Buena comes to town.

Fergy and "the girls".

You know I like to throw the odd little vignette into my posts as well as the more prosaic stuff so try this image for size.  The four of us pictured here could legitimately compete in a mixed doubles tennis match.  Think about it.  I hesitate to use the word men but there are certainly two males pictured here.  I'll give you a clue, I am one of them and the beard is the giveaway there.  Look closely and I'll post the answer at the bottom of the post.

In my haste to rush off the party whilst writing my last "proper" entry, I omitted the last part of the story and the next part will make little sense without it.  A couple of days previously I had sent Buena, my dear friend from Bacolod, a text asking if she fancied popping down to Dumaguete for the weekend.  Bearing in mind the length of the journey, I didn't really think she would be up for it but, inveterate traveller that she is, she accepted.  The plan was that she would work on the Friday, go straight to the bus station and get here about midnight or one a.m. depending which bus she caught.

After Kojak's party had wound down a little, a few of us decided it might be a good idea to go down to the Boulevard and carry on.  The Boulevard is the promenade along the seafront and is where most of the restaurants and bars are located.  Picture then the scene.  Buena arrives to find your humble narrator in company with a bunch of proper bikers in full colours and not only that but as luck would have it Joey and I were bellowing out Jethro Tull's Aqualung to accompany the background music just as she hopped out of the trike.  The look on the poor girls face was absolutely priceless.  Remember this is a well brought up, intelligent woman with two degrees and a lifestyle which, to the best of my knowledge, doesn't include gangs of hairy a**ed bikers and yours truly slaughtering rock songs from the last century.  I assured her that all was well, introduced her to the guys who were all perfectly charming (it's amazing the misconceptions people have sometimes) and we had a great night, although I think Buena was still a little hesitant.

A few more beers and we jumped onto a trike and off to Mac's where I had sorted a spare cabin for her.  The trike provided yet another example of the way things work here.  I am regularly quoted a 300 peso fare from the Boulevard home and normally get it down to 200 but with Buena doing the talking it was 150 straight off.  It is understandable but it still grates a little the way "long noses" are always being taken for a ride, metaphorically as well as literally in this case.

After a good night's sleep, I asked Buena what she fancied doing.  She had spent a little time here during her nursing training and she loves Dumaguete.  I know how she feels.  We decided a trip "up the mountain" might be in order so we mounted my trusty steed and headed off up towards Valencia.  Thankfully the weather was good although not overly hot which was fortuntate as it turned out.  We went up to Valencia on the slightly beaten up road.  I suggested a coffee and I had the great pleasure of taking my Filipina friend to a little place I knew from previously where they recognised me and greeted me in the usual friendly manner.  It was a thrill to take a native Negros resident to places in her own country where I was better known than her.  After that we went for a walk round town and I pointed out a few things of interest to Buena.  At one point she made a joke that I should think of becoming a tour guide which rather pleased me.  I know she will probably not thank me for using this image which was taken when she wasn't expecting it, but I rather like it.

My friend Buena.
We took of up the road to where Casaroro Falls and the Japanese memorial shrine are.  I had previously scoped the place and knew the road to the shrine was impassable but I knew the road to the Falls was still there although very difficult for a road bike.  Oh, for an XR200, I should have borrowed my mate's as it would have been ideal.  I cannot remember if I have mentioned it before but about a month before I got here there was a fairly serious typhoon and associated flooding which has wreaked complete havoc in parts of Negros Oriental specifically to the infrastructure.

This is me standing on what had been the concrete road bridge which leads to the shrine.  As you can see, there isn't much left.  We debated walking up but Buena spoke to a local guy carrying an unfeasible looad on a headstrap and he told us it was a two hour walk there so we didn't have the time before nightfall.

Fergy on a washed out bridge.

If you are wondering why I am holding what appears to be a handkerchief in this image, it is actually a Virtual Toruist flag.  For those of you who may have stumbled upon this page, VT as it is known, is an excellent travel website that I do a little writing for and was actually the reason for my visit to the Philippines.  We have an ongoing thing about taking wacky photos with the VT flag.

