As a number of my novels have been set in the Philippines, I thought I’d take the opportunity today to introduce you to the location of one of my stories; Just A Drop in the Ocean. It is the tiny village of Rizal in Occidental Mindoro.
As Rizal is the birthplace of my beautiful wife and as many of her family are still living and farming there, I have had the opportunity to visit and stay on numerous occasions. I’ve often called Mindoro and in particular, the western (Occidental) side, the “forgotten island”. It seems like time has stood still there and much of the twenty-first century has passed it by. The roads, even the main road down the western coast of the island were appalling, the first time we traversed it, with enormous potholes and roadworks everywhere. I’m pleased to say it has improved over the last few years, but still, the juxtaposition between the hustle and bustle of a modern, westernised city like Manila and the rural backwater that is Rizal, is something that always strikes me.
Geographically, Rizal covers quite a large area, from the coastline of the West Philippine Sea, right through to the base of the spine of mountains that splits Mindoro in two. Rizal, although technically listed as a third-class municipality, is, rather than one single town, a collection of small villages separated by valleys as you head from the coast to the mountains. The village where my wife grew up is actually called Rizal, but to distinguish it from the other parts of greater Rizal, it is often referred to as Limlim.
When I walk down the main street of Limlim and glance around me, if I ignore the odd tricycle and car that is plying the road, I can easily picture my wife heading off down the road, in 1965, with her books over her shoulder, to the local elementary school, just a few hundred yards from their house. Nothing, it seems, has changed much in fifty odd years. It really is like a time warp has kept this serene valley the way it has always been. Oh yes, I know there are a few cars around and many residents now have satellite television, but still, there is an ambiance and atmosphere about the picturesque place, that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere.
The locals are hard-workers, with many still surviving by semi-subsistence farming and there is little time for the pleasures of life for these people. My father-in-law at 78, still visits and works on his farm regularly and every morning he fulfills his daily routine of sweeping up the fallen leaves from the large property, before burning the rubbish. There is a real rhythm to life there, that is still dictated by the rise and fall of the sun and the seasons.
There is not a lot of spare money for luxuries or celebrations, so when there is one, the people tend to go all out to enjoy it. Weddings, Significant Birthdays, the Annual Town Fiesta and yes, even funerals are reasons to relax, let loose and imbibe freely. If you’re lucky, there will even be a goat or a pig donated to roast over the open fire. Although I’m not a great fan of watching the poor animal being slaughtered and prepared for the fire, I am one of the first in the line when the food is ready to eat. There is nothing quite as delightful as Lechon Baboy (roasted pig) cooked over an open fire, with the succulent fat, the crispy skin, and the, oh so luscious meat. It’s definitely not good for the waistline, but oh, so good for the soul.
I live in the middle of Metro Manila, a thriving, bustling city of some fifteen million people. The traffic is horrendous, the heat is stifling and the throngs of people, at times, overwhelming.
Rizal, Occidental Mindoro
To have a place to head, like Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, to unwind, to relax and to just be, is one of the true benefits of living here. Yes, I love the beaches here and there are none of those in Limlim, but what there is, is peace, tranquillity and a pace of life that we’ve all but, sadly forgotten.
Oh yes, there are also one million mosquitoes per square inch there (just kidding), but for me, our regular trips “home” to see Papang and the rest of the family, help keep me grounded and sane. For me, it’s like a week at a health spa and I return to Manila, invigorated and ready to face the battle once again. We all need that place of respite, where we can let it all hang out and just be. For me, it is Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, the Philippines.
About the author, Grant Leishman
I am an expatriate New Zealander, now living in the Philippines with my beautiful wife and two lovely daughters. At age 55, after careers in Journalism and finance, I finally discovered my true passion in life – writing. I am now a full-time author who has written or co-written seven novels, across differing genres.
My latest project is a Historical Romance set to the backdrop of the Philippine revolution of 1896, against the Spanish.
I believe in the power of the written word and the mantra that I live by and finish each of my blog posts on my website with is:
CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY!
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES LIFE PRESENTS TO YOU AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!
CHANGING THE WORLD – ONE READER AT A TIME
Looking out from our shade courtyard, across the flooded road to the paddocks of wheat. Goulburn Valley life.
The road to our home after one hour of rain. This photo was taken during a break in the rain. At its peak the water was flowing fast and waterfalls were pouring off our roof. That's my cottage garden on the right, the wheat crop (will have made a mess of that) on the left of the road/water. Glad my visitors left, the back of their car would be sitting in a river by now. We expected this. The fun of living on a floodplain—not complaining about it, we love it here.
