November 2018

eastwind journals23 Nov 2018 08:37 am

CHRISTMAS WITH MUSLIMS AND JEWS – A True Adventure Story * eastwind

A True Adventure Story
eastwind memoirs
by Bernie V. Lopez,
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the greatest christmas gift a father can give a son
is to spend time with him and share his wisdom
a new cellphone or a car means less
material gifts fade, spiritual gifts last

To the millions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) worldwide, who cannot come home for Christmas, this true story is for you.


At the age of 26, I left New York City to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, dubbed eastwind, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 long years, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa. The story below is an excerpt from a book I subsequently wrote –
Wings and Wanderlust – the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self.


I arrived in Athens, hitchhiking from Rome to Bari, took a ship to Dubrovnic in Yugoslavia, then to Athens, melting pot of stray North African drifters. I was the only Filipino drifter. The rest of the Pinoys were mostly chambermaids, sailors, and musicians. This was in the mid-70s.


Eastwind at 26 years old, circa late 70s, Amsterdam.

Three drifters – French, Mauritian, Filipino, circa late 70s, Pisa, Itally. Note the eastwind sweater.


Christmas was around the corner. Weeks before, I knew I would get homesick. I never spent one Christmas outside the warmth of home and family. I met a Sudanese guy, a Jewish girl and a host of Arabs and North Africans in my cheap hostel. Drifters and refugees seeking jobs stuck together like magnet, becoming instant friends.


Early Christmas eve, I was in panic where to go and what to do at midnight. I could look for Filipino sailors in Pireaus or just get drunk. I chose the latter. I collected money from the guys (about ten of us), announc­ing a midnight drinking party. Everyone screamed. I bought the terrible cheap Greek wine called retsina, which smelled like aviation gas. I also got vodka, gin and tequila, enough to trigger a nuclear blast. Arabs and Jews normally did not cel­ebrate Christ­mas but the holiday feeling was in the air in Athens, so we had this grand party at the hostel. Arabs also normally did not drink. Not this bunch.


It was a wild noisy party. At eleven o’clock in the evening, we were all goners. I tried to hide my loneliness and depression, but everyone, especially the keen Jewish girl, could see it. They were trying to comfort me. After all, I was the only Christian in a sea Islam and Judaism. At half past eleven, I stood up, wobbled a bit, and quietly sneaked out. No one would not miss me because everyone was drunk.


The cold December air and the sudden silence jarred me from my stupor. I instinctively walked towards music I could hear. My hair stood on end and my drunk state vanished momentarily. It was a midnight Mass, an oasis in the middle of a vast desert. The church was overflowing, so I stayed outside the entrance. They sang “Oh Holy Night”, and my eyes were getting wet.


I felt guilty but it was better going to Christmas mass drunk than not going at all. It was my total refuge from my total loneli­ness, the warmth of church with many people singing carols – from deafening noise to silence, from wildness to serenity, from drunkenness to solemnity. It was a wide pendulum swing. I wanted to go to communion, but changed my mind, as I might trip along the aisle. I just prayed and sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ with the crowd. Bethlehem was just a stone’s throw away. More, five stones perhaps.


Almost at the end of the mass, someone elbowed me. It was the Jewish girl. I turned around and saw the whole gang. They followed me to church. They wrapped the vodka and gin in paper bags. They started giggling. I was embar­rassed as church-goers started staring. But then again, I was touched. Friends who did not believe in Christmas believed in friendship. They came to Mass to share themselves with me on this precious day. I was almost in tears. That was the greatest Christmas gift on the road, given by a bunch of non-Christians. We left and were rowdy in the streets, shouting and singing, as we went back to the hostel. They sang strange Arab songs. My loneli­ness disappeared.


“Hey, guys, thanks. I really appreciate it,” I said.


“We’re all in the same boat, Bernie, remember,” the Jewish girl answered. “We’re all away from home. We have to stick together. Especially in our moments of being alone. We are family.”


