Scarlett’s Letters – (Volume 4)

March 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Roving Reporter

Letter from the Philippines

Immediately on arrival I was greeted by warm people with happy grins. They use the term bahala-na; meaning whatever-will–be-will-be, and its apparent everywhere. First you must consider the adversities this country has faced even over the last year; it began with the terrible typhoon season that claimed so many lives followed by the volcano eruption that wiped out towns and villages. Even with this, you would never know by the general manner of the people, that they had ever known any hardships. All over the country people are just beaming with this bahala-na attitude, and its wearing off on me for sure.

I only had a night in Manila, so I did a little shopping and relaxed in my room reading my guide book, studying a language guide and examining maps. The next morning I woke up a little late and had to rush to the airport, on my way there I hit a major traffic jam and when I finally arrived at the airport entrance I was left with only 12 minutes till my flight took off, and to my astonishment ,they actually  let me board. It was a short and beautiful trip to the island of Palawan. This is where I would be spending all my time in the Philippines. The orphanage I am working at is in Puerto Princessa, the capital of this gorgeous paradise. As soon as I got to the airport, the woman in charge of my program greeted me along with three of the children I would have the pleasure of spending my holiday with, and it seemed as if they were as excited as I was. All of them were showing off for me with dancing and tricks and a million and one questions. I couldn’t wait to get started. My original placement called for an English teacher but I quickly realized that these kids needed no help in that department, which made my job easy and a lot more fun. We spend the days playing games, reading stories and doing arts and crafts. My girls are
incredibly sweet and my boys are like most 6-8 yr old boys, monsters…I have developed a relationship with all of them though and adore each and every one. I already know how difficult it is going to be to leave them. All but two of the children here lost their families this year in the typhoons and each of them has a heart breaking story of how they survived while their families perished. Still they are some of the happiest and most boisterous children I’ve ever encountered.

When away from the orphanage I get to tour the island. My first trip took me via motorbike to Nagtabon Beach. Although the terrifying ride here had me wanting to give up on the search for this elusive stretch of sand, it was well worth it once I got my feet in the ocean.  There is crystal clear water as far as you can see and not a soul to disturb you. Although beautiful, there is no place to stay here so it is for day trippers only.

I headed back to Puerto Princessa and made arrangements to continue north the next day. With my bag on my back I thumbed down a jeepney and made a three hour journey to Port Barton, a low- key tourist haunt with fuchsia sunsets and warm blue water.  I was able to relax here a couple days before returning to work and it did me wonders. My neighbors were great; we had bonfires nightly and cooked whatever the Swedish guys had caught during the day, eating in a group while locals played the flamenco guitar softly in the distance. I’m sure that sounds strange so I will explain.

When I first arrived in the Philippines I was having difficulty placing myself as being in Asia at all. This country was under Spanish rule for almost five hundred years and the influence is everywhere; from city names like El Nido, Padre Burgos..  Etc…to people’s names such as Jose, Juan and Carlos…even in the food, music and language the Spanish is ubiquitous.  It certainly feels more like Central America to me than Asia.

My next trip first took me to Tay Tay where I only spent one evening. Tay Tay is the former capital and I had heard rumors of Dugong sightings, a magnificent animal that spawned the legend of mermaids centuries ago, however, just as if I had been chasing the mermaid itself, the creature eluded me. To pass my time I checked out the town relics: Santa Isabel Fort and Santa Monica Church, both are enclosed with large bricks cut from the corals and I’m fairly certain they both date back to the mid 1600’s. Although very pretty, the town itself was not all that impressive so I geared up for the next day.

My Final stop was El Nido, gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago.  El Nido itself is such a quaint town, sitting at the entrance to what might be the most beautiful place in the world. I immediately booked some island hopping trips and set off into the splendor of the archipelago. It truly is as if Mother Nature just went into frenzy here and gave this area everything she had to offer. Similar to Halong Bay, limestone formations jet out of the water, only here, instead of the cold and milky green waters of Halong, these limestone islands are surrounded by warm, crystal clear, blue waters.

Jumping off the boat into this wonderland is such an experience and one I will always treasure.  I snorkeled through Small and Big lagoon on Miniloc Island, had lunch on a secret beach, swam with harmless jellyfish in the bay, climbed Homer Simpson Island and pitched a tent for the evening on Seven Commandos Beach. On the beach that evening, after building a massive fire, I watched more falling stars than I’ve ever seen anywhere on this amazing planet and followed it up with swimming through one of the highest concentrations of bioluminescence I’ve ever witnessed. All around me the world was sparkling and I know I’ll hold onto this place forever.

I headed back to Puerto Princessa and said my teary eyed goodbyes to the children and headed for the local airport, it has been a remarkable experience on this fabulous island and it will always be special to me.

Though it is very hard to leave here I’m on my way to Bali!!! So…things aren’t all that bad.

Soon, I’ll be home on Tybee …


Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • KDI Media

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.