First stop is Cuyo, a major kitesurfing destination of the Philippines and a small island in the open ocean halfway to my first detination of exploration – the Visayas.
After renting a motorbike and exploring the island of Cuyo, I head off to Iloilo City, the largest on the first of the major islands of Visayas, and find three days of rest at an airbnb joint I found online. The mosquitos, dogs and roosters were somewhat of an annoyance, especially the neighbour’s rooster who would venture too often into my open patio space and leave droppings on the beds, but soon enough I found a reasonable place which I could rent for $120 a month.
Unfortunately, it had no windows and felt like a depressing jail, so after the first month I found a nice shack on a beach nearby. I like to explore new territory on foot, the best way, and after a long Sunday stroll, one elderly genteleman called out a friendly hello to me as I passed by his little resort. I decided to rest there for a bit when I noticed a lone hut. One of the very few right on the beach in the entire city. I inquired into its availability and soon enough he threw out all his sons to leave room for me, at the same price as the last place I was staying at.
Much nicer this one, with its own patio, where I could work during the daytime amid pleasant breeze by seaside. He even played ukulele and we soon played together almost every evening. It was a great way to polish up and practice my viola playing skills. I also found a few places I could play at around town, and it was nice to get back into a routine of comfort, off the island, where I could shower easily every day, walk down the street for an easy meal, or go out to any number of numerous venues to socialise for an evening.
I was so excited to get back into shape I signed up for boxing three nights a week and karate four. However, after a month, it quickly became apparent that it was an entirely exhausting venture which I could barely utilise for my one month membership. I decided to settle for a local weight room gym where I could go six days a week, for about half an hour a day and use their showers, which were better than the new beach hut I was staying at, which used an old hand pump out of the ground without any privacy.
The owner of the new place I was staying at, Edward, has a lot of contacts and we begin to explore them as I start to formulate how I will expand my business in other parts of the country. I soon decided that this will require a motorcycle with sidecar, so I spent the next six months saving up and customising that, while accumulating more toys to bring with me.
Overall, like many cities or towns in the Philippines, I found Iloilo rather boring to live in, even though it was supposedly ranked by Forbes magazine as the fifth most liveable city in the world. A complete farce, as it lacked practically any park and is the same jumble of cars parked on sidewalks, streetshops and cheesy karaoke bars as any other city in the country.
Out of boredom I ventured to try out the local couchsurfing events, as I was invited by my sole couchsurfing friend to a pancake party organised by a Dutchman who traveled around the world, this being his estimated 500th such organised party.
I asked him why he would organise such an event, he seemed to be offended by the question, I don’t eat pancakes, and the venue didn’t even sell beer. So I went to the local shop on the ground floor and brought up a few brewskies to accompany some more palatable dishes, which I ordered separately.
Next to me sat one girl who inquired into the possibility of borrowing one of my beers, promising to run downstairs to replace it later on. I’ve heard enough tall stories from Filipinos not to readily lend new people anything. Besides, I hardly noticed her as I was more preocuppied staring at another girl across the table.
Eventually I managed to save up enough for my motorbike with sidecar and all the other bare necessities I felt I needed to make a pleasant tour around the country, and announced a second couchsurfing event at my hut in the form of a potluck whereby I would make my usual famous marinated steak to be fired up on the grill. The same girl responded that she was sad to see me go and that she happens to be up for a beer that evening, complaining that all her friends feel like staying in. Since I had not noticed her the first time we met at the pancake party, I could not remember who she was, but after perusing her profile pictures on couchsurfing I decided, why not? She took a couple of jeepney rides all the way down to my place from the other side of town and we decided to start off the evening at the local kiosk where I occasionally like to hang out, as I can sit outside amongst lots of traffic, the people are friendly to me, and lots of locals passing to and fro buying their various kiosk needs.
Marinated meat for my potluck party.
She instantly hit it off well with them, and although she had a bit of a belly, I grew to quickly like her, the sound of her voice and her overall mannerisms. We went to another bar later and she eventually slept over at my place, and within a very short time she became my first official girlfriend since I have set off on my world travels from Prague some 12 years prior.
As planned, I soon embarked on my travels, driving up along the coast, exploring some places along the way, checking out one place near the famous Carles as I had arranged through Airbnb some months beforehand. Alvin, the owner of a particular resort, said he knows of a possible place for me since I inquired into the possibility of staying at least one month with a preference of paying what I had been in Iloilo – $120 a month.
My new hut in Estancia, near Carles.
I arrived and was quite happy with the hut, a significant upgrade from my stay in Iloilo. My new girlfriend, Mel, would take the bus up on her days off and together we’d explore the area as part of my plan to add content to my website to increase business – and she liked exploring with me.
Over time I discovered we had very similar interests and were highly compatible, enjoying hiking in nature and discovering new areas. She has a particular fondness for waterfalls and it occurred to me to start a new tag/category “lover’s waterfalls”. Which I am sure would be appreciated by some couples on a romantic vacation and who also like to hike in nature.
Soon enough I started to drop hints that we are perfect for each other and would talk to her about her views on raising children and other matters. She loves traveling and does not shy away from the thought of traveling together with children. A real trooper who is not afraid of asking a guy on a date, not the prissy princess who is afraid of adventure and just wants to stay safe at home watching endless television.
The problem is that she is a nurse and her big dream of travels is to move to the UK to earn big money as a nurse, and she already had a job offer lined up and was planning to move there later in the year. But not before agreeing to first travel a few months with me around the Philippines. I set out in all earnest to lather her with all the charm I could muster during this period in hopes of convincing her to stay with me.
I explained that it is very expensive living in London and that she cannot expect to save much to send back to her family, and that the UK countryside is not that exciting. At best she might hope to check out some other towns or beaches during her days off, or perhaps a long weekend to Paris, but I had already visited all that and tried to convince her she could travel much more with me, and possibly even save more, since I could find some work for her on the computer and would be paying for all her costs (it does not cost extra for accommodation if two people share a hut or bed).
In spite of all my efforts, her mind was firmly set on her UK plans, until one day I thought I could up the stakes with a bribe of sorts – an all-expense paid, six month road trip from Alaska to Antartica. It was a short sales pitch, she casually agreed, and now we are busy with our wedding plans and starting a family. By the end of this month her employment at the local hospital will come to an end, she will move in with me, and the wedding is planned for the 20th of the following month, after which the plan is to embark on our travels around the Philippines until the start of the rainy season sometime in June, after which we would travel somewhere in the world for the next six months before continuing our travels in the Philippines during the dry season from June until the end of November.
I already bought her a laptop and we have decided she should become the social marketing expert. Whenever I post something on Facebook I might get a trickle of responses, but she loves taking and posting pictures, is great at it, and this is a task I don’t really enjoy. I am convinced we will make a great team, and she can make extra income beyond the hourly rate I offer in the form of commission on sales. Or running my other businesses, or starting her own. The world is literally our oyster and we look forward to swallowing it.
By marrying, after three years I will be able to apply for permanent residence here, which would be a welcome convenience, and I would work to getting her a Canadian passport, as it can be quite difficult for a Filipino to travel around the world, often required to pay $60 in advance to apply at an embassy in Manila, a city I detest to stay in for whatever short period of time.
