By David Haldane
June 14, 2018
That’s the best way to describe my usual response when asked why I want to live in the Philippines. My favorite retort: “Because they treat me like a rock star.”
I may have to come up with something more imaginative, though, now that that has come true.
The occasion was the 2015 publication of my book, “Nazis & Nudists; A Baby Boomer’s Memoir of Love and Journalism from Psychedelic Mushrooms to Pig-on-a-Spit.” Basically, it’s my life story, the last third of which is devoted to the saga of meeting, falling in love with and ultimately marrying the beautiful young Filipina-of-my-dreams with whom I now reside. And most of that part of the memoir, of course, is set amid the various exotic islands comprising my sweetheart’s native land.
Anyone who’s ever published a book knows that it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it’s initially ego-gratifying to see your name on the cover of something available on Amazon and, as they say, “wherever good books are sold.” (Yeah, I wish.) But then, after the initial flurry of attention from family, friends and press, you enter the Twilight Zone of publishing; that sort of amorphous, grey area of unfulfilled fantasies in which you realize that, despite a few literary awards, some very good reviews and one or two of the other kind, not too many people are buying the damn thing. Which results in royalty checks so tiny that you’re embarrassed to show them to your wife who thinks you’re a big deal.
So, it’s not surprising that when a Filipino journalist friend mentioned the possibility of a book tour in the Philippines, I jumped at the chance. In the interest of full disclosure, let me just say that I was planning a visit there anyway. But now the trip had a special purpose; to promote and spread my Philippine story. My friend quickly put together a modest itinerary consisting mostly of appearances on college campuses, specifically Silliman and Foundation universities in Dumaguete and Surigao State College of Technology in the city whose name it bears.
There was also, of course, some media involvement, including a nice little feature in the Sun Star of Cebu and an appearance on Silliman University TV. But it wasn’t until I walked into the first auditorium full of students that the unlikely drama of the situation completely hit home; there, covering nearly the entire wall behind the lectern, hung a huge poster depicting yours truly holding up the book with his name printed largely down below. And, as I stared out across the wide expanse of seats, it was shocking to note that very few were empty.
It didn’t hurt, of course, that – as I found out later – the university had made student attendance mandatory.
But their response was gratifying; the audience seemed attentive and asked lots of questions. And the pomp was typically Filipino; after each presentation there were proclamations, gifts, plaques, ribbons and, of course, the usual picture-taking sessions. Those generally took longer than the lectures themselves because, following the formal posing with faculty and administrators, the students literally lined up for selfies.
Suffice it to say that I had never experienced – nor expected – this kind of treatment. And that’s when I realized that I was living out my rock star fantasy. Since then I’ve thought a lot about why a foreign author would inspire such excitement in the Philippines. The most obvious answer, of course, is that it’s a developing country unaccustomed, at least in the provinces, to formal visits from abroad. And that, despite the recent federal shifts in foreign policy, most Filipinos still admire Americans.
But there’s a larger reason, I believe, and it has to do with culture; the deep-seated Filipino penchant for making strangers feel at home. That, at its root, was the genesis of their graciousness and the basis of their charm. It is also one of the things I like most about this place I find so warm.
Did the book tour ultimately boost my literary bottom line?
Frankly, I have no idea. But lots of personally-autographed copies went out. And lots of people on Facebook suddenly want to friend me. All things considered, I’d say, it was the perfect pre-move vacation.
A former Los Angeles Times staff writer and winner of a 2018 Golden Mike award in radio broadcast journalism, David Haldane fell in love with the Philippines on his first visit there in 2003. A few visits later, he also fell in love with the beautiful young Filipina to whom he is now married and, with whom, he has returned many times. David has written extensively about his experiences in the Philippines for several publications including Orange Coast and Islands Magazine. Today he and Ivy, along with their eight-year-old son, Isaac, divide their time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Surigao City, Philippines. His award-winning memoir, Nazis & Nudists, recounts, among other things, the courtship of Ivy and finding a place to call home. For David that turned out to be at the tip of a peninsula marking the gateway to Mindanao where he and Ivy are building their dream home next to a lighthouse overlooking the sea. This blog is the chronicle of that adventure.
