Philippines and in the US again

Happy New Year.

Thanks for checking in at my website. I know it hasn’t been so interesting recently, as my life has been mostly simple domestic. That will change in two or three months. Sometime around the beginning of spring, I will be leaving China for Latin America. I’ve got nothing really against China, it’s just that I haven’t really connected here. The language proved too difficult for my tired brain. Either that, or I didn’t try hard enough and succumbed to embarrassment about trying to flounder through the beginning of using it. Anyway, I’ve decided to move on.

Myung is very likely to join me. She has had trouble getting her products for sale through the corrupt Chinese customs process. Ransoming it out of a warehouse in the entry port is prohibitively expensive. She’s tried other ports with the same result. So, she has started to look for a new renter for her shop space. Here in China, a renter pays a “transfer fee” to the owner. If a renter wants out of the rental agreement, they must find someone to pay the transfer fee. She just put her place up for rent on the internet yesterday, so we don’t know how it will go yet. If it goes quickly, she may leave with me. If not, she may stay till it does. She’s always got her ear to to ground about other business opportunities, so if something inviting comes along, she could opt to pursue it. I hope she comes with me, but as is plain, this all involves personal issues between us. You can love someone dearly and not choose to follow them to the ends of the Earth. Even if she comes with me, she’ll go to Korea on the way to take back he stuff she’s had, little by little, sent here. That would be nothing, though. In fact, it might go easier if I went ahead and scoped things out a little, not that that would be necessary, as she can handle backpacking on the fly as easily as anyone. Maybe she’s rusty, but it’s like riding a bike.

I returned to Chongqing last week after a month in the Philippines and 20 days in the US. The Philippines was mostly a beach and diving thing for a couple of weeks. The last week and a half was recovering from decompression sickness. More on that later.

The cheapest way to the Philippines turned out to be taking the train to Hong Kong, then flying from there to Cebu. I wanted to go there first, anyway, because I had hoped to get a visa to return to China at the consulate there. I also wanted to begin somewhere not in Manila and end up in Manila for my flight to the States. That visa part didn’t work out, as they have an onerous application process like in Macau; don’t ask me why.

I hung around Cebu, the Philippines second largest city, for four days, which is about three days too many. There isn’t much to see or do there, but I did begin to experience Philippine culture. That’s about it, though. There’s a fort there and this bell tower.


Exciting, eh? I could have taken people pictures or something, but didn’t. I was left with the impression Cebu is a work-a-day town. The culture is basic Southeast Asian with a hint of Polynesian and strong American influence. The markets look like markets, the buildings look like buildings, the traffic looks like traffic. I’m very used to Philippine people, having worked with hundreds of Philippine nurses for many years.

That little picture is little because WordPress completely changed everything about itself. Instead of automatically fitting pictures into the column width, this is the way it comes out. It looks like the new WordPress has all kinds of new possibilities, which I hope to learn about but, meanwhile, I wanted to get a post done. Hopefully, the format of future posts will be better. The text and photos will never get better because they are my doing.

After Cebu, it was mostly diving and hanging out a dive dives for the next couple of weeks. At the northeast tip of Cebu island is a dive island called Malapasqua. The big deal there is is to look at thresher sharks. I saw seven in two dives, which I’m told is a good day. Their bodies are a couple of meters long and they have fabulous long tails. They aren’t dangerous to humans, and one came about one meter away from me. The cottage I stayed at there was a nice place to hang out.


Here’s off to the right.



From there, I went to Oslob, near the southwest tip of Cebu Island. It’s one of the places in the Philippines where you can snorkel with the whale sharks. These filter feeding gentle giants can be as long as 12 meters and weigh 20 tons. The ones in Oslob were about half that. It’s one of the places where they still feed them to get them to come. They are basically trained to come every morning and scarf up plankton which the people have gathered up and frozen. What the tourist does is go out on a little boat, not more than a couple hundred meters off shore, to where the whale sharks know to come for breakfast. You don a life vest and a snorkel, and hang on to the side of the boat while the shale sharks loll around filtering huge amounts of water plankton has been thrown into. You are supposed to stay 5 meters away, but that’s impossible. The boat guys are dumping plankton from the boat and you’re hanging on the side and the whale sharks are eating. You get nudged all over the place by these slow, blubbery trucks. They could care less about you (which is one reason getting them too used to humans is hazardous for them), and you can lift up and look right down their craws if you like. Pretty cool, even if you do feel guilty about what all happens to animals when they don’t have fear and respect for humans.

