Another day, another Filipino Island. This time we are on Bohol, a sleepy island close enough to the hustle and bustle of the Philippines second largest city, Cebu and far enough that you can still get lost in Island time. We came to visit the exquisite beaches, coral reefs and to do a tour of the Islands interior, including the famous Chocolate Hills. We were not disappointed, once again getting sucked up into a Filipino time warp.
The Chocolate Hills
To explore the Interior, we stayed at a place called "Nuts Huts" in Loboc. They certainly were the Nuts, allowing us a few relaxing days in the Jungle, including some rather late night swimming in the Loboc river while watching the fireflies. Our trip to the Chocolate Hills confirmed them as an impressive sight, with hundreds of conical mounds stretching for miles and poking up through the forest. I had been told they were formed as the limestone plateau on Bohol rose up and out of the sea a few million years ago. I found it impossible to imagine how, it was such a sight it could have been Aliens responsible...or man. Such is the beauty of nature at its finest.
In all we spent a week on the Bohol and on the last day I decided to go Caving. Lonely Planet talks of Antequera as being a caving mecca without saying much else. So I decided to go have a look, chancing my luck on finding someone to show me around. I rolled into town on my 125cc hired Honda to quite a few staring faces. It was quite apparent that they don't see many foreigners in this town! I started to ask about and was quickly pointed to the Barangay Hall, which is the Town hall to the likes of you and me. I wondered in and asked if there was someone who had information on the Caves located in the Barangay and if someone could show me around... I was very quickly shown up to the Mayors office to meet the Honourable Cecilia B. Rebosura. Wow I thought, maybe a little excessive to go right to the top ? But I relaxed when some chap asked me if I was single, gave me a nudge and then told me that the mayoress was single too. Ok, this is small town Philippines.
The Mayoress was very helpful. She'd get my vote any-day. Within half an hour she had printed me a map, described some of the caves in the area; "Camantong" a cave good for "Python snake watching", "Esteban Cave" which I was told was full of Bats and "Mandahunog Cave" which is a Cave and Spring combined. But the crowning moment came when she offered to organise some chaps to show me around. She organised a police escort.
Police Escort for the day, at this point without my glasses!
So I spent the rest of the day driving from Cave to Cave in the countryside with a police escort. Wow did heads turn as the police drove past followed by a white chap on a Motorbike. I am sure they don't see the police often, nor is it your everyday occurrence to see a Foreigner in tow. What a great way to spend an afternoon of investigative Caving. "Mandahunog Cave" is noteworthy as a blue, gleaming resurgence pumping out from the side of the hill. This place must have a serious drainage area and cave system associated with it, which would be easy to explore with a little Cave Diving. Maybe a project to come back to one day. "Camantong" Cave contained a active stream way and a hot, steamy fossil passage upstream. As a result I took my glasses off as they steamed up pretty quickly. Twenty minutes later I realised they were gone ... lost somewhere in the depths of the Cave.
So there I was in Antequerra. On a motorbike, without a licence, without a helmet, without functional gauges (fuel, speed for example) and with no glasses. But no worries, I had a police escort! Thankfully I made it home safe, but now I needed to visit Cebu City to replace them...Doh !
So off I trundled to Cebu City, the Philippines second largest to get a new pair of glasses. That was easily enough done when we found a copycat but rip-off version of Vision Express. I had a new set within the hour, which allowed Sarah and I to visit the Cinema for the first time in eight months. But whatever you do, give the film 2012 a miss. Its horrendously crappy, but I did rather enjoy the Filipinos cheering and clapping as the film progressed ... something I've never experienced before.
With our early arrival, it give us the next day to explore Cebu City. Sarah opted for the shopping mall experience, which I have to say appeared to be no different to any other decent and large shopping mall elsewhere in the world. I opted for a trip to Carbon Market. No, thats not some massive Carbon credit exchange, its the local produce market in Cebu city. I have become rather fond of Markets during my trip and this one was a cracker. The highlight had to be the sausages being made by hand. I saw teams of guys injecting intestine with Sasuage mix, then another lot tying it with cord into 'Sasuages'. Something which is easily automated in the west is still made by hand here, but having tasted many Filiopeno Longanesa (Sausages), boy are they good.
Making Longanesa (Sausages) by hand
It was in Carbon that I also had a firm reminder of why the Philippines is still firmly a third world country, coming across a slum in the middle of the market. But it was a quite different to any slum that I have visited. You can buy purified water from home made dispensing machines for a peso (1/2 cent). People are well dressed and clean. It had an internet cafe, which blew me over ... basically some guy selling net time on his computer from his front room, in a narrow alleyway complete with raw sewage and rats. The Children we exciting and optimistic and the Pancake I sampled was coloured purple, to "brighten" up the day. Even in poverty, the Philippines is completely different to anywhere else I have been ... its quite clear that the average slum dwelling Filipino has different priorities on what to spend the little money they have on, compared to their Indian or South American counterparts. Oh and the men still keep Cocks, with the hope of making it big at next sundays Cockfight.
Slum Kids in Carbon Market...
As I left the slum I was commandeered into another Tandauy moment. This time with Fernando, who should have been working but preferred to Skive off with some random foreigner. I was a bad influence obliging, but I'd like to thank Fernando for another excellent TANDUAY moment:
Fernando (left) and friends sharing a Tanduay moment!
Finally: An update on my lost Camera Saga. It was lost but now is found, thanks to Venus with whom I went Caving on Panay. I left it in her Car (Doh!) and thankfully she found it and was able to send it on to Cebu City for me to pick up. So as an ode to Venus, belatedly, I'm posting some of the pictures of the cool looking Spiders in Guizo Cave.
We are off to Malapasqua Island, an Island off northern Cebu to dive with Thresher Sharks. To have any hope of seeing the Sharks, apparently a 5am start is needed every day. GULP.