I am sitting here on my balcony on the Thai island resort of Koh Phi Phi thinking about writing about our experiences in the Philippines. I think I needed a couple of weeks between myself and the Philippines before I could write about it objectively because that is where the difference ends between these two places. Both places are geologically similar countries with to die for weather and beautiful countryside but I couldn’t warm to the Philippines. We had just spent two uber expensive weeks in Japan and to be honest we were looking forward to somewhere where we could just chill out and relax. We flew into Manilla and my first experince with the country was getting a police report in the airport about a lost phone.
We spent about two days in Manilla, this was the first place in six months of travelling where I didn’t feel confident enough to bring my camera out with me on the streets. It just didn’t feel right. We had stayed in some pretty ropey places in some pretty ropey cities and it never stopped me before, but here I just didn’t want to risk it. The weird thing was the feeling of uneaseyness didn’t come from the people here who were very friendly but in the quantity and prevelance of fire arms on show, no smoke without fire.
In our first two days here we were hit by the first tropical typhoon of the season. I watched the wind from the hotel room rip up signs and trees with winds of up to 130kph. When we woke up the next morning to go for a swim we found out the storm had ripped off part of the pool roof.
We had our flight out of Manilla cancelled for a day because of the storm and when we made our way to the airport the next day the big cleanup was underway. There had been quite a few fatalities and the meteorological authorities were under the cosh as they hadn’t pridicted that Manilla would be directly hit, same everywhere.
We caught our flight from a boiling hot Manilla airport with Cebu airlines, the Filipino version of Ryan Air and flew to a boiling hot Cagayan de Oro. We were only staying one night here to catch a ferry the next day to Camaguin Island. I had picked up some tips on where to go from a lady I had met in Starbucks who’s mother is a midwife in Mount Carmel in Dublin. Really small world we live in .
Caguin de Oro is a pretty rough Philippine town in Mindinao in the south, ‘scene of religious unrest’.A bit like visiting Limerick during the troubles in the North of Ireland, not a good idea at the best of times but hey it must be safer than where the real trouble is.
We booked into a clean cheap hotel in the downtown area and decided to go for a walk and get something to eat. The only restaurants in the town were fast food joints so we picked what looked like the best and it wasn’t too bad but the rest of the town was rammed with 24hr pharmacies, all doing a roaring trade in legal drugs with queues of people, some with scrips others like myself with none. I got six months supply of my cholesterol lowering drug for a fraction of the price at home. I could actually fly down here get a years supply and have a holiday and still see change than if I bought them at home. Same manufacturer too. We got back to the hotel and Lisa and the kids went to bed. I stayed up having a couple of beers and talking to the security guy as he disassembled, cleaned and reassembled both his shotgun and handgun, nice and shiney too.
I have never seen so many pawn shops and churches either but I suppose being in hock to your local pawn shop and your maker go hand in hand in shit poor countries.
You have got to hand it to the Spanish and the Americans, both of whom have made the Philippines a colony, they have done a wonderful job in making a balls of a beautiful place.
It’s really weird here, there doesn’t seem to be a shred of the original culture left, whatever that was and whatever it might have been has been replaced by guns, drugs, pawn shops and religion, a fun mix at the best of times.