Friday, January 31, 2014

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From The Philippines III

After the solitary and starlit night previously related, some guests arrived at Bantayan Island beach resort. There were those cockfight enthusiast Norwegians, a Swiss couple working in the area, plus a German businessman with a cement company. He had spent many years in Colombia and said it was not as dangerous as people assume, strangely adding, “Of course, you have to hire private bodyguards.”

There was also a Harvard student and a Let’s Go editor, who was wary of international terrorism and upscale tourism. He complained that every night a hooker tried to pick him up then make him pay, though he couldn't help being impressed by the extensive menu and low prices.

Most nights, we met at the expat center of Moby Dick’s restaurant, filled with Germans and Americans involved in “Import/Export” (a road euphemism for chronic unemployment). There, a long-haired guy resembling an AWOL Vietnam soldier, now living in the Bantayan barrios, told me about the upcoming Stations of the Cross festival, wherein a Filipino volunteer endures the torture of a crucifixion enactment. Seriously! Which, I guess, adds new meaning to the concept of devout.

Otherwise, there were only copper-colored “natives,” such as Ramon and Boy (both popular names for local girls), who always addressed me in their Cebuano (a variant dialect of Tagalog), “Selamat, Mister John!” (As a frequent contributor to Mabuhay Magazine, I later dealt directly with Filipinas sporting flash names like Lynette Corporal and Anika Ventura.)

One local hotbod with a pink orchid stuck behind her ear, called to me while I was suffering a hangover on the beach. “Are you interested in buying a home here? I can get you a good house right on the beach for only twenty thousand dollars!” I wondered idly if she came with it. Tempting, but nah!

Then the oh-so-available Filipina introduced me to a “sea gypsy” with a rag tied around his head and a wooden cross clunking against his chest as he scraped the old paint off his outrigger. “He is a Bubble Man!” she enthused, meaning witchdoctor.

During my month-long stay, it only rained once seriously, pounding on corrugated metal roofs like John Bonham, Keith Moon, or Neil Peart in the drum solo on “Tom Sawyer.” (In 2013, Typhoon Yolanda decimated Bantayan, but it's now rapidly on the mend.)

To wrap up the hospitality of my Visayan adventure without causing anyone hiya (shame), I considered taking a “Special Ride” outrigger for less than 2,000 pesos to nearby Malapascua Island, another friendly isle with perfect babes.

On my last night, I dined at Santa Fe’s foodie heaven: “The Majestic by the Sea.” Here, you choose between weird and sometimes eyeless fish, by pointing at a laminated photo menu or a rubber facsimile in a display case.

Then you wash it all down with Kalamansi juice made from tiny limes. Yet, judging by the plates of the other diners, adobo ruled the night. Whether it was made from ordinary chicken or an avian assassin whose undefeated record had finally come to an end, a voice deep inside me crowed "cock-a-doodle-don’t."

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. A terrific post, John... not sure I'd want to dine on weird and eyeless fish!

  2. in my opinion this place is more calmer than they say,because travelin whit a have a 70 years old.
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  3. It's a place very interesting, definitely there is very good beer and girls. Too the food is delicious and extravagant. by. Andres Hernandez.