Encountering All Kinds Of Creatures In The Philippines
Anna generally only works half days on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, although her Thursday morning is for studying. We had two public holidays to start the week and in actuality the month; Monday, May 1 was Labour Day and Tuesday, May 2 was Hari Raya Puasa so we had a bit of time to work with. One of Anna’s former fellows from Singapore National Eye Centre is from Dumaguete in the Philippines, plus there is supposed to be some great snorkelling in Cebu so that’s what we planned for. We bought a GoPro and some full-face snorkelling masks to attach it to in order to record whatever we encountered below the surface, got our supervised Covid tests, and soon we were on our way, but despite the fact that I’d never been to Cebu and Anna had only been to regional areas on the island, there was a piece of information I felt the need to pass on to her; when I was a teacher in Singapore there was a bar I would go to after work on Friday nights to meet up with some expat friends, many of whom I still hang out with, but you would get some pretty disgusting characters in there too that either lived in Cebu, were moving to Cebu, or had just relocated from Cebu. All of these guys were white, generally in their mid-50s at a minimum, but usually older and they all fit a similar description. They almost always were overweight and/or bald, extremely loud and obnoxious, and would be dating a girl from the Philippines far out of their league who would also probably be younger than any their daughters from one of their previous marriages. These men would always be showering the woman with lavish gifts of designer clothing, bags, shoes, and jewellery, it was seriously like these guys were a carbon copy of each other and they were all just awful. In fact, I recall one whose name I won’t mention claiming that he can do anything he likes, because his girlfriend’s family can’t afford for her to leave him. Anna knew the exact type of men I was referring to so it would be interesting to catch some of these in the wild too.
Saturday, April 30, 2022
We boarded our flight to Cebu at 12:35 in the morning, me making a pretty awful joke a little too loudly about a rather fat man in the process, but also encountering one of the creepy men on the flight as well. He was seated in the row next to us and on this occasion he met the minimum age requirement, was bald, but not overweight, and she had to be half his age and dripping with Louis Vuitton gear. His personality seemed to fit as well, because when the in-flight meal was served he ate his and hers before asking the flight attendant for another one for his girlfriend, followed by endless beers. The flight went smoothly enough and after a brief layover in a minuscule airport and a short connecting flight, we were in Cebu City, Cebu:
Cebu, officially the Province of Cebu, is a province of the Philippines located in the Central Visayas (Region VII) region, and consists of a main island and 167 surrounding islands and islets. Its capital is Cebu City, nicknamed “the Queen City of the South”, the oldest city and first capital of the Philippines, which is politically independent from the provincial government.
The Cebu Metropolitan Area or Metro Cebu is the second largest metropolitan area in the Philippines (after Metro Manila) with Cebu City as the main center of commerce, trade, education and industry in the Visayas. Being one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines, in a decade it has transformed into a global hub for business processing services, tourism, shipping, furniture-making, and heavy industry. Mactan–Cebu International Airport, located on Mactan Island, is the second busiest airport in the Philippines.