For a long time I had been yearning to start a family. Although it has been a great adventure traveling around the world for the past 12 years, continuing down this road until the grave seemed increasingly lackluster. I yearned to start a new chapter in my life and end it on a deathbed surrounded by a big, loving family with lots of grandchildren. I love how my beautiful trooper is fine with traveling around the world with children and with me homeschooling them. After all, with AI just around the corner, some 90% of jobs will become redundant, and the present institutional educational system will become more obsolete than it already is. Not to mention I want to raise warriors of light, not the average, conditioned being who is not taught to think out of the box but brainwashed to submit to the system, not questioning anything but to become an obedient, good little robot.
This henceforth marks the last chapter of my single years and I look forward to an amazing new chapter in the latter years of my life.
As you can see from our reviews, most of our guests love our service, while a small minority do not. This page is designed to steer away those who might not like the conditions, making everyone happier.
Here are some of the conditions which some may not prefer:
we specialise in custom private tours off the beaten path. The further you get away from the tourist crowd, the more basic will be the facilities. There are toilets and showers everywhere, but sometimes you may just have to squat and flush the toilet with a small bucket drawn from a big bucket of water, or something similar to “shower” yourself with. An example could be one of our regular stops near Sibaltan, Pical.
the accommodation is usually very basic. Many places have limited electricity, such as noon to midnight in San Miguel, Linapacan, or the frequent 6pm-10pm in Pical. Smaller islands might be like Pical. Some have diesel generators and can power aircon overnight, but that will need to be paid for extra. The boatmen are slowly stocking up on battery powered fans for the tents. Sometimes it is best just to sleep on a breezy beach under the open stars, but make sure there are no sand flies. Best to discuss your requirements and preferences with the boatman.
the waves and weather can get a bit rough sometimes, as indicated on the forecastspage. Whenever a low pressure area develops in the open ocean east of the country, as soon as it even starts approaching the east coast, the standard coast guard reaction is to issue a warning. But this is the same supersafe approach applied by the embassy of your own country, which possibly issues a dire warning in bold red letters not to come to this country. I asked the coast guards in and exmayor of San Miguel in Linapacan if any accidents have ever been reported along our regular route and they claimed absolutely none. There are 82 islands between Sibaltan and Coron to provide plenty of shelter. The typhoons generally hit the east coast and are then pushed northward to the upper tip of Luzon before they go down to Vietnam. They rarely make it through the middle of the country, but when they occasionally do (I lived in Linapacan for two years), by the time they get there they are fairly tame. In any case, the boatmen know when it is or not safe to go out and will not risk their lives or boats for some extra income. Therefore, if you hear any warnings by the coastguards, this is NOT grounds for cancellation of your tour. If the weather gets too rough, usually the boatmen will sit out the storm for a day or two and then continue. The last year I lived in the area I counted 8 typhoons passing around the country and our operations needed to pause only for a few days on two separate occasions.
To sum it up, our tours are not for everyone, but if you want to get off the beaten path, into beautiful pristine nature, remote beaches and meet and live like truly rural and hospitable Filipinos, then our tours are for you. We have different sized boats, so if you are scared of big waves, you can arrange one of the larger boats. The accommodation can quite vary, from fancy resorts you have to book in advance yourselves, to basic huts or inns, to tents.
You can join or book one of our private custom Palawan boat tours between El Nido and Coron. Tons of paradise beach islands to see along the way, excellent snorkeling in crystal clear waters, caves to explore, Spanish fortress and much more. Completely off the beaten path!
A recent addition to our team but so far has been yielding good results. Her boats are slightly smaller, with capacity for 15 people, but she prefers a maximum of 6, for greater safety. Also based in Linapacan. This is now our main choice as she charges 5,000p less than the others. If you are afraid of big waves, you can upgrade to a larger boat with one of our other operators.
She has three boats about the same size and manages three crews.
You can join or book one of our private custom Palawan boat tours between El Nido and Coron. Tons of paradise beach islands to see along the way, excellent snorkeling in crystal clear waters, caves to explore, Spanish fortress and much more. Completely off the beaten path!
We have different sized boats. Generally for a group of six persons or less, which is most of our customers, something like the below boat would be used:
These can generally accommodate up to six people. During the Amihan season, roughly from November to April, but especially around February, the waves/swells can get larger, and if you are afraid of that, we have larger sized boats. You can check weather forecasts here. The larger boats generally accommodate around 15 persons max, or possibly 20 if the water is very flat:
Please note that these banca boats represent the livelihood for the boatman and they will not go out if they feel the weather is too rough or risky. The coast guards are also very strict and do not allow it according to their weather predictions. Along the entire route between Coron and Sibaltan there are tons of islands and always some nearby coast. There is no open ocean stretch so safety is always near. Nevertheless, some of our guests are not used to the ocean and prefer more stability, in which case we have a larger boat with capacity for 30 persons:
or even a larger boat for capacity 48:
Such boats could have enough cabin space if you prefer to sleep on the boat. If you want to upgrade the size of your boat, just send me a note and we’ll figure something out.
And lastly, we have small boats if for example you’d like a local tour of the beautiful Linapacan area. They can generally accommodate up to five people (without baggage) if the water is flat enough. Here’s a picture of our boatman Alvin. You can even sleep in a little hut in his community on the interesting island of Patoyo:
If you have not already, you can book a tour with us here:
You can check out our different boatmen with customer reviews about them if you’d like to make a specific choice between them. Note that our three main boatmen here have several boats and crews under their command:
The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 paradise beach islands and a great way to spend a romantic vacation is on a private custom boat tour, island hopping your way from one paradise to another.
The best place for this is between El Nido and Coron. Our tours start or end in Sibaltan, a nice archeological village about one hour east of El Nido. If you have time, on your way there you can follow our suggested itinerary by beach hopping your way to the secluded resorts there, spending at most only half an hour in the van each day.
We suggest staying at least one night in Sibaltan (such as at the place below) so that you do not have to worry about catching a van in the morning and start your tour as soon as you are ready.
Your next stop can be the lovely island of Iloc (picture below), only 30 minutes away, where you can also stay overnight, if you so wish. There are many island beaches in the area where you can explore and snorkel during the day.
Your second day can take you to Linapacan, half way to Coron and itself surrounded by 52 islands. Tons of fantastic snorkeling spots in amazingly clear water. You will not find clear water like this in Coron or El Nido, and neither will you see many tourists, but friendly locals opening their hearts and homes to you. Linapacan also has caves to explore, an old Spanish fortress, and cliff diving into the water.
Amazingly clear water and fantastic snorkeling. Check out this video. More videos here.
Note that our tours are custom private, so you can choose where to visit or stay, or simply explain to your boatman what you like, as they are the experts. Our tours cost 46,000p (about $900) for two people for a four day trip (not including food, accommodation or entrance fees to some of the beaches – get a free quote here). This is the total cost for the two of you, but if you want to share your boat with others, it only costs 1,000p for each additional person. Or 5,000p less or more for each day less or more.
Araw beach, one of the many places you can visit. A very small community lives here.
The standard package all-inclusive tour includes basic accommodation, but if you’d like something fancier you can book yourself, such as one of the places on our suggested accommodation page. You can choose which spots to visit beforehand, or simply discuss this with the boatman on meeting – usually they meet you the night before, so you can discuss things over a pleasant beer.
