Thursday, 31 July 2008

Moalboal and the amazing Cebu to Manila Superferry. Angeles.


I am back in Cebu City (on Del Rosario St, close to San Carlos University to be precise) having just spent three nights in Moalboal on the South West coast of Cebu Island. Sarah (the girl who had the birthday last week) managed to get the weekend off and asked to come with me. I thought "Why not? The more the merrier".
I spent the time snorkelling with two Danish lads from Denmark (well, where else would Danes be from? hehe). Although there're no beautiful sandy beaches here, the coral reefs and snorkelling compensate for this. I saw a huge eel this time among the infinite varieties of impossibly coloured fish!  I saw hundreds of those orange/white fish of Finding Nemo fame. We drank Tanduay Rhum and cokes while watching the sun set over the volcanoes of Negros Island. I won a few beers by giving the best guess as to where, exactly, the sun would set - hehe - you can't bullshit a bullshitter I told the Sarah, Sern and Stefan!

We shared fresh pineapple, jackfruit and mango. I even had a western dinner which was surprisingly masarap (delicious). My first quality Western food in ages. I went for fillet steak n chips. Mmmmmmmm. I won't let the fact that it was not actually 'fillet' steak detract from the pleasure. You can't have everything. It was still excellent. I wish I was there now so I could have it again.

On Saturday night we went to a disco until 0300. I've not been in a disco like this for ages. It was an open-air bamboo affair. It was really good. The clientele was mainly local. A few of them could break dance. As one of only a few foreigners, I was unwillingly dragged up. A young lad did the spin-on-ya-back thing then encouraged me to follow suit. Obviously I was crap. How pathetic. Good laugh though.

Scary bus

I thought there were only two speeds in the Philippines: 1. Very slow and 2. Almost dead. I've now revised my thinking and added a third speed: 3. Terrifying.  The bus down to Moalboal took a pleasant three hours crossing the Island's mountainous spine to Cebu's west coast.  This morning, an hour was shaved off that. You might be thinking 'Great' but it was far from great. I was petrified. People pay a lot of money to experience these kind of thrills at amusement parks like Alton Towers, Blackpool or Disneyland.

Here you can have white knuckled exhilaration for a fraction of the cost! It really was brown trouser stuff today. I was still shaking ten minutes after alighting the death contraption. The driver must have taken amphetamines before departure as there can be no other explanation for his insanity. Either that or he was trying to be the first human to take a ramshackle bus past MACH1. As for oncoming traffic? Well, a few blasts of his horn would sharp clear them out of the way! I think I actually prayed for the first time in years. Even the chickens and livestock looked a little nervous to me!

Ferry Ticket

Today I bought a ferry ticket from Cebu to Manila. I leave tomorrow morning at 0945 and arrive the following day at 0845. 23 hrs but I get a bed/food and the ticket was only 1200piso which beats the tortuous bus any day. I hope my fate is better than those unfortunate souls that sank last month on this same route.

I managed to swap books again. This time Tom Clancy's 'The hunt for Red October'! Nostalgic Submarine stuff.

I'll write again from Manila or Whore Central (Angeles).

Ba a lam.

I'm sitting in Angeles City just off the infamous Fields Avenue where all the Pattaya-style-action is going on. It's now dusk and you can sense the atmosphere building. There's a tangible feeling of hedonism here. More on this later.


I woke early yesterday morning and walked from Downtown Cebu to pier 4 to meet my Manila bound ferry. I was happy to see I was going to be cruising on a 'Superferry' which is run by a different company from the bunch who ran 'MV Princess of the stars' which tragically sank last month on the same route. After the extensive security checks I finally boarded and found my bed along with something like 2000 other passengers.


Since I'm a cheapskate and only had an economy ticket I found myself in a huge Auschwitz style dormitory cabin. There must have been 500 people squeezed into the bedspaces here. I plonked my bag then set about exploring the ship. I settled myself down in a quiet spot on the top port deck. Next, just North of Cebu Island, a large school of dolphins gave an aquatic version of a gymnastics display, jumping clean out of the water in simultaneous waves. It looked amazing against the backdrop of a tropical blue ocean.


A little later, around sunset, a huge electrical storm had brewed to the West over Panay Island. These phenomena look very different from a nautical perspective. I remember this from my days on a frigate. The colours and sense of foreboding are more vivid. Mirrored only by a steel grey sea. The bolts of lightning looked like they were from some kind of omnipotent being toying with us. The bolts seemed to rattle the Earth as they fought for a path down to the strata with unimaginable fury. The noise and light was fantastic, frightful yet beautiful. I watched in an awestruck daze.