Once we had touched down and gone through immigration we got a cab to where we would be staying that night, the Clockwork Orange Luxury Suites, a place that was more of an eye opener than the original film! When we arrived at a dirty, multi-level strip mall that didn’t list a second floor for some reason we entered the lobby and were greeted by a weird, overly excited, middle-aged American man who seemed incredibly proud of his rooms and the fact that he has Netflix available. It was when he told us that we would absolutely love the rooms and that they were “very Americanised” that I cringed a little, accidentally did a rather noticeable eye-roll, and knew this was just going to get weird. We got into essentially a service elevator, went up to the sixth floor of what seemed to be really cheap serviced apartments, complete with the sounds of kids screaming and singing, and eventually got the front door to open. What greeted us was truly bizarre: Besides an orange wall covered in rope behind a sofa bed in the living room, there was a downstairs toilet with bright green lighting and only later we discovered that this could be toned down a bit with another switch for some regular lights. There was another bathroom upstairs, this one with bright blue lighting, giving it the vibe of a shooting gallery that was equipped with a two-person hot tub, yet there was no shower in our room at all except for a small shower head at the base of the tub. Other peculiarities included a random orange tree in the living room, the fact that there was no cutlery, yet there was a saucepan available, a seating area under an extremely low area of the ceiling that was almost inaccessible, and statues of the Eiffel Tower, a Tower of Pisa money box, and a giant photo of the Sydney Opera House, yet nothing that “Americanised” the place besides the Netflix account being “Love USA”. Soak it in for yourself, I tried to do it justice with the panoramic shots, but nothing could truly capture the strangeness:
We found ourselves in fits of laughter, especially at the junkie jacuzzi, but we were getting hungry so I filled up a cup with water only to realise upon tasting it that the cup must’ve been dusty, meanwhile noticing that the bins hadn’t been emptied, and we hit the road. The weird owner asked for the first of several times if we liked the room before we wandered down the dark, stray dog infested street. As you will soon discover in this post, lechon is an extremely popular dish in this country and is essentially a spit-roasted pig, the Cebu version being stuffed, and Anna had already decided where we were eating that first night, Rico’s Lechon, a favourite of Sara Duterte, who would soon be Vice President of the Philippines and daughter of former President, Rodrigo. The walk there was a little intimidating as there was only one streetlight functioning along our 15-minute journey along a windy street, stray dogs just dashing across in front of us, while cars and trucks came around sharp corners, and old residents in the street simply stared at us.
We arrived at the restaurant at about 7:30pm and ordered based on recommendations from Filipino friends in Singapore, first a plate of lechon and sinigang, a sour local soup, all of which was fantastic, but when we tried to get a second order of lechon there was no more left. The owner of where we were staying, whom I will now for convenience refer to as ‘Stanley’ after Stanley Kubrick, director of the film A Clockwork Orange, would later tell us that there was usually no lechon left at Rico’s by 6:00pm! We decided to plan the rest of the night which meant finding a place to kick back with a drink, but most of the bars were a taxi ride away, were predominantly “girly” bars and KTVs, and most were temporarily closed so that meant hoofing it back to the Clockwork Orange and pulling up a seat out the front there. There were a couple more streetlights working upon our return and the shops in the strip mall consisted of a local food stall, a convenience store, and a pizza shop that sold alcohol. There weren’t really any specific trading hours for any of these places so I decided to buy some beers from the convenience store to stock up the fridge in our room, and when I returned to the pizza store Anna filled me in on a conversation between two older white men on the table next to us. One was a bald, overweight American, the other an Australian bogan with his much younger wife, her never really speaking. To be fair, the Australian guy wasn’t saying anything that disgusting, but he was still guilty by association for even engaging in conversation with the other one who regaled him with tales of the time he slept with an underage ladyboy [*please check the definition before getting upset about the usage of that term] whom he threatened to beat when she requested payment, as well as giving political advice such as what he would’ve done if he were President during World War II to ensure the total eradication of the Japanese bloodline. This guy was a real piece of shit! There were also a group of American teenagers that showed up, seemingly on their first trip abroad. One pearl of wisdom uttered was when one of the males of the group ordered a pizza from the shop and exclaimed, “Oh my God, this might be better than Little Caesar’s!” before continuing about how Little Caesar’s is his favourite pizza. The night culminated in Stanley, still resplendent in his weird, mesh fishing vest, wondering where his baby daughter was, and saying that it’s mummy wants to see her, but maybe somebody had taken her. Finally, an extremely ugly baby with an already receding hairline was brought over and shown to everyone, one of the American girls commenting, “Oh my gosh, she gorgeous!”. She wasn’t, and also this baby was very white, there were no white women around that weren’t tourists, and “mummy” seemed very local so there could be an interesting story there.
A bit of dinner and some other scenes from that odd, yet amusing first evening:
Once we had overheard (read “eavesdropped on”) as much depravity from the table next us as we could handle, we went back to our room to make the most of the much-lauded Netflix, but it wasn’t working so we just air-played something from my phone until we were tired, found a way to function the shower head in the base of the jacuzzi, and went to bed.
