Project Puerto: Part I
My girlfriend (Sara Simone) came to The Phillies to visit me this past week. We had a wonderful time together. She should be on a plane home by now headed back to The U.S. I tried to give her the whole experience. In fact, in 1-week she experienced all of the things it has taken 6-Months for me to experience. Jeepneys, Trikes, Buko Pie, Adobo, Boats, The Tabo, The Foreigner Stare, Getting Ripped Off, Kamayan (eating with your hands), Speaking (a little) Tagalog, The Palengke, and Boats.
You may have noticed that I included “Boats” twice. Well, funny story . . .
Simone and I went to Dinalupihan, Bataan. My old stomping ground. The place where I “grew up” in The Phillies. The place I obtained most of the previously listed experiences. We got to hang out with my first host family. Simone bought them some really nice and expensive chocolates, she gave them a very nice blanket, and they exchanged gifts with us. We had an amazing time with them. [Flashback]
We stayed overnight and planned on leaving early in the morning. That was a good reasonable “brain” decision. However, we ended up leaving after lunch. That was an unreasonable “heart” decision. My previous host family’s house is nowhere near Batangas. We really should have left earlier, but we just shrugged it off. We will just get to the resort later.
Well, we got to the bus terminal and found out that the only trip still available was Calapan City. We needed to go to Puerto Galera. That wasn’t necessarily too bad because we could just go to the island and hop a Jeepney to our resort. But . . . the Jeepneys wouldn’t be running that late. A man accosted us and kept blabbering on about taking a special trip to Puerto for 5,000php. No. Freaking. Way. Thus, we decided to just sleep in the terminal and leave first thing in the morning.
We get inside the terminal and we are just looking around for a comfortable place to be. Another man bugs us until we sit near his snack store. He keeps telling us to go to sleep. This does not make Simone comfortable. After being very bored, annoyed, and creeped out by the man who wants us to sleep so desperately we rethought the special trip.
It’s about 9:00pm. We talk to the previous “special trip” man. We haggle him down 3,500php (which is still a lot of money) and begin to follow him. He is walking swiftly while simultaneously dissuading and ducking the Trike Driver’s requests to take us somewhere. He takes us down a dark alleyway. There are residences here and the inhabitants look strung out, tired, dirty, and very unsavory. Simone, understandably, grabs my shirt and pulls me close to say something along the lines of, “Um . . . this is some bullshi-, where the hell are we going? Are you insane?”
Yes, yes I am insane. Because instead of saying, “Yeah” which is what should have happened. I act offended and tell her about how I have lived here for 6-Months. I know what I’m doing.
Curse you, foolish pride! Curse You!!!
We finally get to the ocean again. We are suddenly being led behind the pier. It is pitch black outside and we are now being followed by 5 other men. We negotiate the price again and our lovely tour guide tells us that we have to pay first. Basically, to get the ball rolling. The 5 men, suddenly feel the need to crowd around Simone as she is trying to pull out the money. She looks at me with a face that is fear-stricken. However, to anyone else she looks angry. She says, “I am NOT pulling out my money with all of these people around!” loudly.
I say, “Umalis na kayo talaga!” (Seriously, get out of here!) They say that they are only there for safety. I respond with, “Aalis na kami! Atras!” (We’ll leave! Back up!) They did not leave, but they did back off. We pay the man 4,000php. They try to convince us to give them a 500php tip for doing nothing other than walk behind us. I’m trying to explain why we can’t do that when Simone (who had had enough) exclaims, “NO! We will leave!” They immediately changed their tune and got us change.
We finally figured out what boat we would be taking. It was a bangka. A small bangka. I’ve only ever been on a bangka during very very short trips. This one was not particularly nicer than any of those. Not to mention the only light outside is produced by little stars and the moon’s reflection. Not to mention the sea was really choppy. Not to mention these people already proved themselves to be less than trustworthy. Hm. I guess I did mention.
We stepped onto our rickety boat and headed out. I don’t get seasick, but that two hour trip helped me learn why some people might. Waves were beating us, it was cold, it was uneven, and it was pitch black. We made it, but not without an excruciating pain in my calf muscle. I guess I was just a little tense for the 2hr. trip.
We tipped the man, he gave us instructions to get to our resort, and we were off . . . on yet another adventure.
Project Puerto: Part II
We landed in Sabang. We lugged our baggage down towards the direction the guy told us to go. The scene was disgusting. I was told that there would be a lot of foreigners in and around Puerto Galera, but this? Every foreigner there was white. Every foreigner there was male. Every foreigner there was above 50yrs. old. (and) Every foreigner there looked and acted like a sleeze ball. There hands all over young attractive Filipinos of both genders who were dressed in very revealing clothes. We got a lot of looks. I often forget that I being black and my girlfriend being white makes us an odd couple. However, it is stranger in The Phillies and especially strange where we were. We were young, cute, innocent (in comparison), bi-racial foreigners in sleeze-town.
We sought solace in a bar. The little barkeep could tell we were out of place. We told her we needed to go to Tamaraw. She got a very worried look on her face. She told us that Tamaraw is far and that we’d have to hire a jeepney . . . or stay the night. 600php only. There was no way I was staying in sleeze-town. I told Simone that, “I have never been in a place in which I wanted to punch EVERYONE” we spent ANOTHER 1,000php just to get to our final destination.
We finally got to Tamaraw and nearly cried. We had finally made it. It was 11pm and everything was closed up. We had to wake up the hotel staff who was very kind a nice departure from everyone else we’d met up until the barkeep. My faith in The Phillies was restored and we both got to lay down to relax and take in the fact that even though we WERE ripped off; we weren’t accosted by prostitutes, we weren’t attacked, we didn’t drown, and we made it to our vacation.
The Philippines can be quite a trip . . .