When I started this post, I’d been in the Philippines for about two weeks. I spent the first few days recovering from either food poisoning, or just adjusting to the food. It was hard to tell. I had some KFC in the Mumbai international airport at midnight that didn’t agree with me, and yeah I know it was stupid, but it was late and I was hungry and not a lot was open (stupid chicken sandwich). I went up to the roof at my hostel and met a bunch of people including a friend named Jelmer from Holland. It was on the roof of that hostel that I met a lot of friends and people that I would later end up travelling with. It was a tiny little rooftop commons area. This was both it’s problem and it’s saving grace. It was so small that when people went up there to smoke, or to drink everyone had to be in one tight circle. This, of course meant that that everyone had to interact, and there were no small groups as happens sometimes. Jelmer invited me to Moalboal in a few days after he got some work done, so I stayed at the hostel and killed time.
I mostly recovered my health in the next days, but I did have a fun night with a Swedish guy named Felix. I asked Felix if he was going out that night. He said that he had just flew in from Sweden and was pretty jetlagged. I said I was recovering from food poisoning, but we both agreed that a couple of beers on the roof sounded good. Of course one beer turned into three, which turned into several bottles of rum as more and more people from the hostel came to the roof. People came and people left, but Felix and I remained. We couldn’t figure out why people were going to bed so early until the sun rose. Now the funny thing about Felix is that he couldn’t really drink, but he was keeping up with me all night. When the sun rose I was surprised he hadn’t passed out. I found out later that Felix was 18 years old, and then I understood. I could do things like that when I was 18 too.
So Jelmer hit me up a day or two later, and we went down to Oslob, because the only hostel in Moalboal was booked up. We met back up with Matt, who we had met in Cebu. We all three went to swim with the whale sharks the next day and decided to stay in Oslob for another day because it was so chill and everyone was so nice. We stayed in Luzmin BH, which is ran by Lucy, and she’s helped by her son Mark. Almost every evening people come by and play pool on the pool table in the back. The cost for a game is 5p (about $0.10USD) and the standard bet is 20p (about $0.40USD). It was fun even if I almost never won. The people in that area play a ludicrous amount of pool, as did the people in Moalboal. Some of my fondest memories of Lagunda, and Oslob in general, are just hanging out in that back courtyard area and losing pool consistently to the local guys. While we trash talked each other and feigned pain when we missed, all without any grasp of each others language. It was good fun. Matt was actually the first person I met travelling who played serious pool. I used to, many years ago, but my skills have atrophied to the point where I can only beat my friends. Although they like to think I’m really good, I’m not, but it makes them feel better about losing.
We went to swim with the whale sharks pretty early in the morning, or at least for me it was. We got up and around 7 and got out there maybe 7:30. It was one of the more expensive touristy things I’ve done since travelling, 1000p (about $23USD), but it was so worth it. That included the snorkelling as well, so it would be a few hundred pesos cheaper if you didn’t want to go in the water, or a few hundred more if you wanted to dive. You go out on a little bangkha about 50-60 feet from the shore and just jump in. The snorkels they rented us were terrible and I kept inhaling water and ended up ditching the snorkel and keeping on the mask. The whale sharks were 8-10 meters long. That is around 30 feet. That doesn’t quite due them justice, because they are also very big around. Google some images, because I forgot my camera, but suffice to say they are HUGE! The people in the boat feed the Whale Sharks, so they are constantly moving around trying to get the food. You go through an orientation before you go, and it mostly consists of, “DON’T TOUCH THE WHALE SHARKS!!!” also maintain a 10-15 foot distance at all times. That is easier said then done and I had to frequently dodge the sharks when they almost ran into me. They are so big that you don’t even register to them. At one point I was hanging off of the side of the boat with a whale shark coming by beneath me with the man driving the boat yelling at me, “UP! UP! HIGHER!!!” I was completely out of the water at this point and hanging on trying not to fall on the whale shark inches below me, and then the man yelled at me, “BUT RELAX! RELAX!!!!” I wanted to yell back at him, “QUIT YELLING AT ME TO RELAX! IT’S NOT HELPFUL!!!” However I was out of breath and trying not to fall. Over all it was one of my favorite memories in the Philippines and I would highly recommend it.