Sunday, May 1, 2022
We were moving on to our next stop on our trip so we checked out of the Clockwork Orange, once again being asked for reassurance that the rooms were still okay by Stanley, still dressed in the clothes from the previous night, before giving us a history lesson on how often he does new rooms, followed by his synopsis of the film A Clockwork Orange. Once done, we caught a cab back to the airport and were immediately hit by the smell of lechon. There were three separate stalls that we saw in the departure area and the entire airport just smelt like pork! People were buying boxes to take away to wherever they were staying, even for our flight, which was a short propeller-plane ride of less that half-an-hour to Dumaguete:
Dumaguete, officially known as the City of Dumaguete, is a 3rd class component city and capital of the province of Negros Oriental, Philippines. According to the 2020 census, it has a population of 134,103 people. It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental.
Dumaguete is an university city, with four universities and a number of other colleges, attracting students of the province, as well as students of surrounding provinces and cities in Visayas and Mindanao. The city is best known for Silliman University, the first Protestant and American university in the country and in Asia. There are also 18 public elementary schools and 8 public high schools.
The power source of the city comes from the geothermal power plant in Palinpinon, Valencia. The city has redundant fiber optic lines and is a focal point for telecommunications.
Scholars have been pushing for the city’s inclusion in the tentative list of the Philippines for future UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination.
Once we had landed we collected our luggage and were picked up by Anna’s former fellow, Janice, taking us to our new abode for the next three nights, Atmosphere Resort & Spa, quite the upgrade from Clockwork Orange:
We relaxed for a bit until dinner where we met up with Janice again, as well as her parents, brother, and his wife. Janice’s mother is also an ophthalmologist, as well as her brother-in-law, and their family run all of the eye clinics in Dumaguete and were spending the night in a resort nearby so they treated us to dinner to pick Anna’s brain a little and afterward we all kicked back at the poolside bar for a bit before heading back to hang out by our own private pool. When Janice was driving us to our resort earlier in the day she pointed out a cock-fighting ring, locally referred to as a ‘cockpit’, and an option for us while we were in town was to bet on some little feathery fiend with a blade attached to its leg try to disembowel another. I’m not much of a betting man, but that could be an interesting night, if anything for the atmosphere, perhaps just not on our first night in town.
Monday, May 2, 2022
Monday was never going to be an action-packed day, our sole plan was to do some snorkelling nearby to test out the GoPro so that’s exactly what we did. The water was a bit rough, but while we were out we were pretty excited to encounter a turtle and a jellyfish close up so we were looking forward to checking out the footage we got once back in our room, but there was just one problem — Although we had switched the GoPro on, we had failed to actually press ‘record’. Oh, well.
We had a couple of afternoon drinks at the bar, a disappointing dinner at the hotel restaurant, and then I walked down to a convenience store to buy some drinks for later, passing two dead kittens along the way, and that’s when I discovered that the beers I had been paying ₱400 (US$7.63) at the bar only cost ₱39 (US$0.75) at the store. Yup, I had been paying a 1000% markup so I stocked up our minibar, Anna bought a bottle of wine from the resort, and we relaxed poolside again for the night.
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Tuesday consisted of one of the main events that we had planned for this trip; we had booked a private boat to take us to Apo island to go snorkelling in a reef with turtles. We picked up some flippers and a life-vest each, boarded our small boat at 10:30am, and before long we were making the relatively choppy ride out to the island with our Atmosphere guide, as well as a local guide to show us around the waters. It took about 45 minutes to get there, longer than our flight the previous day, but it was worth every second. The reef where we started is the spot best known for its turtles so we switched on the GoPro and followed our two guides down into the water, the local guide swimming normally with just one tiny flipper and dragging a life ring behind him in case any of us fully equipped snorkelers ran into any trouble. Almost immediately upon entering the water we saw some large sea turtles, most either completely oblivious to us being there or, especially in the case of a giant one that was grazing, not being able to possibly care less about our presence.
In that area alone we saw seven or eight turtles in total within about half an hour in the water so we got back on board the boat and were taken to another nearby reef to swim around with schools of fish, which was also a bit of fun, but once done we realised that we were still rookies with the GoPro. Yes, on this occasion we had managed to record, however, we had angled it at the ocean floor instead of slightly ahead of us so it greatly limited the amount of decent footage we managed to capture. We saw some cool fish while we were swimming around on the second leg of the trip, but really only filmed coral, except for about seven seconds of great footage when we followed a turtle again, the battery cutting out almost immediately once we got close.
