Palawan and Manila.
01.09.2008 - 08.09.2008 30 °C
I arrive in Manila at 4.30am after a very uncomfortable bus ride, but at least I'd wrapped up so was warm enough. Cab to Claire's. Get in, collapse in bed. Because of time constraints Ive booked a flight at 12.30pm later on in the day, so I have a few hours sleep before I have to get to the airport. No rest for the wicked. I'm meeting Sarah (sister) in Bangkok after the Philippines, so when I wake (around 9ish) I skype her and make her go though my wardrobe on the web cam, love the Internet. I'm so bored of all my clothes it's not funny. She can bring me some new additions. Then it's a quick lunch with Claire and Nina and off to the airport. The flight to Palawan is fast and we land in Puerto Princesa about 40 mins later. I have only 5 days here and ideally would like to get to El Nido which is an 8 hour bus ride away (the thought appauls me). As I wait for my backpack, I enquire about buses and flights to El Nido. I meet a French Canadian guy called Sebastian at the desk. He also needs to get to El Nido with his girlfriend. Sebastian is my age, handsome, has a limp (kicked the hotel table whilst sleepwalking) and is wearing a gold baseball cap (American trailer trash stylee). He speaks goodish English with a strong French accent and every other word is an expletive. Miraculously in thirty minutes he has corralled five random sets of travellers, all going to El Nido; and has found a mini bus to take us there immediately! Perfect. I just go with the flow. Sebastian and Merie, Gianni and Julie, Bjorn and Nina, me and our driver all pile into a mini bus (pretty shit) and head into town to get cash, and some provisions for the drive. A quick supermarket stop. I emerge with water, two cheese rolls, some grapes, a pack of fags, grey hairs and sense of humour failure. It has taken me an hour! I have never been in a less efficient supermarket, hopeless. It takes us all ages, so about and hour and a half later we're all finally heading into the sunset toward El Nido. Seb and Merie are both from Montreal, Merie is very beautiful and suits Sebastian very well, they are both hilarious and make me laugh. Gianni is a friendly Italian, he is immaculately dressed, quite short with insufficient hair. He's with Julie who's Filipino. Gianni is divorced with grown up children, and Julie (my age) is his Filipino girlfriend, whom he visits once a year. He's even paid for the braces on her teeth. They sit in front of me with a bottle of red wine and a roast chicken which they share with everyone. Not quite sure how this can be? But the chicken meat is sweet? (more sugar again). Bjorn is German, makes terrible jokes, in his early twenties and has also found a Filipino girlfriend, Nina. Nina is a dive master from Borokai and laughs at the terrible jokes, the two of them cant keep their hands off each other. Good grief my cheese rolls are sweet?
We soon understand why the drive takes so long, there is no road. It's pitch black outside and we bump and jolt toward El Nido. We drive over load of bridges which are basically just two skinny strips of concrete, wheel width apart. The driver has to open his door to check he's on track! Merie falls asleep on my shoulder. We get to El Nido at midnight and find a guest house to crash in. We all need different types of accommodation (Gianni 5*), but the Canadians look after me and we get a shared beach hut with two beds (single and double). We sit on the porch for a while with music and some beers before bed.
I wake up to a full moon. Sebastian has no pants on. I tip toe out and join Merie for coffee on the porch. El Nido is so sweet! We're looking over a beautiful bay, the town isn't very big and curves along the bay, which is also a beach. The bay is full of classic Filipino fishing boats. We meet out neighbour Ben, a 50something Turkish guy. We apologise for making so much noise the night before. After breakfast we organise a boat to take us into the lagoon and to some hidden beaches. Ben joins the three of us. I stupidly haven't had a bikini wax, so spend 30 mins plucking hairs with my tweezers. We stop at about four different places during the day. All hidden beaches. One where you have to snorkel through a hole in the rock to get to a secret beach behind. The landscape is too beautiful for words. The sea is glassy and crystal clear. The land masses are pillars of volcanic rock which jut out of the sea at right angles to the water. The vegetation sort of clings to the vertical volcanic walls. I feel like I'm in a virtual computer world. Perfect lunch of open fire cooked fresh fish, and a tangy tomato and onion salad. What a day!
