Sunday, April 30, 2006

"...Not in Kansas Anymore..."

If you've been able to read through my previous post (about the Foreign Country Game), you've been given the opportunity to share in the unique ability to observe and appreciate differences in culture and lifestyle (some simple and humourous, others major and frustrating) without offending or appearing condescending to people or societies which are simply different than you.

Kendra and I believe that gaining this type of knowledge and insight is critical in developing a healthy and well-rounded perspective of Life here on Planet Earth and your individual position on it at this time. I hope it was clear that the intention in describing these situations was merely to highlight how a lifestyle situation equivalent to that of our Philadelphia, U.S. setting can vary greatly just by a difference in culture, customs, class structure and environment. For the amazing opportunity to experience these things and more first hand (together!), before either of us turn 30 years old, we both are extremely grateful.

With that said, let me tell you a little more about what would and would not have happened, had recent events taken place in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, we would not have traveled 6 hours one way (with 12 people and their luggage crammed into a minivan with no AC) in 90 degree heat to spend one night in unsanitary conditions at a destination self-described as a "resort".

To be truthful, we probably should not have gone. And having decided to go, we should have been a bit more mentally prepared just from this brief statement overheard the day before we left: "No, they won't have any toilet paper-- this isn't a 5-Star hotel."

It certainly wasn't a 5-Star hotel. Not even a 1-star hotel. In fact, if this place was located anywhere in the U.S. (except in the most seediest of red-light districts in L.A. or N.Y.C.) it would be shut down by Health and Sanitation agencies long before anyone could spend enough time in it to deem it worthy of any stars at all.

That may be a bit harsh. Let's examine the factors that may attract visitors to this location. Beaches- Not of soft, white sand but rather of dark, rough gravelly particles. Add garbage. Lots of garbage.
Ocean water- Not terrible in color, but guess where the garbage on the beach comes from?

You may be ready to say that we just need to lower our standards a bit and deal with a situation different than what our "superior" tastes might be. I'd be willing to accept that if my heath didn't come into question. How so? Example: Food Prep. If there's no soap in any of the bathrooms, what is to convince me that it's being used in the kitchen?

The lack of soap and toilet paper in bathrooms is something that we've come up against before and dealt with, but your limit really get pushed when you've got no toilet seat. Or a sink. Or towels. Or any separation between the shower floor and toilet bowl. The plastic bucket filled with water sitting in the corner raises more concern and questions than offers answers and solutions. At least there was running water, but it wasn't potable. (I'm not sure what they were making the ice from....)

And you know when you're at the shore, and after exiting the beach to return to your room, you typically can find a small water faucet for rinsing off feet and sandals to avoid tracking sand all around? None to be found here, so your bathroom floor gets covered in a muddy layer of black sand and water. Walking around in this means that despite your best efforts, it gets spread to all other surfaces, including your bed.

Bed? (We had 2 in our room. They didn't match, but the 2 unrelated girls that we were sharing the room with were both glad when we offered them the larger one). Your flexiblity will be tested due to the extreme twisiting and bending neccesary to position your body around the various metal bars and rods pushing up through the mattress. Mattress? Only in the most liberal and generous definition of the term.

They did eventually come through well with the whole vegetable thing. Like most customer service situations here, anticipatory planning and action is non-existant, but once emotion (read: anger and frustration) is expressed, things tend to be taken care of to a minimal satisfaction. Kendra's co-worker Abby (who had thought ahead and brought her own vegetables) made a fabulous spur-of-the-moment vegetable stir-fry after realizing the resort staff had failed to provide anything other than white rice, whole fried fish and pork soup. The tray of 2 dozen fried whole fish was presented complete with a random long black strand of hair. Enter a supressed gag reflex.

In spite of all this, the group we were with seemed to have a great time. They played relay games on the beach, went swimming, took a boat out to the islands and sang karaouke and drank (Red Horse beer poured over ice and shots of cranberry Absolute). They all said they had a wonderful relaxing time and wanted to come back again.

And, to be fair, Kendra's co-workers did everything they could do to make sure that we had food to eat (such as the example above of Abby leaving her own lunch to cook our food) and were as comfortable as possible (such as having us sit in the roomiest part of the sardine can van since we had more luggage - full of TP, towels, potable water, and apples). I think Kendra will always be grateful for the people she works with, although sometimes cultural differences cannot be well-communicated or resolved. She does know they try, and this makes things a bit easier!