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Hi David –
No offense intended, but I think most people are unable to grasp the meaning of the title, “Nazis and Nudists”, that’s why they are not buying. I would recommend a wholesale revision of the title and republish the work with a title that people can relate to.
To use Paul Thompson’s favorite expression, “Who would have thunk it?” (that the book is, for the most part, a recounting of your courtship of a native Filipina from the island paradise of Siargao.
David – to start things off, your superb writing skills immediately captured my attention. Good thing too, because if I wasn’t hooked, I would have shut down immediately after reading the first part of the title of the book. Albeit intriguing, just the word nazi turns me off.
That said, I concur with John and Bob… change the title to make the reader want to buy the book. Feel free to explain what the first title meant somewhere in the revision. I’m certain it has a special meaning for you, and maybe me too, but prepare the reader first.
That’s why I’m sure Rock Star will garner attention… it got mine. It is totally relatable and an explanation why I love this country. Where I come from, if I was seen randomly waving at people, children, old folks, just about anyone, I’d likely get the attention of the police or a worried parent or folks would think I escaped an asylum.
If you like, share some names of titles you considered, or better yet, tell us why the heck all I can remember is nazies, nudists and psychedelics.
Thank you for your story. At least you have been published, your aren so lucky. I tried for years, SciFi as well as cook books on cooking over an open fire while backpacking in the High Sierra’s of California. And all I got was sorry not interested letters. But you are right the people here are so warm and always interest in our well being. I love life here. Thank you again for your article.
Hello everyone, and thanks for your comments so far. Regarding the title, it’s really gotten mixed reactions. Lots of people, like you, have found it off-putting. Others, however, have said that they specifically picked up the book because the title was provocative and it piqued their curiosity. And I’m sure that the title elicited some media interest early on; at least one newspaper columnist, who liked the book a lot, began a very complimentary review with a little riff on the very fact that some were put off by the title. I’m exaggerating a bit about the sales; there have been some, though modest, which, I am told, is pretty much the norm for a first book. And the reviews have been mostly very good. The title does actually have some meaning related to the book. “Nazis” is the name of a chapter about a year I spent living in Germany with the son of an actual World War II Nazi and the reckoning that I, the son of a Holocaust survivor, had with this person, which was really life-altering for both of us. “Nudists” is another chapter about a summer I spent naked camping out with a bunch of other hippies on a luscious Greek island. In a larger sense, the title connotes the extremes that were so present in America of the 1960s and ’70s in which much of the book takes place. All that said, of course, I am always open to suggestions. So, guys, have at it: hit me with some new ideas for the title…
I always enjoy your contributions here on LIP.
I like the title! It reminds me of Hunter S Thompson and grabs my curiosity, but then again I read lots of books. They are my way of escape, and relaxing at the same time.
I can totally relate to your “Rock Star” status, because the Filipino people have made me feel the same way, even if they just say “Hi Joe” it makes me smile. Everywhere in the world I have been for my job, I also get whispers and comments of “Hulk Hogan”, I am definitely NOT a huge muscle bound wrestler, but I have a goatee and wear a bandanna on my head, (keeps it from getting sunburn). When this occurs I just grab my shirt and go “Arrrrrrr” as if I’m ripping it off my body. This usually breaks the ice and creates smiles all around. The people of the Philippines have very much made me feel like family also, but then again I have family. 2 children, 7 & 4 in Sta. Rosa. I have always wanted to write “My story” as well, but decided it would have to be published as fiction because no one would believe any of it. (except my Mom).
Wait a minute, this isn’t about me…I would very much like to get a copy of “Nazis & Nudists” if possible. Being a baby boomer as well, I think I may truly enjoy it and can relate.
“Living Life better than a Rock Star”
Thanks for the nice comments, S. Davis. I would love to hear your reactions to my book. Probably the best place to get it is on Amazon. The cheapest and fastest way is to download the E-book, though it is also available there in audio and paperback. Hunter S. Thompson, yeah, he wrote quite a bit about the same era, at least those were his most famous works. At one time I was quite a fan, though he kind of lost me in later years. I would definitely encourage you to write your story. I, for one, would be delighted to read it.
I have a title suggestion: “Feisty, fearless, fifty+, foreign fabler finds fresh Filipina.” I figure that would work for the last third of the book. Good luck!
