Island hopping Malapascua, Bohol, Camiguin and Siargao with Bridget, Lisa and Pete then spending my last week in Dumaguete
24.01.2013 - 14.02.2013 25 °C
I landed into Cebu City from Manila at midnight and negotiated a reasonable 170 pesos for a taxi to take me to the Northern Bus Terminal where I expected to be till the first one in a few hours’ time but unbeknown to me the non a/c’s go right through the night so just as I found a piece of metal seating long enough for me to lie down on (got to be careful of pickpockets here) saw that there was in fact a bus to Maya leaving in a matter of minutes …winning! Due to there being no traffic the journey to the northern tip of Cebu took less than 3 hours (usually much longer) which was not in my benefit at all as still hadn’t had any sleep and was on my own in a dark café from 4am by the pier so put on Legends of the Fall to keep me entertained.
As the cloudy sky was getting lighter the wind that had been present since my arrival seemed to increase and cause there to be quite a bit of rough sea between here and Malapascua so prayed the boats would run. Progressively people came and life started afresh on land and in the water so waited till 7.30am, when moved over to where some other tourists were on a concrete wall by the still unopened ticket office; it would be a further hour till the first boat was due to go. I paid the 80 pesos then forked out another 20 for a little boat to take us to the banca due to the low tide (last time was high) knowing full well it would be the same the other side which it was after a not so bumpy/wet 45 minute across the strait. I walked by Bounty Beach and cut inland to Purple Snapper where found the Lisa and Bridge still napping after a late night in the cosy 4 bed room (two bunk beds) along with new guy Steve from Florida.
I went to my favourite place on the island, Ging Ging’s, for a porksilog (pork chop with egg and rice) and potato omelette breakfast then spent most of the day on the laptop at the ‘resort’ planning a China trip (replacement to the defunct Burma idea) getting all tingly, partly because of the mosquitoes, but mainly because it just seemed the right country to go having only been there for a short visit in 1990 when lived in Hong Kong as a child. Being able to see a cluster of the irritating little insects above me was enough to send me to the dark room to do journal then at 6.30pm, still not having slept, went to GG’s for dinner having tomato salad and a pasta dish along with beer and rum that I ended up spilling all over Bridget. Once made our own mix in a litre water bottle back at the room we met everyone at ‘The Other Place’ only for the staff to warn us about drinking alcohol not bought on the premises- where are we right now?! Us and Lisa’s toyboy Matt couldn’t stop laughing the entire time we were there (chestyfoot and her mammoth size 9’s) then about 1am ended up on the sun beds at Bounty Beach with Bridget talking till right the way through till near sunrise when the Thresher shark divers were already on their way to Monad Shoal. As she sat in the creep chair and I had my red caveman light on we continued pissing ourselves till near 05.30- 46 hours of no sleep!
On my half birthday (haha) I was awake too early, unable to take the lack of water anymore (tap water undrinkable so have to pay for it- NOOO!) so refilled two bottles at the bar and rested a further three hours before going to our local for a huge chocolate & banana pancake and cheese & tomato sandwich on homemade dark brown bread. As the sun gave way to more cloud I sat on the beach writing, having a few kids come up and say hello or try and sell us souvenirs getting us agitated so we left. Coventry Peter who I had met in Manila took Steve’s place in the room having clearly seen my enthusiasm for this island when spoke to him about it; cool. The four of us dined at GG’s (sandwich and pork adobo) then bought a load more alcohol at a shop (plus cold coke in a big glass bottle) so could get drunk in the room, with myself and Bridget far too lazy to venture outside so carried on disturbing those in the adjoining rooms by being loud (may as well be in tents the walls are that thin) till moved as far as the step outside to see Peter and Matt who had been at the pool bar. A very strange Chinese lady stood staring for a time and eventually the presumably gay or extremely camp Louisiana owner came to turn down the volume a few notches before going to bed about 3.30am feeling merry.
The internet connection at Ging Ging’s was way better than Purple Snapper so stayed there from mid-morning till near lunchtime working a few things out. I joined the others at the beach where refreshed in the quite cool ocean (thought would be warmer), ate fruit a guy sold us from a basket and listened to three 10 year old Filipino girls talk about how they are each going to marry a European, which is disturbing even if a joke, as its just drilled intothem at such an early age- not education or finding a good job- no hope. It was Australia Day but the girls were not as keen on ‘getting on it’ as first thought with one going for a sleep and the other reading so me and Peter started it for them with two Red Horse’s when having a late lunch.
