Manila Prison is a dire place; stone floor, barred cages. My film crew had arrived there to record a pre-arranged interview with the notorious pirate Emilio Changco. He was incarcerated for stealing ships the size of skyscrapers in the South China Seas and would make great TV. Unfortunately he didn’t turn up. No he hadn’t changed his mind, he had been shot dead ‘trying to escape’ just before we got there.

The film had been commissioned by the BBC, a hard-hitting investigation of modern piracy in the Far East. Things had been going well, we had managed to film some Pirates shooting guns in the air and telling us how they used their small outrigger canoes to capture enormous vessels. But this was different. We were told that Changco had forty bullets in him. This was a surprise as he had a limp and had to use a cane, not one for a quick escape. The worry, of course, was that he was shot to stop him telling us his story. We already had suspicions about authorities in the area actually hiring these Pirates. Suspicions but no proof, so the programme was transmitted without that part of the story.

Years later, my filming days over, I decided to write the story as fiction. Manila Harbour is published by Red Door.


Martin Granger’s MANILA HARBOUR and OCEANS ON FIRE are published on 25 June 2015

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