More power to them all. They loved it. Chalk it up to a difference in culture, I guess, but between trying to avoid the bathroom (for fear of infection and the extreme discomfort of the "hover technique") avoiding the ocean water (again, rampant infection issues) and the ever-present risk of food-borne illnesses (from food NOT prepared by Abby), we were more than ready to leave.

We spent the majority of the time sitting in the outdoor dining area and reading while watching two caged monkeys pick God-knows-what out of a little boy's hair. We eventually left (an hour later than scheduled after Kendra -in a voice that was trying not to be rude- asked 40 minutes after the communicated departure date what time we were actually leaving in "American time") and set off on our 6 hour sardine-can ride back to Manila. (But this time Mimi convinced them to switch us all to a van with working A/C... THANK YOU!)

Perhaps the last straw for me was when our driver decided to overtake a slower vehicle by moving into oncoming traffic for the 10,000th time and nearly had a head on collision with the front end of another car.

The next time I plan to be in a moving vehicle here in the Philippines will be in a taxi heading to the airport. And it couldn't happen soon enough.

Well, let's at least see what tomorrow brings.

Kendra's Note:
I have to say I agree with Tim's note. It is good to be home. I think I'm done with random adventures to other than tested locations.

In an effort to try to see the good in every situation, here are some good things we experienced also:

1. While reading, I saw several ants carrying something the size of a hornet at a very fast pace. Granted, they were carrying it over the threshhold and into our room, but it was cool nonetheless.

2. Abby's asparagus stir fry; the fan she borrowed for me to fan myself and others with when the A/C broke and we almost died; and the people on the project who are very happy and friendly and put up with my thinly veiled frustrations although I'm certain they don't understand at all what is wrong with me half the time.

3. The monkeys eating corn on the cob and loving it and then sampling something the little boy (mentioned by Tim above) gave them and then tossing it on to the ground after making a horrendous face.

4. The team made a bonfire on the beach - farther away from the yucky water. That was really cool. Tim got to rearrange the fire as it was going out and feed it with bamboo wood...that was a first for him.

5. The resort staff was very friendly to us and everyone likes to practice their English on us. There was a little snack stand where they made halo-halo (a dessert with multiple ingredients)-made with hand shaved ice.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Foreign Country Game

Here's a fun game I started a few months ago. It's going to become the new craze among globe-trotting bloggers world-wide.

The Foreign Country Game:

Rules: Travel to any foreign country (The more foreign to you, the better!). Find an area similar to where you are originaly from (i.e urban, rural or suburban). Walk around for about an hour and adjust yourself to the surroundings. Stop in your tracks and close your eyes. Mentally transport yourself back to where you are from and bring back all the memories, sensations, thoughts, sights, sounds, etc. of a similar environment- for me it's walking down Market St. in Center City Philadelphia on a hot August afternoon. Take a few minutes to transport your mind back to that location and get re-adjusted to that scene. Now open your eyes and resume walking as you were.

The Objective: To take note of the first 7 things that tip you off that you are no longer at home and how long it takes you to recognize those 7 things. Here in Manila, I can go for quite some time in certain areas before anything really jumps out at me, and other times it's an instantaneous realization that I am a long way from Philly. Write them down, post them on your blog and share with the rest of the world. It's alot of fun, and works even better if you've got a camera with you to document your findngs.

Here's my List from Manila...in no particular order.

The Foreign Country Game: Philadelphia, U.S.A. vs Makati City, Philippines

Number 1: Vegetation

Philly is pretty green for an East Coast urban area, but you're not going to find palm trees or intricate root structures like these along the streets.

Number 2: Transportation Methods

Taxis inhabit both worlds, but Jeepneys, tricycles and hordes of scooters & motorcycles are unique to Manila alone. Buses are just as common in Philly, but here they come equipped with men holding signs and shouting their various destinations.