Prior to sunset and after a good shower we all got Tanduay and Fanta to consume on the sand in celebration of the day the British landed at Port Sydney and began the slaughter of the Aboriginal race (that didn’t go down too well). Taking big swigs we felt like the only ones in Malapascua and when saw a white man/young Filipino couple got into a deep discussion on why it happens and how utterly wrong it is although can see both sides of the coin. For dinner we got put on a tiny table as so busy and each nigh on worshipped the garlic bread we received (little tipsy) then I thoroughly enjoyed an amazing Chicken Caldiereta that I mixed my tomato salad into (great combination!) making for the best meal yet here (out of a dozen or so times on both visits). Our enthusiasm for a heavy night mutually dropped in an instant and by 10.15pm I was asleep as Bridget sat next to me reading her ‘Prophet’ book- like a bed time story.
Getting 10 hours of rest (no windows making room pitch black helps a lot) was long overdue and I felt great for it so went ahead and booked the three Chinese flights I had spent days pondering over- Bangkok to Kunming/Guiling to Beijing/Shanghai to KL all on different airlines but each found using the ever useful and amazing Skyscanner.net. GG’s was shutting shop 1-6 making me order two sandwiches for takeaway as a bacon/egg/cheese (just missing HP sauce)and a cheese & tomato one so far were not going to last me through till evening. Finally I stopped being a geek and was at the beach in the marvellous sunshine going in the water in an instant and writing in the shade as Pete and Bridget both got massages (300 pesos an hour- good deal and better than Thailand). A mini parade was taking place a stone’s throw away with 5 groups of kids all in costume each doing a dance to the same bad song- many colours, nice to watch and a couple of beautiful girls leading.
At 4.30pm we put our things away and walked towards the lighthouse using people’s directions to go a diagonal across Malapascua from the south west to north east past schools, villages and many a cockerel (never been to a place with more).
When at a small bay I could see the top of the white lighthouse but the path seemed to take us away from it when a kid offered hisservices to show us up a rocky slope to the top of what is probably the highest point of the island where it is located- not much of a view however. I sweated profusely on the walk home at dusk, timing it just right once again as to be away from the mosquitoes which are prevalent here.
Dressed in our Sunday best we went to eat at upmarket Angelina’s Italian Restaurant in a quiet corner of another beach (eating so well but spending so much). The place was open and had a nice feel to it as shared crispy focaccia bread then was given the Superangelina’s pizza (every topping) that I applied copious amounts of chili and olive oil to making it second only to Altrove- they certainly know their pizzas here in the Philippines that’s for sure! All full to the brim we waddled slowly back to Purple where packed most things, listened to more storytelling and passing out on my laptop at half 11.
All set for a long day, myself and Pete were almost the first customers at our local at 07.05 (no need for alarms when the cockerel is all that is needed) to order everyones breakfast (girls working out the bill which in fact was overcharged but they didn’t spot that at the time) with the coffee’s and food coming quicker than we have been used to (one thing about here is everything is in Filipino time so patience is a virtue). Finding out from my aunt (parents in Antigua) that my package from Nepal had miraculously arrived provided the perfect start and put me in an exceptionally good mood as was convinced it had been lost or never left the country. Going through the same motions as before (80+20+20) and sat by a truck load of empty bottles the sea was quite calm as made it to Maya at 9.15am only to be confronted with two coaches and people telling us contrasting things- nonstop/many stops?
We got on the one with more people (a/c as well) and I passed the time by watching both the Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy as took nearly 5 hours to reach Cebu City due to heavy traffic; Bridget got us all Cornetto’s at a break stop just as began to rain. Fitting us all into a taxi (only one big bag couldn’t fit in the boot) we made it to the ferry terminal in good time to pay the P520 for the scheduled 15.35 to Tagbilaran. I gave a porter half what he asked for at check in (worried might throw it into the sea for the sack of 50 pence but it’s the principle as all he did was lift it onto a wheeled cart) and after a flat two hour crossing, in which there was Wi-Fi on board, we were in Bohol.
Tired and not thinking straight we blindly accepted an expensive car ride to Alona Beach on Panglao but he took us right to the gate of Casanova Gardens at 6.30pm- 12 hours door to door! We were put in a large ensuite family room with air con and a kitchen for 1500 pesos (not bad) and ate at the nearest cheap place which unbelievably was called Ging Ging’s! Although it didn’t quite live up to the other one we still enjoyed a sizeable chicken curry before walking the 7 minutes to where the resorts, bars and restaurants are. We got ourselves a litre bottle of beer (girl’s normal size) and chilled by the shore then went to Valm Dive Shop, to speak to Raffy, on way to purchase another litre. Forgetting Red Horse is 6.9% the two of us were a bit drunk, when on the walk back I thought had left my headlight somewhere so went sprinting down the hard asphalt only to give up and tip toe back hurting my feet and finding it was looped round the top of the 6 litre water bottle the whole time!
