A day trip to Bais

There was no Apo Island snorkelling nor sightseeing today!

We got to Malatapay pier hoping to hire a boat but they were charging 1,500 pesos for a return trip.   We could  see the Apo just waving infront of us and to pay such amount is highway robbery!   Well, it’s not that we cannot afford it, it’s the principle!  We would not let them get away with charging so much money for a mere few minutes boat trip so we went away.  An Apo Island resort staff agreed with us, even moaned that it is the (municipal) government who push these boatmen to charge these ridiculous fees because they charge so much license fees to operate the boat tours.  

In order not to waste the day, we hailed a bus to Bais city hoping that we could see dolphins instead.   But holy cow!  The tourist office staff who operates the boat charges even higher.   For a big boat, you pay 3,500pesos, and for a smaller boat,  2,500pesos.   We looked at the small boat – a piece of what seems to be a floating box so old and rundown that we won’t even buy it for that amount!  They won’t even give in to our haggling – like, we arrived there at almost 3pm and boat trips last till 5pm, so even With 2 hours left, we still have to pay the full fare!   I mean, what are they trying to do?   But forget the foreigners, even local tourists wouldn’t even afford it so what happens is, we, Filipinos, wouldn’t even have the chance to see our own dolphins because of the high cost of seeing them!

Well, it’s not that we cannot afford it.  It’s the principle.  To let them get away with it is encouraging them to keep doing it, so we just did our favorite activity – that of walking. This is the best way to see the countryside because you get to see at close range the flowers, the people, their houses and what they do, in fact, the most colorful photographs we took were that of roadside encounters.

I got a lot of photos of barrio people (excellent for photojournalism!) who would even say ‘salamat’ (thank you) for taking their pictures.  Believe me – this is a big no-no in Europe!

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Maria has taken some really nice shots and as she can speak Tagalog (although they speak mainly Visayas here) we enter into conversations easily with people and have taken some really good shots of children and people laughing and smiling outside their very poor little shacks. Some of them are so basic. Just a simple slatted bamboo floor to sleep on and they cook outside on an open fire. We were with one family today who were so pleased to have their beautiful children photographed, it was quite touching. I wish we had a polaroid so we could give them an instant picture to keep. They really have so little but always manage to smile and be very polite.The more I explore the Philippines, the more I realize the tremendous potential and natural resources it has. Unfortunately, the government is corrupt and hopeless and the country has been exploited for so long they cannot seem to get out of the poverty trap. We have really learnt a lot about bamboo and struck up a good friendship. I am convinced that there is a big market in Europe plus Bamboo is a fast growing and sustainable resource unlike cutting down hardwood forests in the Philippines. It is an incredible material. The more I research on it, the more I am fascinated with it and the potential it has.family.jpg

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…..A European in the Philippines

Back in Dumaguete

We went for a day trip to Cebu today via a fastcraft (going) and pumpboat (coming).   The trip was only for 20 minutes and we went as far as Oslob, then Santander, both sleepy little towns with sleepy looking villagers…

Tomorrow we go to Apo Island  for another day trip of eco-touring and hopefully, more snorkelling.  Day after that, few days in Bohol then back to Manila to take a trip to the North.

So after some 11 days in the Visayas – Siquijor, Dumaguete and bit of Cebu, here are my comments:

Dumaguete is a rich town, most of the people have their own businesses, from a bilao selling trinkets to selling bamboo products to anything really. It’s also aclean, the locals obviously more disciplined, cleaning their own frontyard and growing flowering plants which make the town very nice and colorful.

That part of Cebu where we have been is noticeably poor.   We passed by the highway, the same road going to Cebu City, and the place is dirtier, poorly maintained, old houses close to collapsing, there is not much business going on except for some sari-sari stores where you cannot even buy a bottle of mineral water. 
Siquijor is a green island, lots of coconut trees which reminds H so much of the Caribbean but they do not grow enough vegetables that they import them from Cebu and Mindanao.   You can probably call it a bit prosperous because we don’t see poverty and beggars, only a long line of people by the roadside drawing water from a single tap, the only public tap for drinking water in the village.  Those who can afford to pay the cost of digging a well in their own backyard are luckier!

The common things we have observed about these places are:

–  For a country growing the most exotic fruits like mango, banana, etc, it is almost impossible to find fresh fruit shakes and juices in hotels, restaurants and even in an ordinary eatery.   All they can offer you is juice in a bottle or a can! or Coca-Cola! hey! do you know that Dumaguete City or probably the entire Negros Oriental is Coca Cola country?  The logo and the colour red is painted everywhere, in all eateries, in all stores and even in houses that don’t have anything to do with selling drinks or snacks!   Call it marketing strategy!

– That we cannot find a single eatery, except in our favorite cafeteria in Dumaguete – serving native coffee!   Even hotels and restaurants don’t serve brewed coffee!  Hello!!  I thought we grow coffee beans in Batangas??  All they can offer us is Nescafe in sachet, Nescafe in sachet and only Nescafe in sachet! Wow!  How lucky could Nescafe get?  Monopolising the coffee culture of the Filipinos! (these Nescafe in sachet is very difficult to open anyway that servers had to include a pair of scissors in their serving tray! 

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–  That we have so much natural resources in this country, bamboo, nipa, rattan, copra for example, which we can develop into a source of livelihood for the people.   Not to mention human resources where we have a tremendous supply!

I also see the natural beauty of our islands, this alone could bring tourism in our country which would give a source of income for every Filipino. Our coral reefs are the talk of the whole diving world, we should use it to our advantage!

And if we could just put our acts together – the government, the people – we don’t have to send our skilled workers to work as Domestic Helpers or contract workers to other countries.