...Only slightly put off by Ben's unsubtle amorous advances. I try hard not to let it bother me and keep out of his space. He insists on patting me on the head (which I hate), and taking photos of me and Merie on the beach. Yuk. It all becomes too much later that night, he's drunk and tries to feed me peanuts (what a twat). I snap and tell him to f-off. It appears that he is a sex tourist who lives in Miami, but has just gone bankrupt and has escaped to the Philippines (discovered by Sebastian after I'm in bed). He's in a mess, so I do feel slightly sorry for him (slightly). The next few days are spent snorkeling and finding Nemo in the most beautiful water ever. We meet two French boys (20 year olds), both of whom have a Filipino girl in tow. They met them in Manila and brought them along with them. I'm struggling with this whole scenario. Western men with Filipino girls, I suppose its mutually beneficial? Although not sure exactly how old these girls are? The two French boys are complete idiots, and get on everyone's nerves. While the others go off diving. I lie on an idylic deserted beach watching the sand crabs run sideways. A tropical rain storm hits briefly, I watch it coming towards me. It's incredible how it can be raining in one area and dry and sunny right next to it. The darkness hits me and I dive into the water as it pours down. I wish I could have taken a photo. The vision of millions of rain droplets hitting the crystal water is out of this world, magical.
Three days of bliss (Ben leaves on day two). Then sadly it all has to finish and I need to get back to Puerto Princesa. Unfortunately by public bus. Horribly uncomfortable. My back really hurts, plus I have to sit next to a drunk man, who eventually moves, but then sits behind me and puts his dirty feet onto me and my seat, revolting. I finally arrive, check in for flight and head back to Manila. I am so grateful to be back at Claire's that night, its been a long day. The following day Ive booked myself onto a Carlos Celdran tour of Manila. It's the Imelda Marcos tour, showing the architectural highlights (and lows) of this dictator's glamorous wifes whims. She probably embezzled millions, but she did it in such a way that she is still loved and revered throughout the Philippines?! She was an icon in their eyes, and she sort of attained super stardom.
"She responded to criticisms of her extravagance by claiming that it was her 'duty' to be 'some kind of light, a star to give (the poor)guidelines'. Imelda was found to own 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, and 1060 pairs of shoes". George Hamilton was a key witness for her defence at her trial! Check her out on the net, ridiculous.
On my last day Claire and Nina take me into the old town and we have a wander, and also head to a great organic market to pick up some lunch and dinner. My flight to Bangkok isn't till 10pm, I leave about 7ish before dinner, but with sandwiches from Claire (unsweetened). Its been so lovely staying with her and Manu. Nina is beautiful and a real character. I'm glad Ive got to know them, and we will always be friends. Thank you!
Going to the airport outfits, Filipinos do it so well.
Efficiency, Filipinos don't know the meaning of the word.
The on board Cebu Pacific game, in flight entertainment, you win a really shit Cebu Pacific toilet bag (not for kids).
Accidentally on purpose loosing my leather slip on shoes.
Sorry late addition...The bra Lisa made me throw away in Sydney (it was skin coloured, Lisa pointed out that it was the skin colour of a corpse)
Vietnamese boat which is caught with 150 dead turtles.
Sea dogs diving, Sebastian runs out of air, luckily can come up to the surface.
Did the Filipino girls toss for which French boy? One is handsome, the other isn't.
The crab which tried to eat my skirt.
Sebastian being strip searched and having to hide MDMA pills on himself in Hong Kong.
Philippines has terrible diabetes and high cholesterol rates, wonder why?
Carlos Celdran tour of Manila... "Livin' La Vida Imelda" - showman quality tour guide.
Bangkok next and seeing my sister!!!! Dead excited.
Miss you'all xxxxx