Example of some of the basic accommodation you can choose from, but fancy is also available.
There is also the option to rent a wakeboard and/or speargun. It can be a great blast to surf while passing between remote islands and beaches.
And if you don’t mind getting basic, there is even the option to camp out on your own deserted island!
Bolina, one of the many beautiful deserted islands you can camp out on. The boatman can set you up with cooking and anything else you will need.
There are several reasons for my trip to North America. One is because my cousin from the UK is visiting, so an important family reunion with my mom and sister, as the four of us have not been together for several decades. But also to open bank accounts in Canada and the US. I had a bank account in the US, but instead of emailing me notifications, which is free, they insist on the archaic postal system and, since my friends living at the address associated with the bank account were given instructions not to worry about post for me, I failed to fill in some new tax form in time and they closed the account. Without that I am not able to transfer money out of my PayPal account so I could use the bank’s atm card to withdraw cash. Generally all my income comes into PayPal, such as through its free tool to accept credit card payments, and without the means to the cash from a local atm machine, for a year I was forced to use the services of one hotel who agreed to issue me a cheque after I sent them funds from my PayPal account to theirs, minus a 10% fee. Considering that PayPal itself charges a 4.5% fee to receive payments, this is something I simply need to get sorted.
Visiting mom in Vancouver.
I arrive to Vancouver in my usual shorts and t-shirt, but since it was apparently the coldest April ever recorded, I am quickly forced to borrow pants and a sweater from my stepfather. I find the style of attire there rather amusing, even the hairstyle, which looks like locals had just crawled out of bed and slipped into their comfy pajamas.
It was so unusually cold that my beautiful hard feet from 12 years of walking barefoot around the world cracked at the heals!
Contrary to the Philippines, where a large part of the population are children, the average age in Vancouver seems to be in the mid forties. Also contrary to Manila which I had just suffered, Vancouver has spacious and empty roads, cars neatly parked and the sidewalks completely free! I enjoy the two hour walk every day to my mom’s place for lunch, strolling through quiet neighbourhoods with rich houses, old people jogging slowly in their pajamas with their dogs. If Prague is called the city of a thousand spires, Vancouver should be called a city of a million trees. Quite the nice change from Manila.
Is this some humorous misspelling and subliminal message to the people?
Even the cemeteries are spacious.
Walk with mom and cousin.
As usual my mom loves to spoil me with her fantastic cooking, as per my request all the things I have been missing for so many years while traveling through Asia. She even gives me a Czech “uherak”, which is like a very heavy German-style sausage, to take to my airbnb place with other goodies. I happily munch on that as I work on my computer in bed, but I guess it is not the best move for my indigestion, as I experience a few emergencies during my long walks the first few days there and have to improvise in forested parks and back alleys, once even struggling too long to unravel the string belt of my pajama pants. My mother wonders why I show up with the pants inside out and my stepfather wasn’t pleased to hear the news, so my mom buys me a new pair from the local Cosco’s.
Easter lunch at mom’s.
Stepdad doing his manly duties of preparing the duck.
Typical Czech Easter meal of roasted duck with bread dumplings, different coloured sourcrout, gravy, with hanging eggs in the background.
Closeup of the eggs which, traditionally, we paint ourselves.
Mom and sis joking around.
I visit some old friends, successfully open a bank account, assign my mother a power of attorney to represent me and off I am to Seattle, my sister renting a car for the three of us, since the main reason my cousin is visiting is because she will be joining a round the world sailing boat race.
Cousin showing us her fancy sailing race gear, but according to the video below, I think I could do without!
Crossing the Border
Through my sister I manage to score a bunch of weed, which is quite welcome, having freshly arrived from a country where the president happily supports extra-judiciary murder for such use. I finished the batch but have a bunch of roach clips left over, so I rip them apart to roll together one last massive joint before crossing the border into the United (police) States of America.
But I am somewhat concerned having heard a story from my dad, a respectable businessman who was given 20 million dollars by the US government to invest into the Czech Republic shortly after the fall of Communism. We both have the first and last name and apparently his butt was once searched at the border on his return to the country. Through their grimace they did not reveal to him why, but he later deduced it must have been what I wrote on the net. I consider myself an activist and subscribe to various news feeds. One informed me that Bush junior had vetoed a majority vote in both the Congress and Senate to ban a certain machine gun. In the protest form I was offered a little box to write my own personal message that would be sent directly to the president. I merely commented that he might consider the safety of his family if he insists on keeping such deadly weapons on the street. I later learned that it is a criminal offense to threaten the president in this way.
So in this ultra stoned frame of mind I am approaching the border, worried what is in store for me. Of course I begin to get paranoid, but the car line is long and slow and there is enough time to go for a walk in a nearby park while our rental car snails its way forward and the girls jabber away in the front (need a break from that as well).
We finally make our way to the stall and are asked to put on our hazard lights, pull our vehicle over to the side and present ourselves as a group inside the building. While inching forward in the car, sis points out all the cameras aiming at us from different angles, carefully making note of our movements and analysing for potential rogue personalities. This predictably sets me less at ease.
Once in the building I see groups of various nationalities explaining their situation to the interrogating official. When initially crossing the border, the Canadian side has an empty field full of yellow daisies between the entry and exit lanes, but once crossing the border, on the US side there is a tall monument and various neatly trimmed bushes with a tractor lawnmower buzzing round and round between them, which I refer to as the daisy killer. The US side of the border is very neat and proper and, together with the big monument, has a very imposing feeling compared to where I just came from. In the building there is a great sense of power while police constables stroll variously according to their jobs with an air of “We wont take the slightest shit from anyone”.
After about half an hour it is finally our turn to make our way to the counter, where we are greeted by a rather jolly looking fellow. The situation seems more promising. Especially when we learn that the problem concerns my UK cousin, who had arranged all the particulars back home, but at the end of the day she is just now crossing the border from Canada and requires the proper entry stamp.
He asks us how we all plan to leave the country. My sister says in a few days once my cousin teams up with the sailing crew. His attention then turns to my cousin, who buoyantly explains in her colourful Cambridge accent how the boat will be freshly arriving from China, that she will be joining the next leg, which will take her through to Panama and back up the east coast, then on to the UK from New York.
This obviously perks his attention and he too becomes very colourful in the conversation, even drawing the attention of his colleague to his right, while his small group of Asians also gape at us with open mouths. I casually lean over the counter and even throw a few jokes into the conversation to lighten the atmosphere. Eventually his attention turns to me. I explain that I will be visiting friends while at the same time on a “business trip” (as instructed I should explain during my last traumatic entry into the country), that I will fly out of Los Angeles in two months back to the Philippines, where I run a boat tour company. To which he gruffly replies, “Well, that’s not so interesting,” and hands us back our passports.
Discussing this issue with some friends later, I was informed that apparently Obama had deleted the or a big part of the database of supposed terrorists who were automatically added four s’s (lets think of the German SSS under Hitler) to their flight ticket, since the procedure of adding dissidents to this list was somewhat arbitrary during the initial building of this police state. Since then it’s been rebuilt but I guess I should consider myself fortunate and I find my travels along the west coast quite pleasant thereafter.
Arbitrary stop on the way to Seattle.
