Monday, December 28, 2009

Siguijor Christmas

We've been on the move, but did want to share our enjoyment of the Christmas party we had at La Casa de la Playa. One of the owners is German and the clientele are also German in the majority, so the Christmas celebration was on Christmas Eve.

We had been staying at La Casa in the Casa Bouganvilleia which is in the garden of the resort. There are some lovely cabins down on the beach level but our place was up 50 steps from the beach and nearer the restaurant. The place wasn't air-conditioned which was one of the reasons we hastened our departure. We had a standup fan and Geordie and I tended to bicker about its positioning - which is quite usual for us. We managed.

Here are a couple of photos of the cottage. We sat on the deck quite often and read our books. The bathroom was miniscule -I bumped my head on the wall on the first day getting up from the toilet (maybe too much information, but I'm sure it gives you the image strongly).

The Christmas Eve buffet was fun. The piece de resistance was the whole pig roasted in the fire pit somewhere on the grounds for about 9 hours if we understood the explanation correctly. It was burnished gold and splendid on its special table, designed to look like a pig too. Then there were lots of different dishes from the menu - potato vegetable souffle, pork ribs, noodle dishes and on and on. Dessert was a coconut gelatine and watermelon. Not a thing on the groaning board was familiar to our Christmas traditions but we got lots to eat.

The party after was really a celebration for the staff. There was a local band with a blind singer/guitarist named the "Stevie Wonder of Siquijor",

and a banjo player, a huge bass guitar and other guitars. The music was a mix of Christmas songs, bluesy songs by the blind singer, and local songs in Cebuano. Emily, who is the Filipina owner of the resort was in full majesty, directing the evening. gathering all the staff to sing the Casa song and leading them in the synchronized dance. Then there were singers who carolled us with local Christmas songs as well. They were in fine voice and we enjoyed it all.

After the singing entertainment the staff and the guests got to do a little dancing - including Geordie and I who were hauled up by Linda, one of the management staff. The group danced late - we went to our cottage at 11:30 pm but the staff danced until 1:30 and only stopped because the band went home!

On Christmas Day we finally got into the sea. We discovered that the resort had some sea booties to rent so we found two pair that sort of fit and went down to the beach. We had to wade out a long way before we were able to swim. As usual I counted steps - it took over 230 strides through the water before we were at waist depth. From then we could at least float and swim. We are obviously out of shape - in the evening my legs were quite tired and I realized it was from the wading.

We left La Casa on the 27th. We moved back to Coral Cay because we missed the opportunity to enjoy both the pool and the air-con. For our first three nights we have been in the newest cottage which is a palace compared to the cottage at La Casa. It's huge. As a matter of fact the whole cottage at La Casa could fit in our bathroom - which even has a section exposed to the outside with plants and sand.

We will be at Coral Cay until January 3 when we will travel back to Dumaguete and then on the 4th we will continue on to Cebu. Then on the 5th we are flying from Cebu back to Boracay. I've decided that Boracay is like Puerto Vallarta - a home base for us as PV serves when we are in Mexico. We enjoyed the location and the beach where we can actually swim from shore rather than wading out for 230 steps, and we can enjoy the good food at the restaurants there.

Some of you may remember our original plan was to go to Palawan. That plan didn't work out when we discovered that we should have made reservations to fly there some time ago. The cheap seats are all sold out and the cost to fly there was more than we wanted to pay. The flight to Boracay was good, as were flights to Manila. So our plan now is to spend 10 more days in Boracay, then fly to Manila and from there head out to Tagaytay which is in the highlands and then finish up in Mindoro, an island not too far from Manila with some good beaches out of a town called Puerto Galera.

Not to worry, we'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Is Coming

We are still in Siquijor although we have moved resorts. Our present location is Casa de La Playa which is about 35 km north from our last place. Our room is on the cliff top - in a garden. We have a distant view of the ocean and can walk down 50 steps to the beach for a little sunning. The gardens are pleasant - with orchids in one area, and other flowering plants we don't even know the names of in other areas.