Anyway, here are some photos and a GoPro screenshot from that trip, as well as about three salvageable minutes of footage of the turtles. More good trial and error for when we see the sharks:
We had lunch aboard the boat and then headed back to the resort, the water even rougher than before, all the while thinking that our local guide does this multiple times per day with next to no equipment.
Anna spent the afternoon being pampered in the spa, then, after being a little underwhelmed by the westernised local food at the resort the previous night, got a ride into town for dinner, but there was one small hurdle — finding an ATM that would accept our cards, something we finally figured out after 16 separate attempts. Once that was sorted we had a quick stroll along the Boardwalk to find a restaurant, settling into Lantaw, an enormous restaurant for some Pinoy fare for our final night in Dumaguete and the first thing that struck us was how much rice the locals eat. Several giant bowls would be brought over for each table and everyone, men, women, and children, would completely cover the surface of a dinner plate more than an inch (2.5cm) high with steamed rice before loading anything else onto it, a sly example of which you will see in the photos. Anna and myself would struggle with so many carbs so we just got a small bowl each and a few dishes including a favourite of ours, pork sisig, and filled ourselves up for the night before heading outside to explore the Boardwalk again:
Now, I’m an adventurous eater and will give anything a go once so I have always wanted to try balut. I had had trouble finding it on our recent trip to Cambodia, but I had also mentioned wanting to try it to all of my friends from the Philippines who live in Singapore as soon as Anna started planning this trip and most of them loved it and said it was really easy to come across so that decision had made itself. But what exactly is balut?:
Balut (also spelled as balot) is a fertilized developing egg embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell. It is commonly sold as street food in South China and Southeast Asian countries, notably the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. The term comes from the Filipino language.
A balut is a fertilized bird egg (usually a duck) which is incubated for a period of 14 to 21 days, depending on the local culture, and then steamed. The contents are eaten directly from the shell. Balut that is incubated for longer periods have a well-developed embryo and the features of the duckling are recognizable. The partially-developed embryo bones are soft enough to chew and swallow as a whole. The mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchus), also known as the “Pateros duck”, is often used to make balut.
Sounds tasty! We had spoken to Janice about eating balut and she had said that they were generally sold in Dumaguete with either a 16-day, 18-day, or 20-day old embryo, but warned us that the 20-day old ones were “a bit hairy” as they had already started to develop feathers. I figured there wouldn’t be a whole lot of duck in a 16-day one so the 18-day old fertilised egg it was .
We found a spot by the water where everyone was eating from small stalls so we went from stall to stall asking if they had any 18-day balut, but each stall only had the 16-day old eggs so we had to compromise with balut-lite for ₱20 (US$0.38) each, served on a plate with some salt and a vinegar sauce. Naturally, Anna wanted me to go first so I tapped the egg on the table a couple of times, but to no avail, leading me to conclude that the embryo must’ve been on that side so I turned it over and was able to crack it open. However, Anna was disgusted as soon as I started to successfully peel mine, realising that a 16-day old embryo was far more developed than she expected, and immediately deciding that balut was off the cards for her, leaving me to finish two large duck eggs after a substantial dinner. So how did it go down? Here I will try to build the atmosphere with some photos, as well as a clip of me eating the second balut, this time without the vinegar, due to the clip of the first one being a little unsteady as a result of Anna’s initial reaction:
If I had to describe the taste and texture, I guess the best way to describe it would be that it was like an overly-boiled egg with a piece of squid or calamari inside. I couldn’t detect any bones, beak or feathers, but the embryo was definitely a bit chewy.
After finding a sink to wash all of the unborn duck juice off my hands, we settled down for a couple of drinks in a bar, but it was a bit of a hassle waiting on hand-written receipts for every single drink off the surly woman behind the counter, plus the band was extremely loud, so we went back to the resort to finish off the remaining drinks there, completely forgetting about attending the cock fights in the process. Still, it was nice taking in the frogs and lizards by our own little pool upon our return.
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Star Wars Day was upon us, but we wouldn’t be venturing that far into the stratosphere, instead just doing our short flight back to Cebu, followed by an hour-long taxi ride to our new home for the next four nights, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, passing yet again through streets plastered with campaign posters and flyers on every single surface for what seemed like thousands of candidates for dozens of positions in the then-upcoming Presidential election.
