Almost Amok in Sagada, Philippines ! (a backpacker’s encounter)

By | September 9, 2013

by Nick
(Ronda, Andalucia, Spain)

The sleepy mountain village of Sagada, Philippines!

The sleepy mountain village of Sagada, Philippines!

Tam was an unhappy man engrossed in his own mental turmoil exacerbated by half a dozen Red Horses and the business end of a bottle of Tequila.

I learnt his life story as I sat with Sue and our guide Fabian under the clear night sky that sprinkled stars past midnight over the mountainvillage of Sagada in the north of the Philippines.

Fabian was more representative of his nation’s character: open, super-friendly, hospitable and with the ability to laugh at himself and all adversity no matter the circumstances.

It turned out the morose Tam had recently fled a neighbouring town where he’d been frog-marched into a life of extortion, blackmail and vendettas.

I wasn’t quite clear on the whole story suffice to say he’d been asked to perform one punishment too many before, to his credit, he’d run off to the relative anonymity of cave-guiding in this sleepy part of the world.


The more tequila drunk and the hotter the spliff-ends became only served to loosen his tongue to the extent that he had his arm around my shoulders declaring that these things he’d only ever told his mother and that none of the other guides new his history.

What could I do but fill him full of West Coast psycho-self-improvement platitudes and say how great it was that he was turning over a new leaf no matter what misery he’d caused in his past.

I just hoped he wouldn’t run ‘amok’ (a Tagalog word incidentally) here and now and do away with the lot of us for it’s common practice to carry at least a knife if not a gun around these parts.

A few days later finds us all in a seedy videoke bar in downtown Banaue thrashing out such classics as ‘Imagine’, ‘I heard it through theGrapevine’ and ‘I shall Survive’ with a bunch of young male Friday-nighters, when a drunken lunatic comes crashing through the sliding metal doors wielding the biggest rusty parang( a type of machete) I’ve seen this side of a Freddy Kruger film.

He’s yelling abuse and waving the damn thing around and, you know what, nobody bats an eyelid. My bowels suddenly feel very loose as the old bar lady tries to cool him down.

However everybody seems more interested in the Marvin Gaye impressionist murdering his motown classic.

Knife-wielder is forced to sit down in the corner comforted by a mate and a San Miguel whilst bar lady comes up to us, the only foreigners in her establishment since Noah was a lad, and apologises for the disgraceful behaviour of her son! Sue asks if she’s happy about the situation to which she replies in the affirmative.

“Well if you’re happy, we’re happy” is our South African friend’s retort as Julia orders another round of San Migs and I keep a beady eye on the simmering loony…I suppose he almost ran amok!

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