Back up the road, we parked the bike and had a pleasant walk up a fairly rough track to the entrance to the Falls.  The walk itself was enjoyable if a little rough underfoot and we passed a number of cottage industry nurseries on the way.  Some of the flowers were gorgeous and Buena went on a Kodak safari with her rather tasty new camera.

Nursery, Apolong.
A sample of the produce.

Eventually we arrived at the entrance to the falls.

Here we are, well almost.

I was rather looking forward to them as there  had been a bit of rain in the previous few days so they should have been fairly full.  Actually, I lie, there had been a shedload of rain so they should have been incredible.  Down, down and ever down we went on some pretty slippery steps which was quite interesting as we were both wearing flipflops (thongs) which are probably not the most practical footwear for such a journey.  We eventually got to the bottom of the gorge to a soundtrack of ever-increasing rushing water having navigated a very precarious final metal section of stairs, and there we were.

Stairway to Heaven?
The Casaroro Falls.  Actually, no.  We could hear them but we couldn't see them.  This image might give an idea and I shall post it in large format to assist you understanding why.

Almost Casaroro.
Look at the right midground.  There is something that doesn't look natrual.  I remember being taught somewhere that there are no straight lines in nature.  What you see is the remains of the concrete path leading to the falls proper.  The floods had completely washed it out.  Well, nothing to be done then but take a couple of photos and head back up the three hundred and something steps to the top.  I did count them but I'm damned if I can remember now.

I realise that there are other priorities here (fixing the roads would be a start) but it seems to me that if the local authorities want to attract tourists they need to sort out this place, one of the relatively few natural attractions in the area.

We headed back into town stopping on the way for a look at this completely crazy sign I had noticed before.  I really don't know what the owner of these premises is on but he wants to get off it pretty rapidly.  The sign really tickled me though.  Remember this is in a pretty wild place where most of the locals have extremely limited or no English.  Who is he aiming this at?

Not a family man then.

Silligaw fish soup.

Back in the comparative civilisation of Dumaguete City, Buena re-introduced me to the delights of Silligaw, a fish soup somewhat akin to the French bouillabaisse but flavoured with tamarind whch gives it a delightful sour tang.  Not to everyone's taste but I love it.  I had promised to buy her dinner wherever she wanted after her wonderful hospitality to me in Bacolod and she picked Hayahay, a little way out of town towards Sibulan.  It has a great live section.  I have seen live fish and seafood tanks before but this is the first place I have ever seen oysters kept live in a tank.  It is a very popular spot with expats but still is not expensive by British standards.  A lovely meal.

Buena (David) Bailey checking the photographc handiwork.
Well fed and a little tired from the days exertions, we retired home.


OK, at the top of the post I set you a little poser (as opposed to the three little poseurs pictured) as to who the second male was in the picture.  It's the "girl" on the extreme right of the picture as you look, the simply wonderful MacMac who is effectively the manager of Pirates Bay bar.  The others, left to right are AJ and Bets and they are all delightful.  I'll just fill you in a little on the situation here, for those who have not visited Southeast Asia.  MacMac is what is known in the Philippines as a byot (I am spelling this phonetically so don't bother googling it) which is a generic term for either a male homosexual, transvestite or transexual.  Lesbians are referred to as tomboys, a much different usage of the word than in the UK.

There is a much greater acceptance of transexuals in Asia than there appears to be in Europe and there appears to be no stigma in a pretty obvious male painting their nails, growing their hair and wearing a skirt.  Personally, I really don't give a damn if someone wants to live like this and MacMac and I have a great laugh about it.  I tease him / her all the time and I can tell you that MacMac has got, apart from an excellent command of English, a wicked dry sense of humour not to mention a figure and hair that most European women would die for.

I write this blog predominantly for my family and friends to keep up with what I am doing so don't panic folks.  I am not going to appear back in the UK with MacMac to set up house.  It's like I have said so many times before, things are just different in SE Asia which is probably why I love it so much here.

This post is long enough now, so I'll publish it and maybe start another one this afternoon.  The cloud cover here has been about 8/10 all week so sunbathing is a no-no although it is still about 30 degrees.  Oh poor me.  Speak soon.

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