Hitchhiking in Philippines: Tibiao and the Antique Coast

     Tibiao would have been better if Village Crazy Woman would have stopped following me around and bumming me out. It’s never the Village Supermodel or Village Groupie that gloms on to me, it’s the deranged, disheveled, wild-haired woman the town gives a wide space to. Near me she was muttering to herself and when I would walk away she would follow and keep yelling something that had everyone looking at me even more than they usually would to a rare visitor.
     I thought a brisk walk on the lonely beach would discourage her, but she followed and when I looked to see if she was still with me, she had dropped her pants. I didn’t look long enough to see what she was doing, but I turned around and headed back to town to eventually shake her.

tricycle wifi

     Those Filipinos, I like their sense of humor.

     I hitchhiked from Iloilo westward to the coastal province of Antique (An-TEE-kay). (I’m on the island of Panay, but I never hear the word uttered; people identify more with their province: Antique, Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, etc.) It took eight or nine rides, and only one seemed to really understand the concept of hitchhiking, two Peace Corps girls, but the others just thought they would help me with a ride, which, I guess, is the concept of hitchhiking.
     It took some time. There aren’t a whole lot of private cars heading to the sparsely populated west coast, but I didn’t mind and enjoyed the warmer weather, the rice fields, lushness and craggy mountain range running along the north-south axis.
     Economically, it’s a little crazy to hitchhike since the local buses are so cheap and frequent, but I met an interesting variety of people and getting stuck at dusk with this sunset about 30km south of Tibiao wasn’t half bad:
antique sunset
tibiao basketball

     In Tibiao I didn’t play basketball because the court was used for the village championship. I came across it when I heard distant screams. Who knew passions could be so ignited for local basketball? It was like Friday Night Lights except instead of Texas football it was Philippines basketball. The village is so saturated with players that they are divided by a few blocks rather than neighborhoods. Sorry for the sucky photo. I don’t have the bandwidth to download a short video I made.

tibiao tax

     It was tax day and the local government came across the street and put some desks in the middle of the basketball court while kids played all around (notice the lack of shoes) so people could more easily pay their taxes. My new friend Helen said the rate is .1% and students are capped at 10 pesos or something like this.

     In the next town another 30km or so up, Culasi, in the late afternoon I put my shoes on and found the town’s main basketball court. There’s always one. I merely walked toward a guy watching a game and he said, “Do you want to play?” That’s My Philippines! I had a nice run with the boys. There was a police officer, a prison guard, and a teacher among them, I was told. So nice to be welcomed to play like that. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to imagine a Filipino guy being welcomed as warmly on an American court. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong.
tibiao fishing

     The daily ritual of gathering fish from a big net at sundown.

     Village Crazy Woman aside, I enjoyed small town Tibiao, and there were two interesting accommodation options. I got some sleep at Homtel, a place on the University of Antique campus (read: no roosters at dawn) with the added benefit of always being around dozens and dozens of pretty, smiling girls. 300 pesos for my own room. (45 pesos = $1.)
Homtel on University of Antique campus

     I got myself in hot water with one of the staff when I texted before my arrival, “Are there fireflies every night?” I had read that Tibiao was known for them, but “firefly” can also mean an easy girl, and the reply was curt: “I’m sorry we don’t have. Just look for other hotels.”

     The other is called Alowihaw Bed and Breakfast (alowihawbedandbreakfast@gmail.com–—I can’t believe that email name was available!) just down the road from the Tibiao Bakery (an island-wide renowned place that manages to not bake anything fresh and everything tastes like a variation of a hot dog bun; the Philippines is a mystery to me sometimes.) It is a perpetually empty place in a doctor’s groovy old house that doubles as a clinic. I would have paid the 400 pesos if the room didn’t have a heavy musty smell.
     In Culasi I stayed at Anna Sophie Guest House (400 pesos). I tried to arrange getting out to nearby Malalison Island (also called Mararison) but after hanging out by the pier for a spell, I couldn’t manage a ride other than chartering a whole boat, which I didn’t want to do. The owner of the guest house said I could take the workers’ boat back to Malalison before dark, but by that time I gave up on the idea.

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