Traveling alone is great fun. This is a post from my point of view so you can imagine how I experience it at the moment. Have fun reading!
They tell me it’s not safe because there were two guys kidnapped a few months ago. I’ve heard that too many times “it’s dangerous” just because there’s some crime in the news that happened there. It is like saying, it’s dangerous to take a bath because there are people who drowned in the bathtub. First, I will not go to the west of Mindanao. People sometimes seem to forget how beautiful the country where they live. I will fly into Davao and then go to the island called Samal. Second, a friend who has lived in Davao before said it’s totally safe. Voices from people that have actually lived in an area where you want to go are always better than from news or even worse from hearsay.
That’s why I enter the plane to Davao with a good feeling. As I expect, there is no danger at all. I grab a cab which brings me to the ferry to go to the Island where I want to spend three days. Before traveling to the northern area heading to Siargao Island.
In my opinion, there might be dangerous places in this world but there are more peaceful places. The Philippines is the 40th country that I traveled. I think I’ve never been to a really dangerous place not to mention the traffic. I guess one of the most dangerous places in terms of criminality I’ve been to was probably the Côte d’Azur in France.
The boat costs 15 Pesos which is equal to 30 US cents. Nice! I arrive cheap on the Island but the place I want to stay is quite far from the pier. So I need a Motorbike, I want to rent one but the guys all want 500 pesos per day which I know is not a fair price. I decide then to just take a habal-habal (a motorbike taxi) which brings me for 150 pesos to the place. The streets are rough and bumpy. I get off at my place. A whole apartment with a kitchen, a living room and two bedrooms with AC.It is too big for me but, I wanted to have a kitchen and the place is the same price with an ordinary hotel room that costs around 1000 pesos a night. I can rent a Motorbike from the owner of the apartment for 400PHP a day. Actually, the price in the Philippines for a motorbike is 300PHP a day. 400PHP a day is still OK. Well, I’m fine with it for 3 days. I can drive anywhere and I don’t have to search for another bike.
You need to walk a bit to find a motorbike to rent and you have to bargain as always which bugs me. Bargaining for a few times could be fun but ALWAYS is really too much for me.
I go back to Babak to buy things to cook and beer. In the grocery stores, I can only find preserved foods, rice, and dry things. No fresh food. I buy spaghetti, tomato sauce, tuna fish, instant coffee, instant soup, rice, coconut oil, and beer. I find the market further downtown. Everybody sells the same. Calamansi, banana, mango, tomato, onion, garlic, bell pepper, cucumber, small chili pepper and dry fish. Occasionally, I can see other vegetables and fruits like Pineapple or… whatever that is. I buy everything except the dry fish. The smell is too strong for me. In the back of the market, there is the fresh meat and fish. Blood is on the street and there is a distinct smell in the air. Dogs and cats are eating the leftovers in a corner. But on the stands, it looks fresh and I buy two chicken legs and some snapper as well as 10 eggs. All in all, I spend 400 pesos, it is not even 10USD. I go back home to cook, eat and go for a sleep.
It’s hot down in the south of the Philippines and I’ve got a headache.
Next day, I get up late, cook breakfast and enjoy being free. Even if I am already used to it. The date today is January 7, 2016. A year ago, 9th of January 2015 I left my home country. Basically, just two more days and it will be one year in total that I have been abroad. I still enjoy the freedom and appreciate it.
I visit a bat cave which is something that I’ve never seen before. Although, I’ve seen bats before but never this many in the same place. It might sound bullshit, boring or whatever to you but I was impressed and happy to be there.
There are 4 holes like in the picture where you can see inside the cave but for sure you can’t see the whole size which is subterranean. After visiting the cave, I go to Babak to find some lunch. I enter a Filipino resto. I have been in the Philippines for two months and I got used to the food that is there for hours. But, I still ask them to warm it up. I order chicken adobo and some fish with rice and a bottle of coke. I stay there for a long time. Old guys are singing in the karaoke with amazingly good and beautiful songs. Unlike the young Filipinos who sing all those mainstream songs from America, those guys sing either Filipino songs or old songs even Spanish ones like Besame Mucho. I’m having some beers with them chatting and listening to the singer. My bill is 120 pesos and gave the old lady a tip of 280pesos. She looks happy with the tip I gave her and that made me happy too.