As Lisa was quite unwell and feverish the rest of us left at 8.20am to Valm via the grocery store, bakeshop and place that sold bananas meaning we were late and so paid the new P100 fee (didn’t exist last year) and got on the dive boat straight away; Pete and Bridget snorkelling. Thinking the sea was calm that all changed when reached Balicasag Island and we lifted up at quite the angle as waves hit us to the side. Despite this the guys were undeterred and didn’t change the location from Diver’s Heaven to Black Forest where all the other boats were.
From the moment we descended I could feel a strong current that only got worse as we passed by some giant Green Turtles and smaller Hawksbill’s so a lot of my concentration was on my breathing and not pushing myself too hard to conserve the air. About 25 minutes in one of the divemasters (was a bit unorganised and they weren’t very attentive) signalled to turn around meaning could just drift, requiring no effort, and as the boat was elsewhere when surfaced floated to the beach to wait on a table that happened to be there Lunch wasn’t provided so munched on some chips and drank coffee in the interval when moved to the more sheltered Rudy’s Rock. The second dive was very nice and a great wall dive that appeared to go on forever with the current being in our favour. Yet more turtles were spotted (total of 11 today) as well as good coral and a hell of a lot of fish (remember from last time) as we spent a full hour underwater as not using much oxygen. After hearing about the good snorkelling from the others I baked in the sun going back to Panglao with a Dutch girl then shared pasta and garlic bread with Bridget.
I used the net at Casanova as the heaven’s opened putting a dampener on what I hoped would be a night to party. We still met up with Oregon Mike (happened to be in the area) and his friend Aaron from New Jersey, ate at busy and forgetful ‘Alona’s Hidden Gem’ (didn’t get half the order) and drunk lots of rum on our porch fighting off the mozzies which were out in force. They are both English teachers in Korea so got as much information and tips as I could before Aaron became kind of annoying and very American putting the girls right off and eventually they went to bed signalling the guys to go about 1am.
A great uninterrupted sleep made me so refreshed in the morning that I went to the reception area to join a significantly better Lisa in using the Wi-Fi amongst constant rain showers- a nothing day! I blogged extensively, had a coffee with them across the muddy, potholed road at modern Vanilla Sky (stunning pool), wrote and looked up everything there is to know about our next destination, Camiguin, seeing that it might not be as easy as I imagined to get there. During a break in the rain I got my yellow waterproof bag and was lucky to not get drenched getting supplies from the shops although had to wade through a half foot deep puddle that even the tricycles were avoiding.
I played some pool and continued using Word till 6.30pm when got everyone up from their slumber to eat a lovely, flavoursome pork adobo and half of Lisa’s too sweet and sour pork at Vanilla Sky (so sickly). There hadn’t been a drop from the sky in a while so walked on the beach barefoot to as far as we could go then ate peanuts and M & M’s whilst sipping a large beer each before going home and making sure the laptop was off when could barely keep my eyes open; made good progress but still so far behind.
I purposely got up at 7am so could Skype Mum, get addresses and phone numbers for hotels and get agonisingly close to posting another blog. We paid the bill (they forgot they extra bed charge), said goodbye to Pete and used a motorbike and bus jeepney to get to Tagbilaran terminal by brand new ‘Island Mall’; ears ringing from super load local radio.
We located the Jagna bound coach, visited Dunkin Donut’s and, although dropped phone on the floor, managed to get us into a place on the coast of Camiguin just as saw our transport reversing out without us so ran on (bags already in so would of been a disaster). The journey was comfortable and pleasant seeing just how green and picturesque Bohol is knowing will have to come back as yet again missed the famous Chocolate Hills and Tarsier monkeys.
At the port we got tickets, paid the 2 peso exit fee and 11.20 peso terminal fee (trivial), filled my bottle up with free filtered water (no change so didn’t charge) and sat by a couple who was on the dive boat the other day; Joey and Jeff from BC. They gave me good contacts in Borneo as we boarded the small fast ferry and I put on ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’. I didn’t think there would be time to finish it but the crossing took a while and didn’t pull into Benoni till 4.10pm- the island of fire looked gorgeous as volcanic cones dominated the land. A multivan driver who negotiated himself down to a level we wanted to pay took us to the door of Jasmin By the Sea Resort on the north coast where owner Mimi did her very best to accomodate (mattress, towels, password and beer in stubby holders) already getting the feeling this would be the best place yet as we sat overlooking the sea.