This resort is cheaper than the last place, but it means we don't have air-conditioning or a beach location. You gets what you pays for! We were scheduled to spend about 9 days here, but we are going to move back to Coral Cay on December 27th. After one day here we realized that we would miss our beach view and our air-con, but we had already paid a deposit for three nights. We decided that it would be odd to move on Christmas Day, so gave ourselves two more nights - of course vacancies at the Coral Cay were also not available without our moving cottages three times if we came back early so we just compromised.

The resort here is not as efficient as it might be. So far at almost every meal there has been some error in the order. A case in point - this morning both Geordie and I chose French Toast with Syrup because we thought that would be easy and safe. Margin for error tiny. So - we heard the kitchen beating eggs then after 10 minutes, the young waitress arrived with one plate of French Toast - no syrup in evidence, but G thought it must have been on the toast.

After five minutes of him eating, we heard the sound of eggs being beaten again - then 10 mintues later, the watress arrived with my meal which was oddly covered in some kind of dark syrup - I thought molasses, but asked anyway. The answer? It's syrup. What kind of syrup? Chocolate! (That wasn't mentioned on the menu.) The litany of errors continues - we have to order our dinners in the early afternoon since food is frozen and needs to be defrosted. I ordered A fried chicken breast last night for dinner - it arrived as a n overcooked chicken leg! Garnish? some cucumber. That's it, folks. I had ordered french fries too - but they took another five mintues to arrive.

And we ordered a bottle of wine last night. First the waitress told us it wasn't cold so did we want ice. We decided on an ice bucket. Five minutes later the owner came out and told us the wine wasn't cold and did we want ice or to have it put in the fridge? I voted for the fridge for 10 minutes. Two minutes later the food arrived. We ate it. Then we asked for the wine - 15 minutes later. It was delivered, without a corkscrew. We asked for one and waited. 10 minutes went by. I got up and asked for the corkscrew directly. The waitress brought it and asked if she or I would open it. I decided that I might be the better choice.

So she went off and I used the corkscrew, inserting it into the cork and attempting to pull it out. The plastic legs(?) of the winged corkscrew bent dangerously but didn't pull the cork at all. So we had to ask for another corkscrew and this time were given an all metal winged one which miraculously pulled the cork. So a half hour or more after eating, we finally drank the bottle of wine.

Tonight the resort is celebrating Christmas - with a buffet dinner. We are guessing that at least that means they can't screw up an order. The main piece de resistance will be Lechon, a large pig roasted on a spit or in a very large oven we are guessing. There is also music - featuing Siquijor's version of Stevie Wonder apparently. Most of the guests are German so I'm expecting wonderful renditions of Stille Nacht (Silent Night) and O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree).

I will not go on - it seems uncharitable at Christmas - and we are staying on for three more nights - I guess we are masochists. We are on the island until January 3 after which we are planning to head for Palawan, the spur of islands which head left from the main islands pointing to Borneo. We have not found great sounding accomodationt there that we can afford so we have a Plan B in place - we have emailed Marzon Resort in Boracay, and if things don't work out, we will head there for the last week or so of our trip to enjoy the beach - hey, maybe I'll do that open water dive course.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year
From the Philippines Sandman

And Nigel and Geordie too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coral Cay

As Geordie said on a recent email we arrived at Coral Cay Resort on Siquijor two nights ago and are now enjoying our little house on the beach.

It really is a lovely hut. Here's my only whine of the day though - the beach is so so shallow that when the tide goes out it's about 100 yards to the water. And out there the water goes out for yards and yards more, not even up to our knees. Of course the pool was supposed to be our saving but as some of you know, it's under repair. The good news? Word is that they are going to start filling it today! Yay. We will be at Coral Cay for a week and on December 22 move to another resort called Casa de la Playa. That's where we will celebrate Christmas and New Years.

As you can imagine there isn't a lot to do. The island of Siquijor is it's own province in the Philippines, but the coastal road around the island is only 72 km long! Not so big. There are caves inland and this is also an island of magicians. In fact some people in the Philippines refuse to come here for that reason. We have not seen any sign of magic but we may take a tour of the island soon and see what we can find.
Yesterday we walked to the little town 2 km from our resort to check things out. It has a public market down by the beach where people are selling fish and vegetables. On the road we also found a little park which has a natural spring that the townspeople have turned into a swimming hole. The water spills out into a stream which meanders to the beach. Along the stream we found women washing their clothes and children enjoying the cool water. But no - no pictures.