One thing I find similar here to Vancouver is the drivers’ obsession to stop in the middle of the road as you step on it to cross. Polite overkill and it can be frustrating as you time yourself perfectly, staring at the rear bumper, only to find all cars in both directions have slowed down to a stop and are waiting for you to complete your crossing. Any conscientious person would feel guilty jay walking.
Pigging out at a fine Mexican restaurant in Seattle.
But in many other respects it is rather different. For example, vagrant zombies abound. Tent cities of homeless people set up underneath overpasses. The friends I visit all complain about this, how people on the west coast are so compassionate that they allow this in this moderately warm weather, but then have to suffer excrement in their backyards (lets ignore my accidents back in Vancouver). The government offers them food and shoes, the latter of which they might quickly sell for another hit. Walking the streets I’d see them talk to themselves, point up to the sky in wonder, one woman motioning with her hands with a splash against the wall every five steps while uttering “Touch!”, as if to protect herself from a curse.
Buzzed out on crack, meth or whatever, these zombies often stagger their way forward with outstretch hand asking for another handout, which I find a humorous contrast to the supposedly poor people of the Philippines, where during my three year stay I have very rarely ever been asked for spare change by an adult.
On my first day in Seattle I go on my usual mission and pass a loitering group of zombies, some of whom are passed out sprawled out on the pavement. One of them looks more sound-worthy so I ask him politely if he knows where I can buy some beer. To which he sarcastically responds, “From the store?” Obviously not as helpful as Vancouverites.
I meet up with some old friends from back in Prague and then it is off to visit another friend I had met in the same city, now living in…
This is one of many islands northwest of Seattle and to which I get a ride most of the way with sis as she was heads back to Vancouver. Since I have some time to kill I ask her to drop me off at the beginning of the ferry town. I check out my maps.me and see what looks like a nice park along the way, so I pack my bag with beers and launch onwards for another pleasant stroll.
But in this part of the world, a park is more raw nature. It feels great to get another whiff of God’s country, as B.C. labels itself just to the north.
Free tourist material to explore.
Still on the mainland walking towards the ferry (background and waiting).
I catch the 6 p.m. ferry and make a b-line to the bar recommended by my friend, one which brews its own beer. I was told by my sis that in the entire United States it is okay to drink beer in public. I later found that this is not true, so I guess I was fortunate not to run into any problems as I wandered the streets consuming blatantly.
Now on San Juan, public murals.
I walk into the bar with my beer in hand and ask if I can finish it inside if I order and pay for another one, but the bartender responds, “You’ve got to be kidding. That is against the law!” I finish it outside and come back in to the same spot. I sit down on a bar stool, order a beer and notice a gentleman sitting next to me who seems tickled by my introduction. Turns out he is a friend of the person I am planning to visit. We chat and soon enough we head to another bar, where my friend joins shortly thereafter after the fellow informed him where we are.
Above, the menu of micro brewery beers at the pub, brewed right there, the good ol’ brewers below.
Jammin’ at the brewer’s pub.
My friend liked to take his doll out everywhere while traveling around the world and figured my visit was worth the occasion.
I later learned from my friend that this fellow is a native American (falsely called an Indian because Christopher Columbus thought he landed in India when he landed in America), who they prefer to be called First Nations, and that he had served in Afghanistan for a few tours, murdering at least 57 in the process, some in meat grinders, some of whom were apparently still alive during the process.
Veggie burgers in organic country.
A two mile walk to the “bud hut” where I could legally buy dope. The girl working there was practically ecstatic when I pulled out all my ID on my second visit (Filipino and Thai drivers licence, Czech passport and so forth). They don’t get around much here!
Below is some local art at one of their shopping malls.
My friend is excited to have an old friend from Prague visiting him. Back in Prague he had worked as the personal assistant for the band leader of the Killing Joke, composing both heavy metal and classical music. My friend would often find himself standing behind this high energy genius with a ready glass of whiskey in one hand and a joint in the other, waiting for the next instructions, and would frequently brush shoulders with the likes of Vaclav Havel and other famous people.
My friend sitting across from me, his landlord to his left. Lots of doobie smoking here!
Like myself he had long been struggling financially, but now has stumbled on a good gig, working as a waiter in a high end resort on the island, pulling in tips of around $500 a day. He had grandiose plans taking me around the island, to neighbouring islands, and had even reserved a helicopter which he wanted to surprise me with, but somehow instead we always end up staying in his little basement flat chatting away and drinking beers. He was very glad to have another eccentric to talk to because the locals are the usual suburban family types with little worldly experience.
The locals are super nice, perhaps even more so than Vancouverites. Here, even as you approach an intersection and look as though you might want to cross, all traffic stops as they stare at you, waiting for your decision. I manage to open a bank account here as well, essentially accomplishing my North American mission, after which it is…
Off to LA
I take the skylight train from Seattle to San Francisco, a beautiful scenic ride through the mountains and along the coast. During the day I stay in the lounge car, with a domed glass ceiling, a free tour guide explaining some of the wonders, but where beer unfortunately costs $7 a pop. At the next big stop, in Portland Oregon, I decide to pick up for myself a 12 pack, but on returning it is announced on the intercom that it is forbidden to bring alcohol on board, that all must be purchased from the lounge car, and that failure to do so will result in immediate ejection from the train and that the next day a replacement ticket will be extra expensive.
I find my previous empty bottle that I had purchased still where I left it, and decide to buy another one just to be safe. I overhear one gentleman in the seat in front of me asking his neighbour if he can watch his seat for him, offering him a drink in exchange. His neighbour declines but I step up to the bat and graciously offer my assistance. He goes down to the restaurant and returns with a bottle of beer and a bottle of champagne for himself. I learn that he is celebrating his 80th birthday. In this way I accumulate three more bottles, and now having an arsenal of five empties on my table, I decide to risk it and surreptitiously transfer the content of the 12 cans into one of the bottles. Once it got dark I return to my seat and sleep like a baby, as the seat next to me is empty and the seats on trains can be stretched out almost as flat as a bed.
The famous Golden Gate bridge in background left with the famous Alcatraz prison island far right.
People picnicking by the bridge, below oyster bbq.
Just a playground for kids.
I certainly burned my thighs during this day long walk up and down these steep streets of San Fran!
In San Francisco I stay at the Green Tortoise Hostel, the same company I will be taking the famous scenic bus ride down to Los Angeles, and spend the entire day walking around town, to the famous Golden Gate bridge and through various parks. It turns out that as many as 30 people can fit on these buses, but fortunately there are only eleven of us, nine of whom are females, then a male and female driver taking turns. I was slightly concerned that over the next three days the prevailing conversation might revolve around cucumber peels on the face and other beauty secrets, but it actually turned out to be quite pleasant. While the girls usually do touristy stuff, I’d grab my maps.me and walk through parks.
Because I had originally anticipated opening a bank account in LA, I had arranged to stay for two weeks with an ex-girlfriend from Prague. She is now married with two children and her husband is totally cool about everything. To pay my rent I take their dog for daily walks (first time and unpleasant experience of having to pick up doggie poop with a plastic bag), treat them to some meals, help around the house, and it is nice to quickly become uncle Karel, as I always seem to get along great with children.