I embraced her and the guys hooted, pushing us to each other. Back at the hostel, I asked for an attendance report. Everyone shouted his/her origin – Tel Aviv, Khartoum, Marrekesh, Manila, Cairo, Dakar, Tunis. I forget the others. Come to think of it, they were more Muslim North Africans rather than Arabs, descendants of Bedouins and Berbers, nomads of the Sahara converted to Islam. They were mostly escaping the physical poverty of their North African homelands, looking for jobs in Athens, or going north to Paris or London or Copenhagen. I and the Jewish girl were escaping the spiritual poverty of affluent societies. Whereas the North Africans were looking for jobs, the Jewish girl and I were looking for ourselves.


We slept at about three in the morning only because there were no more to drink and the stores were closed. Everybody filed back to their rooms. I would never forget that Christmas. Like in Las Palmas, Andorra, Algarve, Pisa, Munich, Grenoble, Marseilles, and many other places, I had this gift of serendipity, the gift of ‘accidentally’ bumping into good people and good places on the road. That is my Christmas story.


To the OFWs out there, when the opportunity comes, drop everything and take wings, while you are young or not so young. Eastwind may never blow your way again.


by Bernie V. Lopez,


Order the book as a Christmas gift to friends, 450.00 pesos, all in,
Sent to anywhere in the Philippines, right at their doorsteps,
By JRS within 2-3 days (allow FOR CHRISTMAS TRAFFIC),
For outside the Philippines – US$30. Order by email



a poem for free spirits


albatrosses like eagles do not flock
you find them one at a time
they embark on long journeys in solitude
migrating from pole to pole with ease
sleeping for hours as they glide effortlessly
occasionally, high up in the stratosphere
there is a chance encounter
two albatrosses glide together
for a brief moment in time
wingtip to wingtip
viewing the earth below
then other albatrosses from nowhere join in
in a sudden thunderstorm
they dive into a tailspin
holding on to each other’s spirit
until turbulent winds taper
on occasions, they spot a green oasis
in the middle of the vast desert
they dive quickly for a precious drink
then they soar up again effortlessly in spirals
catching violent warm updrafts
attaining a thousand meters in minutes
back into the comfort of the stratosphere
then they suddenly part ways without plan
back to solitude
until the next chance encounter
sometime somehow somewhere
when wingtips touch other wingtips once more
in some forgotten cloud


eastwind journals21 Nov 2018 06:56 am

HITCHHIKING WITH A GUITAR – an adventure of a lifetime * eastwind

An Adventure of a Life Time
eastwind memoirs
by Bernie V. Lopez,
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Dedicated to the millions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) worldwide. Dear OFW, If you have earned some money, drop everything and take wings while you are young, or not so young.
At the age of 26, I left New York to embark on an adventure of a lifetime that I dubbed eastwind, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 long years, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa. This was in the mid-70s.
I hitchhiked with a 5-kilo backpack and a 6-kilo Spanish guitar that I bought in Zarauz in Spain. Everywhere I went, I dragged this heavy guitar for a reason – it was a ‘magic wand’ on the road. I discarded the rule in backpacking to travel light.

Three drifters – French, Mauritian, Filipino. Pisa, Italy circa late 70s. Note the eastwind sweater.

Eastwind at age 26. Amsterdam circa late 70s.

The true stories below are excerpts from a book I subsequently wrote, Wings and Wanderlust – the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self. It took me two weeks to write the book from memory, sleeping one to two hours a day, in fear of forgetting my story.

