We’ve spent 2 months in the Philippines! Wow, that went by fast. This week we headed off to the Buglasan festival in Dumaguete which is kind of like a tourism fair for the local communities on Negros Oriental where each town or barangay sets up a display area lauding their tourist attractions. It was quaint, and there was a great selection of barbecued foods and baked goods at the concession area. Plus, each evening there are musical competitions and we were lucky enough to show up on rock band night having missed the marching band event the previous day… There were around 40 bands playing that night for 10 minutes each. I don’t know the words to many of the songs they were singing, but it was a nice break from the love ballads pouring out of most places.
A couple days later we headed off to Boracay to check out the white sand beaches. We’d been putting it off because we’d heard it was over-commercialized and touristy, but after the last 2 months in the Philippines and realizing just how rural the country is outside of the cities, we decided to take a week or two to see if it was a viable place to live long term. We flew from Dumaguete to Manilla but due to a flight delay we really didn’t have any time to scope out Manilla. From what I saw it was big, with lots of hi-rises. Flying on to Caticlan, we were met at the airport by the hotel ‘shuttle service’ – where a guy with our names on a card piled us and our luggage into a trike and took us to the Caticlan port. We then took a short 5 minute boat ride over to Boracay and another 5 minute trike ride to the hotel we had arranged to stay in.
The beach in Boracay is as advertised, a kilometer or so of fine talcum powder like white sand. Resorts and restaurants line the beach and there are hundreds of vendors constantly trying to sell you knock-off sunglasses, watches, ATV and sailing tours, massages, souvenirs… you name it. The never ending barrage of “Maam, Sir, you want to buy __________?” becomes annoying in short order and we quickly stopped acknowledging them with a polite “No, thank you… Maybe another day…” and marched up the beach avoiding eye contact. It was remarkably hotter in Boracay and the vendors did eventually convince me to buy some very overpriced face towels in a moment of weakness.
We went diving a few times on Boracay. Unfortunately, there’s not much to report. The shallow reefs are dead and damaged from a previous typhoon and anchor damage and with few fish to see from excessive overfishing, which has thankfully now been outlawed in the area. The deeper reefs are just that… too deep to really enjoy at a recreational level. Even at 35 meters, we were still a good 5-10 meters above the reef wall at Yapak at most points. The highlight was spotting a large school of Harlequin Sweetlips (Big yellow highlighted fish… Unfortunately, no pics because Kelly’s strobe battery broke). I did my nitrox certification training while there which basically lets me dive longer with less nitrogen entering into my bloodstream since I’m breathing a gas mixture with a higher percentage of oxygen. Since many resorts here offer free nitrox when diving with them, it’s an added safety measure provided we’re not diving too deep.
We did some shopping while on Boracay since there are a few retail stores with import items that are harder to find elsewhere. I didn’t find a dive computer/watch, but I did get a ‘pokey stick’ to keep myself off the reef, and also acts as a tank banger to get other people’s attention under water. Not to mention delivering an occasional loving poke to Kelly while on the surface. Kelly finally found some boardshorts which were strangely nowhere to be found when we were doing last minute shopping in Vancouver. Must be winter there or something… ;)
Other than that, we spent most of our time in the many good restaurants along the beach. Bolero, a newer Mexican restaurant grabbed our favour with it’s music selection (the owner can actually name recent bands from Canada aside from Celine Dion and Bryan Adams!), selection of tapas (hot wings!), and of course the rum bar where I had to try the Tanduay Premium – the top shelf of the locally made rum. I’m happy to report I have a new favourite.
Since it’s still technically low season, much of Boracay is under construction improvements and many resorts have screens or windbreaks up between the resort and the beach to minimize wind and blowing sand. Unfortunately it creates some unfavourable beach areas and reduces the view… Not something you typically see in the brochure advertising.
We headed east from the main beach and ended up at the kite surfing beach named Bulabog where we watched a beginner drop his kite onto a nearby boat. Oops! Wandering about, we checked out a few possible long term rental opportunities away from the hustle of White Beach… but with the lack of comparable diving opportunities and the tourist party atmosphere, it just didn’t seem to be an ideal setup for the two of us. If it were a week or two vacation… with the good food and drinks, I’d highly recommend coming to party at Boracay, but as a long term option it just didn’t seem to fit the bill quite right.
We met a lot of people while in Boracay, which resulted in a couple of late night party sessions… at one of which it was decided that we were all going to go to the local cock fighting arena the next day to see the fights. We arrived at the arena around 2pm and needless to say, cock jokes were in full effect. I’d previously seen cock fighting on tv so had some idea of what to expect. It’s not exactly the most humane sport going… but much like the bull fights in Spain, it was something to be experienced once. Basically, two roosters are brought into the ring, they parade a hen around in front of them, and bring in two other roosters which they waft and taunt the fighting cocks with. Once sufficiently aggravated, the betting begins and all hell breaks loose. The whole arena begins shouting and making hand gestures to each other that indicates the amount being bet and on which cock. It’s sheer madness. We made some small bets amongst ourselves since we couldn’t find a fixer to bet for us. Betting completed, they unwrap the 3 inch blade strapped to the rear of the roosters leg and release them into the glassed in ring. The cocks then jump about lashing out with their spurs, attacking each other till one is wounded and falls. A referee then grabs both roosters and brings them beak to beak. If they both peck each other, they are dropped and fight again. If only one pecks the other, they are usually squared off anyway till the other rooster fails to stand. It can be over very quick, or drag on for 10 minutes till one cock gives up or is dead. One of the guys we came with, Dylan had an uncanny ability to pick the winner of nearly every fight we watched earning him the title “Cock master”… While not necessarily something I’d recommend for everyone, it was definitely an experience in the local culture.
So, here we are back in Dauin. We’re looking at moving to another apartment in the same resort this month. The one we’re currently in has grown a little small for us. We’re currently thinking we’ll be staying here till January or February. Then we’ll possibly move on to Thailand for a few months for a change of pace.
Posted by: Shim