I’m sitting in a [very] air conditioned airport in Tagbilaran, waiting to board the plane which will take me back to Manila. The weather is nice for a change, and this is a good thing. When I was in Naga (Bicol), they told me if the weather got worse the next wouldn’t fly until two days later, so for me, perhaps especially on Christmas Eve, clear skies are a valuable commodity.
I spent yesterday evening in the dining hut/hall/lodge at Nuts Huts, talking with Chris and with Rita and a few other travelers. While the setting at Nuts Huts is a lush jungle, the atmosphere is almost entirely European. In fact, I don’t think most Filipinos would like it here. There was a Pinoy couple here the first night and all they did was complain about how nothing was Gucci enough.
My American readers will laugh uncontrollably when they read the following, but I thoroughly enjoyed the bottle of Colt .45 beer I had last night. I don’t drink very often (maybe once a year), but when I saw a bunch of Europeans sitting around a table clinking their bottles of Colt .45 together, I had to give it a shot. Chris said, “I don’t think it’s the same beer you have in the States. Americans tell me Colt .45 is pretty bad in the States.”
I responded, “Yeah. It’s a pimp beer.”
Well, whatever way they brew it in Asia (I checked–it is brewed and bottled in Asia, not imported), it’s pretty damn good. It’s microbrewery good. If they brewed it this way in the States, their patrons wouldn’t feel like they have to cover bottles of Colt .45 with a paper bag.
In spite of the spiders and the creepy crawlies, I slept pretty well. This morning I packed up my stuff and had lunch before being picked up by Nerio’s pump boat.
The ride down the river was calm and somewhat scenic, though I couldn’t think of anything except Apocalypse Now. We passed a handful of boaters, and each boat’s pump or paddling rhythm had its own sonic fingerprint. Perhaps sadly, for a brief moment I thought myself a contestant in Pod Racer.
After an hour or so I ended up in Loboc, where the Loboc River meets the ocean, and Nerio was waiting for me on the motorcycle. He asked me if there was anything I wanted to see today, and I said “architecture and tarsiers”.
The tarsiers were easy. Tarsiers are these ridiculously adorable alien-looking primates. In proportion to the size of the skull, tarsiers’ eyes are 150x the size of human eyes. Tarsiers, like pretty much anything of any ecological value in the Philippines, are both exploited and endangered. There are many small “business” owners who keep unhealthy tarsiers in cages as a tourist attraction; I did the politically correct thing and went to the ecologically-friendly Philippine Tarsier Foundation. They keep tarsiers in a very large enclosure to keep them safe from predators, including an indigenous eagle which snacks on them. I took over 70 pictures of the three tarsiers I was able to find while walking around in the enclosure, which was huge (tarsiers are not).
While leaving Corella, I mentioned to Nerio that it’s good to know that at least some people in the Philippines have an eye on ecological concerns. I don’t know how exactly he conceptualizes the term “ecological”, but he then became hell-bent on taking me to the Python Preservation, which ended up being nothing more than small wire and wood box located in someone’s back yard. In front of the box, which barely contained an absurdly long python, was a donation bucket. To the right of the box was a display case which had some brief information on reticulated pythons and some pictures of this particular python eating the family dog. The photos were totally surreal–the first few of the python suffocating the dog and family members standing around in shock, then successive photos showing the dog slowly disappearing down the python’s throat with different family members posing in the background, smiling for the camera. The last photo was of what I can only guess was a very happy python, who was sporting a vaguely dog-sized hump in the middle of its body.
Nerio’s motorcycle needed gas, so I told him I’d pay for a fill-up at the nearest station. Turns out the nearest station wasn’t a station at all–it was a little stand at the side of the road featuring a wooden box standing upright, displaying several liter-sized bottles of oddly colored cola.
And as one quicker than myself might guess, the oddly-colored cola wasn’t cola at all, it was gasoline. You order so many liters of gas then pour the gas straight from the cola bottle into your gas tank. No pump needed. Brilliant.
The quest for even colonial era architecture was pretty grim. With the exception of some churches, very little is very old here; structures don’t stand up to humidity and the elements very well. The only example of colonial architecture I found was this window made of capiz, which–believe it or not–is a translucent shell which is cut into squares which are then sandwiched between window panes.
The result is quite pleasant, I think. Certainly more pleasant than the unbearably gaudy capiz lamps which hung from the ceilings of my childhood home (and the childhood home of every Filipino-American, I’m sure).
There wasn’t much left to the rest of the day. We rode around until my back couldn’t take it anymore and then, at my insistence, I took Nerio out for lunch. I gave him the remainder of what was in my wallet–far, far more than he was expecting, around 1,500 pesos (roughly $27 or so). The typhoon hit Bohol the week before I arrived, and during dinner last night Chris told me that just two days ago, Nerio’s shop and business fell into the river. Nerio lost everything, and here he was driving me around the day before Christmas. Pretty sobering.
In a really sick way, I’m looking forward to getting back to Manila. It’s not that I couldn’t use more time by myself, but tomorrow’s xmas, and Darth Mumbai has to be there for the kids.