Friday, July 20, 2012

The Philippines: Calbayog, Samar Island

Text coming soon

Kids diving for coins when we arrived in the port of Allen, Samar, Philippines

Oceanside cemetery in Allen, Samar

The cathedral in Calbayog, Samar

Another view from Eduardo's Hotel rooftop


Posing for pictures

Sunset at the harbor in Calbayog, Samar

Here's an idea we haven't thought of in the US: curfews for kids

Par for the course

Adorable house in Calbayog

Basketball courts are everywhere in the Philippines, some even homemade like this one.

A resort I wandered into

Pool was inviting but I didn't have my suit on.

School kids

Riverfront homes

The roosters are always tied up. Fighting cocks, I assume

A small community near the municipal airport

These boys showed me where to climb over the concrete wall

Someone signaled me over to take a photo of these guys. Only one of them was displeased.

Great use for used tires.

I miss riding my bike

More beautiful Filipina girls

Lots of new construction everywhere

Porters at the port in official t-shirts

I went swimming here while waiting for the boat to take off. I also scattered some of Maya's ashes

I paid for the cheapest bunches, but ended up in this private suite with some new Belgian friends

I never did find my assigned bunk.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Philippines: Day trip to some caves and a volcano

Kyla's teacher, Mrs. Celia Batalla, invited us to make a day trip to Legazpi to see Mayon Volcano, the most photographed site in the Philippines. She's only been driving for three years, so she wanted me to hire a driver. We went to Mrs. Batalla's "ancestral home" where her older sister (one year younger than me) and her husband lives. They have 14 children and 55 grandchildren "so far." One of her sons agreed to drive us and off we went. He was a good driver, good at weaving around the motor-tricycles, and cautious too.

I suggested we stop at the Hoyop-Hoyopan Caves on the way. Unfortunately, Sherry Ann's daughters took one look at the entrance to the caves and said no way, so their grandma had to wait outside with them while the teacher, her nephew and I went on the guided tour. Our guide spoke good English, had been doing it since he was 10 years old. He's 30 now, so do the math. He said the caves were "discovered" during WWII when guerrillas used them as a hiding place. I would say "rediscovered" because he also said that archaeologists found fossilized human remains dating thousands of year. It appears ancient people used the caves as a burial ground.

Mayon Volcano was mostly obscured by clouds -- although the next day I met an English pair who each had a terrific photo of the volcano taken that same morning. I snapped a few pix, but none of them was very good. We stopped at a very touristy remains of Casgawa Ruins and had lunch, then wandered around the crumbled church. In 1814, nearly 200 years ago, when Mt. Mayon was erupting, as it often does, the villagers ran to take shelter in the church. Unfortunately, the lava flowed right over the church, destroying it and killing hundreds of people inside. But like the guide book says, this is far from a quiet memorial. The hawkers and vendors are everywhere.

By then it was 3:00. My friends dropped me off at the bus station for Sorsogon, then they headed back to Naga City.

Kyla's teacher Mrs. Celia Battaler invited us on a day trip in her car.

Having a private car made it easy to stop for photo opportunities.

Must be hard to decide which shirt to wear each day.

We didn't see any signs on the main road, but luckily the directions to the Hoyop Hoyopan Cave was marked as we got closer.

Coconuts are the Tree of Life, with even the husk having many uses.

A nipa hut across from the parking area for the caves.

Sherry Ann's mother didn't get to go inside the caves because the girls were too afraid.

The joke is that No Dating is allowed in the cave, among other things.

Taken without flash, which is a bit tricky in the cave.

Mrs. Bataller's nephew was our driver.

Our guide has been working at the cave for 20 years, since he was 10 years old.

Our guide had fun pointing out different figures, such as this hand

I didn't get any good pix of the volcano, but hope to upload some from some British friends.
They got crystal clear shots the same day, but in the morning.

The entrance to Cagsawa Ruins at the base of the volcano. Hundreds of people died in 1814, trying to take shelter in the church. Altogether about 1200 perished that year. This volcano is still active and erupts frequently.

Sherry Ann's beautiful and talented daughters

Here's the history of the church

The Philippines: Naga City with Sherry Ann's mom and daughters

Shortly after arriving in the Philippines, I asked Art and Sherry Ann if there were any trains. "There's a train to Naga City," Sherry Ann told me. "You can stay with my mother and meet my daughters." How could I refuse an offer like that? So we made arrangements for me to visit Sharine and the girls after my trip up to Tarlac and Baguio.

The train to Naga City takes about 10 hours and only travels once a day, at night. I was disappointed to miss the view during the day, but since I'm on a tight schedule it made sense to take the sleeper car for 306 pesos, or about $7.50. Luckily I decided to walk to the train station an hour early because it started pouring down rain as soon as I got there. The cool breeze from the rain felt good as I waited on the covered platform.

The train was surprisingly empty. I had a booth of four beds all to myself. They don't provide sheets, pillows or blankets and with the AC you need something to cover up with. Sherry Ann had warned me, so I wore long pants and a long dress over it, and covered up with a towel. It was barely enough. I'm not used to being cold in the Philippines. Mostly I slept through the night until 4:30 a.m. when the train was supposed to arrive. Turns out, it was two hours late, but I didn't want to text Sherry Ann again at that hour. Luckily, her mom lives very close to the train station, so she'd walked over, found out it was two hours late, and came back for me. She spotted me right away -- the only white person on the train.

I liked Sharine, Sherry Ann's mom right away. She invited me into her home without apologies and served me breakfast, knowing I eat everything. We had puto, little rice muffins, cassava cakes and sweet sticky rice -- all yummy. It was Saturday, but the girls were going to school. Ella, the 9-year-old, had baton practice, and 7-year-old Kyla had math tutoring with her 2nd grade teacher. We walked to the school and waited a while for the classes to start. "They're on Filipino Time," Charine informed me. I'm used to it. It's pretty much the same as Mexican Time, Guam Time, and Haitian Time. I amused myself by taking pictures of the students.

Finally, the baton teacher and the math teacher both showed up. I went back and forth between the two until the classes ended at noon. I used to do baton as a kid, but I haven't noticed girls doing it these days in the US, but it's a national craze here in the Philippines. I borrowed Ella's baton to show off what I still remembered. No one seemed much impressed. They're all better than me, even the little ones.

I had this compartment all to myself. The bottom bunk was really cozy, especially after I pulled the curtains.

The toilet is not for the faint of heart, especially as the train is rocking and rolling.

Yummy breakfast of sticky rice and rice muffins.

Sherry Ann's beautiful mom and two daughters

The neighbors in Naga are very friendly.

Sharine introduced me to so many relatives, including her great aunt.

Information on Filipino heroes
The students wait patiently for class to begin.

Baton practice

Sherry Ann's daughter Kyla does well in math.

Some of the students aren't as excited about Saturday math class.

All the public schools in the Philippines are so beautiful, with nice gardens, bright paint, and spacious.
This one has 1500 students.

Here I am with some of the boys.
Me and some of the girls.
Mrs. Celia Bataller clearly loves her job.

The baton teacher

Ella marches in red.