Along with the Canadians we had tricycle driver Daniel take us to Casa Roca some 6km away (Trip Advisor) where charismatic Newfoundlander Jim greeted us to his home and gave the lowdown on everything, being very proud of what he has achieved here with his beautiful wife and head chef Evelyn. He had his guests (only three rooms upstairs) bring us chairs over as we saw the menu prices exceptionally low considering the small restaurant had a touch of class to it that my parents would of loved. I was in a brilliant mood with two Pale Pilsens infront of me as the juiciest tomatoes and bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil was given to us as an appetiser then, when on the rum and cokes, went up to ‘shoot the shit’ (banter) with the localised foreigners including Mike from Saudi Arabia, Yorkshire Mark and an old Frenchman, meaning I was tipsy enough to not even notice how tasty the Asean fish was; felt exactly like my Dad talking away drink in hand away from the people I came here with. Because we ordered last and the main meals took nearly two hours to arrive there were no other patrons around and we had to buy driver Daniel a beer (because so far out the way had to give him a time) who had been here a short while. Still quite early we sat in the bar by Jasmin for a nightcap speaking to Brit Christian, whose parents are diplomats and lives in Shanghai teaching, then turned in about 1am.
Reliable Daniel came to get us early morning for a full day trip to the best sites in Camiguin, starting in the main town of Mambajao where the girls failed to draw any cash out the ATM’s meaning I would be their temporary ‘sugar daddy’. A rain shower almost force a re-think on the plan but the grey clouds soon passed as we made it to Mahinog to get on a small banca (500 pesos) to Mantigue Island 20 minutes off the south west coast; Daniel called it his home for a year and met his wife there also.
Lucky enough there was not a single other tourist about so wasted no time in going for an hour long snorkel in the ‘sanctuary’ area, staying on the edge by the buoys to see many schools of fish and a Giant Travelly swoop in for a feed although visibility was quite poor and there wasn’t a great deal of coral. I walked around the whole island in a matter of minutes, past the empty village and some fisherman as the top of Mt Hibok Hibok amd Mt Tinboong ever so briefly showed themselves but am unable to climb the thousand metre peaks as my boots were not with me!
We took photos on a fallen trunk of a tree that hung out over the water then got back in the boat so we could visit the market in Mambajao for bits of food to keep us going and continue around the top all the way to the west coast where the ruins of the old capital, Catarman are. We saw the massive cross built in the sea to mark the location of the sunken cemetery and the remains of an old church that were all destroyed in the 1800′s when Mt Vulcan blew its top and caused part of the land to become submerged.
In between Casa Roca and our ‘resort’ was where you take a boat to one of the most famous attractions in the Philippines, White Island. Biting my lip as forked out another 480 pesos I knew we had to see this and in fact was absolutely amazing and so unique as looked completely out of place being a permanent sandbar in the middle of the ocean by a black sand volcanic island. The colour of the water was magnificent and ever so clear with the crescent shape meaning one side was like a lagoon and the other open to the elements; so few people about and a scattering of clouds above.
We all fell asleep on the sand a while, visited both ends and at 4.15pm took the banca to shore so could go to the last place on the itinerary; Ardent Hot Springs. Using all its power the Suzuki engine nearly gave out trying to get to the entrance 2km up a steep hill as we paid the entrance fee and relaxed in the 38c water; hoping would be hotter. When a mass of Filipino families arrived it was time to have a power shower and go to Jasmin for 6pm thanking Daniel for a great day and giving him a 100 peso tip (1200 in all). Later on we opted to walk the 25 minutes to Luna Ristorante (nice evening to do so) for more delicious italian food- bruchetta and calzone plus 5 slices of the girls pizza’s. Using the fast Wi-Fi we stayed a while then on way home saw what I thought was a party but was actually a funeral celebration with big card games going on and the casket in full view from the road; common way to mourn here.
As I woke up at 8am the power went out and wouldn’t come back on till 5pm (weekly thing but why a Saturday?) so wrote in journal a while, went through all my papers and sorted what was still needed as Bridget did research and Lisa read. We went to a Sari Sari store for snacks then took up the rest of the afternoon typing out the next ‘masterpiece’ on Word using remaining battery. Just before 7pm we flagged down a tricycle to make a 70 peso ‘special trip’ to Casa Roca all excited for another fun evening. Although not the same atmosphere and Jim not making the ever so strong drinks we were given a huge helping of tomatoes and fluffy homemade bread (made mini sandwiches as onion and lettuce as well) and stayed on the Pilsen’s. A Blue Marline steak just about did me fine (only $5) and upon hearing laughter by the bar went inside for some rum before Jim kindly provided each of us with an Ameretto liquor ‘on the house’. Everyone was going to Paradiso Club so squeezed onto the available scooters and danced the night away with the locals in what is a small but very lively place that was only open till 2am.