It’s late and I still have a headache which got worse after drinking beer. I go home and cook the chicken legs. I cook them slow but long in a nonstick pan with garlic and onion using a coconut oil. I forgot how amazing cooking can be which made me miss my kitchen. Some tomato cucumber salad goes along with it. It’s a simple meal but I can’t think of anything better right now.
As I can’t drink any beer anymore I go to the “sari-sari” store across the street and buy a bottle of Royal- a kind of Filipino style Fanta Orange.
Next day I want to go to the beach. I heard of a Canibad Beach so, I ask the owner of my apartment for the direction. He replied, “Follow me I will drive you there. Today I’m in the mood of driving around rather than drinking beer.” Fine, I’m lucky I can follow the guy on the motorbike. It’s a 30-minute drive along the beautiful coast of the island. The street is shit and sometimes not easy to drive with the bike but we are not in a hurry. At the beach it’s quiet. Only one family is having a lunch in a hut and a tourist boat lies off on the other side of the beach.
I lie in the shade of a boat that is on the beach while reading a book about an American soldier in Iraq. I don’t really like the book but someone I met in Malaysia sent it to my kindle. It’s already downloaded in my kindle and I have no internet connection right now; I have no other options right now cause I already read my collection of books.
Luckily, a couple came along the beach and start talking to me. The couple is Filipino in origin but living in California. They are visiting their family and invite me to join them cause there are some fish, chicken, and rice left. I’m actually hungry therefore I didn’t reject their offer. I had the chance to know the rest of their family a bit. Although they are a little shy because they think their English is not good enough. Honestly, they can understand everything; they are just too shy to speak which is typical for Filipinos living in the countryside. Filipinos, in general, speak English very well, usually even better than most Europeans. If somebody does not speak perfectly they are shy to use it because they know that they are below average. After a few bottle of the red horse (strong beer) eventually it is no longer a problem.
I said to them that tomorrow it will be officially a year of traveling abroad for me. By coincidence, they will have a party at their place tomorrow and they invite me to go there. Furthermore, the couple travels by car to the north of Mindanao the day after. As they have enough space I can join them. I’m happy to have the opportunity to travel by car with these friendly people. Buses are not always comfortable in the Philippines because of the bumpy and rough concrete road. As the sun sets down I go home to avoid driving in the dark on this crazy road.
The pouring rain wakes me up. It doesn’t stop raining the whole day and I barely leave my place. I eat all the leftovers and pack my stuff so I don’t have to do that later on. Initially, I planned to visit a beautiful waterfall but because of the heavy rain, I don’t think of going there. I already have a waterfall in front of my doorstep.
Eventually, the rain stops a bit and I take the opportunity to drive to the place of the family I met yesterday. The road seems like a lake and I can’t see my path clearly. It takes 40 minutes instead of 20 minutes to go to Babak. Sometimes the road is slippery and my “Rusi” is really not the best bike I’ve ever driven. The beer I bring is shaken but at least I brought them something. The party is a typical Filipino family party with “Lechon baboy” and whatever you can see on the table.
I can’t imagine a better party to celebrate one year abroad. Although I was not very good in Karaoke which is always a part of Filipino parties. Everyone who can afford to buy one surely has a videoke in their home.
Then we play poker, 5 pesos per game. I lose 100PHP but I am glad I don’t win. They invited me so I don’t want to go home with their money.
It’s late and I have to drive home through the mud it’s already dark. First, I drive in the deep mud trough the unknown dark neighborhood. I use google maps to find my way to the road I know. Shit, it starts raining again. You know if you stand up and keep your bike straight but let it go up and down as much as it wants to you will not fall. So I stand on my Rusi and drive fast over the bumpy and slippery road. I became pretty good dirt bike driver during my stay in Asia, even with shitty bikes. Also, the lakes are gone now so I don’t have to stop every few meters just to not get wet from the puddles. The rain stays like a light drizzle which actually made the ride through the dark countryside a refreshing experience.
After a short sleep, I take a habal-habal back to the family’s place. As I have to leave the now pretty dirty Rusi back at the apartment. We head north and arrive at night in Cagayan de Oro. It was cloudy on the way I could not take any beautiful picture.
I make friends easily while drinking beers outside the family’s shop. They invite me to join their small basketball match.
Basketball, pool, karaoke and cockfights are very popular in the Philippines. If you know how to play these games you are “the king” in the Philippines. I’m tall in the Philippines so I’m a good rebound but in this heat, I can hardly keep up with the locals. Still, it’s great to play and I think I should definitely practice more sports while traveling.
