Tourists assigned to dig latrines


TOURISTS WHO BOOKED an adventure holiday ended up digging latrines (toilet holes) in a muddy shanty town. And they loved it.

People are weird. Thank God. This is how it happened.

An utterly hopeless parent who has disastrously spoiled his children had to do something urgently to reset their values. So this person, whose name is similar to mine, okay, it’s me, signed himself and his kids up to visit an aid organization in the Philippines.


Flights were arranged for several families, and we landed in the early hours of the morning.

After two hours’ sleep, we shook the kids awake and headed off to a shanty town.

ME: “Hey, kids, we’re going to DIG LATRINES for a few days, yay! It’s going to be really fun!”

KIDS: “Yippee!”


NOTE: You can get kids enthusiastic about anything if you say it in the right tone of voice.

ME: “Hey kids, the dentist is going to give us really painful root canals, yay!”

KIDS: “Yippee!”



The kids didn’t know the word “latrine”, and assumed it was a type of precious metal like gold or silver.

“Kind of,” I said.



Then we arrived at a cluster of shacks in a rural part of Negros Island and were shown where villagers needed toilet holes dug.

To my relief, the kids grabbed spades, buckets and bags of cement and threw themselves into the job—literally. They fought to get into the muddy hole.


But you know what? It DID turn out to be really fun—and educational.

I can’t believe that I have spent so much of my life in the toilet, literally AND metaphorically, while knowing so little about them.

1. Toilet holes need to be two meters deep because humans produce A LOT of poop. (Four meters if the user pool includes investment advisors.)


2. You don’t need to connect latrines to sewers because the waste seeps into the earth where there are massive groups of hungry bacteria sitting around with knives and forks waiting for it.


If the poop bypasses the bacteria it goes through the center of the earth to emerge several weeks later in Canada, where Mounted Police will record your DNA in their records.


3. An empty pipe leading nowhere has to be built into the latrine hole, otherwise the trapped gas would eventually cause the toilet to explode, launching the user above into space.

When we heard that one, we were SOOOO tempted to leave the pipe out of one of the toilets we were building.

Man, an exploding toilet would be one of those once-in-a-lifetime super-cool things to see. (Female readers may be puzzled at that thought, don’t worry, it’s a guy thing.)


An expert on site told me that the average person goes to the toilet seven times a day, adding up to a lifetime total of three years spent “on the throne”.

I was highly skeptical about that. I have three women in my family, and they spend 40 to 60 percent of their waking hours in the bathroom, which must add up to WAY more than three years.


Now, just in case you are reading this while sitting on a brand new toilet in a village in the Philippines, don’t worry. We resisted temptation. It WILL NOT explode.

Relax. Enjoy.

What, don’t you trust me?




NOTE: The video below features unashamedly sentimental images of people being nice to each other. DO NOT WATCH if you can’t cope with that sort of thing. Second, no need for the usual attacks on faith issues in the comments below. Although the trip was organized by a church, the volunteers included young and old, people of faith and people of none, and the people receiving help were not required to belong to our faith or indeed any faith.

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