All ready for yet more travelling I had Daniel come to get us at 8am and drive us to Benoni Port where we got on the rusty car ferry to Balingoan; one huge yank who could barely fit between the seats was the only other non-Filipino. Having eaten banana sticks, cakes and hard boiled eggs I could relax on what was a steady crossing to Mindanao not knowing what to expect from the part Muslim island; none of us were dressed conservatively.
Within half an hour of disembarking we were on an a/c Bachelor Express Coach waiting to depart although a funny looking man that had spent ten seconds of his life helping us put bags under would not go away unless I paid him in coins- eventually the female conductor threw him off! It was clear already that we were stared at much more obviously than ever before, as if none of the Mindanaoan’s had seen white skin before, which only got worse 3.5 hours later in Butuan.
People were that much in your face here being incessantly persistant in trying to sell you anything from chips to fake iPhone’s that as the girls raced away to at last get money out an international ATM I to sat by all the stuff inside one of 4 Dunkin Donut’s that existed in the not so big bus termina- overkill! Things only got worse as a bunch of guys followed us onto the coach and wouldn’t leave us alone with one sitting next to Lisa and others saying inappropriate things to Bridget; so hard to do anything when can’t move and exit blocked. Thankfully they got the message just prior to departing and so sat back and watched the slightly odd but entertaining ‘The God’s Must Be Crazy II’ then John Travolta action film ‘From Paris With Love’. We were in Surigao at 7.20pm and at sparkling new hotel Miami Suites a few minutes Multicab trip later concluding my third 12 hour travel day in a week. Although only a pit stop for the night the fact there was a TV, soft beds/mattress (for myself) and most importantly HOT WATER for the first time since Kathmandu made it more than that. We ate small pizza & pasta at Greenwich, used net in the lobby and watched the end of Fast 5 before I backed up my computer as the screen keeps going black without warning.
I was dead to the world when the alarm rose me at 4.55am and only 7 minutes later was out the door with the girls not far behind. The early boats to Siargao and other places were lined up by the seawall so avoided everyone trying to speak to us except for the ticket lady then ‘walked the plank’ and literally climbed on to a bench as no door, just open sides. Hungry as ever I got a bag full of dough based products (shock horror) and watched the dawn sky as we pulled off and sped away with awesome MMA film ‘Warrior’ taking up my time, although being next to the open engine bay meant full volume blowing my ear drums. Knowing that a jeepney was the cheapest form of transport meant I was rather rude and a little abusive to the tricycle and habal habel drivers who formed a semi circle around us behind the one going in our direction as just had enough of people not understanding the words NO and F*** OFF!
Unfortunately on this occasion going with them was definitely the more sensible option considering we only have two days here because it took nearly 4 whole hours to reach Pacifica due to- a considerable wait at the market, inefficiency and incompetence loading rice and materials onto the roof, constant stopping to give supplies to individuals, an unfinished highway and a half hour walk with all our things from San Isidro… nightmare all to save 3 quid. I powered it on the home straight to Bamboo Garden (carrying one of Lisa’s bags as well as my own) and almost collapsed in the bar by Brummy owner Tom and his wife Liz who provided us with iced tea. Thinking their place was bigger (just three cottages) it turned out us and an older couple, who lived there on a temporary basis, were the only residents so combined with the Pacific Ocean being a few feet away and no shops/bars/hotels/anything for a kilometre in any direction meant this was exactly what we needed- paradise!
Litre bottles of beer were shared and pool played then after Chili Con Carne I did photos on a just about working laptop and chatted to Tom about the land for sale in the area hearing about the various people who come and go trying to buy some; his 1000 square metre plot cost a million pesos but he knows should of paid much less with internet connection through satellite costing 150k). That evening we had good dinner (adobo and fries) and beer till all felt very tired at only 11.30pm.
Out of nowhere it was already the last day the three of us would be together in the Philippines and I struggled to comprehend where the 5 weeks since leaving Dumaguete had gone as I went for a morning swim in the warm ocean, by a deserted beach covered in palm trees, with only Bridget for company. I enjoyed a refreshing cold shower and found my laptop to be completely unusable only for a bacon & egg sandwich covered in HP sauce to take away some of the pain. I spent a long time conjuring up a feasible plan to go back to Australia for a year at the end of June, once seen the best of what Borneo has to offer, then once a rain shower passed walked to the closest Sari Sari for a sugar fried lunch. I joined the girls at the beach about 2pm, lay in the sea once deep enough above the rock platform and played with the two puppies and lovely chocolate brown ‘possum’ dog that lived at Bamboo as one of the staff handed us a coconut each to drink the sweetest juice from- not had a better one anywhere. This was the life! We mucked around in the sand and when washed off drank, played pool and tried out Liz’s good but not big enough pizza. Not being the most exciting bunch we went to our cottage at only 9pm to put the beds together and watched ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ knowing full well us, Amy, Nick, John, Pete and Matt would all be in Cambodia next week for a huge week of partying to make up for it.
