Snooze alert! This blog post will be super boring. It is minutia from my travels in places few people will ever go, but I want a record for myself. You can ignore it. No hard feelings.
In hindsight, the thing to do is stay far away from Manila and swoop in at the last minute, then fly out. I did the wrong thing, which was take small boats on high seas, suffer through cancellations and rely on sporadic transport. However, that’s also the problem with the right away in that boats can be cancelled and you don’t want to get stuck somewhere in this country that is desperate for tourism but only gives 30-day visas.
In the afternoon I took the boat back from Romblon to San Agustin on Tablas island and doddered around town looking for food, not realizing that if you don’t jump on the jeepney waiting by the pier, that’s the last one out for the day. I tried to hitchhike. I stood in the shade above a colorful cemetery overlooking the sea, but in 90 minutes maybe six or seven cars passed. It wasn’t meant to be. I gave up, walked back into town and stayed the night.
It wasn’t the end of the world; I’m taking a liking to these small towns. The only problem in San Agustin is that the town closes early; you only have a few dinner options on the street and when they sell out, they’re done for the day. Otherwise, small towns can be fun, and at a minimum there are new people to play basketball with. I was gabbing with a couple of policeman and was invited to play with them in the main square.
We played for 50 pesos. 50 pesos is “only” US$1.10, but that’s not a trifling amount here. 50 pesos buys you a solid lunch. In Romblon, where we played for 20 pesos, my team lost the first game, but I hit the game-winning shot in the second. In San Agustin I was plain awful. I embarrassed myself. I felt like Shawn Bradley on defense, always a step too slow. (I hate that link and the culture of not trying to block a dunk or else you might be “posterized.” For a better profile of Shawn Bradley, there is this 30 for 30 documentary.)
This being the Philippines, there was the surreal element of karaoke blaring from across a field while I imploded. It’s hard to get used to a new court and an unfamiliar ball while having to hear some poor guy taking a stab at “Lady” by Kenny Rogers and then, without shame, launching into “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen.
I wasn’t get-on-the-first-jeepney-out-of town bad, but there wasn’t the bonhomie I usually get after playing; no one asked to friend me on Facebook.
Whenever I play basketball or tennis, guys always half-joke about me bringing shoes back for them next time I return. It’s always shoes, never anything else. (Well, shoes and USA visas.) There are little second hand shops all over the country called ukay-ukay that mainly sell clothes and any time there are shoes, they are always crazy expensive. I am a size 12 (do you hear that, Ladies? Size 12) and it is impossible to find something that big at any price, but for Filipinos, it’s not even worth looking. I don’t understand the economics of why it is so.
A while ago there was a shoe company that, with every purchase, offered to donate shoes to someone in an impoverished country. There was a big outcry because the argument goes that (in addition to enabling reliance on handouts and why they can’t just donate shoes without being prodded) that you are killing the local shoe industry by doing that, but in the Philippines the choice is either expensive shoes or no shoes. Plus, I see so many shoe repair guys all over the country, I bet they can work magic with anything given to them. I don’t see it as the worst thing to mail a balikbayan box full of garage sale shoes to the Philippines.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION (45 pesos = US$1)
Kamilla Lodge in San Agustin (they have a generator, handy for when the town’s power goes off) and Shellborne Hotel in Odiongan (go for room 312) were both 200-300 pesos, I can’t remember exactly. The point is that you can always find a cheap, decent pension in these under-the-radar towns that won’t show up on any google search. Don’t worry about it.
This is a map of the area. Few people find that Tablas is on their way to anywhere else.
End of snooze alert! I suggested not to read this since it is for myself, but it reads like any other blog post of mine, doesn’t it? I may have to rethink my blog.
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