Wednesday, February 21

Oro, plata, mata!

Mabuhay! (although it really means 'welcome/bye' in the Philippines...I used it as I liked)

So there you go again! Mabuhay! and hope you have a Mabuhay time reading this post!

"Make sure your passport is with you all the time. Dont drink water off taps! Dont talk to strangers....."

I listened to my Mum's never-ending advice, as always (and in literal sense), as they never tend to change one bit. After assuring that I would be extra cautious, I boarded this flight to Cebu - The Queen of South! An island filled with beaches!! Well, thats all about I knew of this place .....honestly, work had taken its toll and I had no time to do my research.

In the aircraft, I was suitably seated by a window. Behind me, a German couple, and this I gathered since they were speaking German and had mistaken the passengers to be an audience to their domestic squabbles. Next to me, an American family of 3, father, daughter and son. All of them with their laptops switched on with stereo headsets plugged in. Now, who said the world wasnt ready for wearble computing and electronics?!?

In front of me a Korean family whose kid had already began to ask her mum."Are we there yet?" just after 2 min after taking off. The parents, equipped with pencil and eraser, were in their own world with their advanced Sudoku puzzles book. My flight, rest assured was going to be a peaceful one.

This was followed by the aircraft pilot introducing himself and informing us when we would reach the destination. I heard the watched click behind me and yet another loud chatter. Given all this, I could hardly hear the pilot's name. Such dominating conversationalists really - no, not the German couple behind me but the pilots, in general. There was no way for him to hear me when I said," I beg your pardon, whats your name again, can you please give me that redundant piece of information again?"

Anyways, with no homework done (as you already know which wasn't my fault), I was scramming through the brochures in the flight when I first discovered I was actually going to an island which has historical events dating back to 16th century! Not wanting to be further discouraged, I abandoned the brochure immediately and tried to get a little snooze. The rude pilot however, felt the need to announce that were 36000 feet above the ground and were travelling at a lightening speed. Sure, now move on!

The flight was otherwise uneventful - had a few laughs and pretended to read this book by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Number of pages covered on flight - 8.
Number of glasses of orange juice - 3
Number of visit to the loo - 1
Number of times to be reminded to wear the seat beats - 4 (there is annoying thing about the flight stewaredesses (gee that was something typing on my left hand alone for a bit!) that
I would love to mention. They can get ....)

We landed at the Mactan International airport which I quickly assessed not to be bigger than a cricket pitch. Well obviously not! On my way to the hotel, I couldnt spot a single multistoried building. Coming to terms with the fact that I was almost in a village (with an airport, somehow) I felt something is not right here. It just took a brief 10 mins for me to realise that people drive here on the wrong side of the road. Must be the American/Spanish influence! I mean who drives on the right hand side of the road?! I was very much worried by as this meant additional caution required while crossing the roads! Then ofcourse, there werent any traffic lights in vicinity! Why should there be any?

I was welcome warmly at the hotel. My friend and I quickly planned our tour for the next 2 days and spent the rest of the evening at the beach. The sight was awesome. The water was cool and the weather was just warm and nice.

The locals seem to be very genuine and friendly. The next day we went on a tour around the City and were introduced to Magellan (the first spanish sailor to chance upon the island) and the local hero who fought him. This dated back to 16th century as I had figured previously. Following that there were some museums and churches that we visited, which dated back to about the same era. The place as such has so much Spanish influence that Rico, Pedro and Antonino could jolly well be the local equivalent of Tom, Dick and Harry. Yes, each person I met had a full blown complicated Espanol names. (I have delibrately left the accent there since such is the case here in Philippines - no Spanish accent in the names/words)

With Roman Catholic Churches in each town, it was more than clear that locals here were mostly Christians. The local dance, music, language and so much more - everything seemed to have been infuenced by Spaniards. People seem to embrace the fact that the Spaniards ruled them for about 300 years and were happy to have the foreign culture integrated to such a large extent.

Throughout the trip I often felt why are these people were still hanging on to something as old as 16th century? Until I found this near one of the Church that claims to have Santo Nino.

So anyways, the historical day trip was ended with us visiting a Taoist temple at 'Beverly Hills'. By then, thanks to the scorching heat we were drained of energy. The guide seeing our enthusiasm took upon himself in driving us up the hill instead of asking us to climb the 81 steps.(referring to 81 chapters of Taoist scriptures) Some of the richest locals live there - well obviously! The temple has this note at the entrance," Keep Clean. Immoral acts are prohibited in this temple.'