Number 3: Sun Avoidance and Maximum Coverage

In Philly, around May or June, once the temperature reaches 80+ and sunny, the clothes start coming off. Shorts, short shorts, tanktops, haltertops, miniskirts etc are all on men and women alike. You can find people lying in the parks all through the day enjoying the rays of the sun, soaking up the sunshine that has been so rare during the dark, cold snowy winter months. Not here. Here, the sun is a force to be feared. All efforts are taken to expose the least amount of skin to the blazing entity that seems to bake all who dare to venture outdoors. The smart ones bring umbrellas. The not-so-prepared use whatever necessary (books, briefcases, newspapers, etc) to shield themselves from instant solar death. Shorts are out of the question. (You show me somebody in Manila wearing shorts and a T-shirt and I'll show you a tourist!!).

[Case in point]

Number 4: Armed Guards at Starbucks and Seven-Eleven.


We've definitely gotten used to the Shotgun Men, so it doesn't stick out so much anymore because it's everywhere, but when we return to Philadelphia, we'll be automatically be opening our bags and expecting a metal detector pat down whenever we enter Target, WholeFoods, or Old City Pizza.


Number 5: The Aggressive 8 Year-Old Street Vendor Kids


The guys selling roses and water on hot days at the intersections in Philadelphia usually won't come near you if you've got your windows rolled up and don't make eye contact, so we don't pay them too much attention. Even the homeless guys in Philly just wander around with their dirty t-shirts, ratty sneakers and over-stuffed shopping carts with a cardboard sign written in black magic marker. It would be a whole different story if groups of them were knocking on your windshield, telling you how they might be able to get something to eat today if you buy a string of flowers from them for 10 pesos ...about 20 cents.


Number 6: The Pace of Life.

If you're a regular reader of our blog, you've certainly heard us mention the slower pace of things here. But we need to stress that it's just not being laid back or not being on-time for scheduled appointments. Take a one-minute video of pedestrian traffic along the streets of Philadelphia or in a shopping area like the Shops at Liberty Place. Slow it down. More. Even more. There. Now crumple the tape up in a big ball, shove the whole mass into the tape deck, light it on fire and play it again. That's life on a typical Manila street!

If you attempt to continue an East Coast manner of walking anywhere in Manila, you will drive yourself insane. This is one aspect that we have not gotten used to and is a daily source of extreme frustration. Getting from Point A to Point B is devoid of all regulation, rules, guidelines or logical patterns of human movement. There's no concept of having cut somebody off because there was no previous concept of anybody having a right of way- no matter which direction they're going. There's no picture I can take that would do this endless cluster of madness any justice, so let me give you a diagram:

Here is a sidewalk in Philadelphia, with 2 corners and a small section jutting out into pedestrian traffic. Both blue and red know their respective sides, and continue to keep an ordered method of movement even when an obstacle occurs.


Here's Manila. Notice that even before the obstacle appears there is no form or method. Red is taking up about 95% of the entire usable space on the right side, causing blue to either crush against the side, stop, or (more frequently), cut a perpendicular path through red's walkway. Just look at the diagram...I can't describe this anymore, or I'll start screaming.

Number 7: Elevated, Submerged and Covered Walkways

Now, if I was back in Minneapolis, these wouldn't stick out quite as much (there, you can traverse the whole city without stepping foot into the 2 feet of snow and minus 20 degree death freeze. Here it's meant for sun and rain. Whether it's scorching sun or typhoon-driven rains, you can walk for about 10 blocks through the businesses district, hotels and shopping areas without being exposed to the elements.

I'll also include the underpasses for this one...normally, a subterranean pedestrian walkway would be avoided at all costs in Philly (who wants to be mugged, raped or come out smelling like urine?), but here they are the only things that allow to traffic to actually move on the major streets through town and they are well kept and lit (and, of course, with their own security guards).



So that's how you play! Stay tuned for:

The Foreign Country Game: Grocery Store Edition ("...out of stock, sir")
The Foreign Country Game: Restaurant Etiquette ("What does it take to get a beer in this place?")
and,
The Foreign Country Game: 7 Things You Won't Find in Your Bathroom

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Our Politcal Positioning

So I (Tim) took a little on-line quiz (40 questions) about political issues and social freedoms...Here's where I stand:













Link: The Politics Test

If you take the quiz, they will show you a table at the end where you are placed among world leaders and other famous people...I came pretty close to Bono (from U2) and dead-smak on the forehead of Hillary Clinton. Not so bad company in terms of overall world view. I wonder if my shift from capitalism towards socialism has anything to do with experiencing the huge contrasts of economic class in a 3rd world country. Let me know what yours is like! I'll put Kendra's up when she gets home!