Upon waking up really early and taking a dip in the perfect waters of the Pacific I dried my things, chatted to Liz and Tom, paid the bill and got taken the 25 minutes to Siargao Domestic Airport in their Kia truck. Having only been built 11 months ago the small terminal was so modern but coincidentally a power cut was going on meaning all the computers and scales were down. This prompted all the staff to go crazy and rush us to another area so they could write down the weights of our bags as well as ourselves with the plane still not having arrived at the gate yet- a bit OTT!
We took off in the turboprop Cebu Pacific plane twenty minutes early and less than half full on what may as well of been a sigthseeing trip seeing all the beauty this wonderful country has to offer; so many places have yet to visit! Upon touching down into Cebu City at midday I got my bag and said goodbye to the girls as took a taxi to the Southern Bus Terminal (zero hassle driver) with exactly the right amount of money to hand over to him in change.
I spent 36 pesos on 6 delicious cakes and waited till the 1.30pm coach was ready to roll in the now pouring rain. I gave two Scandinavians travel tips then watched ok film ‘Green Zone’ to take up time as it was nearly 4 hours to reach Puerto Del Sur; Spring messaged me saying she would not be in Dumaguete for two days which initially stressed me out no end but calmed down and knew could still stay at the house and use the bike so all good. I patiently waited for the short 20 minute ferry at 6pm to Negros and jumped in a jeepney to cut the cost of getting in a tuk tuk as knew it was a short walk from the drop off point. I saw Nina and Nathan, cooled down under the fan, showered and got picked up by Spring’s sister Zenesh once had been introduced to her new labrador puppy. I ate sizzling sisig whilst drinking tequila and beer with her and her nice friends who were singing on the new karaoke system installed in the middle with a big 42 inch screen- to do with new investor Emile pumping money into the bar. After one of the plastic chairs literally collapsed from under me i went with Zee and Rob to busy, very local Tiki Bar for one then rode around aimlessly visiting other people and was in the room by 12.30am where went to sleep straight away- another long day of travel.
Up early, I assessed how much stuff I have to take with me on a plane (as things left behind when went to Palawan) knowing that Amy would be bringing with her yet more items so had to save weight and room to accommodate. I had a banana cake breakfast, used the internet cafe for an E-Visa for Cambodia, got given a brilliant $1 haircut/shave/head massage by an old man in an air conditioned barber’s and put my laptop in for repair at Ace Logic as the screen has decided to not work even though the machine itself is fine. I shopped at Lee Plaza, ate two full rice and vegetable dishes at an eatery (58 pesos total!) and in my chair began the huge job of simplifying a few weeks of journal onto a computer screen using Spring’s laptop (big screen useful). I made good progress and did some writing till the evening when made myself a meal consisting of baked beans, ham and pepper poured onto half a fried baguette (quite hefty). I kept going with the typing till 11.30pm, spoke to Amy on Skype and watched the funny animated film Despicable Me before bed.
As the water bill was not paid on time by Zee it was unexpectadly cut off and so rationed what I had left in my 1.5 litre bottle and got the bakeshop to fill it up when went for more cakes. Now up to Malapascua Spring scared the life out of me when appeared at the window asking to be let in (front door always locked). I was really happy to see her and in a way glad she wasn’t about initially so could get on with things. I explained about the water and the poor state the dogs outdoor cage was in (not getting any attention as no one to play with and I struggled as she smelt so bad) then as she rested continued playing catch up till poured some water drops on her so we could ride about town to get out of the house; before we could do that we put every empty bottle into a bag and filled up in Destino.
