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!