Monday, November 5, 2012

Silay and Patag

Lemme at it!!! Pleeeeeeeze!
Vestiges of a rich person's home
The ferries were cancelled when I arrived at the terminals early in the afternoon that last day, I slept at the terminal overnight, and they were cancelled all the next day too. Josephine kept the ghost of clock-time away and some teenage college kids/musicians enjoyed listening and playing their own songs. I was stranded because both Bacolod, my city of origin, and Iloilo, my destination, had received typhoon warnings that were still in effect. Rather than wait at the station yet another day, I decided to head north of Bacolod to an area I'd learned about after I'd planned out the timing to get to Manila. See, I decided to budget my time because I'd corresponded with Haribon Foundation, an organization that protects the Philippine Eagle in the jungles east of Quezon City (Manila area), and I have to be there on November 9th. So, I decided to spend my second day stranded in Silay and Patag. Silay won this year's award for best tourist-oriented location in the Philippines, and Patag is a lesser-visited but very special national park in Northern Negros, just 20km east of Silay.

The streets of Silay, only about 500m wide and 1km long, are laced with very old homes and buildings left from the sugar boom in the area in the 1800s and early 1900s. Some are extremely well preserved. I visited a well-known bakery for some pastries and pie (I've stopped trying to explain what butter, milk, and eggs are and have resorted to simply using my own visual judgement and hoping I was right). There was a gorgeous home made of wood that seems like it's only aged ten years. It was the house of musicians (lessons paid for by the father's sugar profits) and it even has a gorgeously preserved grand piano in the main room. The top floor is exactly how I would want it if I housed my extended family in the Philippines. Very open normally and easily closed down for bad weather, and made almost entirely of local materials.

Then I headed east to Patag by jeep (which leave only a couple times in the morning and a couple times in the afternoon). I was the only foreign guest (there was a group of high school kids noisily camped in the concrete gymnasium), and I had an 8-bed dorm room to myself for 80 pisos. I cooked dinner in the guard house giving the instrument-starved musician/farmer named Marlon who helped me around the resort a chance to give Josephine a strum. The next day, I hired a guide for 150 pisos and hiked to WWII Japanese caves, old growth Almaciga Pine Forests, and two waterfalls. All very cool. I called the Ferry Service one last time to confirm that ferries were running that day, and got to packing back up. Marlon held a jeep for me for ten minutes while I finished packing and paying for my night's stay, and I headed back down to Silay, and then Bacolod. I caught a fastcraft ferry to Iloilo and didn't text my Couch Surfer friend in Iloilo, Bambi until the boat I had boarded had actually started moving. It had been a harrowing 3-day ordeal trying to get out of Bacolod, and she was expecting me all the while, keeping tabs by text message.

A typical irrigation/drinking water canal 
In the end, no typhoon passed through Bacolod, but it did somehow bring some rain to Iloilo. When I first arrived in Manila, I landed just a day or two after some major flooding had subsided from 15 straight days of heavy rain. Since I've been here, I've been present for three typhoons that have come through the Philippines. I haven't seen a drop of that rain. I've felt a few 30 min showers and that's it. It seems I bring the hot sunshine with me wherever I go in the world, not just in the US.

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