I saw the banana stick lady by Harold’s (just been made) and went in search of a local ice cream guy but there was none on Rizal Boulevard and the one in the park was unmanned (so odd) so sat down and people watched before coming across one on a street corner- bingo. Lunch had been cooked by Samo when we were back, stuffing me completely as I leant Spring 2500 pesos to get the water turned back on at the DCWB (water board) because things were getting quite disgusting. I helped her with a big shopping list from the local market (3kg of nuts, mangoes, spring onion, bananas, eggs, tomatoes and other bits) then that night went to the bar with her friend Doc whom I made conversation with as she sat with the Police chief being a good hostess and making the most of great connections. I had a 7.2% Colt beer then we did the Filipino style of drinking called Taguy in which a Tangerro pours rum and coke into two separate glasses and we take it in turns to do a shot followed by a swig of mixer using the same glass- great way to interact everyone in a group! I become easily addicted to the warm roasted peanuts soaked in herbs and garlic (every day had two plates). Ruell and his friends arrived as I was the centre of attention and answering question after question until moved to Tiki Bar for non stop shots where saw Princess then had a falling out with Spring and partly walked home till she caught up; we sorted things out close to 4.30am.
From all the mixing drinks (got on coffee liquor at some point I think) I was hungover for the first time in months and could not physically get up to do anything. I just about made porridge but had to get back into bed for a while until knew there was another homemade meal waiting on the kitchen table for us- so much soy sauce to make rice less boring but always get full which is good for my weight, as its almost at pre-food poisoning levels. I managed to post blogs all the way to Manila as Spring worked that afternoon and evening till picking me up at 9pm where met Emil properly and had my own Rhum set (375ml bottle, jug of iced tea and bucket of ice for £1.50) as chatted to Congolese Serge about geopolitics (in particularly Africa) for quite some time; studying creative writing at Sulliman University and is a technology whizz. When he left on his way I hung around with my ever present plate of peanuts (so greasy my hands were covered in it) feeling progressively more tired until could not take the boredom anymore and got a lift home at 3am; Spring had to stay till last customer finished which wasn’t for a further two hours.
Both exhausted we stayed in bed late and did practically nothing till 4pm except go on a banana stick run! Along with Nathan we did a loop around Dumaguete seeing hundreds of people at all the public spaces due to it being a Sunday meaning family day here in the Philippines; very important for the community. I bought pizza for everyone from Alberto’s (one hungarian sausage and the beef and onion) and later somehow got into a conversation with lady boy Angel in Destino about heading to Thailand for sexual constructive surgery and the pros/cons of pre booking it online instead of saving a lot by gambling on finding something after landing in Bangkok; broad shoulders and face a giveaway but quite subtle so could easily fool people. I had 1 litre of strong beer, spoke to Doc Neptune (his siblings named after other planets), Erik and Dado and got roped into videoke with us being the last customers at 2am so let chef Ray finish up so we could go home.
With a pile of washing by the door is was definitely time for laundry but as the washing machine is a bit iffy and there was more than one load this meant we needed to stay in till it was done so typed some more, chilled and watched superhero film Megamind. At 2pm we went to Sulliman University and Spring showed me around the campus she used to study at (degree in journalism and mass communication) which was quite exciting as it is one of the best in the country and founded more than a century ago by American missionaries.
She showed me the faculty buildings, administration, main gate, church, old hang out beneath called the Catacombs (now shut down), the well manicured lawns and leafy trees and the Old Sulliman Hall which housed the disappointing anthropology museum; lack of organisation and few explanations for anything.
We strolled through the classroom area seeing all the students, looked at her past articles in the vast library (once largest in Asia) and near the sports centre had tempora which were dipped in the famous sauces that went up from level 1 to 5 in terms of how hot they were. The spiciest was more a thick paste so you knew it was not going to be pleasant but we both got through it only shedding a few tears and taste buds! I printed some things off to do with my Australia visa application (looks like place I want to be after Borneo) then, as she went to Destino, I could finally complete the island hopping blog that bought me up to date giving me a sense of relief as had been bugging me. That night I tried Tacilog as well as a cheesburger and more nuts whilst sitting up front with RJ and co who were singing and drinking a fair bit. With my confidence growing I chose a couple of songs to do myself but lost a bit of respect when proved to Spring that I could in fact pull her chair away without her noticing which ultimately led to her crashing onto the floor (oops) and leading to a disagreement which in turn became a huge argument neither of us wanted that didn’t die down till 5am when too tired to continue.
Following an eventful night we would rather forget we inevitably tried sleeping as long as we could, making it to 10.30am- 5 hours not enough! More food was waiting (getting used to this) and in less than an hour we were on the bike going up into the hills to Valencia as if nothing had happened- best way considering leaving so soon. Feeling a decrease in temperature and humidity we reached Forest Camp to find ourselves the only people around except for the staff in this quaint, relaxing and peaceful place set by a mountain stream. Across a rickety bridge we saw the native wood hangouts and chose one of the lovely refreshing pools to sit by. At the 5 foot deep one that was half in the shade I made the most of Spring standing up on the ledge in her bikini by ‘helping’ her in to the cold water just as our Halo Halo’s were handed to us in a while Buko (coconut) containing much crushed ice, mango ice cream, corn flakes, Ube and other bits in a sweet juice.