One hour of tropical rain and we have a riverside property once again. Those cushion covers on the sofa had just arrived today. They were a part of my fun, online Christmas shopping. I find it so much easier to shop online these days, especially when the road becomes a river.
The MacDonnell Ranges.
The Eastern MacDonnell Ranges is a landscape of grandeur, rocky gorges and Aboriginal history and rock art. There are wonderful bush campgrounds, gem fossicking locations and old ghost towns to explore
The Western MacDonnell Rangers are more frequented by visitors, they are prettier, and have more gorges to visit with some incredible sights to see, plus they are so close to Alice Springs. Still, I'm certain that I prefer the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges.
We camped at the far end of it, hiking ever nook and cranny. It is all glorious country.
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Forest Pines, Montana
I have a confession to make. I have never been to Montana. There, I said it, and it is out of the bag. So, you may ask, why I have written a series of books set in a fictional small town in a state I have never visited?
Forest Pines, though a figment of my imagination is actually based on a small town that I would dearly love to visit. A town that for me epitomizes the real America. The America I have never seen. Let me introduce you to Columbia Falls. It is surrounded by two million acres of National Forest, which inspired the name Forest Pines, there is a river which runs through the center of town, the Flathead River which is 158 miles long and flows through both Canada and the United States. According to Columbia Fall’s website, the town's population is around 4,500, but it is home to two public golf courses and a water slide amusement park. It is only 17 miles from Glacier National Park and has eight, yes that is eight, public parks.
Glacier National Park
When I read about Columbia Falls I knew that, with a little bit of imagination, I could use it as a basis for a fictional town, where most people know each other and if they don’t, then they sure as heck have heard of you. A small town where the pace of life isn’t based on the rush of traffic and crowded streets.
Columbia Falls is home to bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants, and bars, as well art and pottery galleries, antique stores and other entertainment. It seems to me at least, to be a town where it would hard to be bored in. I hail from England, and I live in Miami. A town such as Columbia Falls would be my ideal vacation location. A world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Peaceful, tranquil and with the feeling of Americana that you really only get to see now in old movies and TV shows.
Now, I know my kids will probably object, I can hear them, ‘why not Orlando? It's boring.’ – I give them a day before they change their minds. Water rafting, horseback riding, great food and scenery that will blow their minds. As for my wife? She may prefer Paris, London, New Your or LA…but I am sure she would be charmed by this town that sparked my imagination and that feeling of stepping back in time. So, next time you are thinking of taking a holiday of the beaten track, why not consider a small town, with amenities to suit all and a welcoming attitude. You never know, it may just inspire you.
If you enjoyed, Will The Real Forest Pines Please Stand Up, you may enjoy these books by the author.
About the author Duncan Whitehead
Award Winning Writer, Duncan Whitehead, was born in England and is the author of the best-selling and award-winning GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB Trilogy. The series, inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness in the real life Savannah neighborhood in which he once lived is a humorous mystery, which boasts an assortment of characters and plot twists.
He has also written over 2,000 spoof and comedy news articles, under various aliases, for a variety of websites both in the US and the UK.
He has written further novels; a comedy set in Manhattan, THE RELUCTANT JESUS, published in April 2014 and republished in July 2015 & three short stories.
Duncan is well known for his charity work, kindness to animals, children and old people; and, of course, his short-lived bullfighting career and his hideous hunchback.
In February 2045, he invented time travel and now spends much of his time in either the future (where he has won the lottery an astonishing 117 times) and the present day.
Ex-Cyclone Debbie has brought an early touch of winter weather to South Eastern Australia. Grey Nomads are making plans to head north to the warmer regions. But where? I know of several who have decided to skip Queensland this year due to the cyclone damage and flooding. Many are making emotion-charged journeys to places such as Vietnam where they once served in the armed forces. That would be hard. although the natural beauty of the mountains would soften the pain of some of the memories.
I'm spending winter here in Victoria, in south-eastern Australia. I hope to get my exercise reading on a treadmill and attending hydrotherapy sessions at the pool. I have to admit I used the summer heat as an excuse not to exercise, and I've run out of excuses. I never have to motivate myself to write and paint, creativity is in my blood. I hope to master learning how to do videos of my art in progress over the next few months.
What will you be doing? Where will your journey lead you? Comment below?
