Today should have been a fairly routine day but it turned out for from that. It’s a bit of a long story.
Getting a tattoo done in Asia wasn’t really on my agenda. I’m sure that there are some great places but nonetheless there are issues such a hygiene, communication barriers and artists who cater to a customer base of pissed up youngsters who want a sun or moon tattooed on their arse. If someone is permanently drawing on me I’d rather it was done properly. Somewhere in the US I met a bloke from the Philippines and we were making small talk. He mentioned that he knew someone back home who’s an award winning tattoo artist. This probably sounds like the classic story to try to drum up business for a far flung relative or friend. I had a look at their website and there did indeed seem to be a few awards achieved. One such was the second place in the Best Female Artist in Manila category last year. This brings up the question of how many female tattoo artists there are in Manilla but with 14 million residents, I’d imagine that it is many more than two! Anyway the shop seemed nice and her work looked really good. After a bit of Facebook research, Charmaine also seemed to have lots of satisfied customers. I sent some emails and we agreed upon a price that was extremely reasonable. It was comparable to cheap shops in the UK and maybe half to one-third of what you’d expect from a slightly famous artist back home. I say slightly famous as Charmaine’s work has twice been featured on Philippines television. Today would be appearance number three.
Just as we were about to get started a young lady walked in and spoke to Charmaine. I was asked whether I minded if she could watch. No problem. They then spoke a bit more and it turns out that she’s a television producer for a reality show called Day Off and they’d like to do some filming. There were all sorts of conversations going on while I was sitting there like a spare part. Charmaine then explained the concept of the show. Two young ladies go around businesses and observe different jobs. I couldn’t get the exact gist of everything but they asked whether I would mind my tattoo being filmed. This was fine by me as long as Charmaine was happy that it wouldn’t distract her. Within minutes a whole crew turned up. There were two camera men, someone holding up lighting, a sound person, a producer and a few other people doing various tasks. There was quite a bit of setup filming as the girls came into the shop and spoke to Charmaine. They then asked me a few not so deep and meaningful questions such as does it hurt, etc. They seemed to be going a bit OTT with the acting, pulling a few funny faces while watching the tattoo getting done. I heard a few exclamations of, “Oh my goshes” among the the Filipino dialect. Obviously you can’t use the Lord’s name in vain in this religious country! I looked the ladies up after the show and they seem like D-list celebrities in the Philippines. One of them has 75,000 Twitter followers which makes her level of celebrity somewhere between Matthew Wright and Amanda Lamb. The girls seemed nice enough though and kept on talking to everyone, even off camera. There was no sign of any celebrity attitude being displayed!
While getting the tattoo done I was interviewed by what I think was a radio show for the same network as the telly programme. I’ve never had a microphone shoved in my face before and was asked fairly trivial questions about whether this was the first tattoo I’d had in the Philippines, does it hurt and how much did my other tattoo cost. The producer of Day Off also wanted an interview after we’d finished. I was given a proper up the shirt mic for this and was told not to look into the lights or at the camera. Still not being entirely sure of the premise of the show I just gave some vague answers about how much I’m enjoying being in the Philippines, how their programme is a great idea to give exposure to everyday hardworking people and how I love my new tattoo. That’s not a lie either. I was really pleased with it. It will certainly remind me of my Philippines television appearance. That’s presuming any of the waffle I said makes it past editing.
Afterwards I wondered whether the whole television thing was a setup. It seemed a bit of a coincidence that they turned up just as we were about to start. However Charmaine seemed genuinely surprised about what was happening, as did everyone else in the shop. Charmaine and her husband came across as nice honourable people so I doubt they’d have tried anything untoward. It certainly made for a good story and ultimately I’m more than happy with the tattoo.
There seems to be a bit of an obsession with skin colour in the Philippines. So far I’ve had a couple of compliments about my pale complexion. Seriously! One of them was from someone on the television show. I replied something about it not looking so nice after half an hour in the sun! It’s apparent that many Philippine girls want to have a whiter skin complexion. Next to my hotel is a place where you can get some sort of skin bleaching treatment. I suppose these are the opposite of sunbed salons. Like the trend back home with trout lips or excessive Botox it’s quite sad. I’ve already seen a few otherwise nice looking ladies who look a shade somewhere between anaemic and albino.
PS. The television show aired the day before I published this blog entry. Charmaine and her family essentially got a day off, hence the title of the show, and were taken out to some nice places. My part was not as cringe worthy as expected although they did edit out some of the stuff so I’m mostly saying things like, “I’m really pleased. It looks great,” with all the articulacy of David Beckham. The cheeky gits also subtitled my perfect Queens English!