April 25, 2015

A filipino escape, or "What do you mean, you're not going to Boracay ?"

For my last days in Indonesia, I head to sleepy Lombok. The rain comes to say hi about twice a day, a few hours of heavy clouds making the world dark like ashes. I settle in a tiny bamboo bungalow with a local family in Tetebatu, at the foot of the Rinjani. I spend new year's eve there, drinking arak with my friends and firing tiny sparklers into the sky. The first morning of the year, I hike to a nearby waterfall and I swim in the icy water. Then it's back to Sengiggi, on the coast, where I sit on the black volcanic sand and catch up on my diary. The next morning I take the ferry back to Bali, riding on the roof and enjoying the wind and the strong waves. I spend one last week in Bali, between yoga, green cafés, and reading too many books in the cabin I'm renting to a sweet balinese lady, who brings me tea and snacks all day long. I leave the country on the 10th of January. It is bittersweet, like leaving home behind a second time. I am grateful for the adventure. There is not a doubt in my mind that I'll be back soon.

I land in Manilla, capital of the Philippines, totally unprepared. I haven't even opened a guidebook.
I settle in the Pink Hostel, where everything is painted bright pink, obviously. Also, it is the worst place I've ever paid to sleep in. It is filthy, the bathroom is an room entirely occupied by the bathtub (I mean, you open the door and you are IN the bathtub. It's ridiculous), and oh ! My dorm has no roof. That's right. Middle of Manilla, and all I have is a plastic sheet over my head, at the top of a wonky, decrepit building. There is a fire-escape leading to a rooftop near the dorm and we meet up there in the evening. It is full of backpackers, way more than I expected, and it takes me a couple minutes to realize they're all talking about one thing : how fast can anyone get to Boraçay. It tickles my curiosity because I have no idea what Boraçay is (didn't read the guidebook, remember ?). The first person I ask looks at me like I'm insane. He says : it's an island, south. Okay. - What's special about it ? - Oh, you know, it's like, there's a super cool beach there. I wait for a follow up sentence. There isn't one. - That's it ? - No, I mean, like, it's really cool... clubs and stuff. I try my best not to smirk.

That night, as I am lying in bed, waiting for the next earthquake, and listening to two of my new friends reminding me that I am not the lucky one having incredibly noisy sex on a rooftop in the middle of an asian megalopolis, I decide that I may have no idea where I'm going, but there is one place I will definitely not go to, and that is Boraçay. I sit up, get my flashlight, and start studying the map. This country is insane. For one, they have islands everywhere, and there doesn't seem to be any kind of organisation at all. Like, what is this bit supposed to represent ? An octopus ? A sagittarius sign ? Your mom being kidnapped by aliens with three head ?

I'm going to make it short. Here are three places I went to in three weeks.

Manilla :
The M is for mental. A few days spent in Manilla, and despite the chaotic trafic, the rampant poverty, the deadly polluted air and the overall unsafe feel of a lot of streets, I am in love with the city. It is just as wild and baroque as they said. I pride myself in navigating the labyrinth fairly well, too. So, a few days spent doing crazy shit, like playing cards with what I'm pretty sure is a group of drug lords, walking at night in the slums, and more dangerous of all, sampling the terrifying street food, and I decide that it's time to move on.

Bohol, Visayas :
Bohol is all about the chill. The sand is white and the jungle is lush. After crossing Loboc, a small town devastated by the last typhoon, I head east for the Anda peninsula, a very quiet and gorgeous place. I rent a bungalow on the beach with a lovely couple. We go walking, swimming, and share in the festivities of the small town – the Miss Anda contest is a highlight. Afterwards, we play drinking games, get seriously wasted, and we go dancing. I remember the night in flashes : twirling in the middle of around twenty filipino youths (that felt perfectly safe, whatever you might think) ; my feet sinking in the sand as I run away, Robin calling « You're so beautiful, baby ! » behind me ; going round and round in the shallow water, holding hands, until we collapse, laughing. In the morning, we try and kill the hangover with pizza. Anda feels like home in a matter of days.

Sagada, North Luzon :
Sagada is where I find my tribe. It takes two days to get there, traveling on the roof of buses on a winding road. I find them instantly – they are all sitting in a circle in front of the fire, in a garden that opens on a mountain view. Jeffrey, Chris, Ciara, Kyle, Tyler, Marvin, Julie, Cian, Espen, Henrik. And maybe others that I forget – sorry ! We eat every meal in our favorite café, trek through a local cave where I fall into a waterhole and Cian almost breaks his leg, and share our stories every night by the fire. It feels like family and it feels like heartbreak to say goodbye.

There is one other place, that I will show you later. It's like nowhere else. Stay tuned.

Walking in the slums.

Religion here is so colorful and baroque, intense and unapologetic. I love it.

A trafic jam at night.

A river from the zipline, in Loboc.

Loboc, main town of Bohol. You think there is another street ? There isn't. This is all of it.

Jeepneys are my favourite mode of transport and the coolest vehicle, ever. I honestly think every country should have those.

The 15th century church of Loboc was torn apart by the last typhoon. They want to rebuild it, but they don't have enough ressources to do so. It's a very sad sight.

Tarsiers. Obviously.

Chocolate hills. Sometimes I play at being a tourist. I'm not very good at it, to be honest. But these look nice, right ?

Children fishing in Anda.

Barangay means village, but also « what is ours to keep ». The filipinos have an admirable sense of community. Often you can witness a house being rebuilt by the whole village, not just those who live in it.

Rooster fighting is THE national sport. They go absolutely insane over it. Although I chose not to attend one, it is difficult to avoid the industry that revolves around it : whole shops dedicated to special feeds and fighting accesories, and bargain booths every other street.

The town of Anda celebrates his annual festival. A hundred boats like this one, decorated with fresh paints and plastic flags, race on the water while the crews shouts insults at the others.

A little girl watches the Miss Anda contest.

Memories in flashes.

This time I got it : the exact moment a traveler you care about leaves your path. This picture makes my heart feel heavy, everytime. I lived this moment so many times already.

A little friend on the boat back from Bohol, at dusk. Short afterwards we both fell asleep with my bag as a pillow.

Annual festivities in Sagada.

The view from our fireplace.

1 comment:

  1. Aah, je suis tellement contente que tu aies posté, je commençais à m'inquiéter (je sais, on se connaît à peine, c'est un peu ridicule, mais je suis assidûment ton blog). Merci pour ces photos, et le récit qui va avec !