Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mexico of the East

Ahhhhh the Phillippines. I knew precious little about this large smattering of islands except that the beer was cheap, the women possessed a fiery spirit, my buddy college has set up mercury testing in a fish plant out here, and the indomitable Filipino warriors of old warranted the US government's invention of the robust .45 caliber handgun round because previous calibers had proved ineffective in stopping them. I ended up not seeing to much of Manila as I was pretty much bed-ridden for the first 48 hours we were there but Pat relayed some valuable information from his forays into the wild. "It's hot, there's people sleeping everywere, people want money from you, weird 1/2 jeep/bus things driving around, bar girls are aggressive, I've never had more girls say they "like" me, I met two crazy Filipinos, are you ready to go out yet?". I got the basic was hot, but with very little humiditiy which was a welcomed relief from Thailand and Indo. We decided to leave after 2 days as we wanted to see some of the beaches and maybe get some diving in so we booked a flight to Boracay further south and peaced out. After an hour in the air, we negotiated a tricycle (scooter attached to a carriage with another wheel added on) to a ferry, and then another tricylce to the "White Beach" 3 kilometers long where all the hotels and restaurants were. Boracay is a pretty small island with its western side entirely devoted to tourism. Given that, the long beach was still very clean and the water looked epic (colder than anywhere else we'd been though).
After wandering with the "travel agent" who'd attached himself to us (this happens in Asia) we found a legit hotel with a nice pool and settled in. The next 4 days consisted of living the touristy beach life: quart-sized Long Islands served in jars, reading by the pool, late breakfasts, Pat got in some dives, dinners on the beach, outdoor club drinking with young Canadian doctors on some kind of philanthropic mission, some great Indian food, making sure that happy hour was observed religiously, watching cockfighting on tv set to the Enter the Dragon soundtrack, and counting the number of older (50+) white men with younger (less than 25) Filipinas. There was a lot. We made it to a couple pretty deserted beaches, found an actual deli that served actual sandwiches (almost impossible in Asia), but still decided to ignore out return flight to Manila and seek out Puerto Galera instead. We thought we would be checking out the Calamian Islands to the west and their legit wreck dives (lots of Japanese ships sunk during WWII) but after talking to a Spaniard who'd just been there late one night in a club, we decided against it.
Turns out it wasn't as easy to get to Puerto Galera as we'd first thought. Ferry, van, & sketchy night tricycle we arrived 8 hours later at 11pm to a few circuitous streets filled with restaurants, stalls, dive shops, and bars (I've been to worse places....). After promptly finding a hotel and settling in, we decided that the rest of our night should be judiciously spent in the bars. We were well received, had an enjoyable time, and took it as a sign of things to come.

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