This article from Michael O’Riordan’s column Outside Looking In was first
published in the Dumaguete Metropost on the 20th of May
It’s not essential to be insane while driving in Dumaguete, but it
certainly helps. How there isn’t mass carnage every day on the streets is
contrary to basic logic. “Go with the flow” seems to be the mantra for
drivers as they cheerfully throw caution to the wind. They float in some
altered state while talking loudly while speeding through the
Yesterday, a motorbike driver really got my attention. I was driving near
Robinsons and narrowly avoided being crashed into three times by this
irresponsible driver. When I yelled out “Hello! Hello!” the response was
nothing from the driver, but his woman smiled broadly, then took their
lovely baby’s little hand, and waved it back at me, while encouraging the
baby to say hello to me. It was so hilarious I almost crashed and had to
pull over and wait before driving again. But this time, instead of a scowl
of frustration, I enjoyed a broad smile stretching from ear to ear.
* * *
My Irish accent and rapid speech patterns are a constant source of
confusion for locals. I’ll just mention two examples, but it’s part of an
I believe were I to become fluent in Cebuano, the problem would remain. The
reasoning process Westerners have is so diametrically opposed to the
Cebuano mindset, the two would never be compatible. It’s like traveling on
two parallel roads that are destined to never meet.
Here’s another example. I’d enjoyed another lovely meal at Sans Rival and
asked the waitress to please thank the cook because I’d so thoroughly
enjoyed it. Ten minutes later, she came back with a coke and ice.
The next day I went into Mafioso for a cappuccino and requested a table for
one. Soon after I sat down, I was promptly given a cold beer. Don’t ask.
* * *
I’ve just paid for my exciting trans-Atlantic voyage on a hundred-year-old
tall sailing ship later this year. I will be involved as a working crew
member on the Bark Europa. (www.barkeuropa.com) Although somewhat cramped,
the sleeping conditions will be luxurious when contrasted with my earlier
life working on trawlers up in the North Sea, and subsequently off the west
We’ll begin at the Canary Islands near Spain, sail to the Cape Verde
islands off the coast of North Africa, then head due west and sail across
the Atlantic. We’ll hopefully arrive safely in Uruguay, South America
approximately 46 days later. From Cape Verde to Montevideo, Uruguay we’ll
have no contact with the outside world, no idiot phones, no laptops. Oh,
My only fear is that sea tradition demands we pay homage to King Neptune
when crossing the Equator. I may have to jump overboard into the 8,000-foot
deep ocean waters. I have recurring nightmares that after surfacing, I’ll
see the ship sailing away into the hazy distance without me. I’ve never
been in therapy but this image probably reveals some profound, deep-rooted
* * *
I recently offered to marry Vhie. She was decidedly less than enthusiastic
about the proposition. Somewhat bruised, my ego asked two trusted lady
friends for their insight. They simultaneously rolled their eyes, and
sighed while lamenting,” What an idiot!”
I belatedly realized that my offer to marry Vhie on my 90th birthday,
assuming she was still interested, had as little appeal today as I would
inevitably have then.
My pre-nuptial clause was also considered less- than-romantic. Being the
humanitarian I am, I told my attorneys to redraft the entire proposition. I
generously canceled the prenup clause and offered to propose to Vhie on my
72nd birthday — that’s only four years from now.
Then, assuming she was still interested, I’d promise to marry her on my
75th birthday, again assuming she was still interested. And they say
romance is dead!
Yet again, Vhie gave me the female “look” sharpened to perfection by
countless generations of women worldwide. She remained silent while shaking
her head, then walked away. Her reaction confirmed, yet again, that it’s
impossible to please women. Sigh!
* * *
I’m excited about hiking to the summit of Mount Talinas this weekend. I’ve
been looking up at this mountain since I began living in Valencia.
Back in 2015, I trained for five months carrying a 50-pound backpack while
hiking seven miles up demanding trails when preparing to climb Mt. Shasta
in northern California. It’s sacred to the native people who have survived
and still live there.
It annoys me to hear the arrogance of climbers who talk about ‘conquering
the mountain’. Beautiful places like the Himalayas, Mt. Shasta, and Mt.
Talinis will exist for thousands of years after we are all dead and
forgotten. And despite the evil, illegal deforestation on Mt. Talinis where
the absence of political will and the shortsightedness of human greed,
combines to damage the mountain, Mt. Talinis will also survive.
When climbing Mt. Shasta, I had one of the most remarkable experiences in
my life. There was only one other climber and our guide. On the first
night, we climbed 6,000 feet up to base camp while carrying 45 pounds in
supplies and gear on our backs. Rising at 2 a.m., we began to climb the
remaining 8,000 feet to the summit. The sky was dark with clouds. The air
became thinner as we climbed to 8,000 feet. I was grateful for all the
training I’d done.
Around 4:30 a.m., our guide told us to get ready for sudden light as dawn
broke. When it did, there was an explosion that instantly removed darkness,
and illuminated the sky with a magnificent golden mantle. Suddenly, we
could see the entire mountain, and all ranges as far as Nevada. There we
were, three ants lost on majestic snow-covered Mt. Shasta. In a fraction of
a second, I felt an integral part of the entire cosmos but also, I was
I don’t know the correct term, perhaps it was God-consciousness or
Unity-consciousness. Regardless of what the correct terminology is, it
represented a glorious, profound, and inexplicable moment in my life for
which I’m deeply grateful.
After summiting, one has the opportunity to write one’s name in a book. In
what may have been false humility, I declined the offer. Instead, I
indulged in the stunning views that seemed to stretch forever and rejoiced
in transcendent innocence.