Some interesting things I learned while there. In the past every house would be adorned with all sorts of fruit trees and vegetables in their garden, but at some point the evil capitalists spread a rumour about a certain parasite, scaring everyone into cutting everything down. Now there is a slow comeback and my host has started growing a tomato plant on the public strip of grass on the other side of the sidewalk from her front yard. And then there is the “California Stop”, when you slow down to a stop sign but don’t actually come to a complete stop and count a full second in your head. Failure to do so will result in a fine and the requirement to retake a driving course, total costs amounting to roughly $500. As opposed to in Mexico where everyone completely ignores the sign and you just drive slowly straight through, carefully weaving through the cross traffic. Or in a lot of Asia where the vehicles weave around each other like fish in a turbulent river, often going the wrong direction. It seems the evil capitalists want every excuse to increase consumption in the form of replaced brake pads and fuel use. One irony is that I have generally witnessed car accidents in the west, but almost none in Asia. Seems that when you treat people like babies, they tend to become that way.
An accident I came across in Vancouver during my three week stay there and long walks to lunch at mom’s. Knocked over a lamppost. How is something like this possible when everyone drives so carefully??
Playing uncle Karel with my host’s kids.
Now I’m back up in the mountains with my friend in Coron ready to launch my big adventure of the Philippines. During my American trip I decided to change my strategy somewhat. Back in San Juan my friend had no shower and suggested I sign up for a short term membership at the local gym. Not only did I superbly enjoy their hot tub after every workout, but also getting slowly back into shape, as it was difficult to motivate myself back on the island. Also, I want to leave room for flexibility, so I decided I will leave much of my stuff here in the mountains and only take with me the bare minimum: my small backpack, viola and ukulele, so I can keep traveling around the country. If I do stumble across an interesting project and decide to settle down for a while, I can always come back and pick up the rest. But I like the idea of floating around the country indefinitely. However, in each larger town I’d like to stay at least a month, using their gym, take dance and martial arts classes and so forth. Do some research and make sure to hit all the tourist sites, documenting them for my own website in order to expand business. And why not start now? My mountain friend has graciously offered to lend me his motorcycle and tomorrow I will explore this island for a couple of days. Now I just need to reactivate my gopro camera, as it has laid dormant for three years, the battery might be dead, and last I checked the waterproof casing has cracked. Nothing that a little ebay purchase cant resolve, but with more than 7,000 islands to see in this great country, I am sure it will be a wonderful adventure spanning several years.
Coron was fun, as I ended up staying around three weeks with my friend (above video) up in the mountains around Coron. Occasionally we’d hop on his bike to go downtown or to the beach. His bike didn’t have breaks so he putted forward at a slow speed, using his manual gears to slow down when needed. Although the teeth on his gears were worn away from the practice and the chain would often slip a few in the process. Overall a scary prospect, but I went with him most of the time he left his enclave.
Hanging out jammin’ with the boys at the Happy Hippie House
While in the hood I thought I’d take advantage of the moment to round myself up boatmen in the Coron area. So far my endeavours had failed. I’d walk down to the new market where all the tour boats hung out, their operators playing chess or smoking cigarettes waiting for tourists. Each time I appeared a group quickly formed excitedly around me hoping for business. I’d explain that I have a website with guests regularly looking for reservations. And each time the boatmen would ask “how many guests?” And each time I’d try to explain that I do not have any guests at the present moment but this is about future reservations and finding boatmen capable of responding to mobile text messages whether or not their boat is available on a certain date.
Wandering the streets of Manila, greeted by the friendly locals.
Each time I’d go down to this market I’d get another contact or two, but when I went back to the island and got a reservation request, I’d text some of my new contacts, but always with dismal results. Next time I was in Coron I went down to the market again in search of more boatmen. A previous contact was in the new group surrounding me, when he said, “Sorry I did not respond last time, I didn’t have any load.” What, ONE peso? When I am offering him thousands of pesos in potential business, just for a single reservation? I was getting tired of the Coron boatmen. A manifestation of the great Filipino laziness and money gouging uselessness I have been almost getting used to during my three years stay in this country. I collected some more phone numbers, unfortunately with the same results.
There is such a lack of parks in Manila that some compensate outside their homes this way.
On this last visit I confronted the group and said I was not interested in collecting a few phone numbers but asked how I could get the phone numbers to ALL of Coron’s boatmen. Managed to get the secretary in the office of the local tours organisation to email me the list of almost 300 local and officially registered boatmen. Now I was ready to get down to business. I found an online service which enabled me to send a text message to this list of 300 for an affordable rate. I sent out my message, asking them to respond back to my regular number, but after a brief flurry of questions and answers among a small handful of respondents, I was disappointed that this campaign had yielded only one single respondent seeming to have sufficient competence or reliability, but even who turned out to be a dead end.
Increasingly, in this highly Catholic country, building a business here seems like the bible refers to as building a house on quicksand. It seems that texting and expending the occasional peso to secure a future reservation is too arduous a task and that the locals seem quite content to play chess game after chess game and smoke cigarette after cigarette waiting for tourists to walk into their laps.
When communicating with guests, I am often complimented by the wealth of information I provide (even though most often a simple copy/paste or autoresponse) and the speed in which I respond. Perhaps that stems from decades of translation – I can both type very fast and I am used to responding quickly. In the end, perhaps I should be grateful for the local laziness and unresponsiveness, in that this will give me the edge for future expansion. I’m told by my guests that even my mighty competition of Tao Expeditions is frustratingly unresponsive to simple questions out of the box.
One thing they can think out of the box about is where to sleep!
In fact, I often pondered over the possibility of hiring someone to answer all these questions on my behalf, in order to free up some of my time to expand in other areas, but that honestly will be a difficult task. After all, it is me who has travelled through these areas and the questions are often very specific that require a broad knowledge and some serious thought to get the answer right. Each answer is essentially a sales pitch to get someone to pay the reservation deposit (my income), so correct wording and substance is very important.
Alas, it is still a more interesting job than translation. In the beginning I was getting very frustrated answering all these questions and worked on ways to streamline or automate the process, but in the end I resigned to the flood and accepted it as my new job.
In anticipation of my upcoming exploration of the Visayas region, while in Manila I got myself a driver’s licence. Why does it seem that with every new photograph for the authorities I look more like a criminal? The doctor said I must be kidding during the test and I was forced to get some prescription glasses. To compensate for my picture, decided on kind purple frame and this is my practiced happy face for any police who might feel compelled to pull me over.
Left a big chunk of my belongings with Rodney. The plan is to go to North America, set up the bank accounts etc, then fly back to Manila from Los Angeles, go back up to the Coron mountains for a week or two, and pick up my most needed belongings to take east, my new destination.
Now, with only a single, light backpack, I took my favourite way to Manila – the 2Go overnight ferry. Found my bed and made a quick and instant beeline to the bar upstairs, where they had already begun warming up for the karaoke evening ahead.
Being one of the first to arrive there I secured for myself a nice table and chair, in which I set myself for most of the evening. But after a few beers I overheard one of the singing guests as coming from the Czech Republic. Did not take long to spark up a conversation and we ended up chatting and joining other groups until around 5 in the morning.
Woke up in my bunk bed, mouth gaping open as I snored upwards while a local prodded my feet with a stick, “Dude, get up, we’re in port!”
I walked to the agency which had been handling my visa extensions for me, and with them went to the bureau of immigration to get my exit visa (yes, now one needs permission to leave a country).