What we are planning to do other than walk is read a lot. Here is a look at some of our reading material and Geordie ensconced in his seat of splendour under the ceiling fan in our living room.
Yesterday while we were at JJ's Resort nearby I found an illegal copy of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol in perfect condition on their bookshelf. I know it's illegal because it's a photocopy. We saw many of these photocopied books while we were in Viet Nam where it seems everyone sells them willy-nilly. Not one to pass up an opportunity I asked if I could have the book and the staff said yes. So I took it back to the resort, finished the last 200 pages of Pillars of the Earth then stayed up till midnight to finish Dan's book, another 500 pages. Gee, I do hope our 25 books are enough to keep us going. (No matter, our own resort has a very large collection of paperbacks to pick from too.)

Back to Dan Brown. I am at least impressed that in his latest book he compresses time even more than in his earlier books. In those the time frame of the book is about 24 hours which is pretty impressive when you realize how far the hero and his lovely helpmate have to travel during that time. But in this book he manages to compress the action into 10 hours - and still manages to get in lots of action. At least he divides the action among several of the characters so that things are happening simultaneously. I wonder if he'll get it down to five hours in the next one. And before you know it he'll be writing "One Minute Mysteries".I think I'll post a few more pictures and let pictures speak louder than words for you. Click on the pictures to see them bigger.

1.Oceanjet ferry to Dumaguete 2. Christmas Decorations 3. Orchids of Siquijor

1. Dancing and Ukelele 2. Nigel and Proney 3. Bablayon Church interior

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Lost Horizons

I am melting. It is so humid - I have to run to my air-con room to cool off. The humidty must be 99.99 %. I'm expecting more rain this afternoon - like our 2 hour shower yesterday. The barber last night kept having to wipe my brow with his toilet paper - not the best absorbent! He certainly didnt have to spray my hair so he could cut it more easily.

I think this afternoon we will dip into the cool water of the pool here. We were going to yesterday but then the rain got in the way.

Just so you can check it out, our hotel is Lost Horizons in Alona Beach (check their website with the link.) One little problem - I have awakened with itchy legs both mornings we've been here. Maybe there are bed bugs. Geordie doesn't have the same problem. But it's only a few! The time Geordie slept with them in Mexico he had hundreds of bites, so I'm fine in comparison - and I have Calamine lotion for the itches. (I know - we could move couldn't we?)

Alona Beach is unfortunately not any Boracay. The beach certainly has white sand but the water is not as swimmable because of the weeds near shore, and the shallow depth. I guess we should take up the offer of all the guys on the beach suggesting we go "island hopping". We are doing our best to avoid the sunglass sellers since we both wear prescription glasses, but they are also all vendors of the ubiquitous Viagra - who needs a pharmacy or a doctor's prescription around here?

We are heading off on Saturday back to Tagbilaran for one night since we have a reservation for the 8 am ferry to Dumaguete for Sunday morning. We'll stay two night there and then we are off to Siquijor for our Christmas and New Years locations. We are certainly hoping the beaches are more swimmable, but since we are going to be on the island for three weeks in all, I guess we had better spend some time island hopping to help pass the time other than by reading all our books. I just finished the 1000 page World without End by Ken Follett and after Geordie finishes his "Pillars of the Earth" by Follett I'll read that. (I know, I'm reading them backwards. No matter.)

Off to a little air conditioning.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Bohol Tour

(Note:click on red high-lighted text to see a link, (often from Wikipedia).

Yesterday we took a ferry from Cebu City to Bohol Island and the capital city of Tagbilaran. We had met a young man called Yam at Malapascua who was also heading to Bohol, so we agreed that we would do a tour of the island with him. So this morning we walked to his hotel and met him and our driver for our tour.

It was a great day. We drove off in a well-air-conditioned van and stopped first at the site of the Blood Compact, a rather macabre treaty but it worked for Spain and the Philippines at that time. Then it was off to see the Chocolate Hills where we got to climb one of the more than 1200 mounds in the area and get lots of photos. The hills weren't chocolate coloured since it wasn't the right season for that, but seeing them covered in green vegetation was actually quite beautiful.

