though I am not terribly hungry, I eat a lot. But I’ll blog about the food here later. My first experience is slightly overwhelming. I don’t count the number of times Sophia said: “Have you tried THIS? You should try it!” but it runs in the dozens. Her first objective is to make sure Luke and I are happy and healthy. Her second and third objective: to keep us eating and fatten us up. So the plates keep arriving. Distant memories from my previous Italian life.
I like my hotel room. Some would call it ‘austere’ but it has enough wall sockets for my gear, a gorgeously tiled floor and it is spacious. No mini bar, not even a kettle for tea. A wide screen TV, which I manage to hook up with my laptop.
It’s nearly 4pm and time to go into town and check the venue for this weekend’s seminars. I’m taking my beloved MacBook, which will do all the hard work. Given the insanely high temperatures here, I’m slightly concerned. Hmmm… Perhaps I should buy a cheap USB-powered cooling mat?
Now there’s an idea.
– Karel Segers
Karel Segers is a producer and script consultant who started in movies as a rights buyer for Europe’s largest pay TV group Canal+. Back then it was handy to speak 5 languages. Less so today in Australia. Karel teaches, consults and lectures on screenwriting and the principles of storytelling to his 5-year old son Baxter and anyone who listens. He is also the boss of this blog.