Yeah, but would it all fit on the cover? Thanks, Jay…
Your right…I think the font size would be too small to see at a distance. I admire your stick-to-itness writing a book. I get some of the Rock Star treatment when visiting the Province of Bohol. My brief times in Manila no one seem to mistake me for Mick Jaeggar…IDK.
If I encountered your book at American Book Store here in the Philippines, I would do as I do with all authors I’ve not read before I turn the book and read about the author, which should explained the title to me as you just did above. Next I’d read the first three pages to check the books flow, and then either purchased it or not..
But I’m the guy when a kid in the Dorchester (Part of Boston) who hooked school and went to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox, and the rest of the year I could be found at the Public Library on Adams Street close to my High School. As I turn 71 I am relegated to Audio Books because of failing eyesight. So as soon as your book is out in audio I will download it. But alas I never pay for downloads here in this land of Enchantment………………………………. I enjoyed your article
Actually, Paul, the book is out in audio though, sorry, not for free. As for your suggestion of explaining the title in the bio, that’s an interesting idea. Probably too late to change the title or anything in the book or cover itself, which would be very costly. I could easily, however, change the promotional material on Amazon, which I will definitely consider.
A new dust cover (Book jacket) should be easy than changing the bound cover.
I will search your title today in audio. Don’t change the title at all, it’s the one you picked, you stay with it…
Unfortunately I agree with the comments regarding the title. When I first saw it here “Nazis and Nudists” I thought what the heck do they both have in common, so to be honest if I saw that book on a bookshelf in the airport or in a bookshop I wouldn’t have given it a second glance just on the name alone. Sorry about that but now having got some insight into the contents and add to that your style of writing which I like, it may have just changed my mind. But yes, please have the name changed.
Thanks for the feedback, guys. Bob, not sure what you mean by a “political attack” — you mean from the left or the right? And, to be honest, much of the book is very political, though not from a partisan point of view. More like it’s about a very political period in our history, in some ways not unlike the present. You may be right, though, about people’s mistaken reactions. Actually, the book was written and published before the beginning of the super-charged hyper-sensitive political atmosphere of the present. And Jack, as I said earlier, it’s probably too late to change the title without a lot of grief, but I will definitely think about it and perhaps discuss it with the publisher. Ironically, the very thing that you say would repel you from the book seems to have attracted some others. Nonetheless, I will ask my publisher for his opinion. Thanks again for the valuable feedback!
Hi David & Bob,
The Nazi’s during WW II murdered millions of innocent people. This isn’t a conservative or liberal thing. Nazi’s were EVIL. There are white supremist who call themselves Nazi’s and hate people they consider from the “mud races” like Filipinos. I know the three of us are all married to Filipinas and I believe we all three respect Filipinos and Filipino culture regardless of whether we are left or right leaning as far as US politics go. I think David was trying to be clever and humorous with his title, but I find no humor in Nazis. I do think David’s a good man, but I do not like the title of the book.
I understand and agree with your point. I don’t like it when people on the left call people on the right Nazis. There are people a fairly small part of the population who call themselves Nazis. I do not consider them conservative. I don’t think either political party embraces there views on race. I don’t think name calling is new. It is unfortunate and lazy.
David has the right to use Nazis in the title of his book, but it pretty much guarantees that I will not buy it. I would only consider buying a book with the word Nazi on the cover if it was about the historical Nazis or if it were informative on the people who admire the Nazi’s of the past and choose to identify with it. There is actually a market for pro-Nazi books and such, unfortunately in my opinion.
You got that right, Bob, and I am frankly surprised at the level of passion this has engendered in you and Jay and a few others. Higher up in this discussion I explained my reasons for choosing the title; what its significance is to me and to the book and how I believe it aptly reflects the contents. I still believe it was an appropriate choice artistically, even though it may, as you suggest, have had a negative commercial effect. I guess my only response to that is to resurrect a tired old cliche which, as do most most tired old cliches, contains a gram of truth: you can’t judge a book by its cover. In the present context, I would make only one minor edit; delete the word “can’t” and substitute “shouldn’t.”
No passion here either. I think you are a good guy and wish you good sales. It is probably a good book. I by no means am an expert on book titles. I enjoy reading your articles!
The extremely racist Filipinos do not treat us like rock stars. lol