You are being spoiled.

Dear reader, whoever and wherever you may be, as the title suggests I am spoiling you but I have a bit of time on my hands these days so I might as well try and catch up here.

Firstly, to rectify an omission.  I had intended to include this image and accompanying text in the previous post but I forgot, so here it is.

Guess what this is.
No prizes for guessing that this is something medical, actually I would suggest quasi-medical as it doesn't actually promote health.  This, believe it or not, is a skin whitening treatement and costs a small fortune out here which I find pretty obscene in a country where, as I mentioned before, children regularly die for want of a few pesos worth of medicine.  I'll not bore you with the story of how I came to see this, it would make your hair curl, yet many Filipinas use this rubbish to try and look white.

It has always struck me as slightly odd that white Westerners do everything they can including sunbeds and fake tan to get as brown as they can, whilst in Asia it seems to be a sign of poverty and to be avoided at all costs.  I believe the reasoning runs along the lines that if you are dark-skinned you must work in the fields and are therefore a peasant.  Why are people never happy with their lot?  Is it just something inherent in the human condition?  I really don't know.

I must say I am completely happy with my lot here and some of that is to do with the fact that I finally got to Apo Island.  If you don't know about Apo, look it up on the internet.  It is regarded as being one of the jewels in the Philippine crown not to mention a world renowned diving location.  I had been rattling on about it for a while and everyone said I really sohuld go for the day sometime as it was magnificent so that is what I determined to do.  Anna, the part time barmaid and coconut tree climber immortalised in this blog recently said she would go with me on her day off and show me round.  In truth, I think she wanted to go anyway as she told me she had not been there since she was at school.  Whatever the reason, it's always good to have a local on hand so I readily accepted.

A 15 minute ride on Suzi the Suzuki brought us to Malatapay the place of the weekly market I wrote about before.  As it wasn't Wednesday the place was a complete ghost town and I had no problem parking at the boat station.  If there is a demand, a "public" boat costing 200 pesos per person runs in the morning and returns in the afternoon.  I have noted before, however, that the tourist business here this season has been particularly bad and we had to take a private pumpboat which costs 2000 pesos for up to four passengers.  If you have a larger party a boat for up to eight costs 3000 which would work out pretty cheap.

The good ship Emerson.
The boats are assigned on a rota basis and we were assigned the good ship Emerson, named like many of them, for the captain.  And here she is.

In fairness, I mentioned the 2000 peso fare which is a little over £30 but to put it in perspective there is a crew of three and they take you over and then wait for you to return.  It is not as if they are plying back and forth all day so it is probably not too bad.  They were super friendly and it was a wonderful crossing so money well spent I think.

Lookout in the bow.
I have developed a great love for these outrigger boats which I suppose haven't changed in design much for millenia.  If you close your ears to the fairly noisy engine you could imagine being here a very long time ago.

Apo Island approaching.
I had seen Apo many times whilst travelling along the coast and knew it's outline pretty well but I must admit to having been pretty excited as it got ever closer.  The journey is only about half an hour and on a sunny day it was delightful.  Eventually we moored a few yards offshore and waded up to the beach.  There is always something appealing about wading ashore on a "desert island".  This is where we eventually made landfall.

Pretty, isn't it?
There was a small habitation seeming to consist of little but eateries and souvenir shops but first, as with everythng in the Philippines, there are "taxes" to be paid.  Off to the office where I paid 100 pesos and Anna 25, they really do like to sting foreigners here.

After that we started walking along the beach and then my guide took to the water.  Well, that is OK, I know ladies like a paddle now and again but it turned out there was method in her madness as it was the only way to get to the next bay because the tide was in.  There is no path.  A few yards on we reached a delightful secluded little beach wth a small resort and diveshop there so that was it then.  Beer o'clock and what a simply wonderful setting to have one in, Apo really is the textbook idea of a tropical island paradise.  The original plan was to carry on up the path to the lighthouse on top of the island but the path had been closed for some reason so we were sort of marooned there.  Still, worse places to be.

Philippino sea monster.
I had seen several snorkellers in the water and debated the idea but for reasons far too boring to go into, my foot was slightly swollen so I didn't reckon I could manage fins.  No problem, a swim would suffice and it turned out to be incredible.  Even without gear, I swam out a bit in some of the clearest water I have ever seen and half-submerged myself sitting on a rock whilst the most amazing fish were swimming round my feet.  It really was quite magical.

There were a few local guys around, I believe associated with the resort and it seemed they had other ideas for the piscine life in the area than marvelling at it's beauty.

Local fisherman.
Three of them set off and literally went no more than 50 yards offshore paying a net out the back.  No more than half an hour later they were back and this was the result.

Catch of the day.
Obviously these were destined for the plate but I reckon if they had a way of exporting these they could make far more money selling them to tropical fish places in Europe.

I was cajoled into posing here as if I had had something to do with the day's fishing.  Other than the fact that I had been in the water and possibly induced some sort of suicidal tendencies amongst the creatures causing them to deliberately seek out the net, I can claim no credit whatsoever.

What a poser!
Having done my best to break the lens on my camera by posing half-naked I retired for another beer to see what would happen next.  I didn't have to wait long.

Anna was right in amongst the locals and there was a flurry of activity on the beach so I went to investigate.  Anna and the ladies had gathered some bits and pieces off the beach and were preaparing a fire whilst the guys set about preparing the fish.  I swear Aldo Zilli would have had a kitten watching how they did it.  I did not see a knife or other proper utensil appear until well on in the piece.  The fish were descaled using a small pice of shell as you can see here.

Who needs a Sabatier knife?
Gutting was achieved by poking the thumb into the belly cavity of the fish and scooping out the innards.  Hi-tech food preparation it was not.  Eventually, all was ready, the fire was going and dinner was about to be cooked.

Real wild cooking.
There is nothng sophisticated about this cooking technique and I saw neither oil nor seasoning used.  The girls literally put the fish on a wire rack the provenence of which totally escapes me and cooked over the coals.  Let me tell you now it was some of the most gorgeous fish I have ever eaten.

Use what you have.
There was one further culinary treat in store as you can see pictured above.  There is a Philippino fish dish called Kinilaw which is basically raw marinated fish.  Although the knife had made an appearance by this point, the concept of using the boat oar as a chopping board whist sitting on the beach was to me the ultmate in authentic cooking.  Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Anther swim, a bit of an explore round the rocks in the bay and a quick walk through the "village" and all too soon it was time to get on the banqua back to the mainland.  Although I very rarely bother wearing sunglasses, I am seen here doing another bit of a pose on the boat.

Goodbye Apo, for now.
Let's look at the thing logically here.  I spent a day on a small Asian island, well I've done that before.  The weather was nice, I went for a swim and saw some tropical fish, no surpirse there.  I was invited to share freshly caught fish cooked over a fire on a beach.  Not a thing I do every day but still not the first time, yet somehow it was just a completely wonderful outing and one that will live in my memory for a very long time.  You really should have been there, dear reader.

Stay tuned.


  1. Sounds like a truly perfect day...So happy that you are having them x

    1. Yeay, it wa pretty cool. looks like you'r on ow, so I'll hve a go at the little green light thing.