A Last Look Around


I tried very hard to get us all away for Memorial Day weekend.  But there were just too many obstacles and in retrospect, although it was boring being stuck in the apartment, staying home really turned out to be the responsible thing to do.  But I wanted to take one more trip to see this country that is so much more than Manila, but so hard for us to schedule time to explore.  There’s so much I haven’t seen and wanted to:  Batanes, Bagio, Bohol… and the questions were:  With one more trip possibility left where would we go? Did we want to try to cross off from the wish list, or did we want to revisit something that we loved?  This question made me stop and think about all the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had over the past two years to explore the Philippines, but that recap really is a post for another day.  The bottom line is I wanted to be out in the Filipino countryside, away from the city, away from tourist traps and all the hyperbole surrounding them.  I really just wanted to go for a walk somewhere pretty.

Going for a walk in the Philippines isn’t always that easy.  In Manila I haven’t enjoyed walking city blocks.  The lights are out on every other corner, and even when they work the drivers pay no attention to pedestrian rights.  You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, which is not very relaxing to say the least.

We’ve had amazing hiking adventures here…some of my best memories.  But its not easy… not really a simple walk in the countryside…. and has usually involved a guide. Its hard to be a female foreigner walking around in small rural villages.  I end up feeling either vulnerable or voyeuristic.  But there was one place that I remember feeling very comfortable walking around and we never got to explore nearly enough – a pretty coastal stretch on Negros, near Dumaguete, where I was a Hammock Potato six months ago.  Now that was real countryside and walking territory without obstacles or issues, with a beautiful view and peace and quiet.  So it was decided that our last look around would be the familiar – Dumaguete and its peaceful cliffs and a little hammock swinging for good measure.  Here are some sights of the Filipino countryside that I will really miss.  I doubt we will have a chance to see them again:

Filipino Countryside

Starting off along the low grassy cliffs

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Past spiky "house plants" gone mad!

Past spiky “house plants” gone mad

With bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees

and bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees.

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows.

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows

Who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

 and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle

and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle

People Watching in Dumaguete

Dumaguete was only on our schedule as a point of arrival and departure at the airport. It was supposed to be a short drive from the dock over to the airport and back to Manila for a couple days of touring Taal and perhaps some more shopping before Paul and Nikki had to leave. However, we woke up on our last scheduled morning to a tropical depression and a canceled ferry. The pages of the newspapers the next day showed people in the sea with life jackets being rescued from another ferry that chose to sail Our canceled ferry meant that we would miss our flight and the rest of the day was spent calling, faxing and emailing the airline to try and solve the problem of rebooking our flights. It was a problem that needed constant feeding. Philippine Airlines were not cooperative, and we very grateful to have a travel agent to assist us. We never really got to enjoy our extra day at the resort because of the stream of airline demands and Manila arrangements needed canceling too.

The next day we took the first ferry out, which meant an unscheduled afternoon and night in Dumaguete. The short drive from the port to the hotel was enough to make sure I wasn’t too excited about going out to explore. I’d been around enough small, poor towns here to feel uncomfortable and almost voyageristic walking around. There’s usually nowhere to really eat, drink or hang out and you often get mobbed by beggars or small children. But I decided to venture out with Nikki and Paul anyway, thinking I could just turn back. But Dumaguete was a small, college town worth a look around.

Dumaguete Street

Nikki and I let loose in Dumaguete

Shopping in Dumaguete

I stumbled upon a fabric store. Perfect timing to buy some fabric for new tablecloths

We drew a circular route down the main street, and then back along the tree lined coast road to the Mexican restaurant where we planned to eat that evening. Latham and Robert joined us at our last destination and we watched the world go by for 2-3hrs, through the rush hour traffic along the coast, and on into the early night. It was fun looking at all the different passengers on the tricycles, trucks, cars and bikes that paraded by. School kids, people coming back from work, college kids, families, goats and chickens. Paul sat and clicked away at the procession and we drank margaritas and ate funky nachos. After the evening traffic died down, the street vendors came out and a makeshift street restaurant just materialized down by the water. It was a little bit of unscheduled fun salvaged from our disrupted plans and I was grateful for it. Sometimes its nice to have something unexpected in the mix.

Dumaguete Traffic

Watching the tricycle traffic in Dumaguete

Dumaguete Traffic

Family after family on bikes heading home

Dumaguete Tricycle

Every tricycle told a different story. So fun to watch everyone commuting back and forth

Dumaguete Tricycle

Young passenger waiting for Dad to come back

Kids on a bike in Dumaguete Traffic

As always, kids are often the best subjects

Dumaguete Roxas Blvd at Night

We watched so long the traffic subsided and darkness started to fall, with a little peace returning to the coast

Roxas Blvd Dumaguete

Seaward side of the coastal road. Boats lined up on the beach reminded us that island life wasn’t far away

Hammock Potato

Oh yes, Hammock Life!  October was really busy and the thought of three days away on a short beach trip at the end of the month really kept me going.  We booked a stay at Kookoos nest in Dumaguete on the island of Negros, a short flight away from Manila. It was a very small resort, consisting of half a dozen native huts directly on the beach. Apart from snorkeling and diving, there’s little to do except to hang around and read.  Enforced relaxation.  Exactly what we all needed.

View from said hammock…..

It was the perfect place to stay for us.  No air conditioning (but fans in the room), a private bathroom (cold water only…which I can tolerate for a couple of days) and private balcony (with spectacular sunsets), and it was surprisingly mosquito free.  There were plenty of bugs, though, if you chose to be bothered by them. I wasn’t — mostly — they didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them.  Except for the spider.  First night I head outside down the steps to the bathroom.  On the pathway, trying to negotiate the next step, is a very large, very hairy, black spider.  Or let’s just say it… the “t” word……tarantula.  Well, maybe not a tarantula – who’s knows, I don’t know spiders – but darn close anyway.  He looked something like this:

He moved very slowly.  I did a triple take to try and comprehend what I was looking at, then fled back upstairs.  Maybe I didn’t need to go that bad!  You can be sure I took extra precautions every evening, watching where I stepped.  Never saw him again!  Never wanted to!

After that excitement, the rest of the stay was very relaxing and uneventful.  I turned into a true hammock potato, reading 1.5 books in two days, taking four mini-naps a day.  The food was good and we ate three meals a day at their little restaurant, helping ourselves to the cooler bar whenever we wanted a drink.  I would definitely go back, despite my encounter with “Bertie” as I dubbed him.  You take the rough (and hairy) with the smooth, right?!