Changes everywhere.

Mac the Baboy.
I'll give you a quick update now and explain the title of the last post, which I stupidly omitted to do there.  A Baboy is the Visayan word for pig.  A look at the picture may help to explain things.  Mac's affectionate mnickname amongst friends is Baboy, and hot off the press is the following information.  Yesterday Mac sent his sign to the signwriter and it was going to be "La Fiesta Restobar" which is the official name of the place'  However, a little persuasion from Mike the Canadian and myself convinced him the business should be called Baboy's Place so that is what is happening.  I am currently awaiting the sign's return and will post a picture as and when.

It is a bit of an odd place I am staying but you would probably ecpect nothing less from me.  It is run as a sort of customers democracry.  Mac didn't wanht to do food but we demanded it so he does now, and we told him to extend the menu so he did.  We wanted to call it Baboy's Place and the sign is ordered.  Some of the guys wanted to have a Formula One evening for the Australian GP which is at a decent time zone interval here and that is arranged (burger and a beer 200 pesos - bargain) and that is the way things are here.  Mac is the most laid back, indeed reluctant, hotelier I have ever met.  I have, however, jumped ahead so where were we?

I agreed rental of a Mac's bike, a lovely little Suzuki 125cc Thunder.  OK, it is not exactly Moto GP standard but it is great for here where the 90cc scooter is the preferred mode of transport.  Having settled into a nice routine of internetting, sleeping and eating well, I decided on a couple of daytrips around the place.  Well, that's what I am here for.

First day out, I decided to head South and took off on a lovely sunny day.  I drove through Dauin and on to Zamboanguita, where I found a church that I took to be unused.

St. Isidore Church, Zamboanguita.
I suppose the recent typhoon and floods hadn't helped the appearance much.

The front door was well and truly locked but me, being an inquisitive sort of a man, I went to the side and found an open door.

I was stunned when I stepped inside, the interior, whilst there was a little work going on at the rear, was simply magnificent and apparently fairly recently done judging by the style of the decoration and the freshness of the paint.

I found out the church is dedicated to St. Isidore the Farmer. A quick research shows him to have lived in Spain between 1070-1130, a pious man who was often late for his work in the fields due to attending Mass. No problem there, however, as apparently angels completed the agricutural work for him. He was canonized in 1622 and is the patron saint of farmers, day labourers and the like.  It's amazing how much you learn researching tips for VT, so you can check out the link here with more photos if you like.

St. Isidore Cuurch, Zamboanguita.

St. Isidore Church, Zamboanguita.
This is the National Highway which circumnavigates the island and is generally pretty well maintained.  Do not, however, be fooled by theis tranquil scene.  \anywhere near a centre of population it can become hideously congested and the driving conditions are appalling.  I shall deal with that in a future post.

On the way back from Zambo, I stopped off at this rather wonderful war memorial.  I did ask my friend to translate the inscription on it but she unfortunately speaks Visaya and the tablet is in Tagalog but we worked out the gist of it. I believe this was either the site of the Japanese surrender to the Allies or the scene of an earlier guerilla action by Philippine forces. Perhaps both. If any Tagalog speaking reader can assist I would be most grateful and will obviously credit you on this blog.

There are numerous war memorials of various types all over the parts of the Philippines I have visited so far but I was struck by the incredible detail on this, which appears to be made out of concrete. Note the name on the Japanese pouch and the hatchng on the butt of the Colt .45vas well as the hand grenade, it really is good and intricate work in such a medium.

As you can see, it is beautifully maintained and the paintwork is very fresh. The Philippinos do seem to have a very strong memory of what happened here at the hands of the Japanese and who can blame them?

War memorial, Daun.

War Memorial, Dauin.

War Memorial, Dauin.
I visited a few more unremarkable churches and parks on the way back and was heading into Duma for somethig to eat when I was overtaken on the road by my mate Hawk.  He asked me did I want to go over to Sibulan and go and see Coco Island, a place he had told me about before. 

There are many "shanty towns" all over the Philippines where the levels of poverty are almost incomprehensible to a Westerner and this is one of them. It is effectively a community built on swamp land so poor it cannot be developed, with no paved road access and only a central pump for water. 
I was taken there by Hawk and his girlfriend who lives nearby and is well-known so I was told we would be OK and so it proved, but I must stress that you need to be with someone. There is much anecdotal evidence of shootings, stabbings and all sorts going on down there, and the police just do not bother visiting the place. Nothing is ever reported anyway.
It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I made my way down the tiny dirt path, over the bench and tyres you can see in the image and into the maze of alleys and dwellings that makes up the community here. We visited in the dry, can you imagine what this is like knee deep in water?
Coco Island, Sibulan.
Not many Westerners get down this way and we were greeted with a mixture of surprise from the adults and fascination from the children. I suppose I do look a little odd to them with the long beard etc. Whilst surprised, the people were friendly enough and we watched the lads playing basketball on the court that forms the communal area of the settlement and had a bit of fun playing with the youngsters.

Here is the "road" access.

Coco Island, Sibulan.

 Literally a week before I visited, this track, the only viable vehicle access to the place was closed off when the land adjacent (higher and drier) was bought and fenced off. I saw several scooters sitting in the settlement and I genuinely do not see how they are going to get them out to the road. Undoubtedly, they will find a way.
Coco Island, Sibulan.
This pump gave an opportunity for a great laugh.  The little girl you see running away (well, children normally run away from me) had been trying to pump water to fill a container and just couldn't manage it.  In fairness, it was fairly stiff.  A little bit of play acting about not being able to push the pump handle and it was nervous childish giggling all round.  A great moment and the kind of thing I travel for.
When it rains, the entire site ends up under a foot or two of water and mud. I was told that people pay 200 pesos a year to live there. That is about £3 or less than $5. A year. It really puts things into perspective.
We were offered tuba, the local home-made alcohol but declined on the basis that 1. we were riding motorbikes and 2. it tastes like deisel!

After a few minutes and a couple of photos, we made our way back to the road. I must say that even living in such primitive conditions, everyone looked presentable in clean clothes and the kids all looked scrubbed and tidy. I really do not know how they manage it. I shall let the images give you an idea of what it is like.

It was a fascinating time and I am really glad I did it. I wonder how many of the expats eating European food every night on the Boulevard in Dumaguete even know this place exists. 
Here are a few more images to give you an idea of a place you will probably never see.
Coco Island, Sibulan.

Coco island, Sibulan.

Coco Island, Sibulan.

 As always, I have VT pages on it, here they are.

Wel, all this blogging has worn me out so I am off for my afternoon siesta.  See you all soon.

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