So now we went to Moalboal. Unfortunately the rain started coming down. I was reminded that the Philippines doesn’t have Summer or Winter. They just have the rainy season and the not rainy season. Typhoon season is generally at the beginning of the rainy season. We had been making jokes about the rain for a bit while we were lounging in the sun, but then it started coming down. Jelmer sat on a little chair in the rain with an umbrella while we were trying to wave down a bus. It was one of the saddest most pitiful things I had ever seen. I wanted to take a picture, but it seemed inappropriate. Also my camera was all the way in my bag. I offered to take a shift with him, but he said that there was no sense in getting two of us wet, and I didn’t argue very hard.
Finally we got a bus. Unfortunately it was the wrong bus, but we didn’t realize that until we arrived at the end of the line. It was not the town we thought we were going to catch the next bus at. We asked the driver if we could just flag down another bus on the way. He assured us that it would not be a problem. It was a problem, and illustrates something that happens a lot in the Philippines. People will tell you where something is, because they are helpful, but they might not have any idea what you’re talking about. If you get directions I would recommend asking a few different people and getting a consensus. It will save you many of the days I spent looking for restaurants and landmarks. None of the buses stopped and we ended up taking a trike to the next bus station. We still had to wait an hour or so in the rain huddled with everyone else under some thatched roofs trying to edge out the vendors and the chickens.
We got our bus and went to Moalboal. When we got to Moalboal I thought immediately that I would hate it. It was packed, noisy, and everyone was yelling at you trying to get you to take a trike etc. I was pretty wet and beat so we grabbed a trike for like 150p (we found out later the going rate is 30p/person). So the way that Moalboal is laid out is that there are two major areas around the water, and the city. The city sucks. The other parts are called the little sun and the big sun. The little sun is where all the backpackers and cheap diving people hang out. The big sun is resorts and private beaches. I did not go to the big sun. The little sun was cool though. Good food, nice bars, not too expensive. We grabbed some beers, met up with the girls and just hung out. The next day was a bit of an adventure. I accidentally went canyoning. That day warrants another post, so I’ll link it here when I’m done. Although Seven Sins bar was pretty cool and is worth noting because it’s a little bar in Moalboal that takes bitcoin. It was pretty awesome and Jelmer and I had a great talk with Abraham, the owner of the bar, about cryptocurrencies.
I ended back up in Cebu after Moalboal. It’s a 4 hour bus ride North from Moalboal to Cebu City, but in rush hour its more like 5-6 hours. I relaxed in Cebu for a couple of days and met up with some guys. Till from Switzerland, Hao from Vietnam (but who lived in LA), and Maikel from the Netherlands. We were all thinking about heading to Bohol. We decided that after Christmas Eve we’d roll out.
We went out on Christmas Eve. We started the night at an Irish Pub, and there was a hilarious exchange when an American guy we we were hanging out with tried to order Irish car bombs. Keep in mind this was an Irish pub, that I’m pretty sure was owned by an Irish guy. After half an hour of trying to explain to the bartender and the bouncer how to make them he just asked for the ingredients. So if you’ve never tried to make 10 Irish car bombs from shots and cans of Guiness and pint glasses on a rickety table in a crowded bar I will tell you it’s challenging. We finally succeeded. Serge felt triumphant, and I was happy to get free Jameson and Guiness, and then went to the club. We danced our asses off, but the club didn’t seem very Christmassy to me. I headed back to the Hostel with Maikel and Dora, from Australia. We got back to the hostel and heard merrymaking across the street. The two shops were having street parties. One had house music playing loudly, and people dancing. The other shop had an amp, and two guitarists, or maybe a guitarist and a bass player. We grabbed beers and started listening to the music. However in the Philippines if you know the words to the song then they’ll just pass you the mic. I sang some Janes Addiction with Dora, but had issues because I blew out my voice at the club. I could only sing bass very low. We partied, then went to bed. I have a video of it somewhere that I might upload.