After learning that holy week (Easter) was coming up, when Filipinos like to walk in procession and whip their own backs, splattering blood on bystanders, I realised I had to take an earlier ferry to Manila, since the immigration office will be closed during this period. That forced me to stay more than two weeks in Manila, not a pleasant prospect.
Picture left: somewhere in that mess of wires is a worker fixing something.
After failing to find a free couch, I resorted to an airbnb place within walking distance from the pier, visa extension place and the bureau of immigration. And it was a painful two weeks indeed.
During holy week the locals would make and sell religious ornaments made from nature.
Not only were there no windows in my small hotel room, but the neighbourhood was devoid of much to do. During this time I must have walked at least 50km in my sandals, scouring the neighbourhoods in search of leisure and preoccupation. The bars at night were mostly dark inside with flashing disco Christmas lights and where I would often be approached by a girl or boy pretending to be girl if I want a companion. Not my cuppa. I managed to find only a single park, the city’s only official one. In the end I invented my own passtime by walking in different directions from my hotel. With my fancy maps.me app I bookmarked the gps location of the hotel and returning home after a long wander was a simple matter or pressing the Go To button – a simple path was chosen for me and it was easy to stagger my way back, dropping in on the occasional 711 to exchange my emptied beer bottle for a new one.
Picture left: discovered corn and clams in the local market, both of which I had not had for a very long time. Might as well put to some use the hotel room’s water kettle (garlic and hot peppers added – totally delicious!).
Even though the country’s president had recently passed another draconian law preventing one from drinking in public, I always had the tourist advantage that I could play dumb that I did not know. In any case, because of the location of the hotel, I most often found myself wandering through poor areas where it did not matter, and if I was lucky, I stumbled on street markets.
That is where I found the most interesting action. The real life of the party. I’d often be called over to join a group for a few shots of brandy before moving on. Here is one funny example.
How to get a haircut in Manila
Will be going to Canada for a couple of months to visit mom and, not only do I want to look nice and presentable to her, but also for the border guards, who are becoming increasingly Nazi police state post the 911 inside job. Lots of barber shops in the hood where I’m staying at in my Manila airbnb place, all around 50pesos (about a buck). It was easter Thursday, start of holy week here, and I decided I did not want to spend another day in my dark, windowless room in front of the computer but to wander around and see if I could see any street festivities or blood splattering from locals carrying the cross and flailing themselves. Stopped in the nearest barber shop, just across from the local 711 where I spend most of my money restocking my beer supply. Gestured that I wanted to trim my beard and even had a speech prepared that I had been cutting my own hair for the past 30 years for various reasons, one of which is I grew tired of explaining to barbers what I wanted, only to watch them do what they do all the time by habit. Which would be worse here considering their usual style is what I like to call the Filipino rooster: buzz cut on the sides and the hair fluffed up on top and at an angle. This barber seemed not the exception and sent me away with a grimace.
Met this family on one of my strolls. They live in shacks homemade from garbage, right next to the railroad tracks. They invited me for brandy and snacks. Amazing how people can be so happy with so little.
So I wandered the streets in search of some blood splattering, at the same time keeping a casual eye out for barber shops. Followed my maps.me guide to what I recently marked as a party part of town, where many streets are filled with little stands, children running around, the alleys full of life, and almost as important, frequent 711s so I could be assured to always maintain a beer in my hand.
Was walking down one busy street when a bloke called out the customary, “Hey Joe, where you go?” We chatted briefly and then he remarked, “Want a haircut?” waving his hand to the side. I had to bend down so I could look below the awning, where there was a little barber shop sign. But they were suffering another brownout and said it could not be inside because there is no electricity and not enough light. They quickly brought out a chair for me to sit on. I asked if they had a mirror, which they said they did not, so I told them I want to see what he is doing and started to walk away. I do not want to look like a rooster!
As I was about ten paces gone I heard a squelch, turned around and saw my friend gesturing for me to come back.
On arrival he produced a small mirror, which apparently one of his friends had ripped off the handle of his motorcycle. I held that in my hand while the show started. I asked if I could get a beer, at which point one one-legged fellow with crutches leaped off his seat offering to come to the rescue. I gave him a 50 note, he gave me a cigarette as bonus and I said he could keep the change. My friend jokingly told me I should watch out for this guy, not trust him, and that he lost his leg because he got too drunk.
Then, out on the street under open sunlight, seated in my plastic chair, the show commenced. While about ten faces were about 2 feet distance from mine, keenly watching every magical scissor movement of my barber, as I did with the little mirror held in my hand.
On completion I gave him a robust voluntary 200p ($4), they congratulated me that I looked ten years younger, and I was on my way as another customer had already sat down in my chair awaiting attention. During the cut I was hoping to take a selfie of us all, but forgot in the shuffle. So I guess this pic is the next best thing, taken about a block down the street at a railroad crossing and probably the closest thing to a public park one will find in any average neighbourhood in Manila:
Being my first time booking through airbnb I made a mistake in that I presumed the last day I chose on their calendar was the last night I book through them. Unfortunately, it was instead the day I was to check out and, sure enough, when that time came, I was surprised to find myself homeless my last night in Manila. No worries though, I have a rich enough history in sleeping at the airport.
I proceeded to make the long walk there, but check out the coastline along the way, when I stumbled upon the Mall of Asia, the meeting point with the exgirlfriend and her entourage of the hotel owner back in Malaysia who had given me her contact. A full circle one might say, but this time I discovered its shoreline promenade.
Hanging out at a local basketball court near the airport waiting for my afternoon flight.
Worth checking out, but continued on to the airport, to which I arrived with sore feet after about four hours stroll. It was late by the time I arrived and not enough time to make it back to some of the colourful street markets I had crossed through, so instead I chose the hood nearest to the airport, without disappointments. I returned the next morning to spend the last of my pesos before heading off to Vancouver.
Partying with the locals in hood next to the airport while they munch on young mangoes plucked from nearby trees.
My beautiful banca boat now fixed up by and kept in the hands of my local friend, who uses it to catch fish or make a little extra income ferrying in guests from bigger bancas which cannot land directly on shore during higher waves or lower tides.
It was a precarious situation with the caretaker, but things took an interesting twist when he was replaced by a new caretaker in the form of the property owner’s wife. I generally always had a good relationship with that entire family (even though she and the first caretaker are actually cousins), and shortly after the change her son came over to examine my operations and assured me I could continue as I had been and that he approved of everything.
But that honeymoon was not long lived, following a long string of negative incidents which eventually culminated in my complete exasperation.
First of all, the typhoon season was more intense than last year, so much so that a movement is now underway in this country to sue the oil companies for climate change and the resulting damages.
Inspired by my own gardening work, my local friend did his own and created what I liked to name “Rodel’s Restaurant”, where guests were increasingly going to have dinner.
The last typhoon of the season was the strongest. Most of the time they first pummel the east coast as they are pushed north along the mainland, their intensity scraping the northern tip of the country before heading in a southwest direction to Vietnam. So they generally circumvent my location, but not before some occasional long whips make it down here. Usually short bursts, and this last typhoon came all of a sudden and lashed out at my little hut with about 15 minutes of rain pelting fury. I scrambled shirtless and in my shorts out onto the balcony and tried to hold up the new, strong tarpoline to protect my electronics inside, but the wind was so fierce it was difficult to hold it together as the horizontal rain lashed its way through the little cracks and felt like bullets penetrating my bare back.
