Sunday, January 26, 2014
Twisted Vagabondage Tale From The Philippines II
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.
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, Salon.com, 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