Here's Kendra's:









Kendra's positioning put her dead on with Pope John Paul II.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gifts from Near and Far


Kendra's Note:

I will open this up by saying that our family on Tim's side has the patience of Job. Of course I love my family. We have many enduring qualities, but patience is not generally one of them. (Long suffering - yes, Patient - no). According to the date stamp on the package, Tim's parents, Gene and Darlene, mailed us (on February 27th) a very thoughtful package of Graber Olives and Olive Oil. We just received it today (April 24th). Now in two months they never once (a) let out the secret that they had sent us a gift, or (b) asked us where the package was. Unbelieveable. I think if either I or my family had sent the package, within 2 weeks of sending it, strong hints would be dropped. Within 1 month of no thank you call, direct questions would be asked and the surprise broken. And actually - I am probably being way too optimistic.

We are always so excited to give gifts that if we can wait one day without providing clues, we are doing well! In fact, the only reason I have given no clues as to the gifts we have gotten people while here is because I'm not really sure who is getting what yet, and I'm not convinced that all of it will make it to its final destination with customs and all. Way to go, Wingerts!

Today Tim also went to the Bazaar again. (Kendra = jealous)

Now I am going to turn this over to Tim so that he is not left alone with those olives for too long... there will be none left. 2 months in transit, 20 minutes in our house!

Tim's Note:

Today we reveiced the only piece of mail we've ever gotten here in Manila. And it was probably the best single piece of mail you could imagine (I guess you'd have to be a Wingert to undertstand!). Ever since I can remember, Graber's olives have been a part of every family gathering from Christmas and New Years to Easter and Labor Day. They've shown up on birthdays, family reunions and college care packages, for both my sister and I.

Perhaps one of the Wingert elders can relate when and how this obscure brand of California olive came to be such a family staple. All this to say that it was great to recieve our first piece of mail. Also, I'm interested in hearing how a Wingert might describe what a Graber olive tastes like...to Filipino's who have never tasted an olive of any kind in their life. Kendra came up against this situation today, when I told her over IM at work what our package was. How do you describe an olive?

[Heaven in a tin can! Thanks Mom and Dad! One is missing, because we're eating it right now.]

The funny thing is, we knew last Thursday that we had a package waiting for us, but what and from whom we hadn't a clue. Of course, in true Filipino fashion, actually getting the thing in our possesion took some time. After several inquiries to the business center, a typed and signed letter of authorization (from me to the messenger company to pick it up at the post office) and a photocopied I.D., we were told we would have by Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon comes and goes, a call to the business center gets the response of "Sir, the messenger service was full...and we have no messenger service on weekends...maybe Monday?". Ok, whatever! Monday morning means a polite reminder call to the business center that we are expecting a package, and by 5pm, we get finally the call. Anybody want to guess on what was said? (If you're Filipino this should come as no surprise....) "Sir Tim? Your package is here already!" YaY!

Anyway, it was nice to have a little taste of home, even if there were only two of us to enjoy them.

As Kendra said, today I met up with Elisha and Mike and went to the American Women's Bazaar at the Manila World Trade Center. Mike stayed for an hour before he had to go to work (actually, I think he may have been scared off by the intensity of our bargain-hunting.) Kendra and I have out-of-town events planned during several of the next scheduled bazaars so I was taking full advantage of being there.

Note to self (and others who shop in foreign countries): Your ability to bargain down a price is greatly increased when you have evidence that you are indeed a shopper. I got absolutely nowhere with my bargaining skills until I actually bought something and had a bag in my hand. From then on, it went just fine.

Got some excellent unique gifts! You will all be so surprised!!

Today was also round 3 in Early Morning Tae Kwon Do Land...I did alright. 6am intensive workout still isn't my thing.

Random Manila Shot of The Day...

