A terrible scream punctures the still tropical night. The sound is all the more jarring given its context. We are on our second night of a boat expedition around one of Southeast Asia’s last frontiers, the Philippine province of Palawan, and so far the trip has been as harmonious as one of Brian Wilson’s finest moments. Not anymore. As I approach the source of the noise, it get even more worrying. The tiny shack glows a satanic shade of red and I see foreboding shapes making frenzied movements within. Steeling myself with an additional shot of Tanduay rum, I make my way through the door and come face to face with my discordant nemesis. It is one of the group’s female members who is gleefully murdering Can’t Buy Me Love at what is possibly the most remote karaoke bar in the Philippines. The rest of our collective and the crew sing erratically in drunken support. Closer inspection of the songbook reveals plenty of hoary old chestnuts by the likes of Bread and America but nothing by The Pogues or The Clash, which is a shame as these are the musical reference points most in keeping with the ethos of our hosts for the trip, Tao Philippines.
Like the aforementioned groups, the band of brothers (and a couple of honorary sisters) who make up the Tao family have more than a modicum of rebel cred. Led by best mates Jack Footit and Eddie Brock, who founded the company in 2005 as a means of ferrying their friends around the remote islands that lie between Coron and El Nido in the northern reaches of Palawan, Tao is a far cry from your common or garden South East Asian tour company.