The little black flies which could easily fly through the mosquito netting were annoying as usual, but nothing that couldn’t be reasonably alleviated with mosquito coils and the 12v fan I now finally had operational.
Although it was a relief to reduce the number of volunteers to a trickle, the flow of paying guests was on the increase and that brought with it some annoyances. For example, at one point my computer stopped working again, but fortunately one arriving guest brought with him a cheap local smartphone. It was extremely slow and frustrating to work with, but at least I could communicate by email. I did not have it set up completely yet, so I was not able to send the usual autoresponse instructing guests of the general conditions here, but agreed with a German couple to meet them in Coron while my computer was getting fixed. Meanwhile, two couples arrived to the island while I was gone.
Hut close to completion, buckets positioned to catch rainwater from roof, covered in see-through plastic over the day to get nice and hot by the end.
The first couple left soon without paying, while the second couple left just as we were arriving. They did not pay either, but one local who I assigned to take care of guests while I am gone in exchange for modest pay, informed me that they made extensive use of his kitchen and his stock of firewood without offering to pay him anything for it, and at one point even asked him to start the fire for them, citing they could not figure out how to get it working, “even after pouring cooking oil on the wood”! Between the paying guests and volunteers I was discovering that these new Millenials often seem completely disconnected from physical reality, stuck with their dumbphones in virtual reality.
For a longer time I have held the conviction that the world would be such a better place if governments, instead of forcing these kids to serve for a year in the military (although these particular millenials had probably not been subjected to this – and if they had it probably would have done them a world of good), to force them to serve for a year in the peace corps. Ship them off to some extremely poor country to serve charity. Sure, they could live in comfort, safety and be well fed, but I think that just being exposed to the conditions that many people in the world must suffer, to witness how they eat, or the lack of food, but watch the children play joyfully with so little, they will come back to their pampered societies an entirely changed person and probably never be so wasteful again.
When I was arriving with my new guests from Coron, I instructed them that the property is too big and there are too many tents for me to constantly maintain and that if they found a place they liked, to give me a bit of time to fix it up for them. They walked throughout my tent complex and came back with a look of utter disgust, pointing out that there was sand in all the tents. Yes, typhoons can do that, but nothing that a brush and dustpan cannot quickly resolve.
So they settled for the big hut but were thoroughly disgusted at the mess left behind by the previous guests. Maybe they failed to realise that we had just arrived and I cannot control this. I promptly cleaned it for them, but their complaining continued, down to the most minute detail. Eventually they left a livid, poisonous review resulting in the subsequent cancellation of my airbnb account. This too I welcomed because a lot of the airbnb guests seem quite trigger happy with the review feature and willing to complain about anything possible. Most of the reviews were excellent, but at one point I tried an experiment whereby I would create property listings for other owners of remote areas. But although I was clear that I am not the owner of the place and take $10 payment for organising, a few did not like this and eventually gave me the worst review. After suffering a few of those I shut down all external listings, focusing only on my own. Airbnb was not willing to remove those and eventually the negative reviews added up beyond their limit.
Despite all the aggravations, I suppose I had a nice workstation. 🙂
The guests from my own website and my new account at booking.com were sufficient, and for my last few days I even had a group of 18 stay a few days. Nice kids, but again, Millenials. After opening some coconuts they’d leave my machete half buried in the sand, even though many of us were barefoot. They left a complete mess, and because there were so many of them, I pulled out my fancy new chopsticks, each still in original packaging. By this time most of the cutlery was at least partially rusted anyway. The chopsticks were wrapped in a string for better grip and had nice designs on it, but apparently this detail evaded them and most of them threw them into the fire after a single use.
I was growing tired of wiping little bumbums and for a longer time already I had been toying with the idea that perhaps this is not the best job for me. After all, it was a LOT of work to constantly pick up the garbage washing up on the beach, cut back the jungle, clean the fallen leaves off the sandy paths, patch up tents torn by the occasional typhoon, and then to deal with the headache of guests whining that they found ants in their tent (I tell them not to bring in ANY food), or cockroaches, and the list seems endless. An endless list of chores for extremely little pay. While the boat tours were very little work with very good pay. I appreciated that I could escape the computer once in a while to perform some meditative gardening work, but the project had basically approached its completion and there was not that much left to do, besides the usual boring maintenance work and tending to whining children.
Stopping off at my favourite Araw beach on the way to Coron to fix computer. These children never whine but always seem the most enthusiastic whenever guests stay overnight.
Then problems started to surface with the locals. I was constantly seeking ways to improve our relations, but somehow it seemed that a certain percentage of them were simply not interested. I knew they liked certain brands of alcohol, so I suggested that I could stock up on them and sell at cost if they only helped with the delivery. I see how they go to town almost every day and was willing to even pay them, but they never expressed interest.
I even went to the trouble of stocking up anyway, but as soon as they learned that, they would come at all sorts of hours badgering me for a sale, and if I was asleep (I often slept from 6pm to midnight and worked the late night shift when the internet was the fastest), the next morning I found my stock depleted. It was a money losing gesture and they even squeezed in with their skinny little bodies when I tried to prop the door shut. Or villagers from surrounding islands started banging on my door, so I decided to abruptly end that charitable venture.
Rising waters buried my precious grill but the guest managed somehow.
My usual boatman, Alvin, was no longer cooperating as he had so faithfully in the past. Was he angry at me too? Later someone mentioned he had a job helping someone build a hut, but either he would ignore my text requests or constantly gave some excuse that either the tide is too low or the waves too choppy. It was becoming difficult to bring in supplies, or even guests.
So I resorted to my beer supplier, although her boats tended to be more expensive. Eventually I discussed the matter with the property owner’s son. In the past I had sent him a few business proposals by text, even some boat tours for his dad (since his dad refuses to text), but each time I found it odd he never responded.
At one point I noticed that one of my phones would not send to a local number if it included the +63 country code before it. I always received a failure notification, but if I replaced the country code with a zero, it worked. As we talked about our communication problems, I suggested this might be the case with his phone. Sure enough, when he tried to send a text to my internet number it failed to get through, although in his case he never received a failure message. So he replaced it with a zero and then it worked.
An interesting driftwood I liked to name “Crippled dog crawling in the sand”.
This seemed promising because now I could depend on a less expensive boat to bring in guests and supplies, his hotel could make more money since his boats would always take the guests there, he’d make some income from the boat trips themselves, and everything seemed win win for both of us. Until the first request.
I asked him to bring two guests and at the same time another round of veggies and beers. He said he could sell me two cases of beer but at a 50% higher price than my usual supplier. I said I need ten cases and that I am not interested in his exorbitant prices, especially for only two cases, which I would quickly consume and need more. He said if I do not like his prices I should get my existing supplier to bring them to me. I said he cannot expect me to send him customers if he will not also help bring in supplies, as had been the norm the last few years.
At this point he completely exploded and sent me text after text full of profanity, curses and the command that I must leave the island otherwise he will call the police. I told him he has no authority over me because he is not the caretaker, only her son. Eventually I got through to his father and he said it was just a misunderstanding, but not before the son posted my picture at the police station with a statement to leave the island.