This caused my friend to immediately hide his cigeratte pack and me to wonder in which temples are such acts actually allowed?

Finding the day in general a bit of a drag, considering how sporty and adventure-driven we are, my friend and I decided to muster ourselves to water skiing which was just one of the several sports made available at the numerous beaches that Philippines boasts. It was great! As always, I felt like THE king! Although, most of the times, I could have been easily passed off to be a clown to a passerby - with me landing on the water surface on my face each time. My friend was better than me but injured his knee which required him to hobble around for the rest of the trip.

The next day we set off to the island of Bohol (yes, the words are used in that order - Filipino style? Spanish style?), where we saw these unique hills (Chocolate hills - only names so since an American tourist in the past was reminded of Herseys chocolate upon seeing those hillocks and it seems the locals just felt it was most appropriate to name these natural wonders after such a whim) made of limestone (then, under sea). I instantly ranked them amongst the most marvelous natural wonders I have ever witness.

We then met the tarsiers, and most visited creatures here one could ever imagine. Very cute but scary nonetheless. Reminded me of Dobby from the from H.Potter series. Large owl-eyed, long monkey-fingers, long rat-tailed, with bat ears these handful sized primates are one of the 4 species of their kind found in this world. They are off the endangered species list but I guess can be added to the most-annoyed-by-the-human-fancy list.

The rest of the day-trip isnt worth any mention although we met some amazing locals. Very very kind people and so content. It was a bliss to spend time with them and just to chat to them. They are very proud of their country. Did I mention the food was fabulous! The local fiestas which take place rather regularly are grand; this, coupled with the dance and music (which by the way was delightful) seemed to me, to be the nation's soul.

We came across several instances where we felt that this country was doing so much more for the environment. It has several local small scake-industries - cottage-weaving, tyre recycling, forestation etc.

Often on my own or with my friends I have never really had a chance to interact with tour guides on my trips. This time however, we hired a local tour guide on day 2 to show us some of the local industries. They seem to have this resorvior of information and just seem to have the perfect answers for everything. Our guide, Gwen was a very cheerful person and very committed to getting all the information across. This seemed fine till the point I felt the need to ask her to customise her scripts in the future. (No, I wasnt as rude and didnt mention it). But the reason why this came upon was only since she wouldnt listen to me. Inspite of me telling her that I am from India she went on to explain how buffaloes are farmers best friends and how they help the farmers.

Anyhow, we returned quite content back to Mactan island.

The rest of the time was spent by the beach with my book. The Booker Prize winner's content matched my expectations of it and I felt the author ably demonstrated his literary skills having kept me company for the rest of my stay in Cebu.

Random anecdotes -
No. of Spaniards I bumped into = 0
No. of korean/Japanese tourists = some 10,000
Number of books read - 1
Number of flags seen owing to the ASEAN smmit = 17
My fav dance: Tinikling
My fav spot: Bohol's Chocolate hills
My friend's fav ship: Oceanjet (and only since it stated he was 21 years old)
Most commonly available beer: San Miguel
Popular sport - Basketball (Local boys sporting the game below)

And if you have read so far and have wondered what relation does any of this have to the title of the post, the answer is none.

It seems while contructing a house, it is essential to count the number of steps such that the final rung falls on either “oro” or “plata,” for the well being of the inhabitants. Gold, silver, death or some equivalent like that.


Anonymous said...

the description of your journey in the flightwas very lively and interesting. but i admire your courage to visit a place not knowing anything about it . anyway there is no fun in visiting cosmopolitans always, there are so many other parts of the world which go undiscovered like this.

Chief said...

Well done mate!

The airplane experience turned by bowel movement upside down as I couldn't stop laughing for 15 mins.
Was it a Boeing, an Airbus or something else??

You can write a book titled 'The filipino mystery'. I can see that even a boring experience has been typed down articulately.

You guessed it..I am using 'mate' cos I just returned from Australia. That country is full of amazing beaches, babes and smiling people. I didn't bother to learn about the history but went straight to the beach, got naked and floored some babes.

So, mate your next trip should be to Kangaroo Land.


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