I woke up at sunrise on the bangka because they use loud music to get the crew up and going. We were supposed to leave around 8am, but didn't push off until almost noon. While we were waiting, passengers slowly filled the small crawl space where I had spent the night. The night before I was told there was an American couple that would be boarding in the morning. Morning came around, and the bright white couple in their 40s turned out to be two Belgian airline operators on vacation. They were on their fifth day of dizzying travel coming from Belgium and had to spend an entire day getting to Sibuyan. They'd been all over the world over the years and the Philippines is the only place they return to again and again. They'd spent one week at a time visiting the highly advertised Borocay beach, and were ready for a different experience. This time they were headed to Sibuyan for a month. Sibuyan is one of the most remote and least travelled places in the Philippines. I hope they had a good time.
|The passenger compartment, exhaust pipe on the left|
The boat trip was 7 hours long (3hrs longer than it was supposed to take). The engine of this particular bangka sits right underneath the main passenger compartment with the exhaust pipe acting as the support awkwardly penetrating up from the floor and through the ceiling in the very center of the compartment. The engine was so loud I couldn't understand the person next to me even when they shouted. It got hot in that space, and the pipe leaked exhaust so that when the tarps were pulled down to protect people from rogue waves they were simultaneously fumigated with exhaust. I couldn't stand the sound so I went aloft to the roof where I spent the ride napping, practicing guitar, and munching on pomelo. I didn't realize until later that I was sitting over the bridge of the bangka, and the man I was sitting next to had his legs in the hole below us because he was steering. I thought I had seen all of the things Filipinos do with their toes (that's the only Filipino genetic trait I seem to have inherited myself) but steering a passenger boat wasn't the list I had formulated in my mind.
Once we arrived, I haggled till I found a cheap tricycle driver to take me and a few other people to Cajidiocan. I found the port, hid my things in the dark, and found some food. The produce was comparatively very expensive because most of it was imported from other Islands. The people are so nice though. Good English because many moved there from other islands, and very welcoming. After I found the fruits I was looking for, I returned to my thingsat the port, which was secluded and completely deserted except for two officers who I knew were sleeping in the office but who wouldn't answer my calls at the door. So I laid out my pad on a bench and went to sleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I was woken by a group of men also looking for a dark place. I heard their conversation change when they saw me, I didn't move, and they moved along. Thirty minutes later one person returned, and I saw as they used their phone to see what I was. Moments later, I heard them rustling with the handle of my guitar. I sat up quickly and they took off running. Pissed and only a little unsettled, I moved closer to the front door of the office in a harder to see place, went back to sleep confident enough in my ability to wake up if I heard footsteps. I decided then and there that I was going to make sure to sleep inside Barangay captain offices, inside ports with other people, or in the home of a local from then on.
|Trail along the ridge to the summit of Guiting-Guiting|
Romblon is an island sitting on a huge slab of marble. Marble carvings, and uncarved slabs of marble are constantly shipped to other locations in the Philippines. There are old forts and churches in the area. I was tired when I arrived in the afternoon, so I took a nap in the fourth-floor window of a belltower of the centuries-old church. Unfortunately, my camera completely stopped working by the time I arrived in Romblon. It was getting worse and worse at holding a charge until it stopped all together. It's at the repair shop in Manila now. I randomly ran into another white face, a guy named Graham Keanz living in the town with his Filipina wife and two kids. He's someone who had tons of mental breakdowns in a family with a poor sense of what it means to have family, so he feels much happier in a place with such deep family values. He let me store my things in his kitchen so I could roam around town unburdened. Needing a place to cook dinner and wanting to thank him for watching my things, I cooked dinner for him and his family. A heart-warming spicy vegetable soup. There was more than enough left over for the long boat ride the next day. We pulled out our guitars and serenaded the streets of Romblon until late into the night. I stopped by the local gaming stop with cheap internet, and met my uncle Rolly online (a highly unlikely event for both of us). We got to know each other briefly and arranged for me to meet him in Manila when I arrived. I slept in the air-conditioned port and waited for the ferry the next day.