On the way down from the hills we asked the driver to stop if he saw a water buffalo plowing the land, and he found one lickety-split. We got lots of picture of the muddy creature with its muddy master plowing the rich fields to plant the next rice crop. Bohol gets three rice crops a year from its fields and grows enough for export. Not bad for a small island.

From there we went to a really cool butterfly farm where I got to hold moth caterpillars in my hands - yeah, I know it sounds wrong, but the butterfly caterpillars are more likely to cause skin irritation so the moths had to stand in. We did see butterfly caterpillars too, and lots of butterflies flittering about. (No moths though - it was too early in the day, I guess.)

And then on to see the tarsiers
. These are wonderful animals - tiny simians, the smallest in the world and normally nocturnal, but they seem to have roused a few from their beds so we could have a look. They are delightful with their huges eyes, soft brown fur and elongated toes.

From the tarsier cages (yes they were caged but they were walk-in cages), we got to have an hour-long tour on the river while eating a buffet lunch. The river is the Loboc and is very green (the water I mean), the landscape alongside is hills covered in a wide array of vegetation - including lots of palm trees of course. While we dined we stopped at a riverside wharf where we were entertained by a village group playing Ukeleles and singing songs of their culture. There was dancing too, including a rice dance with woven baskets and rice pounding women.

And then it was on to see the python - the largest and longest in captivity as the sign says. Its name was Proney and we were told about its history by a very flamboyant lady-boy who sat in his/her bright red dress with very red lipstick and told us how they python was captured when it was only 5 kilos. It is now 8 meters long and eats a pig or goat a month - whole! Of course! I got to go inside its cage and pet it while getting my picture taken. Geordie stayed outside for some reason.The lady-boy also showed us a python skin bikini but said it would be itchy to wear, but if anyone wanted one they did mail-order

Finally we went to see one of the oldest churches on the island, Baclayon - a church made of coral stone. The most unusual thing I saw there? A statue of St. Lazarus. He was wrapped from head to toe in white bandages except for his face, and there was a gold halo sticking up from the top of his wrapped head. I have never seen a statue of Lazarus before so this was certainly unique.

It was a great day - we finished relatively early and got to go back to our hotel to relax. We are at the Bohol Tropics Resort and considering how much I'm perspiring right now, Tropics is the word. Tomorrow we are off to Alona Beach. We got a reservation finally, at a higher rate than we'd like but it's an expensive beach and an expensive season. We have only one week before we head off to spend our three weeks on Siquijor Island. We'll be making the journey by ferry from here.

Until later.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Exotic Malapascua

We had a great journey yesterday from Cebu City to Malapascua Island. It looks like we are changing our travel style these days, or maybe we're just getting smarter. We could have braved the non-aircon long distance bus which would have taken 5 hours to travel to the village of Maya, and then organized a boat to the island and a trudge on the sandy path to our next destination. Instead we contacted them and for a goodly fee they sent a driver to our hotel in Cebu who did the trip to Maya in 2.5 hours! And then we were met at the dock by a lovely boat owned by the resort - a 50 foot boat with wonderful large outriggers that whisked us across directly to the resort where we had a nice dry landing. Which was a moot point since even though it was a nice big boat it was open to the sea and we got our share of spray from the outriggers and the prow as it dipped into the briny sea.

We are staying at the Exotic Malaspascua Dive Center and Resort on the little island of Malapascua which apparently one can walk around in 3 hours. The fact that it's hot and humid as it is everywhere we have been precludes that idea for me although Geordie left about 20 minutes ago, and if I don't see him for 3 hours I'm guessing he set off alone.

Our place is very nice - I'm sure it's the top resort on the island. Our room is a tad expensive although cheaper than the fancy resort on Boracay and they have a real expresso machine. Our room is a Super Deluxe Air Con - sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it. There's no sea view unfortunately but there is a very nice restaurant in front of the beach so we can enjoy sitting there in the shade. We can also paddle in the sea although it's a little shallow and soon changes to seaweed.

