Monday, 7 February, 2011
Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines
Are you between the ages of sixty and ninety years old? Are you overweight, balding and lonely? Do you need something new to spice up your life? Get yourself to the Philippines and marry a young, attractive Filipina girl, it appears everyone else in your predicament has.
I don’t know Philippine society particularly well, so maybe my cynicism is a little bit misguided. In England, the clichéd desired look is tall, dark, and handsome. Perhaps here it is false teeth and walking frames, I’m not up to date with the country’s glamour magazines.
The couples I’m witnessing every which way I turn could be very much in love – although, I did see a creepy old man slap his girlfriend’s arse three times before they sat down for dinner. That table was also close to ours, so their conversation was very audible, and it was mostly about the different necklaces she wanted him to buy for her.
I really want to believe that innocent grampa Jerry from Tasmania is a pull-out poster that takes the priority spot on every Filipina girl’s bedroom wall. Sadly, there are just so many signs that hint to love not being the key driving force behind these relationships.
Anyway, moving on. We started things off in Manila, a city that seems to absolutely love guns. No matter where you go, should it be a tourist attraction or a local supermarket, you’re guaranteed to see someone standing at the entrance with a rifle.
I don’t know much about guns in all honest, but I know enough to confirm that the ones in Manila are rather large and intimidating. Nobody would be leaving the convenience store with milk hidden up their jumper in this country, not unless they were willing to risk getting a bullet fired into their head.
On the subject of criminals, Harriet was telling me about a kid in her year who got kicked out of the BP for stealing a Twix – clearly our parents made sure they sent us to the finest of schools. Imagine Harriet’s peckish little friend trying his five-finger discount manoeuvre in Manila – we would all be looking at a gravestone now that reads, ‘The thug that took a bullet for a Twix’.
While I’m making jokes about the guns, they’re very frigging excessive and presumably do far more damage than good. Unfortunately, brutality sadly seems to be a bit of a theme here – with animals seemingly receiving the worst of the treatment.
Dogs on the streets are very fearful of humans – so much as to cower every time we, and presumably any other person, passes them on the pavement. Which, of course, suggests that they have probably been shown a less than glamorous side of our species on previous occasions. If you pick on defenseless dogs, you’re an arsehole.
Ruby is doing her bit for the deprived animals of the Philippines though, well, this one starving cat that now won’t leave us alone anyway. Every dinner time she donates half of her meal to it, which is pretty great for the cat.
Although, some would say that it is starting to get a bit too selective for a cat in a rough spot. Yesterday evening, Ruby threw it some potatoes, and after a little sniff, Felix decided that this was not a worthy section of the meal. It then pushed the offering to one side, before looking up to the meat on the plate and proceeding to body stroke her leg.
The trick worked though and Ruby was suddenly a slab of pork down. We really should pack a box of cat food next time we travel, so that she doesn’t have to go hungry every evening.
With the darker side of the country out of the way, now would be good time to get on to how bloody beautiful the Philippines is.
We found Manila didn’t have much to offer, but Palawan, on the other hand, was a true paradise. Every afternoon we, and many others, would drift on over to the beach, simply to just enjoy the phenomenal sunset that reflects off the ocean and creates a lovely pallet of colours across the water.
The island has a pretty frigging cool underground river too, called the Subterranean – which excels in size, as the longest accessible underground river in the world at 8.2km. After strapping up our mandatory safety helmets, that gave the impression we were about to put a shift in down the mines, we were ready to go inside.
A variety of interesting rock formation had formed in the cave. However, as interesting as they were to see, they were not the trip’s highlight, at least, as far as I was concerned anyway. My sister had somehow been given the responsibility of making sure everybody got to see these pretty rocks, and she did not handle that pressure well.
Harriet was sitting at the head of the boat, which was purely coincidental. However, it did mean that she had been lumbered with the task of shining the torch on the rocks at the guide’s request. The stress of the spotlight even led to her confusing left and right. I really thought that we were going to need to write a capital l and capital r on her hands at one point.
To be fair, it was perhaps made a little more difficult by the guide, who was giving her instructions based on what the rocks slightly resembled. I guess we may all struggle a little bit with, “Ok, so now flash the torch on the ‘corn on the cob’ to your right.”
We also went snorkeling while we were in Puerto Princesa, and the fish in the ocean were the most colourful and glamorous looking fish that I had ever seen. They looked as though they were about to do a catwalk, or I guess a fishswim. One particular fish was black and white checkered, I didn’t even know such a type existed. If it ever loses its modelling job, it would have no problem finding a gig as an underground chessboard – I imagine there is a shortage.
The snorkelling trip also featured another occurrence that made my sister look like a bit of a plonker – she was having quite the week.
Unbeknown to Harriet, the rest of us decided to take a break and were watching her snorkel from the beach. She then made a move that had all of our jaws dropping collectively. For reasons difficult to fathom, she swam under the body of a big, fully tattooed, German guy in speedo swimming pants before proceeded to shove her hand in his face.
It’s probably fair to say that nobody anticipated that. She went bright red and apologised immediately afterwards, later explaining that she though the man was our father. Either way, she has already unintentionally provided most of the laughs this holiday!