So, my Philippine adventure begins. I got very cheap tickets to Manila (about $110 return ticket). I have to admit that the price was my main motivation to visit Philippines. I didn’t know much about it neither make any research to speak of. The plan for the trip was a bit rough around the edges to say at least. The details were left to our future selfs to worry about. Anyway, the first destination was decided – we fly south to Cebu city and head to the island named Malapascua.
One thing that surprised me was how accessible is the mobile Internet in there. The week of unlimited(!) Internet costs about 12$. And the coverage is quite good (at least on bigger islands). It’s quite surreal to check your Facebook while riding through village full of sheds with tin roofs. You can also go to Internet caffe which usually is full of young Filipino’s playing online games.
Malapascua is a small island north of Cebu. We first had to go to Maya in the north of the Cebu island and then sail for 30 minutes on a catamaran. Just a little note – when you are on a bus station and some Filipinos are shouting at you to get in their van because they can get you faster to Maya – just don’t. Unlike normal bus the van should take about half the time to get there (it didn’t) because it doesn’t stop all the time (it did) and it leaves right now (it didn’t). Instead we waited next half hour to fill up the van with other people and then we stopped not at every bus station but by every pedestrian to ask whether they don’t want to go to Maya. And you wouldn’t believe how much people you can fit in a small van.
But when we got there it was all worth it. Malapascua really look like a paradise. White beaches, tall palm trees, almost no tourists whatsoever – it got it all. Right on arrival we’ve been taken care of by local tourist guides, who showed us where to buy rum, where to dive and where to sleep. It felt like a whole village was waiting for us. There were few other foreigners, but otherwise most of the restaurants and businesses were empty. We spent just one night there but it was nice introduction into the Philippines.
There is also insane amount of children in Philippines. Because of the catholic no anti-conception beliefs of the Filipinos, average amount of kids in family is around 10. If you heard about middle child syndrome imagine you are the 5th out of 10 kids in family. Anyway, these kids are everywhere. Some of them trying to sell you their overpriced homemade souvenirs. When 5 year kid ask you “Sir, would you like to buy one of the bracelets?” it’s hard to say no. When I said I will buy something later they camped in front of the hotel shouting “Later? Later?” when I went out.
Btw, if you happen to be there, don’t forget to go to the bar called Maldito. It’s one of the coolest bars I have seen in the while. Apart from the fact that the triple shot of rum is cheaper than the single shot, it has really awesome atmosphere. It was in the bar where I realized that instead of staying last summer in Prague and working from home office for US employer I could be working from Malapascua. Probably even saving money by drinking triple shots. Damn you past Tomas …
It’s time to leave and head for our next destination – island Bohol. After a short stop back south in Cebu city, we took a ferry (called Starcraft) to the city called Tubigon. Because it reads the same way as “To be gone” (and never come back), there was always possibility it is badly disguised trap for kidnapping tourists. We decided to take the risk anyway. From Tubigon it’s just an hour to Carmen. Carmen is known for an area called Chocolate hills. It’s formation of many hills created by vulcanic activity. Personally I don’t get the analogy with chocolate. If something, I would name them after certain part of women body.
After we went up and down the chocolate hills, it was already dark. And because it was Saturday evening it meant only one thing – the cock fight. Every weekend there were cock fights all around Philippines. Even though it might seem cruel, for Filipinos it’s part of their culture and also more creative way how to prepare dinner. You can’t miss the arena. The load shouting of Filipino men trying to bet on a cock can be heard from a distance. Obviously, as the only white people in the arena we attracted a lot of attention. We wouldn’t have any idea how to bet or what are the rates without our trusted guide Kim. The system is really crazy, you shout your bet on a cock and then put your money in a small ball and throw it on the other side of arena. When you win, they will throw the money back with the extra amount. Even though, it can be cruel sport, I am glad I have been part of it. It’s one of my few truly local experiences in Philippines.
That will be all for now. When I force myself to write another article (sometimes between tomorrow and the end of this decade) I will tell you about sailing the river in Loboc, the crazy Alona beach, the swiming with the whale sharks and many more.