We are very relaxed though and will enjoy our four nights here, even if the other guests are a little aloof - that may be because they all seem to be from Europe and are not comfortable with English. There is a large group from Poland who have a banquet table set up in the middle of the restaurant. We've also heard French, German and Dutch and there is a woman wearing a t-shirt emblazoned Norway Team! Good thing we have each other to talk to.

I may well report a little more later with photos. In the meantime I thought I'd update a little information about Santo Nino. I had a question from one of my readers who asked about him so I thought maybe others would be interested. Click on this link Santo Nino to take you to the Wikipedia article and some photos - oh and I was mistaken, the image of the Santo Nino was a statue not a painting.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Iloilo City to Cebu City

This morning we got up bright and early to head for Cebu and our continuing adventure with a trip to another island planned for tomorrow. This is the second time we've flown Cebu Pacific and the second time we've both left and arrived early. The plane this morning left 15 minutes ahead of schedule and I think it arrived a half hour ahead of schedule. I also think they check the passenger manifest and if everyone has arrived they use the philosophy "Hey, we're ready, let's go!" Sometimes it would be nice if other airlines did that but I have a feeling we aren't about to convince Air Canada or Delta to change the flight plan for us.

Here's one of the last photos I took in Boracay.

Iloilo was not our favourite city, although I did take some photos . Our hotel was on the Iloilo River and the view in the evening was quite lovely - the cloud masses looked great.

The jeepneys in Iloilo are fancier than those in Manila too, although it's kind of hard to get good photos on the fly, as you see here.

And here's a view directly across from our hotel from the window. It looks lovely and there are some old colonial houses there. Even though we walked through the area in the heat, we didn't get to see any close up though.

We explored the Museo Iloilo which was on one floor of a very large building.

Where we saw ancient coffins.
And religious statuary.
As well as a diorama of an ancient culture that still exists in the highlands of the island (and on the streets of the city where the ones we saw were begging - families living in the crosswalks that allow one to cross the street safely above the traffic.

Then on to Cebu and the few sights there. Here's the Sancutary of the Santo Nino - I think he is the patron saint of th Philippines. The image of the holy Nino is a Flemish painting that came to the Philippines in the 1500's when this building was first completed. There have been two damaging fires but the image survived and is now a place of pilgrimage. We didn't get to see the painting because the service was on and the cathedral was packed.
Candles outside the Sanctuary.
Here's an interior view of the dome covering Magellan's cross. The view shows Magellan at the time of the planting of the cross. Bits of the original are incorporated into the wooden cross which you see a side view of here. Magellan died shortly after on the island of Mactan where our plane landed today. He was killed by a spear when he attempted to overcome the native population there headed by the chief, Lapu-lapu.
This is the front of the Main Cathedral which is just a couple of blocks from Santo Nino.
And flower sellers between the cathedral and Santo Nino.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On to Iloilo

Well, today we finally made our way through the force field that surrounds Boracay, keeping people in. It took a laboured effort as Geordie complained that he didn't want to leave but we shouldered our packs and walked up the street where we were immediately accosted by a guy offering us a tricycle ride to the port. (A tricycle is a motorcycle with an attached cab. They are everywhere except on the beach path at Boracay.)

The ride to the port took 10 minutes, buying a ticket 2 minutes, walking to the boat 1 minute, waiting for departure, 4 minutes, and crossing, 15 minutes. From the port at Caticlan we were met instantly by a guy who asked where we were going, then lead us down a narrow alley to a parking lot filled with vans - we were settled in and left immediately for Iloilo. It's amazing how efficiently things work in less-developed countries. Try to match that schedule in Canada.

The trip to Iloilo took about 4 and a half hours but the van driver was very efficient. We think he may have been a misplaced race car driver, since the banner over the windshield read "American Racing" and there was a model of a red Formula 1 Race car on the dash. In any case, nothing ever passed us although we passed lots of vehicles. There were places where he had to slow down - a tricycle or a big truck would be in the way for awhile, but as soon as he could, the driver got around them. We also got slowed down some on the road closer to Iloilo which was under construction. The paving is concrete, so there were patches being prepared on both lanes, but staggered so that the traffic could keep moving.

