The Great Escape

Rediscovering life in Palawan Philippines

Archive for the tag “philippines”

The Feist’s Great Escape: Facebook

Life is like a book filled with chapters. In these chapters are snippets of every day life. We’ve just launched our Facebook page ‘The Feist’s Great Escape: Coron Palawan’ to share these little snippets. Here, you’ll find travel tips, get an inside perspective of what it’s really like to live on a third world tropical island and maybe get inspired.

Visit our page – https://www.facebook.com/thefeists/

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The Price of Living in Paradise

Busunaga

The island of Busuanga is beautiful.

The island of Busuanga is beautiful. It’s also challenging, primitive and harsh. Living here is so much different from being on holiday. The reality is unless you have deep pockets life is hard. Infrastructure is poor in the Philippines and resources scarce. You are constantly battling the environment – sun, heat, dust, insects, animals.

Water Tank

Our empty water tank.

The heat is beating me down, making me so lethargic I don’t really want to move. Well, we did arrive in summer, hot season and it’s just beginning. It’s been four days without a refill on our water tank. The town’s water reserves are low, very low. We can’t do the laundry and ‘the Chef’ is running out of clothes. We try and conserve the best we can but it doesn’t help that the people next door syphon off our water. The kicker is we also pay for it.

Bat

Bat in our water tank. Eww.

As a last insult our remaining 20 litres of water got contaminated when a bat decided to go for a bath in our drum and couldn’t get out. At first I wanted to wait until ‘The Chef’ got back to deal with it. He was down the street at the neighbour’s doing laundry but I said the hell with it. What was I so afraid of? It took two tries but I managed to scoop out the bat and dump it unceremoniously in the yard. Despite all the hardship our neighbour sent his niece and nephew over and filled 5 water containers for us from an alternative water supply.

34 degrees in the shade

59 degrees in the sun. Insane.

We’ve had seven brown-outs in the last two weeks. Life is getting harsher. A transformer blew up so we were without power for almost three days. A second year of El Nino has brought drought and high temperatures. The first night without air-conditioning or even a fan was brutal but our bodies are slowly began to adapt.

Water

Taking care of our own water.

We take so much for granted in western society. If you’re thirsty just turn in the tap a fill your glass. Here we need to plan our drinking water. We bought five 25? litre jugs that we need to fill in Coron town 15 kilometres away.

Tricycle

Supply run. Beer, pop and water.

When we moved out of Coron town to the village of San Nicolas we also had to hire a tricycle to get our supplies home. I made the mistake of riding in the tricycle instead of on the motorbike on one of our runs and it was a bone jarring, wet experience (the lids on the water containers came loose and I ended up sitting in water). Seven of those fifteen kilometres are on a crappy, dusty dirt road.

Squid

Cooking squid adobo.

Cooking in our simple kitchen is a challenge. We have a basic cooktop (with only one of the two burners working, some kitchen tools we brought with us and our determination. The biggest challenge has been the ants. They are everywhere and they love seafood. On night we bought some squid from the little market down the road and the little buggers went on full attack mode. Our strategy was for ‘the Chef’ to clean them, then for me to take out all the trimmings and clean immediately. We had a nice squid adobo for dinner.

This isn’t Disney World. This is reality. We did sign-up for this ‘adventure.’ By renting a house outside of town we get to experience what normal living is like for the average person. Let’s see if we can hack it.

We Finally Escape Canada

good-bye toronto

My little brother sends us off at Toronto Airport.

Two weeks ago it was -33 degree Celsius. Now it’s +33 degrees Celsius. We’re finally here. Our escape from Canada was long and drawn out. We had things laid out so it should have been smooth sailing but does anything ever go as planned? Just when we thought we could relax and await our departure we got a nasty last minute surprise which I won’t get into. Then in the final hours we frantically scrambled to balance out the weight of our two pieces of luggage. Some items we thought could make our life easier in the Philippines got tossed out. Oh, well. Surprisingly, the twenty-one hour flight on EVA Air was quite good except for the freezer like temperature of the plane’s cabin. I should have clued in when I saw dozens of passengers with thick jackets. At least they gave us blankets.

hello kitty lounge

The ‘Hello Kitty’ lounge at Taipei.

After about 16 hours we landed in Taipei for a stopover. Our departure gate was the Hello Kitty lounge and plane. We were definitely in Asia. From here it was just a short hop to the intensity of Manila. As we expected the plane circled the airport for about 20 minutes. We’ve never had a flight arrive or depart on time in the Philippines. When the wheels hit the runway I was happy. We had finally arrived. The blast of heat and humidity, honking horns, pollution, horrendous traffic and general all-around chaos welcomed us back. I kept thinking to myself with a sliver of disbelief, “We’re actually here.”

tricycles

The hustle and bustle of Calamba.

The first few days in our newly adopted country were brutal. We slept for twenty hours, had bizarre dreams, foggy brains and intense jet lag. It was damn hot but we loved it. Staying with relatives on the mainland helped us ease into life here. We felt so lucky to have honest, helping hands to guide us in the beginning. Things aren’t simple here. There’s no standard way of doing things and not much organization. Even the locals have a hard time. Just figuring out how cell phone worked involved my cousin, uncle, two helpers and us. After four hours, two SIM cards, a pocket Wi-Fi and several attempts at ‘loading’ we were set and ready to go or so we thought. Things didn’t sail quite so smoothly when we got to Coron.

cell phone load

How many people does it take to figure out a cell phone?

This was the first time we were not tourists. We soaked in our environment. There’s just so much you can read but the only way to truly understand the many nuances of Filipino culture is to experience everything for yourself, both the good and the bad (and we’ve had a good amount of both). We are absolutely intoxicated by our new life and it is just beginning.

