Thursday, 24 July 2008

Leyte to Cebu ferry and Filipino armed security.

I am sitting in a Cebu City internet cafe writing this post. I boarded the ferry in Baybay at 1900 yesterday. I spoke to El Capitano for a while as he demonstrated the ferry's ancient technology. I tried to explain how Royal Navy Trident Submarines differ in terms of navigational ability but I don't think he had a clue what I was talking about. This didn't exactly comfort me as I tried to sleep through the voyage across pitch-black seas.


I paid top dollar for a 'bed' (read bench) on the upper deck (2.50gbp) and I settled down to sleep at about 1930. The boat was due to leave at 2000 but, obviously, we had the obligatory half hour of non-punctuality to contend with and we slipped at 2030. I just could not imagine a ship of any kind leaving late in the West. Timekeeping was drilled into us in the RN from day1! I was told we would arrive at Baybay at 0300 but we got in at 0400. I blame the perfectly calm weather for impeding our progress. Even though we docked at 0400, I continued sleeping until 0600 like most of the other passengers.

I walked from pier 3, through skanking downtown, to the nicer uptown area (about 4km) in the cool morning sun. I stayed downtown last time so it was another trip down memory lane. I forgot how dangerous everything feels there. It felt very strange to be in a bustling city after 1 month in the barrio. It felt like travelling from Laos to Thailand again! I have treated myself tonight. I paid 700piso for a room with TV/aircon/sink/mirror/western toilet and even a shower with hot water. I feel like a f*cking millionaire in there watching CNN and taking hot showers as and when I feel like. I intend to enjoy it because I will be moving down scale tomorrow - back where I belong.

I have just had a McDonalds (haven't seen one in 6 weeks) and browsed in a bookshop for 1hr. I love bookshops. I purchased a 'Learn Tagalog - beginner' book which is a little late since I leave in a fortnight but every little helps. It felt great to be eating McDs and browsing bookshops after 6 weeks of rice fields and no water.

I met a friend back in Dec '06 in Singapore. She was from Cebu and we have hooked up after keeping in touch all this time. It is her birthday tonight and I have just bought her a bottle of red wine. It is funny meeting old friends after so long! I am looking forward to her party tonight. Might take my mind off all things Taiwan for a while.

I don't think I have mentioned this before but every conceivable business here in the Philippines has at least one armed security guard. These smartly dressed security drones often look quite formidable. I remember being quite alarmed when I first saw this. Walking into McDonald's or a pub past an armed guard is a little perturbing to say the least. It reminds me of General Melchart: "Security is not a dirty word Blackadder" haha. From banks to pawnshops to supermarkets they are everywhere man.

There are millions of pawnshops here. I have never seen this many anywhere else. Mobile phones are another anomaly. Many people live in rat infested shanty towns here. Despite this you wanna see the general standard of people's mobile phones. I have yet to see a crappier one than mine. The mind boggles. People must think 'I will sleep in shite' but 'I will not have a crap mobile'. A UK lifestyle guru might call this something like a 'priority management issue'. Some things I just can't fathom. Perhaps a funky mobile is a form of comfort or some kind of status symbol. Me? I would rather sleep on a matress than have the ability to text inane bollicks.

Don has told me he won't be in Cebu until Monday. So that is 5 weeks with 2 shirts and 2 pairs of shorts, mmmmmmmmm? Nice.

Many Filipinos have had a limited education. This is highlighted by some of the crazy questions I have been asked. I met one lady who could not point to the Philippines (her own country) on a map of the World. Has she never seen a weather report? When asked where I have been in the Philippines, my answers often generate blank looks of confusion. Different Islands don't seem to matter here. A few insane questions I have been asked over the last few weeks:

"Do they speak English in England?"

"Is England in the USA?"

"Is Dracula from England? Is he real?"

"What is the UK?"

"Is Taiwan in Thailand?"

My favourite reply to the 'Where're you from?' question is to answer countries like Poland, Madagascar, Brazil or the Ukraine because I guarantee they will not know WTF you are talking about. They also find it impossible to believe that a white person may not be able to speak English! When they try and 'sell' (read force you to buy) newspapers I speak French/Chinese and they seem staggered I don't know English - hehe. Conversations about general knowledge? Forget it. This is not to say everyone is like this. You do meet some wonderful folk here. Although it may be worth mentioning I did not see one single person reading a book, newspaper or magazine on Leyte.

Tomorrow I am thinking Malapascua or Moalboal. If I get trashed tonight I will probably remain here.

Paradise rocks baby.

Mainit - hot

Saan ka nakatira? - where do you live?

1 comment:

  1. Mabuhay Steve Kamusta Ka na??

    this sheeda in dublin ... just been reading your blog ... jayzus man sorry to hear about zi breaking up with ya ... she probably thinks that you been fucking everything filippina this past year or more ... yo i see you are going to iloilo ... got friends there and stuff ... hotel recommendations are the fine rock hotel ... great rooms with tv, hot water and aircon for 700 ... the family pension house has rooms for 250php ... very basic ... and none of the above facilitys ... fuck mate seeing as you are half way through the archepilligo ... check out mindanao ... great hotels for 300 php in cagayan de oro ... Camiguin Island is fuckin unbelieveable ... bleedin paradise ... still boozin ... S

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