Plantation Bay was a weird resort, a strange little Disneyland-type place that had suffered through a lot over the past few years. Sure, Covid-19 affected everyone and everywhere in the travel and service industry, but Plantation Bay also had also felt the brunt of Typhoon Rai (also known as Super Typhoon Odette) back in December of 2021, which killed 410 people, injured 1,371 more with 80 still missing, and did more than US$1 billion damage, the second costliest typhoon in Philippine history. The resort is situated on a huge piece of land with manmade pools, waterfalls, beaches, and many other amenities, as well as restaurants and bars, but a lot of it was closed at the time, some due to a lack of staff, other areas because of damage from the typhoon. The place was relatively quiet with only one food option so fortunately we had taken our taxi driver’s number to make that hour-long trek into the city a little easier. We went into our room, Anna instantly furious that the floor was dirty, then walked around to have a look at the facilities and grab a cup of coffee.
We had learnt our lesson about eating at resorts when we staying in Atmosphere so we looked at a map to see where the fun stuff seemed to be and gave the taxi driver, Jojo, a call to take us into the city. Once there we walked up and down the main street and found ourselves at Ayer Lechon for the local staple once again. We thought it was a little weird when we arrived that what seemed like a simple restaurant was open until 5:00am, but when we went upstairs there were great drink deals and before long a live band playing. Another pattern Anna had noticed up to that point was that any cocktail she had ordered thus far in the Philippines had been so sweet to the point that it was almost undrinkable so she helped chip away at multiple buckets of beers with me, something she would have to continue to do while the area was bombarded with torrential rain.
Once the rain let up we decided to see what other options were around in which to kick back and found out about an Australian bar around the corner boasting of draught beer and showing sports. Maybe we were just going to the wrong places, but beer on tap had been essentially impossible to find on this trip, encountering it only at the bar at Atmosphere where they had a couple of local craft beers for extortionate prices, so we figured the Australian bar could be alright. Once we arrived it turned out they only served beer in bottles, but surprise, surprise, there were some more predatory old, white men with much younger girls. One of these men was at the pool table, leaning over a young lady, “teaching” her to play, while another with a walking stick, who turned out to be the owner, had a flock of them around him. There was also an upstairs area with more pool tables, but that was even more of an eye-opener so I went back downstairs, gossiped with Anna about the ambience of the place, and made fools of ourselves when one of the girls came over to dance with us while the band played.
Here’s some photos of our resort, as well as some shots from the not-as-sketchy-as-the-first-day area of Cebu City:
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Thursday needed to be a relatively quiet one, because the following morning was when we were going to see the whale sharks. Initially informed that we would need to depart at 4:00am, we had told Jojo the taxi man and he said 3:00am would be better time to be picked up, so we were relieved when the receptionists told us we now wouldn’t actually need to leave until 5:00am on Friday, but that is still painfully early so we took it easy. First we jumped on a boat that took us on a bumpy ride around the nearby waters for some more snorkelling, not really encountering a whole lot in the water, but on the way back we saw just some of the devastation caused by Typhoon Rai just a few months earlier, passing buildings with roofs ripped off and construction sites where the metal struts made it pretty evident which way the wind had been blowing:
Once back we had a quick hit at the pitch and putt green, on which I managed to chip into the hole, and then some afternoon drinks in the hopes of making us tired to prepare for our early morning, had some dinner in the only open restaurant in the resort, then a few more drinks before we were off to bed.
Friday, May 6, 2022
The day we had been looking forward to was finally here and unbelievably we hadn’t slept in, we were out of bed and in the van by 5:00am! We had to go to Tan-awan, just outside the small municipality of Osolob, and although Oslob was only about 140km (87mi) out of Cebu City, due to our resort’s location, poor road conditions, and eventually the traffic, it was still going to take about four hours to get there. That, however, wouldn’t be too much of an issue for us, because we both fell into a deep slumber once again almost immediately upon becoming settled in the van, so much so that the driver and our guide stopped off at Jollibee for about half an hour for breakfast along the way without us even noticing. As we were getting closer to Oslob we woke up and took in the sites, mainly thousands upon thousands more election flyers, and swayed side to side as our van made its way up and down a long, winding road, our driver navigating his way around blind corners and gargantuan potholes that could almost swallow a smaller vehicle, and before long we were at the beach in Tan-awan, where we’d be spending the morning snorkelling with whale sharks:
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving, filter-feeding carpet shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 18.8 m (61.7 ft). The whale shark holds many records for size in the animal kingdom, most notably being by far the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate. It is the sole member of the genus Rhincodon and the only extant member of the family Rhincodontidae, which belongs to the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. Before 1984 it was classified as Rhiniodon into Rhinodontidae.