My Favourite El Nido Videos

There’s all sorts of videos out there about El Nido that range from the humdrum to the self-absorbed but there are a couple of gems that stand out. They manage to capture the spirit and expansive beauty of Palawan. Forget about the humans that grace the landscape, it’s the scenery that steals the show. Humans simply give scale and context.

I still get that ‘wow’ feeling when I think back to the time ‘the Chef’ and I were there. If you visit El Nido and open your heart and mind to the experience you just might end up feeling the same way.

New Year’s in the Philippines

hello 2007

‘crazy fireworks here @ new years’ (photo credit: Jessica C)

December 31, 2011, Calamba City. – ‘Ka-BOOM!’ ‘Hiss’ ‘Pop, Pop, Pop’ – We were in my father’s hometown. It was early in the evening but the fireworks had already started. My Tita stuffed peso bills in our pockets and ‘the Chef’ and I scooted outside. We did not want to miss this. The sky was clear and a breeze blew over my skin and funny enough I got goose bumps even though it was a tropical 27-28 degrees. We walked to the back of the house and climbed the stairs to the empty balcony of the building next door. I was surprised we were the only ones out there.

The Filipino Tradition

The Filipino Tradition (photo credit: Paolo Dala)

The city was spread out in front of us in an almost unobstructed 180 degree view. Puffs of white smoke slowly dissipated in the black sky, the smell of sulfur lingered in our nostrils. – ‘BANG!’ ‘Crackle’ ‘Whiz’ – Fireworks from everywhere big and small exploded against the night sky. We didn’t know what time it was but I kept thinking it was midnight because the fireworks built to what I thought was a crescendo but kept going and going until our senses were satiated by sound and light. I thought to myself, ‘This is freaking awesome!” Satisfied, we finally called it quits and went back into the house.

Balut

My cousin gleefully eating Balut!

The table was set with a New Year’s meal – a big bowl of steaming soup, a dense, circular slab of puto (steamed rice cake), a pyramid of balut (boiled, fertilized duck egg), and a bowl of filled with grapes, longans and oranges – mostly round foods that would bring good fortune for the new year. Everyone wished each other a happy new year and we dug into the food.

As our heads hit the pillow I could still hear the distant ‘pop, pop, pop’ of distant fireworks as I drifted into happy sleep.

If you want to experience what it’s like in Manila just click on the YouTube video above. The next day we left on a plane for Palawan and marvelled at the haze and sulfur smell that still hung over Manila in the morning aftermath of the big celebration.

The Land Where I Was Born 020

Photos and thoughts about the Philippines.

Our environment, our experiences, and the people we choose to surround us shapes us into who we are. In this series I search the web for images about the Philippines, the country I was born in and which I am now rediscovering.

Halo halo especial

Halo halo especial (photo credit Jeff Younstrom)

Summer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and the best way to beat this unbearable heat is with every Filipino’s undisputed favorite shaved ice dessert: the halo-halo! A medley of sweetened jewels, a gracious layer of icy granules, a heaping scoop of ube ice cream, all drowned in creamy milky goodness-it’s a sweet tooth’s dream. ~ Top 10 Halo-halo in Manila (2014 Edition), spot.PH, April 24, 2014

Power Breakfast Pinoy Style

Power Breakfast Pinoy Style (photo credit weye)

Magandang umaga! ~ 21 Delicious Filipino Breakfasts That Are Actually Hangover Cures, Buzzfeed, August 21, 2015

LECHON ON THE TABLE

Lechon on the table (photo credit whologwhy)

In restaurant circles, the dreaded F-word—fusion—is usually reserved to describe some sort of disparate multi-culti combination, like sauce soubise on top of tamales. But in the case of Filipino food, there’s no stronger term to capture the essence of Asia’s most unique, idiosyncratic, and underrated culinary tradition. ~ Coconut, Vinegar, and a Whole Lotta Pork: An Introduction to Filipino Cuisine, Serious Eats, June 14, 2014

(Extra)ordinary People of Coron

caplo

When we first arrived in Coron ‘Captain Lolong,’ his wife and his son came to visit us at our cottage. I can remember them sheepishly waiting on the path at the edge of the property, the ‘Captain’s’ wife clutching a journal to her chest. ‘The Captain’ took the journal opened its pages and pointed. “Andy! Andy!” his wife squealed excitedly. There in black and white were the comments ‘the Chef’ had written after our Tao Expedition ended in 2011. The words brought a flood of warm and happy memories.

During the course of our stay they would take us to look at different properties for sale. We couldn’t believe the kindness and generosity they showed us. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were.

The trip came to an end it was time to say good-bye. Instead of us going to see him ‘the Captain’ insisted he would come to our place in town even though he had no money for a tricycle. At this point ‘the Captain’ was no longer working. “No problem,” he said. He arrived on the back of his neighbour’s motorcycle, walked through the steel front gates and marvelled at the ‘pink house‘ we had rented.

We sat outside on the porch, sipped cokes and talked for a while about our plans, his plans and about life in general. He was 63 and told us he didn’t think he wanted to work for Tao anymore. I felt his weariness. Then in the middle of talking he took from his back pocket a thin and worn wallet. Slowly, he unfolded it and carefully opened one of the compartments taking out a very flat and curved cigarette. He gently rolled it until it became somewhat cylindrical again, put it in his mouth, lit it up and continued to talk without missing a beat.

Not once did he ever complain about his situation. Not once did he ever ask us for anything. I thought that was extraordinary.

To see how others interpret the word ‘(Extra)ordinary’ visit the Weekly Photo Challenge

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