It’s not everyday that one gets to meet and be friends on a first-name basis with a genuine VIP from another country.

A real, genuine one.

And it’s certainly a rare one when you get to travel with His Excellency and a small group of friends for 6 consecutive days (yes, sir six – count ‘em!) – enjoying a full load of fun and banter the whole stretch, having meals, drinks and cigarettes together, and enjoying  a not-so-common recreational activity under heavy rain and scorching sun on unholy hours in some of the most remote areas of the country!

How many times in a man’s lifetime can one experience something like that?

Unless, of course, you were born to royalty. Or your job entailed socializing with the high and almighty.

And so when I was invited by a cousin, Nestor Dolina to join a small group of bird watchers for a birding tour he was organizing – a small group which included a  VIP (a fact which was mentioned as an aside before the trip) – it would have been crazy to turn down such an invite.

His Excellency, Ambassador Robert Brinks, the Ambassador from Netherlands, however, had to emphasize time and again that, no, he was traveling not on official business, not as a diplomat representing his country; he was here as a private individual.

A private citizen.

Here to enjoy one recreational activity, which became apparent as the days wore one as high in the list of his personal pastimes he truly enjoys doing most – bird watching.

Private citizen Robert Brinks’ last assignment was just a stint in Baghdad (no mean feat!), where he confessed he felt more like a virtual prisoner amidst the constant bombings left and right.

And coming to the Philippines, he must have felt what being “free as a bird” truly meant!

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