Sunday, January 26, 2014

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From The Philippines II

In our last episode, we wondered aloud why cockfighting abounds in this remote part of The Philippines. As a supplier of millions of chicken eggs, Bantayan Island (also called Egg Island) offers byways punctuated by ubiquitous wooden coops and the best breakfasts in Southeast Asia. We're not just talking eggs and bacon, but the national dish of chicken adobo, which to my untutored eye resembles cannibalism on sticky rice. There are over 5 million roosters and hens on Bantayan, despite over 150,000 local inhabitants going through them rather quickly, not only in the cockpit but also in the crockpot.

With over 7,000 islands, The Philippines offers some of the world’s best island-hopping and near-perfect beaches. Which means that if you went to a different island every day, it would take you over fifty years to visit all of them. Formerly colonized by Spain then by the United States, Filipinos spent 500 years in the convent and 50 years in Hollywood. Locals now boast of being the best musicians in all of Asia.

Part of the fun of going to Bantayan Island is somehow getting there. So, after a Philippines Airlines flight to Cebu’s Mactan International Airport, where Magellan was killed halfway through a circumnavigation of the globe by the fierce forces of Chief Lapu Lapu, I prepared for deserted beaches.

Paying fifty pesos for a rough ride with the Rough Riders bus company (named after Teddy Roosevelt's military unit during the Spanish-American War of 1898), I felt the thrill of actually going someplace new. Four hours later, we were dumped at Hagnaya to catch a clunky one-hour ferry or a scary outrigger boat billed as a “Special Ride”. On the unseaworthy official ferry to Bantayan, I marveled at the absence of other passengers and the omnipresence of empty egg cartons stacked like huge Lego™ blocks in the cargohold.

Arriving at the Santa Fe depot on Bantayan Island, we were treated to a port straight out of a Tintin comic. One of the best restaurants for “chook” is there, plus grilled mystery meat resembling stunted cats on skewers. I decided to head straight to the budget resorts and cheaper fare, a mere Jeepney ride away.

These antique Jeep taxis are covered in Jesus-kitsch-psychedelia, enhanced with some Deadhead and PHISH stickers. (I used to play in a garage band with Page McConnell, now the keyboardist for PHISH. Yes, you can touch me.) So, you feel that you have arrived somewhere, well, different.

Or take a “tricycle” (bicycle rickshaw) for ten pesos to the Kota Beach Resort near the Budyong Beach Resort. Both are mostly deserted during the off season, when for a Hamilton or Jackson you can get thatched-roof cabins called nipa huts scattered smack dab on the beach, with only a few Aussies showing off their mail-order Filipina brides.

On arrival, I was the only guest, which made me wonder if a tsunami or other calamity was imminent. With no electricity, I sat out on the porch of my beach bungalow stargazing. Far away from all light pollution, you could trace every constellation, with more stars than Imelda had shoes. Time to call it a night and continue our story in the next post.

John M. Edwards is a writer and photojournalist. He has traveled five continents with experiences ranging from surviving a ferry sinking off Siam to getting caught in a military coup in Fiji. His writing has appeared in CNN Traveller, Entertainment Weekly,, Condé Nast Traveler, Islands, Matador, World Hum, BootsnAll, and other publications. He received five NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) Awards, two TANEC (Transitions Abroad Narrative Essay Contest) Awards, and three Solas (sponsored by Travelers’ Tales). He edits the Rotten Vacations anthology


  1. Excellent post, John.

    Your mentioning the transport having religious decor struck a nerve. It looks like the sort of vehicle you'd have to pray gets you there in one piece.

  2. Philippines is one isle beautiful, but more for beach and water is more crystal clear who the waters the Mexico. Not all beaches are ugly mexico for example in Cancun well is beautiful why much for beach is the girls beautiful. Transport is very decorated and religious?
    Excellent post.