Sardine Run, Panagsama. Bo Mancao
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Rain season is getting closer and before the typhoons start rolling in I wanted to get a chance to make a road trip up to to the small island of Boracay just north of Panay. I had heard that Boracay was once named the ‘Best Beach in Asia’, and I wanted to see for myself if that was actually true. So we set the date of departure, packed our bikes and headed north. First up to Dumanjug to take the ferry across to Negros, then across Negros to Bacolod where the next ferry took us to Dumangas on Panay. From there we shot straight up inland to Caticlan where we left the bikes and took another ferry to Boracay. Heading back we decided to take the beautiful road along the west coast of Panay, and then took the same roads back to Moalboal after getting back to Negros. With more time we would have headed down the west coast of Negros and come back to Cebu through Dumaguete, it’s supposed to be beautiful. But, we had to save that for next time.
By bike is really the way to travel in this country, it takes you so much closer to the people and the life of the villages and towns you pass. And in the Philippines, along the road is where life happens. Children are playing, food is cooked, baths are taken, pigs are slaughtered, every part of Philippine everyday life can be seen along the road. It really is like riding your bike through somebody’s house, entering through the kitchen door, passing the bathroom and exiting through the livingroom. And when you’re on a motorbike, you have the opportunity to smile at the people you meet, and see them smile back. If there is one thing you take with you from the Philippines, it’s the smiling faces. They always brighten your day.
It’s hard to sum up 800km of being on the road in the Philippines in a short blog post, you really have to see it for yourself. The dramatic mountains and valleys of Negros are breathtaking, the coastline of Panay fantastic for riding, loading a motorbike on a ferry (by hand) is an adventure in itself, and the beach in Boracay definitely up there with the best of them. Although I have to say that in some ways I prefer our own White Beach here in Moalboal. The beach in Boracay truly is beautiful, but it is so developed with hotels and resorts that it doesn’t really feel genuine anymore. I think I prefer more of the ‘desert island’ feel when I go to the beach, and the parasailors and banana boats in Boracay kind of take that away. All in all, I liked going there and back more than actually being there. The journey truly is the goal, right? But it was a great trip, and I’m already dreaming up the next one.
Coming from Sweden (or any other country in northern Europe), running water in the tap is such a natural thing that we always take it for granted. In Moalboal after several weeks of hot weather and no rain, I realize how lucky we northerners are to have such an abundance of this precious element. Surely, there is plenty of water to swim and dive in here, but right now there is not much coming out of the tap.
However low the supply is, demand couldn’t be higher. So right now we’re letting a lorry shuttle water tanks back and forth from areas where there is more water (and even the divemaster trainee has to help out sometimes). It’s hard work, but with the help of a new lorry driver we’re managing to keep the resort above water (or in the water, I suppose would be more accurate). We’re also trying to figure out how to lower the consumption in the resort. Changed usage habits is of course the most effective way, but the management is also planning to install new toilets that use less water. Every little helps, I’m taking a very short shower tonight.
When I lived in Thailand for a few months we had to do what they called a Visa Run, get out of the country (if only for a couple of hours) and come back again to get a new stamp in the passport and allowance to stay another 30 days.
In the Philippines, Visa Wait and Queue would be a more apt name. I went to the local immigration office in the city yesterday to sort out an extension (here’s a tip; no flip-flops or shorts are allowed, so wear trousers and shoes), and waited in three separate lines before getting that stamp. I also paid 3,030 pesos, must be very expensive ink (although it did come with a paper proving that I’m not a terrorist). It wasn’t too bad though, it only took about two hours, so could have been a lot worse.
Being in the city I also took the opportunity to buy some new gear; wet suit, fins and a Suunto Zoop dive computer. So now I have a complete diving kit, and finishing my rescue course tomorrow. Dive Master here I come.
The windows have been boarded up and old cement bags filled with coral sand have been placed along the low wall that would otherwise have been the only barrier between the resort and the raging sea.
All day we prepared Barefoot White Beach Resort where I’m staying for the arrival of Super Typhoon Bopha (or Pablo, the local name in the Philippines). With winds of up to 260km/h any loose items (chairs, tables, flower pots, even motorbikes) need to be brought in or secured to not be swept away.
Moving into Mindanao from the south-east, Pablo was a category five typhoon and after reading up on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale on Wikipedia last night I was even more convinced that it was a good idea to take some precautionary measures (Category 5: “Catastrophic damage will occur”, very direct and to the point).
So now that the typhoon has been downgraded to a category two, I’m almost a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see if the hard work paid off. It’s moving close to Moalboal at around midnight, so we’ll see what happens. Typhoons are eccentric phenomena, so I’m still keeping a close eye on the barometer (and the weather reports online).
So the blog is back up again after some technical difficulties following a server migration. My course has kept going though, and I’m gaining more and more experience.
Borrowed an underwater camera now, so will put up some images as well. I can really understand why people get into underwater photography and spend heaps of money on equipment. When you’re diving you can’t talk or discuss what you’re seeing, and you can’t take anything with you. So it’s a lot of fun sharing pictures from the underwater world you’ve just experienced.