The scenery was beautiful - the greenery lush and fecund - it's amazing how much can grow all at once. There were rice paddies too, some of them terraced, and along the way we saw water buffalo - including at least one pulling a plow. The water buffalo have by and large been replaced by mechanical beasts that look like giant lawnmowers but the old ways still exist.

There were also lots of signs to enjoy on the road - I saw a sign for the Butch Beautfy Salon, and on the wall of a mausoleum in a cemetery we passed was emblazoned M/V Last Voyage - much have been a sea captain.

Our hotel is not top notch, although clean and comfortable. The fuchsia coloured bedspread and drapes give an air of something - I'm not sure what, certainly not faded elegance. There is a restaurant on the river side though and we have a view of the river from our room and in the distance one of the hulking malls where you can buy anything you want, I'm sure.

We had lunch at another Italian restaurant - it was quite good in fact. Geordie had tiger prawns on mango and apple salad, while I had a salami and onion calzone. And the prices were much lower than the prices of similar food in Boracay.

We have a full day in Iloilo tomorrow so we will have to do a little exploring - there is a museum near by and a couple of cathedrals beckon, so we will get a little more culture. Then we are off to Cebu, another city, on another island, although this time we will be flying there. There doesn't appear to be a magic force field around Iloilo, so I'm pretty sure we will be able to tear ourselves away much more easily.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leaving Boracay

Tonight may be our last night here in Boracay. 15 days - who knew Geordie could stay that long in one place? Tonight he said he really didn't want to go - he liked it and will miss it.

I went to the doctor today and had my check. He wasn't totally pleased with the results of the medication and prescribed another anti-biotic. My friend Marje said her diagnosis was that I had a coral sore, based on her childhood experiences on the coast of Kenya and that iodine would exacerbate the sore. I think the doctor discounted that when I saw him today. But I was given orders not to swim - didn't tell him about our midnight swim last night.

We will miss Boracay - the things we enjoyed, the beach, the lovely water, the powerful rain. There were other things too. The Miss Earth pageant for which we refused tickets daily on our way along the beach. We never did see any of the beauty queens although we walked by several venues where they would be - the chairs and the dais all decked out in finery. And we did meet Miss Earth 2008's parents - remember. They were the couple who were separated but hanging out together at the Hobbit House. The mother was with her new boyfriend and the father with his new girlfriend - all very friendly.

We also won't forget the young Korean couples who walked along the sand beach path in their matching outfits. It was amazing how many of them were doing it - shorts and t-shirts, even matching hoodies on some of them. It must be cool to do in Korea - or when you holiday at least. Geordie would not be caught dead wearing anything that looked like what I was wearing. He checks our wardrobes carefully for overlap.

And I suppose we won't forget the girls who called out to us every time we passed by. "Massage, sir, massage." They did it in chorus, every time we walked by - in perfect three part harmony I think. It got so irksome, but they do it for every single man who walks by, so we didn't feel singled out.

And I won't forget the child doctors who cared for me. They were charming and serious, and asked us what sights we had seen, what activities we had participated in, as well as checking on infections. Turns out they are only here for 10 days - they will go back to Manila to continue their residencies.

Of course there was scuba - such a wonderful experience. I don't have a list of things I must do before I die, but if I had, scuba diving would have been on it. So I can cross it off. Maybe I should start a list - what about Bungy Jumping, or rafting the Zambesi river with the crocodiles?

We are off now to eat at Aria - an excellent Italian restaurant just below this internet station. We have eaten there at least 4 times including last night, but since it's our favourite we decided we would do it again tonight. Maybe we'll have pizza instead of pasta, but then again - the black pasta with creamy seafood was delicious.

Tomorrow we'll get up, go for coffee at Arwana where we have every morning since we discovered it. It's next door to our resort and the coffee is great. After my fifth or sixth visit, Jhun started serving me a large cup of coffee for the price of a small. They were so nice. And we met Kyle, the 8 year old with the presence of an adult at times. And Nono, who served us our cheap SMB (San Miguel Beer) on the beach at happy hour every evening when we went to watch the glorious sunsets. Tonight's was really wonderful - very mysterious with the red background light breaking through the deep grey clouds.