From there, it was a short “jeepney” and ferry ride to Dumaguete on the island of Negros. A jeepney is a common mode of public transportation, basically a covered pick up truck with benches along the side, like songthaws in Thailand, only bigger. A lot of them are tricked out like Indian trucks. They are called jeepneys because they used to be mostly left over US Army jeeps converted for this civilian purpose. There are still many around which are fashioned from later Jeeps. Dumaguete is another dive place, along with the nearby small island of Apo. Good coral diving there. I have pictures. This one is of the boat out to Apo with out tanks lined up on the beach. These catamarans are the typical short-trip water craft of the Philippines. They are very stable, which is handy in a country that sees practically every typhoon that comes to Asia. There are little three meter ones like the one to see the whale sharks, and there are big ones which serve as ferries for dozens of people. They call them “pump boats”.


From there, I flew to Palawan Island. Domestic flights are too cheap there to bother with long ferry rides. It was something like $40 for an hour flight. Can’t be beat. The flights go into the capital, Puerto Princesa, or Coron on Busuanga island northeast of Palawan but still part of Palawan province. Palawan is the least developed or busy major island in the Philippines. Even Puerto I laid back. I stayed there about three days, one day doing nothing and the other going on a day trip island/snorkel tour. Here are some pictures from that.



One island we went to is in the process of disappearing with global warming.


Here are some pictures taken over about a one hour time period. check out how the water comes in from the mangroves in the distance. That’s about 200 meters of encroachment.





After that, I left where I consider to be civilization, places with ATM’s. 50 km northeast of Puerto is the next stop on the tourist route, the world’s longest underground river. I forget how long it is, 20-something km I think. Most people go on a tour boat about a kilometer and a half. Sometimes you can go something like 4-5 km in, but its hard to get up a group for that so it’s hard to arrange. You can’t take photos inside, but here is the outside.


Next was the northeast tip of Palawan, El Nido. This is almost all about the diving, but is so popular, it’s a regular town even though the road to there isn’t paved. Most people stay along one beach. It’s thick with beach backpacker joints and bars. Not my thing anymore. I stayed south of town where it was quiet and just as lovely, maybe more. On the right kind of evening, the sunset views from the popular beach would be great. No interesting sunsets while I was there, though. Here’s what it looked like from where I was staying.




Here is over near the popular area.




It was here I got decompression sickness. I used bad judgement and paid for it. I dove with a couple of young divemasters who were in much better shape than I am. We were returning to the boat, bucking a current, and I got down to 50 BAR in my tank. Instead of going up for a safety stop, I kept going, thinking we’d be back in a few minutes. I incorrectly assumed I would have time for a stop if my gauge showed 20 BAR. I saw the bottom of the boat and went up, but instead of having 20 BAR like my meter said, I had nothin’. My safety stop was all of about 1 minute. To make a long story short, there is no decompression chamber there, no hospital for that matter, so I toughed it out. The first two days was bad headaches, other nuero symptoms and cramps. Then I started to gradually improve. After about four days i could eat a little and sleep. I could also fly to Manila, which I did. I saw a doctor there, as I was still having myriad symptoms like my skin sloughing off and poor gastric motility. He said there was nothing to do about it now and I’d be okay eventually. I did little in Manila but rest up. I lost a lot of weight which I have since put back on. I think I’m okay now, a month later, but I still feel it. My diving days may be over. That was nearly the weirdest thing that ever happened to me and it put the fear of God into me.

There’s not much I can say about Manila. I didn’t do anything. It was basically another big city. the guide books and other backpackers said I didn’t miss much.

That gets me to my brief trip to the US. I went to attend my niece, Anne’s, wedding. There’s not much to say that would interest most people likely to read this. It was a very nice wedding and she and her husband look like they are going to be fine together. It was held at a nice beach front resort hotel in Santa Barbara. Here are pictures. This is my brother, Bill, walking her down the aisle.


Here’s during the ceremony.


Here, she and Nico are leaving back up the aisle.


Here they are hanging out at the reception.


And here are my brother and me. Yes, I have a suit and tie in America I can break out for special occasions.


We’re getting near the end of this tome. The last pictures are of a famous stretch of coastline along the California coast. I took the coast road for old time’s sake. It was not only beautiful (when I could see through the rain) but I got to see a bunch of elephant seals at one point and a whole pod of grey whales, maybe 10-12, about 300 or so meters off shore. THAT was really great! I don’t have pictures of either, as it was raining heavily where the elephant seals were and the whales wouldn’t have been good pictures with my little snap shooter. Here are a few general pictures. People from or familiar with Big Sur will recognize this immediately.




The rest of the time in California was hanging out with friends in the San Francisco Bay Area and my original home town of Stockton about 100 km east of there. It was nice; then it was time to go. And here I am.

Likely, my next post will be in a couple of months when Myung and my plans flesh out. Until then, I hope you have a good start to the new year. Be well, all of you.


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