[Here's a typical vehicle for transporting everuthing from watermelons to chickens on the streets of Manila]

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Since Palawan


Because it took us so long to post the multiple Palawan posts, we were not able to provide some recent updates on what we have been up to. (And we're still waiting to get the cave pics back...stay tuned!)

This past Thursday, 4/20/2006, we had dinner with some other Accenture resources that are in the Philippines right now. Mike and Elisha have been here for almost a year. Ryan just recently arrived back in the country. We went to a place called Houssein's Persian Kabob off of Makati Ave. It was nice to meet some other expats and talk about our experiences here.

Today we went to the orphanage again to play with the girls. We brought with us my co-worker, Keysi, and hired a car and driver from Accenture, Ike, to take us there. This was the first time either of us have been there without Elizabeth, who had more of the connection. Of course the first things we were asked were "Where is Ate Elizabeth?", "Where is Kuya Justin?", and then from a girl with a shy, I-have-a-crush-on-him smile - "Where is Kuya Patrick?"

[Small children piling in to a bookshelf]
I felt kind of low-energy and not very entertaining to the girls. And also, as usual, I got very overheated and sweaty in the bright sun and humidity. Keysi and Tim were rock stars of course. It really helped to have Keysi who speaks Tagalog. Most of the girls speak English pretty well, but we still have some trouble communicating. I was very touched by the fact that our driver came in to play with the girls too. He did so well with them!

[Ike, our driver, talking to Michelle]
It was interesting that the girls seemed surprised to have other filipinos come to visit them. They asked both Keysi and Ike "Are you a Filipina/o?" They loved to interact with them and play with them.

[Here's Keysi and a girl who, on our first meeting, we thought resembles her alot. Notice the well-executed stiff arm technique of removing another girl from the picture]
We brought along bubbles with big wands and some backup homemade solution to play with and we also brought along some things for their hair. They loved the bubbles for awhile and fought over the hair stuff so I don't think we will bring more of that, because they did not share very well.

[The girls loved the hair clips!]
[And the bubbles!]

After it got too hot outside we went into the roof play area and played more games, including one of the favorites of the younger girls - the-load-onto-the-sliding-board-behind-Tim-and-all-fall-down-when-Tim-stands-up game.

Here's some clips of the girls:

We've got little Michelle showing off her hula-hoop talents (she's the one who speaks the least English, but is very expressive with her face.)
Then we've got the Slide-Of-Death game.
And some extreme swinging fun!

IMPORTANT NOTE: For those of you who will undoubtedly bring up the glaringly obvious safety issues after viewing those last 2 clips, I should make it clear that it is nearly impossible for these girls to hurt themselves or each other. They are tougher than any U.S. born kid, and have learned to deal with a whole lot more in their lives than some minor rough-housing play (which they do-Alot!.) Also keep in mind that another favorite game is using discarded burlap sacks as a make-shift tobaggan to slide down a large dirt hill full of rocks, bricks and broken shards of glass - wearing plastic flip-flops (if anything at all) on their feet. (See Picture below). Tough Kids


We would love some suggestions on games and entertainment we could have for next time that would be interesting to such a large age range (around 4-15). We only managed to keep them occupied for about 1.5 hours before all the older ones got bored.



Other than that we were pretty lazy today. We are currently waiting for our pizza to arrive! This will be our 4th attempt at finding a pizza with some sort of recognizable taste and quality here in Manila. We'll let you know how it is and how it rates against our previous attempts (and failures!).

[Ending Note by Tim]:
In other News, the president of the Philippines had a vision over the Easter Holy Week and is now commuting all the execution sentances of all Filipinos on Death Row. Here's an article about the situation. Qoute: “for a punishment to attain its end, the evil which it inflicts has only to exceed the advantage derivable from the crime; in this excess of evil one should include the certainly of punishment and the loss of the good which the crime might have produced. All beyond this is superfluous and for that reason tyrannical”. "

And also, as a long-time Today Show/NBC Nightly News fan (and former employee), I just have to say that Meredith Vieira (from "The View"-gag!) will be enough to drive me far, far away. Campbell Brown and Natalie Morales both have more talent and intelligence in their little fingers. Ann Curie, though, ehhhh not so much.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

CLUB NOAH, PALAWAN – SUMMARY

“Home” Sweet Home!

