Asia-Pacific Tour: The Philippines (Part Two)

Author’s Note: This is a series of selected highlights from two years (1986-88) of budget backpacker travel through 15 countries and a half-dozen US States – hosted all along the way by national and local YMCAs – from the Pacific Islands to selected Asian countries including: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, The Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan – and the USA.

Island Girl and Outrigger on Boracay

A real back-to-the-Pacific feeling. After so many months in mainland southeast Asia, the Philippines was a welcome blend of Asia and the Pacific. Excellent sea food, crystal clear water for swimming, spectacular tropical island scenery and of course, beautiful women everywhere.

Considerable ‘popular culture’ American influence was evident in the slang terms and fast-food lifestyle, and some local traditions, like the favorite snack ‘balut’ (an 18-day developing duck embryo cooked in the shell) were a bit hard to take. But I was quite content to take the ‘good’ with the ‘bad’, and clearly had no complaints!

After our adventures in Hong Kong, Macau and China (stay tuned for these stories — coming soon) Dave and I were more than ready to return to these paradise islands for a much needed rest. I had almost forgotten the cheerful exuberance of the rural people here — especially the kids — all bright smiles and laughter. The easy, relaxed movement of the island women, the brilliant green of the rice fields, and the tiny bamboo houses along the quiet dirt roads, or nestled against the forested hills.

Dave relishing his ‘VIP’ accommodation

The 1986 “People Power” uprising had been confined to Manila, and although we passed a military tank downtown, all was calm again, and we weren’t aware of armed conflict anywhere outside of the capital.

From Manila, Dave and I headed south to our favorite island getaway — Boracay — arriving in time to bask in the late afternoon  breezes moving in the coconut groves and through tall stands of grass. Shadows lengthened along the wide, empty beach, as the sunlight streamed across a shimmering sea.

It had been well over a year since I left Samoa to hit the road with just a backpack, and I was tired of traveling. Digging deep for the energy to continue, I began dreaming about a long-term job somewhere that might lessen the pain of so many difficult departures. The strong breezes of the lingering typhoon would soon be ending — as would Dave’s holiday. But not so the adventures! It had been a much-needed relaxing time for both of us, and Jackie joined us on the island for a few more days before Dave’s departure.

Jim relaxing in the hammock

Indeed, it was really tough when it came time to leave Boracay, and my daily routine of invigorating morning swims along the long stretches of empty beach to Jonah’s Café for those delicious thick, banana-peanut shakes.

The fantastic tropical island beauty was so peaceful and relaxing in the breezy coconut groves. Waking up in our cottage by the sea, with freshly baked bread and boiled eggs and green drinking coconuts delivered to our door each morning, a fresh fish from the nightly catch, grilled and served with a salad for less than a dollar, and a full schedule of cross-island walks to quiet, white sandy bays, snorkeling in the clear waters, then lounging in the hammock in the soothing coolness of the late afternoon sunlight, with a guitar and some freshly tapped tuba (local alcoholic drink tapped from coconut buds) waiting for the stars to light up the night sky.

After visiting the YMCA in IloiloJackie and I took a ferry to Bacolod City on Negros Island and toughed out 10 hours by bus to Dumaguete (Jackie’s university town), where we caught a boat to Cebu Island. We visited the Cebu YMCA and the “Talasay YMCA Rural Community Development Project” before heading to Moalboal and Pescadores Island for more fantastic (and really cheap!) world-class scuba diving.

Jim and Jackie in ‘Philipino-ville’

Eventually, we caught a ferry to Tagbilaran Port on Bohol Island, and settled into our breezy cottage on Alona Beach (‘Alona-ville’ in ‘Philippino-ville’ as we christened it!) on Panglao Island, where we indulged in more swimming, eating, sleeping, guitar picking and tuba sipping in this island paradise.

A second typhoon to the north of us left a trail of rain and cold in its wake. On several occasions the tempest rolled in at night with a fury that threatened to blow our bamboo cottage down. But it held firm, and in the morning, the sea was warm and a welcome refuge as I fought off a certain turbulence in my brain. It was hard to see Dave go – damn it was hard. even as he was set adrift on a broken-down outrigger taxi, once again nearly missing his plane.

And soon I would be leaving Jackie as well — for the time being anyway. Parting was so hard, and the time had just flown by. But my visa was finished, and the Traveling Road Show was rolling on! I was so utterly filled up with all of this intense living — it hurt with each new experience, each new friend — because it was always just a matter of time before we would part. Alas — the same old traveling syndrome.

Stay tuned for Asia-Pacific Tour: Hong Kong, China and Taiwan – coming soon!

You can read more about Jim’s backstory,  here and here.



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