Friday, June 05, 2009

Tacloban and Samar Island

The ride from Padre Burgos to Sogod was in a local (non-air-con) bus similar to the one I took from Banaue to Bontoc. It was just barely running. I met a nice girl named Mamie sitting next to me (I just can't get over the friendliness of the Filipino people!) Just after she got off the bus, the bus stopped in the middle of the road and the guys who had collected our money got our and started doing some repairs to the battery. They switched an old one our and brought a couple more (that looked to be just as old) on board the bus. We took back off again, but within 5 minutes, we had to stop for a detour in the road and the bus stalled. Evidently all three batteries were dead, so 3 guys who seemed to work for the bus company got out and pushed our bus backward down the street and then pushed it forward while the driver tried to pop the clutch. It took about three tries to get it back up and running, but eventually it did, all the passengers cheered, and we were back on the road again! It's just these kind of experiences that make me smile and count myself lucky to experience life in the developing world. I love it!

In Sogod I switched to an air conditioned van for the 3 hour ride to Tacloban, which is the capital city of Leyte Island. The van dropped us out at the airport instead of in town, and I was short of pesos since Padre Burgos was defintaly too small to have an ATM. I didn't have enough money for a taxi, so I jumped in a jeepney and hoped it would eventually go by a bank. It only cost 14 pesos (about 25cents) and I hopped off in town, without
a clue where I was in relation to the guesthouse I had booked. Luckily after only a few minutes, I spotted some sister missionaries walking down the street and introduced myself. They were fantastic, and were going on a jeepney in the same direction as I needed to go, so they pointed the way to me. Finally I made it to Ron and Fire's place. They are a really great couple about my age who both like backpacking, so they converted their home into a backpacker's guesthouse. There's not much tourist traffic through Tacloban (it's a shame, because it's a nice place, and an easy gateway to dive locations in Southern Letye). So again, I was the only guest. I wandered around a bit that night, then headed out the next morning to Basey, a quaint villiage just across the San Juanico bridge on Samar Island (the province next to Leyte). Basey is a great combination of rural life and town. They have some historical old churches and buildings, and walking down the street, you pass by large tarps laid out on the road with rice spread out on them drying in the sun before being husked. You even run across this right in town! There are natural caves and waterfalls nearby, but a trip up the river to get to them takes longer than I had, so I just contented myself with wandering around town a bit. Then I took a jeepney back and walked across the San Juanico bridge, which is quite large. Not as long as the Golden Gate, but almost. It afforded really picturesque views of both Northern Leyte and Southern Samar Islands. When I got back to town, I took a whirlwind tour of the Santo Nino Shrine, a house that Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos had built and put many of their oppulent things inside. It's now a museum and it's gigantic! The Marcos' never actually even stayed there, although there is a furnished bedroom for each member of the family. Imelda is considered the “Rose of Tacloban”. She was the illegitimate child of a housekeeper and the master of the house. Her father's relatives took her in and realized that she was very beautiful and talented. Then she met a young senator, Ferdinand Marcos, and they became married. It's quite an amazing rags to riches story.

That night was my flight back to Manila. Because of bad weather in Manila, planes had been delayed and there was the equivalent of 3 plane-fulls of people in the small waiting area. The airconditioner could not keep up and it was sweltering! Around 6pm, our time of departure, the Cebu Pacific employees made an announcement that the plane was delayed, and then they all went home! For two more hours we waited with no updates in the sweltering waiting room with not enough chairs for everyone. I was worried, because I told Ray that I would meet her at the airport in Manila (my flight was due to arrive 1.5 hours before hers). But by 10pm (4 hours late!) when our plane finally departed, Ray was already in Manila finding her way across town. Back in the chaos of Manila, it was raining like crazy (it had been for days) and there were traffic jams (at 2am). Manila is great, but there's absolutely no organization and the traffic can be maddening if you just want to get home. I was glad to get back to Friendly's, my home-base in Manila, and get a few winks of sleep before getting ready to head to Clark airport for our flight to Borneo.

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