Tim and I have returned to Makati from one of our biggest adventures here yet! We went to Club Noah in Palawan, a very secluded island location about a 2 hour plane ride south of Manila and literally an entire world away.


In the end, the vacation was far from relaxing, but we experienced and saw a ton and consider ourselves very fortunate to have been able to see such rare and beautiful things.

We had what I will affectionately call an “Erin Swaney” vacation, named after one of our friends who organized our second trip to the Dominican Republic. We had gone to Punta Cana when I was nearly dead and nowhere near human from working way too many hours. I pretty much did nothing but wake up, eat breakfast, read at the water, fall asleep again, eat lunch, repeat cycle, and occasionally participate in a group activity organized by Erin.

I teased her during that trip for being so incredibly active and getting up at 5am for activities, etc. But… this is pretty much exactly what we did on this trip. Although I was hoping for at least one afternoon of napping and reading on the beach, I don’t regret all of our activities. We are both very dark and feel a little sick from the sun and insect bites and sore from all the activities, but this was really an opportunity to see and experience things we might not have the opportunity to experience in the future.



The resort was staffed by a large group of very efficient, hard working, and genuinely friendly staff and military personnel (all with very large automatic weapons, but more about that in our detailed accounts). Each staff member (except the soldiers) appeared to have no fewer than about 5 jobs each – a little like working at a summer camp. They were all very eager to please.


We did had several frustrating experiences with communication with the staff and lack of details on activities, but those situations were what I would consider the clash between typical American vs. typical Filipino (not to generalize too much) ways of dealing with conflict, mix ups, or special circumstances. We also will recount some humorous/annoying situations of our interactions with the other cultures and other guests at the resort. I have no idea how Tim is going to choose which pictures he will post from our vacation out of the total raw footage of 898 pictures and 14 videos he has (1.39 gigabytes of memory on 5 memory cards).

[Protesting note from Tim: I am still getting used to my new Canon 350D. Many of those photos are duplicates needed for multiple exposures and other trial/error adjustments!!!.]


He brought two cameras including his new one to the vacation and often walked around with both of them (including to some places I was pretty incensed about him bringing the big camera to, because it was very expensive and I didn’t want it broken – but I guess you get better pictures as a result)! In addition to the ones available for posting now, we have two underwater cameras full of footage from our snorkeling excursions. I am not sure when those will be available, but we will post the highlights when they are.



Because of the length of the trip and our detailed narrative style (we brought along a notebook journal to write down descriptions of events as they happened and fresh in our minds) we are breaking up the entries into several blog posts and having links to all of them on each page. (If you don't follow the links, you'll have to read the posts in reverse chronological order).

Enjoy!!

[Gotta love that Canon!]


Links:
[1] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Airport and Flight)
[2] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Journey to the Resort)
[3] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Activities)
[4] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 2 (Easter Sunday)
[5] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Bottom Fishing and Trekking)
[6] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour)
[7] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 4 (Departure and Return Trip)

CLUB NOAH, PALAWAN – DAY 4 (Departure and Return Trip)


We had a morning call at 5:00am to finish getting our things together. We had done most of the packing the night before. We headed to the terrace for a 5:30am breakfast, paid our bill, turned in our questionnaire, and headed for the main pier for a final time for our 6:30am departure for the small boat, large boat, jeepney ride, and flight. Various staff members were there to send us off. We were leaving at the same time as several other couples. We waited so long I needed my coffee, so I asked for some coffee and took it with me on the small boat and the large boat. That was probably kind of humorous to the staff, but I didn’t spill any!

We waved to the staff and thanked everyone for their efforts and all the hard work. Despite some of our frustrating moments, the staff definitely worked super hard and tried their best, and we realized that. And apart from all the people-aspects, this was still one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

[Last view of some out-of-this-world water- transfering to the big river boat.]

[Tim’s Final Note: We rested in the early morning sunlight as we rode on the roof of the boat, enjoying the refreshing breeze as it gently rocked us back and forth on the waves across the ocean and into the mouth of the river. As we entered the river, the banks closed in on us, thick with vegetation and the incessant buzzing of thousands of insects in the trees.

