“3 years CD’s and 3 years chips.”, Cebu, October 19th, 2011

Have I already mentioned that I love wondering between extremes? On Tuesday, October 4th it was time for that again. “Now WHAT is THAT???” the young lady in here fancy dress of the ShangriLa asked me, trying hard to use a voice being rather surprised than discussed. It is a rucksack for backpacking I responded. “Oh, so you are a professional trekker going into mountains?” To give her piece of mind I said yes and moved on to the exact opposite, a hotel near the bus station from which I wanted to go north. Instead of 200€ a night they charge 2€ a night (I thought) and instead of Starbucks you find bucks on the street. I love it, because the smile that come with it free and honest. I lost my smile quickly as I started to suffer really bad. No flue, no diarrhea, just weak, weaker weakest. When finding out that it is 2€ for 3hour, I ended up in a hour hotel, I did not care, stayed for 3 nights and only went out to get water and a banana (no photos from Manila). I am sure I made 2 records here, one for the longest stay ever in an hour hotel and one for being the only male guest not bringing a girl here, ever. As I felt better I took the day bus to Solano. “Day trips are very long.” the driver said when I asked where we are as we should have arrived 4 hours ago. Plus the Taifun made the streets bad and I witnessed it myself with a complete destroyed bridge cutting varies villages completely off.

So it became the next morning when I finally arrived in Banaue, the famous starting point for treks into the biggest rice terrace fields in the world. The following day I took a tricycle as far as I could, to another broken bridge, enjoying the 80’s.

Almost 2 hours up the road (hot and sweaty it was) the reward was impressive. Batad, THE place to go if you care for rice terraces. Here we, I met Herbert from Austria, had lunch with this nice lady and her grand daughter and relaxed for a while.

Campulo, a village 2 hours further into the mountains is less famous, therefore less beaten and much more original from its people. Our hostel was run by a young woman and her mother. Our night conversation (in the dark as no electricity (no cut off, simple does not exist) ) was moving. For the first time ever I met somebody who actually was part or victim of the so called human trafficking.  The young lady went (had to go) to Taiwan to work in a tech company. “3 years CD’s and 3 years chips.” she said, 6 days a week, officially 8 hours but you only reach the 400€ per month with overtime, meaning 12 hours a day. Not enough, here we go. The agency which sent her, demanded 2.000€ for the service and one flight home, meaning the first 5 month she only worked to pay that fee. But now comes the real interesting part. She actually is not angry at these 6 years of her life. She says: “that money financed 2 sisters and 2 brothers to study, it built this house and opened the hostel, my family is grateful.” She of course could not study and runs the hostel now. Hey, to all who complain about their boss or the missing lunch break yesterday, shut up………………………., me especially.

From that conversation I went to bed and watched the Senna movie on my I phone before sleeping. Like I said, I love wondering between extremes. The next morning I delivered on my promise to one of the teachers, taking photos of all 200 students here. “That means more to them than you think.” she said and probably it is the only photo they will ever have from their childhood.

Then, again hot and sweaty, Herbert and I tracked back the 4 hours to the main road having to climb landslides every 200 meters and seeing a jeepney stuck since 2 weeks. This road was only finished 6 months ago, now it will take again 20 years to ease the life of Campulo.

With all the weakness and weather delays I lost a lot of time and decided to skip the middle of the Philippines, flying directly to Tagbilaran in Bohol and on to Alona Beach, quiet famous among tourists.  Here I made my first 2 dives ever and enjoyed a relaxed beach life. Masha, a crazy American, advised me not to take my camera on the boat, so I have no pics of that and you have to believe me, I got into a school of barracuda and jack fish which, supposedly, is special. With Masha I also went to this local party and then we decided to go on a 2 days motorcycle trip together.

Yes, a motorbike, with gears and all that. When asking how to ride such a thing, the lady just laughed, did a short explanation and off we went. No licence, no nothing. It felt good, it felt like a world trip, I felt free, I had inner peace, it was a magical time on that bike, especially towards the night, when the sun set and the road took us to villages full of friendly locals, filling our petrol out of coca cola bottles.

Free and with inner peace must feel this fellow as well. He / she works as an entertainer at a little zoo with a python as major attraction.

The road trip had 2 major targets. The first was the famous and endangered Tarsiers, a small kind of an ape. I imagined them bigger but only the eyes matched that thinking. So cute, these little guys.

Early the next morning the second target was reached, the chocolate mountains. 1200 even hills green in summer and brown in winter (chocolate), quiet unique and till today with no official explanation of evolvement. We stopped at a school and as so many times before we were welcomed by heart. A even bigger heart showed the guy repairing one of Masha’s tires. After 30 minutes he charged 2,5€ for material and 0,5€ (in words fifty cent) for labor. That makes 1€ per hour. Who wants to change my tires for that? I pay cash, smile.

On the way back we hit some more great stuff like a market and a cemetery. Masha took the plane to Manila, I took the ferry to Cebu. Despite the hole I got to sleep in I fell in love with this town. What a charm, how much character and what a cute girl with the balloon……..

Also in Cebu it is easy to wonder in extremes. The big market has not much seen of a world full of technical support. It is hard work, every day. But it is also the old, by many the wanted way of life. Around two corners you end up in a mall with a security guard on every door. Modern as can be, a book shop here goes bankrupt if it does not offer coffee and free wife. Extreme.

Sad and happy are also two extreme emotions. I often feel them myself but only in children’s eyes they come from so deep, they change so fast, they are so much telling about a society. In the photos below sad and happy changes in each one as it did when I took them. Sometimes sad and happy is not necessarily the emotion of the one photographed, sometimes it is the emotion of the photographer. The following video for example is so happy, but it made me sad too.

The last 2 photos above combine extremes in one. Children making fun, being excited about me and the young woman mourning over a relative. It was taken in the “Ghetto” of  Cebu. Finally myself, sad having to leave, happy to go to Hongkong, sad not being able to help much here, happy to maybe do something in the future of value to them, sad that such extremes exist, happy that I am on the right side, sad about such egoistic thinking, happy to realise that and being able to appreciate. How about you???

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  • Jane Nash says:

    Looks amazing. Enjoy every second, those memories will keep you going for a lifetime. You’ve just reminded me why I love travelling so much. I really miss it! Back to basics, one of the best times of your life, guaranteed! X

  • arne says:

    Moin Franky,

    interessant, die Philip. stehen dezeit sehr hovjh im Kurs bei mir als nächstes Reiseziel. Hört sich spannend an und ich bin auch gerade zu den Tauchern geworden (war gerade in Jordanien und isreal für 3 Wochen). Viele Grüße und bleib Gesund,

    • frank4444 says:

      Hi Arne,
      schoen von Dir zu hoeren. Hey, die Philippine wuerde ich absolut empfehlen. Billig, super nette Leute, entspannt und du kannst alles haben, fette shopping malls, spielcasinos oder eben einsame Straende, urspruengliches Leben und beste Plaetze zum Tauchen.
      Tschau FRANK

  • Eszter says:

    These nice pictures and lively videos make me fly through these far places (and renews my strong desire to travel again). I enjoy this blog a lot, thank you. You have a new reader. :-)

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