Somewhere north of Hamburg, I picked up a ride from a stately Mercedes Benz. They were an elegant Danish couple and spoke perfect English. I discovered later they owned one of the largest food corporations in Denmark. Conversations reconstructed.“
         So you are on an adventure, young man,” the woman said.
         “Yes ma’am. Bound for Copenhagen.”
         “First time I see someone hitching with a heavy guitar.”
         “It’s my magic wand, ma’am.”
         She laughed, “A magic wand, eh? You’re in luck, we are going to Copenhagen. Where are you staying in Copenhagen.”
         “I have friends in Christiania, ma’am.”
         “Christiania? That is a terrible place. Very dangerous. A lot of drug addicts.”
         “No choice, ma’am. But I will be alright.”
         “Maybe you are just trying to save money. Copenhagen is an expensive place.”
         “Yes, I am, ma’am. I have been travelling more than a year now.”
         “More than a year, wow. You’re an albatross migrating from pole to pole. You must stay in the youth hostel. I insist. I will give you 200 croners, okay?
         “Okay, ma’am,” I said.
I knew I would take the money and stay anyway with Jansen and Marijke in Christiania, a couple I met in Portugal. I lied because I did not want to offend her. Her husband gave me 200 croners (about $40 then).
We reached Flensburg and crossed the border to Denmark, and took a car ferry boat to Copenhagen. We went up for a sumptuous dinner in a nice restaurant at the upper deck. After dinner, wanting to please the kind and sweet lady, I offered to sing to them.
So, I played a Filipino song and two numbers of the Beatles for lack of anything else. They clapped. The lady took out another 100 croners and gave it to me. In a few hours and for a few songs, I earned about $60, more than I did in Andorra on hard labor for two weeks. And it was at a time my money was running low.
As I toured the city the next day, I stumbled into a park. There was a big crowd. There was this all-male quartet playing fast instrumental folk music.
The violin solo was fantastic. There were two nylon guitars and a conga for percussion. The quartet placed two empty guitar cases open in front of them. They played for 30 solid minutes of mesmerizing music to the thrill of the crowd. Children started sitting on the pavement. Every number was followed by a resounding applause. When the concert was over, a rain of coins fell on the two guitar cases, the clinking sound reverberating inside my soul. In a moment, both cases where two-inch deep in coins. After the show, I went over to talk to the group.


         “Irish, am I right?” I asked.
         The leader answered in thick Irish accent, “Yup. That’s right. Danish folk music is similar to Irish, fast violin rhythm. They like it.”
         “How much do you earn in a 30-minute stint?”
         “About $200?”
        “In 30 minutes? Wow. That is $50 each. If you play the whole afternoon, you earn about…”
         “….. two to three hundred dollars each.”, he interrupted me.
Next day, I played solo in the same plaza for 30 minutes. I did not get a big crowd but earned $20. The day after, I went through the bars. I brought my guitar to audition. Mostly, I was ignored. Finally, in one bar, I played Simon and Garfun­kel’s ‘El Condor Pass’, the mana­ger’s favorite. I was hired instantly for $25 a night, three times a week. I knew I would earn more on the streets, but this was another type of adventure, singing in a bar.
On my first night, I prepared a twenty-minute repertoire of Simon and Garfunkel and Beatle songs and chucked in a few Filipino songs. The crowd was not even listening. I kept on playing. I did not feel ridiculous. I did 3 20-minute sets per night. I played the same repertoire for all sets. After a while, I started feeling ridiculous. After three nights, I gave up. I couldn’t do it any­more, not even for good money. I earned exactly $75 which was not bad.
I met backpacking Derek in Manila 15 years ago. I was in a bank then, he was doing a Westwind. Now, in Munich, I was on doing an Eastwind and he was the ‘slave’. His Japanese wife, Teiko, was kind to me.
          “I feel like playing the guitar in the streets but I don’t have the courage,” I said.
         “Why not?” Derek was excited. “You can do it. C’mon. The money would be good here.”
         “I was arrested in Athens together with an American for playing in the subway,” I countered.
         “The Germans are the most open people in Europe.”
         “Yeah, I know. This is a hitchhiker’s haven,” I said.
         “You know why, Bernie?” Teiko spoke.
         “Because they suffered a lot during the war.”
         “You’re saying pain makes you a good person?”
         “Precisely and comfort does the opposite.”
Teiko got an old woollen blanket, cut a slit at the center, and put the blanket over me. It was a perfect poncho. I looked like a Mexican version of Clint Eastwood. We laughed. Teiko took out a pair of old woollen gloves. She cut off the finger ends except the thumb. I could play the frets from my exposed fingers, and my hand was gloved against the October air.
I stood for a long while at the platz, scared of looking ridiculous on a poncho. Then eastwind flapped its wings, unafraid. I placed the empty guitar case open in front of me. I started singing. Like in Morocco and Portugal, I played the Filipino Christ­mas song first. Then I tried a Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘El Condor Pass’. That got them. I saw a few five-mark coins fall into my case with a sweet clink. I did some Beatle songs and achieved the confidence of John Lennon.
It was not the easy income that drove me, but the adventure. They stopped momentarily, looked at me, smiled, dropped in a coin or two, and left. I did not draw a crowd. So what? In an hour, I got 22 marks or $44. Not bad for an amateur. I did another stint the next day for two hours and got 31 marks or $62. A hundred dollars in two days.
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by Bernie V. Lopez,
Blogger/Columnist-Journalist-Broadcaster, 35 years / Healing Ministry, 27 years
Inquirer * Business World * Manila Times * Manila Chronicle * Radio Veritas
Healing Ministry of Srs. Raquel/Gloria, RVM * for healing inquiries send email
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eastwind journals02 Nov 2018 08:53 pm