Siquijor

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The bell tower of Siquijor

We are now on the beautiful island of Siquijor that has just clearly blown us away. It’s a tropical paradise, very laid back and peaceful with smiling friendly natives.

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We are staying in the Kiwi Dive resort in a small nipa hut with no airconditioning but its fine. It’s cheap.

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The dive spot starts just on the left where the boats are moored.

The girls who run the resort are lovely and so helpful.  We have been diving (snorkel, fins and mask) on the reef this morning. We were there for hours. Its just beautiful. The colours of the reef fish and corals are really a sight to behold. We even saw a sea snake. There are dolphins but we have not seen any yet. Bright blue star fish and evidence of sea turtles. You can see the holes where they lay their eggs in the pure white sand.Here, it is so facinating and totally stress free.

You just take your time, explore everything, go beach combing and see wonderful shells and corals just lying on the beach. If you get bored with that you go for a walk and explore the local flora which is mind blowing – bird of paradise flowers just hanging. The air is good and we both feel good.We are taking lots of exercise and can’t keep away from the water.

We finally found the only one internet cafe on the island, at Larena and just a while ago, a family from the mountains was trying to sell us a whole chicken, live, for only 100pesos! If only there’s more room in our suitcase.

 …………..A European in the Philippines

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The bakery angels

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Thanks for posing, spot!

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This garden grass is planted on the roadside then sold per piece

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Trying the “tuba” (coconut liquor)

On the island of Negros

We are now on the Island of Negros in the Visayas, Philippines.

It is unbelievably beautiful.
We are having a fabulous time, meeting many interesting people, swimming and exploring the area. We are also looking at some business opportunities which so far look quite promising.
We have not been dolphin-watching but we hope to do so. Unfortunately the main season for this is in the Philippine summer which is March to May. We will however chance our luck and hire a boat. I also plan to go diving when we go to Siquijor and Apo Island where there is a Marine reserve.

The tropical flowers here are really beautiful. The place is full of exotic hibiscus, bourgainvilleas and orchids just to name a few. It is of course hot and quite humid. I prefer to be near the sea where you get a nice breeze.

It is very cheap to live here and the food is good , particularly the seafood and fish.
I think that I could easily live here for 6 months of the year and the other 6 months in France. I have to confess that I am not missing Leicester at all and I have adapted very quickly to the simple way of life here on the islands. We are enjoying the photographic opportunities and also writing about our experiences. I have time to think here and follow my interests completely stress free which is really great. We are both feeling fit and happy and pleased to have some time together in such a beautiful place.

Fish is good but difficult to find a restaurant where they understand how to cook it, We dream of having our own place here where we can buy food in the local markets and then cook it ourselves.

We are planing to go to the small island of Siquijor either tomorrow or the day after. We are going to book one night in a resort which is right on the white sandy beach with all facilities. Its not really expensive considering what you get. Its about 18 gbp per night but the hotel where we are staying in Dumaguete is only 10 gbp per night and very comfortable.

We hope to also hire a boat and go to Apo Island where there is the marine reserve that we can dive on. We have to go on an outrigger boat called a banca.

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We have been having fun travelling on the local shared transport – the jeepneys and motor tricycles. You would not believe the number of people that they pack into them, We took a ride back to town and there must have been 60 people in the jeep, on the roof and hanging onto the back. I counted 10 just hanging on the back onto rails. Maria managed to twist her ankle the other day which slowed us down a bit but she seems to have recovered quickly with just a slight limp. We are walking a lot and trying to get as much exercise as possible. Life is laidback, easy, cheap and relatively stressless if you have a bit of money. You can live very well on 250 gbp per month.

The change has really done us good. I was so fed up with Leicester and that high stress job. I now feel liberated and have quickly forgotten it all, Its amazing how quickly you can adapt to the way of life here. There is never a dull moment. Always a new story to hear, a new place to see, sights and smells of the market which are so colourful. People seem happy and are always laughing and smiling. They don’t have much but I have not seen any bad poverty here, however Manila is another story. Its just terrible some of the slums we have seen. Really pitiful. The most gross thing that i have seen here on Negros is an enormous fat American, I mean enormous with a tiny little Filipina girl. I guess she just wants a ticket out of here albeit with a total slob.

I am feeling pretty good and relaxed. It is so nice to go out in the evening in open sandals, a tee shirt and shorts and not be cold.

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We have been looking at Bamboo and have been getting on well with a dutch philanthropist married to a Filipina who has been in the philippines for 43 years. He looks good on it and must be at least 75. His name is Franz and is the chairman of the Bamboo institute in Dumaguete. They make the most superb nipa huts, houses, gazeebos and furniture all in native style.

It will take me too long to tell you about Franz but such an interesting guy with a big heart , a passion for his work and the well being of the Filipino people. He is very active with his wife to get better conditions and deals for the local farmers and really ecologically minded looking at sustainable development on this beautiful island. He also has learnt the local language Visayan which is different to Tagalog. We plan to make a DVD documentary of his story.

……………..A European in the Philippines

The Wednesday market in Malatapay

Wednesday is the day when the sleepy town of Malatapay in Zamboangita, half an hour ride from Dumaguete comes alive when vendors from neighbouring barangays come to sell their animals.  There is even an auction for the cows and pigs!  The produce and people from nearby towns come to do their marketing.   For the locals, the scene is very ordinary albeit chaotic, but for foreigners (where we saw a lot today) it is very exciting and a great opportunity for taking photographs!

What I find very fascinating is that the locals are all happy and only too wlling to be photographed!  They even smile and pose for the camera!  If you are in England, they will castigate you for it, and if the photographic subject is children, before you know it, a policeman will be arresting you and take you to jail!  Why? Because they will suspect you for a paedophile!

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