The next day I’m heading east to Siargao but I can only make it to Butuan City. The ship to Siargao Island goes from Surigao City I have to go there the next morning. Sometimes I’m not planning too much and the thought that the boat ride to Siargao Island takes around two hours lead me to the conclusion that there must be a boat still afternoon. But not this time the last boat from Surigao City to Siargao leaves at 11.20 am. So I’m stuck for today. I checked in a hotel and wait a bit until the sun is not that hot anymore until I can check out the city.
It might be flattering to be the only foreigner in a Filipino town where they don’t have a lot of foreigners. People really think I’m something better as a westerner and envy me. Sure I know they are completely wrong because there is no better or worse in terms of a race so I behave myself. I can only advice western traveler to do the same. Never think you are something better just because locals treat you like that.
There are so many instances that misbehavior leads to dangerous situations. I believe being humble protects you from a lot of shit that can happen to travelers. The first step of being humble for tourists is to stop complaining about the standards which are not the same everywhere. That is one reason why the price also is not the same so sh** the f*** up and enjoy whatever is nice. If you can’t find anything nice, go home. If you don’t like a hotel change it. If you chose to book it for a whole week then you took the risk. For that reason, I usually only book one or two nights in advance. When I want to stay I can still extend if they are not yet fully booked.
I’m surprised to know that many people like McDonalds here. The large Big Mac meal is 200 pesos. This money is hard to spend on street food unless you are really starving. Still, people enjoy the expensive food. It is interesting, considering that most Filipinos earn about 300-400 peso a day. To be honest, I don’t know how people in the Philippines actually survive with this money. I envy them for their carefreeness eating a burger. It tastes as bad as everywhere but at the moment it’s just fine.
In the morning I hop on the boat to Siargao. A woman talks to me who is buying ingredients for a restaurant on the island on the market in Surigao City twice a week. She asks me where I’m going and I’m looking for a place to stay in General Luna. The restaurant she works for is also there and she offers me a room there. Once more, I’m very lucky since the room is very nice with air condition and it costs 700 pesos only.
The next day I try to go Kite Surfing. Since I did this in Brazil one year ago it’s about time to do that again and I want to do more sports. The wind is not really good and I need a big Kite. Even with this, it is not fun and to be honest, it is way too expensive if you are not enjoying it. I don’t really understand the philosophy of Kite schools in the Philippines. All I’ve seen are owned by foreign people and they charge the same price like in Europe per hour. HEY! Filipino Kite Surfer!!! Open schools and charge half the price, you still will make good money. About 55 US$ per hour is insane nobody earns that in the Philippines. So I don’t think it’s worth to do that there. In Brazil, I paid around 80 Reales per hour which was around 30 US at that time. I think I will go there again for Kite Surfing.
Playing pool in the evening is more fun and it’s for free. It is just not that easy as the ball always rolls a little bit too far on the other side. But still, it’s fun to play with the locals. The awkward rule here is, that the loser has to pass under the table. It’s dusty and narrow down there and everybody has a blast while the loser is struggling. I’m lucky and only have to pass there twice the whole evening.
After breakfast, I jump on my XRM and drive to a tidal pool called Magpupungko Rock Pools. Driving there is epic.
As always I don’t have any information about the place I’m going to. I know it must be beautiful. I am very lucky as the guy at the entrance says it is low tide at the moment so the pool is open.
You have to make sure that you go there during the low tide to enjoy the pool or else the place will be flooded. At the moment the water is not really low but still low enough to have a nice pool.
It’s easy to make many friends there by the way. Many locals go there to have fun so you can go there alone and you won’t be lonely.
Siargao is famous for surfing unfortunately, I’m not a good surfer so I just sit at cloud nine and enjoy the view. I think there are better places in the world to learn surfing. There are rocks everywhere and surfers are complaining about the jellyfish that stings them. The place for surfing is called cloud 9.
But the surfer community makes sure that there are nice events every evening like live music, jam sessions, cocktail or other parties. I think Siargao is one of the most beautiful Islands I’ve visited so far and it is by far less expensive than Palawan.
I fly out of Siargao Island. There is a very cheap and comfortable connection to Cebu every day operated by Cebu Pacific.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my new style of writing… if you even noticed… I thought it’s more fun to read when written in present rather than past… tell me your thoughts in the comments or write an eMail on firstname.lastname@example.org
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