How Filipino Drivers Drive You Crazy * Is Pinoy Driving Culture Beyond Reform? * eastwind

Is Pinoy Driving Culture Beyond Reform?
Anarchy on the Streets – Bluffing on Who Goes First
The 12 Traits of Pinoy Drivers
eastwind journals
By Bernie Lopez,
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An American expat from Boston working for a bank here says, “Nothing beats the Boston taxi in terms of notoriety. That is, until I came to Manila and rode a taxi.” 
A Pinoy driver says, “When I went to Singapore, I realized the beauty of road discipline in reducing stress and traffic.”
A German tourist, watching from the 12th floor of Makati Shangrila, says, “I have never seen a place where there are 12 traffic aides in one intersection (Makati Ave. corner Ayala Ave.) contradicting each other and causing traffic. Back home, it’s a single traffic light and the traffic flows smoothly during rush hour.” 
12 Traits of the Pinoy Driver?
Jeepney or Porsche drivers, rich or poor, have the same bad habits.
Veers left in order to turn right.
Bluffs who goes first, like a poker bet.
3 lanes become 6 lanes during rush hour.
When the traffic light turns yellow, speed up, not slow down.
Speed greed induces grid locks, which can last for hours.
On top of road rage is road anarchy.
The horn is a weapon to intimidate or irritate.
The courtesy culture is only in Subic.
We cannot have a day-time truck ban because they are owned by powerful oligarchs.
Many traffic schemes are band-aid solutions being changed every month. Trial and error.
Motorbikes are taking over. They think they are exempt from traffic lights.
When will we ever learn? Perhaps never. It is an impossible feat to change the Pinoy driving culture. Stiff fines, CCTVs, kilometers of intertwining concrete fences, thousands of traffic aides all do not work. If Subic can do it, why not Metro-Manila? Surprisingly, a Filipino driver who migrates to New York suddenly changes from a roaring lion to a meek lamb. We need a sociologist or a charismatic leader more than a traffic cop or CCTVs to change things.
The key perhaps is a shift in Filipino driving culture, an almost impossible feat. We need persuasion and value education, psychologists, sociologists more than cops and authoritarianism, making the Pinoy driver realize its worth it. Easy to say.
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by Bernie V. Lopez,
Blogger/Columnist-Journalist-Broadcaster, 35 years / Healing Ministry, 27 years
Inquirer * Business World * Manila Times * Manila Chronicle * Radio Veritas
Healing Ministry of Srs. Raquel/Gloria, RVM * for healing inquiries send email.
Eastwind Inspirational Verses
A Marian Trilogy