In 1989, during another visit to Gen San we bought a piece of land, just short of 2 hectares in area for a very reasonable price for me but at that time, some local people were laughing at the dumb foreigner as they thought the price of the land was too high! It cost me the equivalent of two months salary from my overseas job at the time so I was not really worried even if I had paid a bit too much! On our return to the UK, my next job was ready for me to go to but I realized that this would be the peak of my career and that future work would be on the down hill path both salary and benefits wise so after some discussions, me and Ellie decided to pack out things, sell what we could not take with us, cut our ties with England and go to the Philippines for good! For some people this would have been a major step in life but to me, having worked overseas for so long, it was natural progression so I went away to work back in Africa and as usual, left Ellie to sell up, pack up and move us to the Philippines! Ellie knew what she was doing because when we moved house previously I went off to work so she had the job of moving house on her own, lucky lady!
Having already purchased a lot which was a Rice Farm with no road in, no tree worth mentioning, a small house with a leaky roof and at the time of purchase it had the 2 farm Carabao’s living inside! Lovely! Well, Ellie moved out in 1090 and started the construction of our intended simple 3 bedroom house on our farm lot! On my next leave I arrive and was instantly set to work plumbing in the pressure pump and toilet as that’s a main requirement for me! Before I finished that initial job, each time it rained we, including the staff would take advantage of the rain by all standing in a line under the edge of the roof and take a communal shower from the water running off of the roof! I am sure that the site of one white guy and a bunch of Philippino workers all taking a natural shower from the roof was a comical site to see! The sleeping arrangements were equally as primitive, everyone slept in the lounge area of the existing building which was being renovated and expanded with cabinets and temporary partitions separating the different groups of workers! Our Animals also shared the same accommodation, we had Dogs, Cats, Goats, A Pet Crow and a monkey, all staying with us, in the morning you could see the rats running along the roof beams as you laid in bed! I would not let the Pigs Stay inside the house with us as Ellie said to me one day, if we keep the Pigs inside, what about the smell, I replied, do not worry dear, they (the pigs) will soon get used to it! Once again I was Outside the Colombo! Once the water supply was in place, my next tasks set out by Ellie was the Electricity, Welding of
Security Grills etc, More Plumbing and anything else that she could find for me to do! On an evening after work, Myself and the staff would have a beer of two and watch VHS tapes on my equipment which we sent from the UK, it was PAL system but it was better than nothing as there was no real TV service at that time! the men especially enjoyed my tapes of Horse and Greyhound Racing as they had never seen it before! We could get the American Forces Channel from Dole if you had a UHF TV but when they found out they blocked the transmission some how! I must admit, I really enjoyed these periods as the work was tough but there was a great sense of achievement as the work progressed! Ellie was unstoppable as she was the Chief Engineer, Procurer of all materials, Chief Cook and took care of every other job which needed to be done! Without her, the work would never have been completed I am sure!
In them early days, the Gen San Airport was nothing much and to fly in from Manila you had to change planes in Cebu and board a smaller aircraft such as a Fokker F50 of an old Hawker Siddley as the Runway was was not long enough for anything larger! The old airport was actually a Japanese built fighter base from the 2nd World War! All transport in the area was similar, small andold! The Passenger Ships of that era which carried passengers to destinations around the Philippines were prone to sinking so Air Power, even on the small available Aircraft was more acceptable!
I had my holidays (if you could call them that) here for about 3 months at a time both in 1990 and 1991 and was worked nearly to the bone on both occasions by the Task Master, (Ellie) but it was enjoyable and as time progressed, our 3 bedroom house had a Bar and Restaurant area and then Guest Rooms added! So much for my peaceful retirement! The first occupants of the first 3 guest rooms were Sheep and Goats, it was easy to lock them up at night in the rooms before the actual finishing was completed! We also got some local animals and birds given such as more monkeys, parrots, snakes etc and life began to change with a little bit of organization starting to take over from the chaos of construction! On July 5th 1992 after completing my last contract I basically retired from work and moved to Gen San permanently as the life here agreed with me so well, I have only left the Philippines once since my arrival, in 2003 I went for a short visit to England! I was not impressed and cannot see any reason to visit again!
On November 8th 1992, (A Chinese Lucky Number Day)! we officially opened Cambridge Farm Hotel to the public and business started at a steady pace! We actually had more people coming to have a look around the place than we actually had customers but in not too long a time we were doing well as there were not many small Hotels in Gen San at that time, especially out in the country side as we were! I was given the job of Barman for a while but with me drinking double the amount of beer that the customers drank I was soon fired and replaced by a local staff member!
Where we are situated, in Purok Malakas, there was nothing really, most of the land was either Rice or Banana fields, the population was very small at that time! No Market, No Public Transport, No Hardware Store, No Communications, No TV and only 6 hours of Electricity if you were lucky so we had a lot of problems to contend with! A generator was essential for power, if our vehicle was not available for any reason then it was a 2 km walk to Dadiangas Heights to catch a Jeepney or a Tricycle so what ever was needed had to come from Gen San! Now, Purok Malakash as at least 4 of every kind of store also including Churches and Schools at or near to the Big Satellite Market and the whole area which was once Rice and Banana fields is covered with Subdivisions housing a very large population!
Business was getting better all the time, we had Regular Dinner Parties for Drug Dealers (Not That Kind) who had lots af excess funds to wine and dine local doctors in order to get them to prescribe there medications to patients! Lots of work was going on at that time, US Aid was Building Roads, the Makar Wharf Extension and the Airport, The Brits and the Japanese were installing Telephone Cables, Australians were Surveying the Possible Copper Mine Sites, Cell Towers were appearing everywhere and even Cable TV appeared! We even managed to get a phone installed and the Electric Power was soon to be 24 hours a day! With Purok Malakas getting bigger and more populated, actual Taxi’s were now available, Wow, this area and in fact the whole of Gen San was in the grips of a major change and the name The Boom Town was given to Gen San!
To be continued!