Cloud cover increased and was getting increasingly grey so decided to leave and got absolutely drenched in the process being the only one crazy enough to stay on the roads as everyone else took shelter- wasn’t possible to get any wetter! The more we descended the less rain there was and in Dumaguete the town was dry as a bone. I got some photos organised then hit up the bar at 8pm for a burger and to try a spicy fish salad dish called Kinilaw that could of been from many a western restaurant. Once washed down with an alcoholic banana shake and beer we waited for Emil to turn up (very quiet- almost no customers) so we could crack open some sweet red wine and watched a couple of films- confusing and original ‘Momento’ and independant Australian crime thriller ‘Animal Kingdom’. Upon seeing multiple texts and calls from regulars wondering about her whereabouts Spring felt she could never leave her place even for a few night hours.
For once there was no food available when I got up but this didn’t bother me as was really wanting to utilise the porridge I had barely used any of and made for a welcome change from the kilo’s of rice I have eating having recently. I completed the packing I started the day before then bought a black polo shirt from Lee Plaza so I could have the Destino logo put on it at a printing shop in Robinson’s. Upon seeing a plume of smoke towering over the town we went to investigate and managed to get to an unsafe distance away from the flames that engulfed an old wooden building.
Eventually nigh on the entire population were around taking photos, mainly with their phones, as firefighters did a poor job of containing it so local shopkeepers had to empty their stores just incase. When more fire engines came from as far away as Valencia some sort of control was put in place and a police cordon was taking shape just as the danger lessened although a sudden change in wind direction meant we were covered in burnt material and coughing from the smoke.
After all that excitement I collected my laptop (fixed for 350 pesos- £5.50! amazing) then at 5.30pm hurried to the cinema (been meeting Princess and running late) to watch two not so good but very different films- ‘Die Hard 5- A good Day to Die Hard’ (lacks reason that made originals so popular and so unrealistic that Bruce Willis can go through so much with barely a scratch) and love story ‘Safe Haven’ (watchable but very predictable); were only ones in entire cinema till three girls came in as it started. Not having change for the umpteenth time meant we couldn’t give the kid at the bike stand even 2/3 pesos (felt bad but what could we do?) as I forgot to put the stand up yet again. I slowly took us towards the bar knowing this would be the final time going by the boulevard and seeing the port/islands off the coast making me a little sad. Wanting a full litre of Colt 45 to myself I was left parched when became part of a taguy with Jimmy and his pals having to wait my turn for a drink so slightly rudely went solo and ordered one. For the first time all the customers had departed by 1am meaning the two of us could go into a videoke room with a bottle of Tandhuay taking it in turns to do a song or singing together making it a perfect final evening; did a good rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.
To Spring and all her friends amazement they could not believe that I was to be leaving on my own on Valentine’s Day as it is a big deal to all Filipinos for some god knows reason and I would be missing a big gig at Destino’s in the process- to me it was a number on a calendar and nothing more as the day is a stupid over-commercialization that infuriates the pants off me! Although wishing there were more hours in a day so I could sleep longer there wasn’t so had to force myself up to do last minute bits, collect my shirt (mucked up change so ended up not paying a penny!), have cake at Sans Rival as part of a 10 minute dining experience and buy snacks for the journey. Managing to sit on the back of the bike with all my gear wasn’t easy but we were in Sebulan Port in a matter of minutes with an ever so brief goodbye the appropriate thing to do not knowing when will see each other again, if ever. AND THAT WAS THAT!
I took the fast craft to Cebu, the 4 hour Ceres Liner to Cebu City and a taxi to the airport wanting to start the next leg of my trip as quickly as humanely possible! Knowing my bag was around the 20kg limit (been in the game long enough to guesstimate well) I took my jeans and shoes out and changed in the gents before being one of the first in line to check in at International Departures and pay the 550 pesos to leave.
I spent my last 40 pesos on water (could of bought donuts so was a wise decision) and took off at 7.57pm, landing into Singapore Changi Airport a little over 3 hours later having rested and done more writing in my 14F window seat. In the noticeably modern, vast, clean and efficient airport I hated the fact I wouldn’t be in the nice transit area with comfy seats, wifi and fountains. I had to cope with stand alone plastic seating, nothing in terms of entertainment and no cheap drinks or food for the next 5 hours till the Tiger Airways desk’s opened and so got my sleeping bag and towel out and lay on the cold, solid granite floor at 1.50am in the aim to get some shut eye- Happy Valentine’s Day to me but super excited about seeing all my good friends in a matter of hours!