[Vegetation along the shores of the river]

[It's a long trip... sometimes you just gotta take a nap]
[Some of the daily activity from the local residents of the river bank]
[Our driver and navigators]
[Jungle, Jungle][The small boat docking at the bamboo walkway][This is the small village where we transfered to the Jeepney]

We transferred to a smaller boat, crossed the rickity bamboo bridge over the swamp and into the Jeepney for the final leg back to the airport. At the airport, we bought a few small souvenirs from the women there as we waited. During that time, a plane full of arriving guests landed on the dirt runway and we feed the stray dogs there some bread. We watched as our plane was refueled by hand-cranked pump from 2 large and rusting steel drums. We said goodbye to the Club Noah staff and boarded the plane for the hour and 20 minute flight back to Manila. The last 15 minutes had some pretty good turbulence, so we were glad to be on the ground.

[Hand-operated refuel system]


[Check-in ticket counter, customer service, baggage claim and First-aid station all in one]

Picked up our baggage, called for our car and made our way back to Makati, not quite home, but home for now. A grand adventure to say the least!!.


Links:

[Palawan, Club Noah Summary]
[1] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Airport and Flight)
[2] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Journey to the Resort)
[3] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Activities)
[4] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 2 (Easter Sunday)
[5] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Bottom Fishing and Trekking)
[6] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour)
[7] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 4 (Departure and Return Trip)

CLUB NOAH, PALAWAN – DAY 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour)

[Always remember to shoot full color in-camera and convert to b&w in post-process..don't let the camera create b&w jpegs...this was a crappy color shot originally, but worked well in grayscale.]
Picnic Lunch
We had to leave pretty much as soon as we got back from our Eco-Tour and cleaned up (to say we were hot and sweaty would have been a great understatement) to meet at the main pier for transportation to our picnic lunch. We had heard a lot about how you could have a picnic lunch on a secluded place of the island which was really nice and romantic. Much to our disappointment, we learned upon arriving that actually to take the private picnic you had to pay $100 US extra. The one provided anyone could sign up for, and we shared ours with – you guessed it – the newly arrived annoying group of loud-talkers.

We were all packed into a small boat after the requisite amount of waiting and brought over to the island where the staff had been hard at work setting up tables and chairs and a BBQ right at the waters edge. Rose had brought along 2 plates of food for me, which was very good – potatoes and squash and some stuffed pepper things. I shared it with Tim and he also got some food from the buffet as well. Tim had a banana leaf plate full of bread, rice, fish, squid, chicken, and mangos. For dessert there was bread pudding and raisin cookies.

[Lunch on the Beach]
[What's on the menu? Squid, fish, chicken, etc]

Tim and I must have been as annoying to the larger group as they were to us, because they sat as far away from us as they could. The Italian/American/Japanese family came and sat near us under a canopy. After this we swam for awhile on that part of the beach and Tim looked for cool shells for his mom. After this, we had to high-tail it back to the main pier to start our cave tour.



We walked along the beach and wooden walkway rather than waiting for the boat to take us back to cut down on the annoyance factor of more waiting and other guests. I really was excited for the cave tour, since I had heard great things about it.

Cave Snorkeling
When we got to the pier, we saw on the white board that there were 39 people signed up to tour the cave – among them the group of loud people and some additional even more loud people. Perfect. Predictably, over half of this group was very late and we all had to wait. People could tell we were sick of waiting and they kept coming to tell us it would be a little while longer.

To put it in perspective, remember we are on a unique and expensive vacation. If I am going to spend an hour sitting around, I want it to be on a beach with a book and a drink – not on a crowded and noisy pier with annoying people. Eddie arrived at the pier and gave us some bread to feed the fish while we were waiting. That was pretty fun. It was cool to see the fish all swarm the pieces of bread and eat them. Some of the fish here literally look like rainbows or parrots with all the colors.