So on we go - we are hoping to spend only one night in Iloilo and then we'll be off to Guimaras Island we hope. We have asked for a reservation but have not received a reply. Maybe we'll have to use the cell phones we bought for exactly that reason.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rain and Officialdom

Geordie wrote an email and I'm adding it here, with a few editorial changes.

After our visit to the doctors yesterday afternoon at 5 pm we had a wonderful rain storm, very heavy. Much like the monsoon rains I remember from 1959. It was over after an hour. It sounded wonderful on the roof of the room and Geordie sat out on the bench for most of it, until he started to get wet. The rain really cooled the day down, so it was actually quite wonderful but I'm glad we weren't caught in it, we might have drowned it was so hard. We then walked out for food. No mud after rains as every street is sand.

Today we went to the Immigration Service Office here. I had talked to the woman twice last week so we were ready. She was very nice and so helpful. She has many Filipino friends in Vancouver and Alberta. P 4,300 each later and we had our 1 month extension which gives us 2 days more than we need. We are relieved to now be legal for the whole trip. The office was in the front lobby of a hotel on the main street and was quite busy. There were 3 French guys, a man from South Africa and then a couple more came in, all while we were getting our extensions done.

We tried getting more money from ATM's today. P 4000 limit per transaction (Cdn $95 and BMO charges $5 per international transaction). Geordie did 3 transactions. Pricey. Then there are the bank and exchange charges that we do not understand. Must buy BMO stock. We will be paying for our hotel with our credit card, but for that they will charge us 6.5% more. I think that's considered non-kosher by the resorts but their margins are pretty small, so I imagine that absorbing the costs would be costly for them when they are not in a very great financial position to begin with.

So now to lunch. It's always challenging since there are tons of places, but they are all pretty generic. We haven't yet fallen in love with filipino food - their breakfast meals all seem to end in ..silog - tapsilog, cornsilog, lapsilog, etc. I think the first is chewy beef, the second canned corn beef, and the third fish - all served with a mound of rice and a fried egg. Our place does belgian waffles so that's what I've been having, and the place next door has really, really good coffee so I'm happy.

Tripping the light fantastic...

Last week, the day before I went snorkelling, I tripped on the steps going up to the bathroom in the cafe we were eating in. I scraped my leg, but of course ignored it as usual. I went snorkelling and there were lots of comments about sharks coming to find me - which would have made Martin happy because he hadn't seen any sharks yet. There were no sharks! Just jellyfish and stinging plankton. Ouch.

But two days later, after my scuba diving adventure, the wound was starting to look red around the area and I decided I should have someone look at it. The manager of our hotel turned out to be the right guy, since he had worked for Rescue911 in Manila for three years. He did a very careful job of cleaning the area with alcohol, swabbing it with Betadine (shades of the Camino) and then bandaging the area.

Geordie became my nurse and cleaned and bandaged the area a couple of times after, but we still went swimming and enjoyed the beach and the water. The area continued to be tender and red, but I even went off to my dive buddies and asked their opinion and they concurred with me that the wound seemed to be healing well - it was dry, although still red.

But yesterday! I woke up and realized that there was a problem. I noticed a bruise on the side of my heel and I knew I hadn't done anything to get it. Then I realized that my ankle was swollen and tender as was my leg generally. This was not normal. Time for some action.

Off we went and found the medical clinic on the main drag here on the island. It's a little hole-in-the-wall place, with two tiny rooms, some plastic seats and a number of people hanging out. I asked the young people sitting around where I could find the doctor and was shocked to discover that the two teenagers I was asking were the doctors. Well, at my advanced age, it's hard to discover that your doctor is now young enough to be your grandson.

The doctors and the assistants were great. They quickly took my temperature (no fever), and my blood pressure (no problem) then diagnosed me with an infection. The treatment options were discussed and then payment costs - Geordie and I had to pool our meager resources to find enough - (under 80 dollars, but more than I'd expected).

Treatment included a tetanus shot which they gave me right away in my upper right arm. The young female doctor did that just fine. Then the male doctor recommended an IV infusion of anti-biotics to punch up the treatment as well as a followup of oral anti-biotics. First they needed to do an allergen skin test for the a-b, which meant pumping a quantity of the drug between the first two layers of my skin - "Ow, ow".