The whale shark is found in open waters of the tropical oceans and is rarely found in water below 21 °C (70 °F). Studies looking at vertebral growth bands and the growth rates of free-swimming sharks have estimated whale shark lifespans at 80–130 years. Whale sharks have very large mouths and are filter feeders, which is a feeding mode that occurs in only two other sharks, the megamouth shark and the basking shark. They feed almost exclusively on plankton and small fishes, and pose no threat to humans.
We both got changed into our swimming gear and then were taken down to the shore for a short, mandatory briefing where we were told under no uncertain terms that we were to :
- Remain five metres (16.5′) from the sharks at all times, and
- To not touch the sharks
However, this would seem more of a formality than anything once we were in the water. We boarded a small boat with several other people and paddled out, promptly seeing several large whale sharks swimming near the surface before we were even out to our snorkelling location. Once we were among the many other boats I donned my snorkel-mask and life vest and climbed down the ladder into the water, Anna following after me sans vest, but with the GoPro ready and there was immediately a small issue; with the sheer amount of boats around and the small channel created between ours and the boat dropping chum in the water, it was going to be impossible to remain five metres from the sharks, as there wasn’t much more than that between the vessels. Almost as soon as I was in there was a guide shouting at me, “Sir! Sir!”. I replied that I was trying to stay five metres from the sharks, but didn’t have the space to do so, however, he couldn’t have cared less, he just wanted to get an underwater photograph of myself in front of one, as well as one of Anna. Sure it was a nice enough gesture, but he continued to yell at me for photos for the entire half-hour I spent in the water, getting to the point where I had to explain to him slowly that I wanted to actually see the whale sharks, not so much be seen with them. I soon swam away from him and embraced what we had come to see, but it was so crowded that I actually had several of the sharks brush against me and eventually even got run over twice by a boat, the outer float also hitting me in the face, splitting my lip and causing an elderly Chinese woman onboard to burst out in laughter. Others in the water, on the other hand, embraced being able to prove that they had seen a shark, one from our group spending the entire time swimming down, constantly getting in everyone’s way and obstructing their view so someone could snap the perfect shot of him in front of one of the enormous beasts.
It may seem like I didn’t have a very good time, but nothing could be further from the truth, it was absolutely fantastic, the sharks are incredible, especially when you see just how much water they can take in in a single gulp, however, it would’ve been even more enjoyable if it weren’t so busy and crowded, and this is supposed to be a quiet period! Anyway, here are just a handful of some of the relatively unobstructed shots our guide got of the sharks, most of these without us in them, before I told him he had taken more than enough of us:
Even better, not only did our guide take some great photos, he was also able to film some incredible footage of us too. Anna caught some fantastic scenes on the GoPro as well so here are two compilation videos, the first from the guide, the second from the Anna. When watching the second video, the guy in the light blue long-sleeved top was our guide and the guy with the small, black shorts and blue flippers was the annoying one that wouldn’t get out of the way:
Once we were done swimming with humongous sharks and getting run over by boats, we got changed into some dry clothes in a room with lattice walls, and then it was time for lunch, which was similar to the previous days, but although it was only about 11:30am, it was still strongly implied that we were having breakfast beers with our guide. Fortunately for Anna and myself, this made it easier to catch a few more Zs on the even longer drive home, periodically waking and seeing which one of us could find the weirdest election poster among the myriad of them along the way (I occasionally saw one for a guy that just said “Wow Dick”, but I was unable to get a photo. This is him).