We were sailing through a labyrinth of islands (7107 islands constitute the Philippines). I was trying to guess the name of some of these islands but it was an exercise in futility. I studied my inadequate map of the Philippines without success. Asking clueless locals was like pissing against the wind. One of them suggested Mindanao which is to the South and we were clearly heading North!

I went to the reception and requested a visit to the bridge to try and get my bearings. The Captain accepted and up I went. I really enjoyed this. I was up there for an hour! Their bridge was about four times the size of HMS Coventry's. They were not using an echo sounder which I found a little disturbing. They had an electronic charting system from Norway which looked really cool. It was still backed up by a manual one.........just incase! They even let me play with the radar and chart displays after a while (under the close scrutiny of the Officer of the Watch of course). It was great. I established our course and even did some steering. It was a great buzz. I was constantly answering submarine questions all the while. It was a very cool afternoon and I felt very privileged.


The course we took (for any geographical geeks like me out there) is as follows: South out of Cebu port. Swing around North skirting Eastern Mactan Island. Continue North up the East side of Cebu Island before reaching the Northern tip. Turn to port cutting between Cebu and Malapascua. Continue on heading 310 cutting through Masbate and Panay. Sail right through the Romblon Islands before again heading Westwards as you pass between Mindoro and Luzon. Turn North again towards Manila. There.......piece of piss!

I noticed the keel depth was 6.2m and although the seas around the Philippines are very shallow (since we are still on the Asian continental shelf) I was relieved, after further chart studies, that the rest of our voyage was in deep enough waters. The best bit for me was trying to spot small fishing vessels (bancas) and islands that the radar had detected but the naked eye could not see. I stood with massive binoculars searching for these illusive objects.

Crap food

After queuing for an hour for some crap scran that wouldn't feed a gecko I decided to hit the sack. I read my current book 'The hunt for Red October' with renewed vigour. As I finally tried to close my eyes I realised I was falling foul of a Philippine quirk. This country has a very high birth rate, particularly by Western standards. This birth rate is exacerbated by the Catholic church and their condom policy. I view it more as a 'keep the poor poor' policy but that's another topic for another day. Last night I was reaping the benefits of this crazy baby boom when hundreds of the little shits cried all night. It was like trying to sleep in a pediatrics ward.

That's another thing out here. In the West we have 'Family planning'. Locals here joke that they only have 'Family planting' haha. It is true. I have verified it. Any woman under 20 who is not pregnant or has no kids is basically a freak. They typically have a full complement of 3-8 kids before they are old enough to tie their laces. I tell people here that I have 5 brothers and they laugh in my face. 7-10 siblings is more normal!


I enjoyed my voyage and was somewhat disappointed that it was over. I really am yearning to work at sea again (but in a civilian capacity). I alighted and headed to Malate where Don had left my ruksack in the Malate pension on Adriatico Street. After a little negotiation (Don had the receipt - not me) I got my bag. I headed to EDSA Pasay using two jeeps. The jeepneys in Manila are very confusing. I was determined to do it though since a jeep journey is 8piso whereas a taxi journey can be anything the taxi drivers reckon you can afford to part with (which can get ludicrous if you happen to be caucasion).


I successfully got to the 'Victory Liner' bus depot and bought a ticket to Dau (pronounced Daa oo) next to Angeles. The ride up here was on what must be this country's best road - a four lane smooth highway - wow. We blasted up here in no time. You could see the volcanoes Mt Ayarat to the East and Mt Pinatubo to the West - quite spectacular. Mt Pinatubo last blew in 1991 with devastaing effect, so it wasn't without some trepidation that I gazed up at this volatile behemoth.


I walked for miles trying to secure some budget accommodation. Eventually I managed it. I showered, shaved, sorted my clothes, updated my diary, had some scran, did this blog and now...................I'm going to have a few beers and look at some birds. Don said he would arrive here Friday and I can't wait because it's not the same perving on one's own. The bars are called things like Dollhouse, Angelwitch etc. This afternoon on my seemingly fruitless search, there was about ten sexy lasses all dressed as air-stewardesses trying to tempt me in for a beer! DOWN BOY.

However, like Pattaya, there are hundreds of fat, old, ugly white blokes here. Perhaps the women entertain these old codgers hoping they'll soon pass away leaving them free to spend the spouse's pension.

I'm off out to enjoy myself before I go to Malaysia.

Ba a lam

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