Finally it was time to leave. As Tim recounts – “Us and a bunch of annoying people set out on a larger boat across to the islands containing the cave and the lagoon.” This was about a 25 minute boat ride and almost everybody had brought their snorkeling gear. I was asking the staff a few questions about the cave while we were on the boat and it became very obvious that this was not going to be a picnic. There were way too many people to fit into the cave and the lagoon-much less room to snorkel freely. I didn’t say much, but I think it became obvious to the staff too that this was not practical. What they decided to do is bring people over in small boat trips rather the typical method of piling everyone in. This made it a little better, but still not overly practical. The boat came up to the island containing the lagoon. There was a small beach with some small boats, a little shack, and several pigs and dogs running back and forth on the beach. One of the dogs was barking and chasing the boat as it was floating by just like a family dog in the U.S. chases cars.

Tim and I got into the last boat which took us over to the entrance of the cave and dropped us off in shallow water. The bottom was very slippery, but the surrounding boulders were razor sharp, so we were very careful not to fall. Picture at this point that Tim and I are in our swim suits with a towel around us, carrying all our snorkeling gear which takes all of one hand and most of another for support. We ducked under a little tunnel under the rocks and saw a bamboo ladder leaning up against another rock, leading to a bamboo bridge stretched across two boulders. All of this was very wet. With our arm loads and the low overhangs, we were pretty nervous. However, we went slowly and made it over the makeshift bridge. Then we realized we had another bamboo ladder leading down into the cave and the lagoon. This one was a little trickier. It was completely wet and there were sharp rocks everywhere and a low overhang. We had to inch down to a small bamboo platform at the bottom of the ladder on our butts and find a space in the nearby rocks to stash our things and put on our snorkeling gear.

[Tim's Note: This is the kind of "instant-death" rock we were dealing with. All around, under, over, on our sides- this kind of rock was everywhere. Closer to the water's edge the rocks were even sharper, with half uncovered fossilized shell things. I'm amazed with the amount of tourists (including small children) that go to this cave that there aren't more instances of people slipping, reaching out a hand to catch themselves and getting severly sliced open. Given that the majority of the visitors here are Asian, the passages were so narrow, that we were glad that we were wearing our life jackets, given that the shoulders and sides were unavoidably scraping against the adjacent rock walls.]


Once we entered the cave, it was really cool but downright frightening. I was almost sorry that we brought our snorkeling gear – and just not because there was no room for it in the lagoon and people kept running into each other-being able to see under the surface of the water was very eerie. The rock formations were spooky- there were big, smooth cylinder structures that reached deep down into the water and caverns 15 feet below us that reached off into the inky dark water. I dropped my flippers as I was putting them on in the water and the security- turned-scuba diver dove down I don’t know how far to retrieve them.

We were pretty fascinated by all the formations and scenery and I hope our pictures from our water-proof disposable camera turn out well from that, but it was very scary. It was almost like an underwater city with rocks, pillars, and caverns opening off to the side. There were no fish at all to be seen There was a section of the lagoon that was pitch black. We went to that part following closely behind our security guard friend because we were both too scared to go ourselves. Certain parts of the cave and lagoon were lit by sunlight streaming in from holes in the roof far above which made the whole appearance even more interesting.

We exited the cave extremely carefully and headed back to the outside and then waited for the small boat to come pick us up and transfer to the larger one. About an hour later we were back in the cabana and were completely worn out with all the activities of the day. We decided to read books and nap until dinner and skip the sunset viewing for that day. As it turned out, we didn't have to leave the cabin because there was a gorgeous cloud formation on the horizon just outside our balcony.







Dinner on the Terrace
We woke up in time to clean up and dress for dinner which was on the terrace overlooking the water. The place was decorated very nicely as usual. We had vegetable stir fry and other fruits with wine. People came to talk to us periodically throughout dinner to ask us about out day. At the end of our meal, a man – I think Chinese – who was not among the annoying people but was among the large camera people – came to give us a piece of his wife’s birthday cake, which was a very nice gesture. I went over to thank him and greet his wife and tell her happy birthday. We headed back to our cabin after dinner. We were happy for our vacation, but not entirely upset it was over. Unless we could have another day just to relax, we figured we would just become more and more frustrated.

[This is our baby shark friend, probably about 2.5-3 feet long]

Links:

[Palwan Summary]

[1] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Airport and Flight)
[2] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Journey to the Resort)
[3] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Activities)
[4] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 2 (Easter Sunday)
[5] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Bottom Fishing and Trekking)
[6] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour) [You Are Here]
[7] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 4 (Departure and Return Trip)