Once we were back in the room we were well-rested despite the early rise, but Anna was furious that the floor was still dirty. She called reception and they told us they only go over the room with a blue light every few days and then decide if it needs cleaning, but it didn’t take a blue light to see the dark brown foot marks from walking around the place on our bathmat. Anna always gets her way so as soon as the cleaning was organised we walked around the waterfront until 6:00pm when the bar at the end of the pier, the only non swim-up outdoor bar, opened for two hours, where we met another extremely awful old, white man, this time Swiss, and he was accompanied by a local girl who didn’t even appear to be of legal age. He ordered himself a drink and specifically asked for a non-alcoholic drink for his partner, stating that she is “too small”, and then began talking very loudly to her before approaching us. He made some reasonably normal smalltalk, asking Anna if she were Japanese, like most people around these parts tend to do, but then he made things comically weird. He approached me and in his strong, drawn out Swiss accent, almost identical to that of the German guy on the right in this scene from the film Beerfest, said to me, “I notice you are vearing a cap. I vould like to ask you a question; vould you like to buy a cap vich says… ‘Vacation’?”. It was kind of an odd thing to ask so I declined his offer to purchase his ‘vacation’ cap and Anna and myself finished our drinks and called Jojo to take us into Cebu City again for dinner, laughing almost the entire one-hour trip about the weird Swiss guy.
We did some better research before we arrived this time and found STK ta Bai sa Paolito’s Seafood House, a place where they freshly barbecue seafood out the front of the restaurant, specialising in enormous tuna steaks. The food was great, but yet again we probably ordered too much, and I couldn’t help laughing when, among the military paraphernalia on the wall, Anna confused an army helmet above a sceptre that resembled a human spine for a giant ladle.
When we finished dinner we found a bar, another one crawling with the same old, white guys, pimping themselves out to younger women. I entered first and was instantly flocked by eight or nine young, local women in tight black dresses, but they scattered like frightened pigeons when Anna walked in a few seconds later and pulled up a seat with me. Among the sleazy patrons there was one man at the bar who was alternating between which girls to make out with, but I noticed something odd yet familiar from other trips to places like this; an African-American man walked in and was approached by nobody. He even had trouble just getting a drink, but when he did he left not long after finishing it and we did the same, finding a great outdoor bar, complete with disgusting white men and a band that let terrible singers come up and perform, the perfect way to finish off a great day, albeit me hurting a toe rather badly while there.
Dinner and a look at the bars afterward:
Saturday, May 7, 2022
Our Philippines trip was coming to an end and we had done everything we had set out to do; swim with sea turtles, whale sharks, and feast on partially developed, unborn ducks so the final day in Cebu was just going to be spent doing what we love to do in any new city — Shopping and eating.
Jojo took us into the city one final time, this time to Cebu IT Park, a quiet, almost gated area of the city where we wandered around a giant mall and looked at a dog adoption stall, but it was when we went to eat that we really got lucky. We found ourselves at Sugbo Mercado, a pop-up food market with pretty much any cuisine from all over the world in small stalls. Luckily we got there early and had no trouble finding a table, because it got packed! We had a look around, found what we’d like to try when we were eventually hungry, and then had a few drinks. When it was time to get something to eat the place was rapidly filling up so one of us would have to mind the table while the other went and visited the stalls. We had more lechon, some fried pig intestines, and I queued up for quite some time for bone marrow with high-blood pork belly and by the time we were done, there were people hovering around our table like vultures over a carcass, just waiting to swoop in for a seat. Just across a field nearby there was a large outdoor bar called Pipeline so we wrapped up our Philippine getaway drinking and playing pool on tables so uneven that you had to calculate an arc when shooting. We couldn’t have had a better final night in town and we even returned to a clean room:
Sunday, May 8, 2022
The time to leave was upon us so we organised a late checkout, eventually made our way to the airport, had a final lechon, and we were off. Immediately upon return to Singapore we vowed not to eat any pork for at least a week, settling more for fish and vegetables to counteract our porcine overload and the absence of anything green on our plates.
We loved our time in Cebu and Dumaguete, thank you so much Janice, as well as your family, for all of your hospitality! Snorkelling with the turtles and the whale sharks was incredible, balut wasn’t anywhere near as crunchy as I had expected, and next time we’re in town we need to catch a cockfight. I can’t wait to return, I just hope I don’t get mistaken for one of those awful, middle-aged, white sex tourists when I’m here again!
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