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Full Circle

Day 99: Zamboanga

Michael Palin - Full CircleI have not experienced rain quite like this before. These are not drops or even stair-rods. It is as if a dam has burst a hundred feet above us. I walk out of the arena and round to the outer area. Niagaras of rainwater tumble off the corrugated iron roof, but life goes on as if nothing had happened. Food and drink is served (no drinking or smoking allowed at the ringside) and men wait patiently with their cockerels under their arms as lightning and thunder and the shouts of the punters and the crowing of two hundred eager competitors mingle into a great cacophonous uproar. Boy Primalion told me cocks on his farm are played tapes of fights in order to get them used to the noise of the cockpit. I laughed at the time but now I can understand why.

It could only happen in the Philippines, but I find myself, a few hours after the cock-fight, judging a beauty contest by the sea at Vista del Mar, in an atmosphere made markedly fresher and cooler by the afternoon storm.

The contestants for the crown of Miss La Bella Pacifica must be of 'at least' High School age, 'of good moral character, physical beauty, talent and intelligence'. And presumably women. I settle myself down for a delightful and relaxing evening, only to find that I am required to work as hard as I have in any three-hour period since taking my Final exams at Oxford. Not only are we judging Miss La Bella P but also Best in a Swimsuit, Best in a Gown, Best Ethnic (traditional outfits), Miss la Bella Tourism and Miss Photogenic.

What with all the scores to add up it becomes an exercise in mental arithmetic. But I did get to kiss the winner. Once.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 99
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Vista del Mar
  • Book page no: 143

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