I have always had a passion for the Philippines and Filipino people. I guess this started when I was around 19 years old.
I had never actually heard of the Philippines until then to be honest. Geography was not my strongest subject at school and I guess the Philippines was a distant place with no real connection to my life. Then it all changed in 1989 when I first went to watch what has become my favourite musical ever, Miss Saigon. These were the days before you could google where a place was or look at street view or anything like that. In fact in those days, calling abroad would cost you £2 a minute and we posted this thing called ‘a letter’.
Joking apart, I bought a souvenir brochure at the show and quickly discovered that many of the incredible talented actors from the show originated from the Philippines, including Lea Salonga, Miguel Diaz, Robert Sena, Monique Wilson and Cocoy Laurel.
I decided to travel the 7,000 Miles or so in what was one of my first ever trips abroad and venture to the place I now call home. When I arrived, I was captivated by how friendly and welcoming everyone was. Everyone was helpful, smiling and interested in why I went there.
Yes, in those days, there was the occasional area you might not want to visit and the occasional scammer etc. However I have to say in all of my 55 trips and have found the country to be very safe and welcoming. Every time I go home, I continue to be impressed by the continual improvements in the country.
As there was no Facebook back then, when you wanted to stay in touch with people, you wrote them a letter or sent a FEDEX or similar and waited an age for a reply. Calling people of course was even more difficult and expensive.
So having fallen in love with the country, I decided to somehow dedicate a part of my life to the Philippines. Strange coincidence, but I ended up working with a filipino guy for a few years at London Buses, so through that, I got into Filipino culture, parties and a new circle of friends.
My friend and his wife, then introduced me to my future wife, Susan, only recently we celebrated our 20th year of marriage. First time I met her family, around 21 years ago, I ended up staying with them and sleeping in a little Bahay Kubo, which was a little funny as I ended up banging my head every time I got up. Those were the days, remembered fondly haha.
Thing is, some people say why am I so interested in filipino culture, events, people and now politics, I guess it stems from my first impressions of the Filipino people from way back nearly 30 years ago, I hope and pray that other foreigners like myself, fall in love with the culture and people, I now regard as my extended family.
Maybe I was a Filipino in a former life, whatever it is, I am just at my happiest when I am either in the Philippines or with Filipinos. I am very fortunate that through that passion, I have got to meet some very famous Filipino actors, (some even follow me on Instagram lol) Ambassadors, politicians and even three Philippine Presidents.
Please follow me on Instagram and Twitter if you would like at FilEvent or on FB, just search for Malcolm Conlan. I also have a page too and Filipino events website, www.fil-event.com.