Hanging out at the Happy Hippie House in Coron, where I often jam.
Some time later I had ten guests staying in the hut and was trying to arrange a boat ride for them to San Miguel. There were many boats on shore because of the squid fishing at night, with the crew sitting around and smoking cigarettes. I asked one local if any of them would be willing to take my guests to town, suggesting a price of a thousand pesos. He said he’d ask around, so I went back to my hut, sent a round of text messages and managed to find a boat for them for 2,000p. I went back to the hut to inform the guests but they said the local came to them with an offer of 4,000p, which they accepted. I told them this was entirely exorbitant and advised them against it. I went to the local and told him it is a ridiculous price and that he should not have approached them directly with that offer. The boat showed up and I offered them 2,000p, which is their usual price anyway, but they declined and went back to San Miguel. As compensation I agreed to pay 500p to cover their gas, which I charged the group, but then I started receiving message after message from the caretaker, the property owner’s wife, that she hates me. I presume she meant angry at me, because her English is not good, and responded that hate is a very strong word, that she shouldn’t use it and that it is damaging to our business. She kept resending it anyway. I told her I will not allow anyone to rape my customers’ asses with exorbitant prices. Eventually I called the owner her husband, who again assured me not to worry, that it was just another misunderstanding.
About a week later the wife of my best boatman relayed a message from the previous caretaker that I must leave the island or he will call the police. I sent a message to him asking him why he has to relay such messages through her, and how dare he threaten me like that considering he is no longer the caretaker and still owes me 15,000p.
Someone getting a tattoo job at the Happy Hippie House.
What concerns the locals in general, I find it takes about two years to get to really know the underbelly of a people’s character. Yes, one CAN generalise the people of a nation or region. You have people who travel around the world and are exposed to different ideas. They become more worldly, tolerant, trying different things. Then you have the majority who do not have the resources for such flamboyancy and generally stay put in one place. Perhaps born, grow up and die in the same, puny village. For them their village is the universe. Perhaps they stay there not because of a lack of resources but because their personality type is to stay safe in what is familiar to them. They tend to be conformists and are concerned to maintain a stable and accepted position in the stratosphere of their local society. Hence they imitate what is accepted as the norm, such that in every country or region with its own language, generally a similar mentality and way of doing things presides. In this case a visiting foreigner can often be perceived as somewhat of an invader, with their different way of doing things and ways of thinking. I have found that my original impression of Filipinos remains: they are friendly, hospitable, polite, often gregarious and forward, never too ashamed to get up on stage and boyster the most horrible videoke your ears have ever had the misfortune of suffering.
But after a while you find some poison lurking beneath that friendly surface. I find them a very envious lot, to extreme pettiness. If they see you are regularly giving work to or buying from their neighbour, they might develop a grudge that you have neglected them, at which point the gossip starts to swirl. Or you may have been giving business to one person for years, them always smiling and happy and calling you “my friend” when the wallet rolls around again, but after some minor misunderstanding they might explode in venomous accusations intertwined with the most hateful words.
Or constantly trying to increase the price, money gouging my guests, and when I protest and prevent them from doing so I am assaulted with poisonous fury.
At this point I was so full of poison I started fantasising about exploring Cebu once I come back from North America, contemplating how long I would stay there, and when I might return back to this island. Perhaps early November, as I might need about a month to cut back the jungle, clean the plastic off the beach, set up the tents and so on. By December it might stop raining, the bugs start dissipating, but overall the notion did not seem so appealing.
Then a wonderful thought flashed through my mind. I was imagining what it would be like to explore other paradise areas of the country during the rainy season, that it might make it more difficult to add good, sunny and happy pictures to the website if it was mostly cloudy, and I decided right then and there that it would be more interesting for me to get back into traveling mode, and be good for business as well. Not only was most of the development work already completed on the island, but with so much maintenance work and tending to guests with so little pay, and all the other headaches and poison, the prospects of hitting the road again and exploring other beautiful areas of the country during the sunny season seemed infinitely more appealing.
I had already begun to take down the tents and clean up the property with my anticipated absence for the next half a year, but that work is now more interesting as I imagine my new life of explorations. As they say in the world of search engine optimisation, “content is king”, and adding many new pages to my site would certainly increase overall traffic and bring in more business, not only for Palawan but for all the other areas I will now add. Collecting phone numbers of new boatmen and documenting paradise spots and nice places to stay.
Jammin’ all night lo-ong!
Although the work of taking down the tents and cleaning up the property was a bit depressing, like peeling back the layers of a rotten onion, each broken or flattened tent reminding me of the typhoons I suffered and all the other negative factors. But with each new tent down and the place looking cleaner, the layers towards the centre of the onion were getting fresher. It felt good to return the property to a beautiful, natural state – wipe the slate clean, so to speak.
I distributed my belongings variously, leaving behind a certain amount of mattresses and tents, and all the pots and pans for the kitchen. I gave my local friend the keys to my hut, he was already using my gas generator for squid fishing, and I had already given him my three portable solar panels, my old battery (which he refurbished with my new desulfator machine<), and lots of other goodies, so he was quite better off than when I had first arrived. I gave lots of mattresses and tents to my best boatman to distribute amongst his various boats, as well as my solar electrical system and wind turbine. I hoped to inspire his entire village to go offgrid, as they were spending a million pesos a month on their diesel generator, which only ran from noon till midnight.
Some art of my friend I was staying in the mountains around Coron, before leaving for Canada.
I kissed and made up with the owner’s son and wife, jamming music and karaoking on my birthday at their place, and even ran into the old caretaker, who told me he never instructed the boatman’s wife to send me that message. It doesnt matter anymore, I am simply happy to leave, and to leave on a happy note and clean slate. The owner’s son is taking over management and I have been training him how to deal with customers and the booking process, directing customers to deal with him directly.
At this point a friend was visiting from Prague and we stayed at the boatman’s house for a few days. It looked like a storm was brewing and our ride to Coron might be canceled, so we decided to play it safe, go to El Nido and from there take the ferry to Coron. It was nice to already be on the road and to jam music with some friends in town again.
My visiting friend videoing my last moments on the beautiful island.
Made it to Coron and distributed more of my stuff, getting lighter and lighter. My latest plan is to hopefully stay with my Coron friend up in the mountains before taking the big ferry to Manila. I have decided to leave with him or in Manila my big backpack filled with a hammock, portable stereo and other goodies which I’d like to take with me to Cebu, the rest distributed around if ever in the future I decide to start a similar operation elsewhere, or have some permanent home. My plan is to rent something long term in the Cebu area, get a motorbike and explore the area intermittently. The plane to Canada will not let me bring on board my viola so I will leave that here while I am gone and look forward to a two month tour along the west coast of North America with only a single backpack.
My abode where I was staying at my friend’s place in the mountains around Coron.
The plan is to stay in Vancouver with my visiting cousin until the 19th of April and where I hope to open a bank account to resolve much of my banking problems, visit a friend in Seattle then stay with a friend on some island near to Seattle, catching the famous Green Tortoise bus in San Francisco on the 15th of May. Now that marijuana is completely legal in California, I think I should rather enjoy this three day hippy bus trip. Then stay with a friend in LA where I also hope to open a bank account and fly back to Manila to continue the adventure!