Then there was a 20 minute wait to see if there was a reaction - which there wasn't so the doctor began to prepare the IV. Too bad he didn't get it right the first time since it hurt and I was a bad patient who went "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow" the whole time he was inserting the needle into the vein of my right hand. Since he didn't like the result, he took it out and did it all over again in my left hand - "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow". As the doctor said sweetly, "You have a low pain threshold." I didn't think I did, but hey I guess so.

The doctor then proceeded to clean out the wound with peroxide, then covered it with Betadine, and finally a nice clean bandage. Then he gave us instructions for care - Geordie has to clean it twice a day for me, and bandage it. I have to keep it dry although I can go into the ocean after the second day. The most important recommendation he gave me though?

"Avoid injuring the area again!" What a good idea! Hope I can avoid upstairs bathrooms from now on.

So with my wound treated, we decided it was a good idea to hang around at our resort a few more days. If I had not seen the doctors we might have been leaving this morning, Monday, or at the latest tomorrow. But now we'll probably stay until Thursday so the invalid can be cared for in some comfort. I think it's time to go now - my wound is twinging some more. I need my rest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Manila and Boracay

We were in Manila for 4 days before we headed for Boracay. While we were there we did a little sightseeing of course and lots of wandering. Here are a few images for you to enjoy.This is Santiago Fort with good old Santiago Matamoros - Santiago the Moor Killer - shades of the Camino!

And Geordie on the bridge over to another section of the fort.
This candle rack sat outside the prison cell where Rizal, a hero of the Revolution was imprisoned before he was taken to be executed. From another cell, a set of bronze steps on the ground lead to his execution spot.

Geordie stands outside the Manila Hotel - scene of his first experience of getting money changed in the Philippines in 1959 when he was here for the Boy Scout Jamboree.

A jeepney on the streets of Manila. These modified jeep buses are still made in the Philippines and travel set routes on the streets of Manila getting people all over the city.

Dragon boaters on the sea. For our dragon boating friends in Canada.
A set of police shields outside the US embassy in Manila - I was yelled at for taking the photo, but luckily the guard didn't come over to confiscate my camera or demand that I delete the photo.

A mausoleum at the Chinese Cemetery. The cemetery is very well cared for and the ancestors are honoured by their families regularly.

An alley way within the cemetery.

A grave decorated with strips of coloured paper - November 2 is the Day of the Dead - we think there were many family visiting at that time.

Another mausoleum within the cemetery.
Flowers growing in the cemetery. A photo from us to honour all the people resting here.

Sculptures near the Ayala Museum and outside the Greenbelt Shopping Centre in Manila.

Appetisers at the Museum Cafe. The dark things in the dish are salted dried fish. The rolled things are pork skin, but fish flavoured. The thin strips are curried crispy chips and the vegetables are in a soy sauce.

Our lunch at Museum Cafe. Thai spring rolls and fish cakes - a sprig of lemon grass spears the fish cakes. The sauce is sweet chili sauce mixed with mayonnaise.

On the way to Boracay.
Our life boat suspended on the outrigger of our boat.
An idyllic view of the beach.
Kite surfer on Bulabog beach across the island from our resort.
Fisherman with their small throw nets.
Geordie in his new Maui Jim sunglasses - reflecting the beach.
Walking on White Beach in Boracay. The rocklets appear to have a bonsai on top of each one.
Orchids growing in a yard near the beach path.
A slim-hulled outrigger in the Sulu Sea.
Sunset from the beach. Glorious colour, glorious boats

Lunch at Zhu - a Chinese restaurant on the beach.

SMB - San Miguel Beer. The local standard. (I found Moosehead Beer and Molson's on a menu at the Hobbit House Restaurant but it costs about five times as much as SMB!
Art on the beach.
Kids playing.
Oh, look, a picture of Nigel on the beach too.

Suiting up for the dive - the dive belt at 7 weights. The instructor had 2!

It takes 2 to get me ready.
I'm breathing from the tank! Honest!
Into the briny!
Going under!
Back from the depths.
A celebratory beer at sunset with oil-lamp.

The dance of joy for Nigel's first Scuba adventure and his return from the deep!