Cheers, Ryn Shell - Grey Nomad
Billabong Fire is an engrossing story of romance and adventure in Australia. Can the idealism of today's multi-cultural youth, end the vengeance culture begun at the time of the British invasion of Australia? The old men, cattle king Alan Fife, Aboriginal Elder Kanga, and the criminal Ray Buckram, face each other. Have they left it too late to save the younger generation from the payback culture they began?
This book may be read as a stand-alone story or in series order.
The Stolen Years Series:
Book 1. Gold
Book 2. Billabong Ghost
Book 3. Escape to Billabong
Book 4. Billabong Dream
Book 5. Billabong Land
Book 6. Billabong Fire
Book 7. StarStruck
When you arrive at Denpasar airport in Bali. be prepared to open yourself to an incredible cultural experience. Bali is an exquisite tropical island that welcomes and caters for tourism. It is a cosmopolitan place featuring a blending of most of the world’s major religions, with a predominance of a peaceful Hindu culture. There are public busses at the airport that go to Ubud.
For this blog post, I’ll be heading to Ubud which is twelve miles north east from Kuta in Gianyar district. That’s about one to one and a half hours drive from Kuta to Ubud. It is a scenic location. Two rivers, Wos Timur and the Wos Barat flow through Ubud. It is sourounded by the villages of Padang Tegal and Nyuhkuning to the south, and Peliatan and Kutuh in the east. West of Ubud is Campuhan, Penestenan and Sayan, with Sanggingan and Kedewatanare to the north west.
There is so much to do at Ubud Bali, but what would entice an author such as myself to Ubud Bali? How about long, contemplative walks at dawn along palm tree lined beaches for getting the creative thoughts flowing for the day?
Firstly, the peaceful countryside and scenery. It is easy to get around on foot, walking along tree-lined streets and beside paddy fields, or choose a vehicle. Dawn is a favourite time for a country walk, then laze by a pool or enjoy a spa retreat as the day warms, or visit the excellent museums such as Neka, ARMA, Seniwati where you will learn more about traditional Balinese art.
Tourists can time their trip to coincide with a major festival to watch processions on their way to the temple. The offerings of rice and petals at roadside shrines, and colourfully dressed women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads are cultural experiences that tourists are privileged to be invited to observe. For the artistic, there are local classes where you can learn batik painting. Nature lovers will want to visit the monkey Forest. The more adventurous can book to go white water rafting.
In the evenings, you might enjoy trying one of the many excellent restaurants or a dance performance at the Ubud Palace on Jl. Raya Ubud before returning to your bali ubud hotel
There is a ready choice of bicycle, taxi, hire a cab or a bus. If I time my trip carefully, I could arrange it to coincide with the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival held each September.
Would I enjoy it? I’ve lost count of how many of my friends have visited and enjoyed Bali, and how many authors I know have fallen in love with parts of Indonesia, and stayed longer than originally planned. I think that Ubud must be writer’s heaven.
I only need to walk around the block here in my northern Victorian home in Australia to see how many people have not only visited Bali. But have fallen in love with the culture and artifacts. So many of the front gardens could by loosely called Balinese style. But why purchase those carvings in an Australian garden centre when you can have all the fun of negotiating a bargain for your home or garden from one of the fascinating shops?
Locals are friendly and will happily advise visitors which places are an easy walk, and where you may need to hire transport. Keep in mind, when planning your day’s outing, that the terrain is hilly, for Bali is a beautiful volcanic island.
Accommodation choices booked through bali ubud hotel range from budget to luxury. Most advertise having scenic rooms and show pictures of relaxing gardens and poolside. Many offer guided treks. The ones that I checked out all have an incredibly high review ranking.
So, when are we going to Ubud in Bali?
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Discover Gray-Nomad Nonfiction and Australian Rural Lit Short Stories by Guest authors on special 14-15-16 February 2017.
Back in 1913 when a T- model Ford was the first motor vehicle to drive through that main street of Violet town, someone had to jog along in front of the car waving a small red flag to warn horseman of the approaching vehicle.
Here in a History of Violet Town.
Boxed ready for FREE post within Australia.
Relax in a palm fringed thermal pool or hot springs.
Ryn Shell writes stories of crime, love and Australia.
artist and author
Formerly Kathy Shell of Buninyong Gallery.
The splendour of nature and the Australian bush captured in work of acclaimed artist Ryn (Kathy) Shell.
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