A Travellerspoint blog

Butanding and so many beautiful cocks

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large_5550_13617984137894.jpgWhale-shark spotter at work; try going to the end of the rainbow, perhaps. Both ends ...
Swim with whale-sharks, not!

I set the alarm for 0600 and forced some pancakes down before walking to the whale-shark (known locally as butanding) centre as it opened at 0700. It had rained heavily last night. The weather didn’t look promising.

The Dutch couple I had met on the plane got together with me and an American couple to form a party of five for our boat. After a video briefing, we left around 0730.

We went quite far up the coast northwards. The sea was calm but it rained for most of the time. There were small patches of brightness that wasn’t even blue. We eventually turned back closer to home where the skies were blue.

We had absolutely no luck with the butanding today. I've heard before that wint rainfall, the plankton sinks and the whale-sharks don't surface.large_5550_1361798413560.jpgBetting game; red or white. Two balls come out from the funnel and settle on the check-board.We were wet and cold for most of the time. Fortunately it wasn’t too expensive a day; we had paid PHP1000 per person for the permit and boat plus PHP250 for snorkel gear.

The guide (known as the butanding interaction officer) gave up at 1100 and we were back on land shortly after.


After a wash and rest, I was heading out for lunch when my next door neighbour asked if I’d like to join him to go to a cockfight. His tricycle driver had offered to take him. The site was a little further out of town, which surprised me as I had seen a concrete cockpit (stadium) yesterday dedicated to the sport.

I had never seen so many big beautiful cocks all in one place. Their proud owners, men of various ages and some boys, stroked them with pride and held them-side-by-side to compare their sizes.large_5550_13617984139276.jpgIt is important to hold one’s cock pointing towards one-self. Otherwise, the cock goes beserk when it sees another one. Long razor-sharp blades were then tied to their spurs before they were set on each other two-by-two. The betting is absolutely raucous.

Surprisingly each fight only lasted seconds. In my ignorance, I expected the fights to be long and gory. With such sharp attachments, it is easy for one cock to disable the other pretty quickly with a gash or two. In fact, it seemed faster than home-kill chickens.

I noticed wood-fired pots in the background which I presume are for cooking the losing fowl. I bet cock-meat is touch meat.

A few things I learnt today:

1. It is important to hold one’s cock pointing towards one-self. Otherwise, the cock goes beserk when it sees another one.
2. Not all cocks have combs. I mistook some cocks as hens.large_5550_13617984147224.jpgThe pre-fight waiting area with a bit of cock-teasing.I thought the male audience might have got additional thrill from watching two hens fighting, in the same way as female mud wrestling, perhaps.
3. There are cock doctors on standby to stitch up any gashed-up cocks.

I know in these modern times, cockfighting is no longer politically correct. But it ain’t modern times right here and right now in rural Philippines. It is a traditional past-time or sport in the region, eg. Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. It appears cock-fighting (a form of gambling) along with dog-eating was stamped out in many areas of the region with the arrival of Islam. It still continues in Christian areas as there are no strong prohibitions along these lines.

Animal ethics aside, I actually enjoyed being part of Filipino life today. It gave me a glimpse that foreigners don’t always get to see. It is something that is very underground in Malaysia as gambling is illegal; only bad eggs go to cockfights!


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

To my rendezvous with whale-sharks and mantas (hopefully)

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large_5550_13617864034387.jpgRolling hills as we approach Legazpi; the perfect cone of Mt Mayon was shrouded in cloud and wasn't worth the shot.
I walked to the ATM after breakfast. There were still people sleeping on the streets. In the taxi to the airport, street kids (about 10 years old) peered into the vehicle; I put my hand on my bag handle and locked the door. The taxi driver told me off for not locking it earlier.

Departing from Manila [Manila-travel-guide-885524], the flight was delayed due to air traffic congestion but we go to Legazpi [Legazpi-travel-guide-1311296] on time. It appears the airline build in ground delays in their schedule.

I took a tricycle from the airport to the bus terminal where I managed to get on a van to Donsol’s town centre. I then needed another tricycle to get to my hotel, the Shoreline, further out. The scenery along the way was very idyllic with many coconut groves. It seemed like a paradise until we saw the aftermath of an accident with a bloodied elderly man lying dead on the roadside.

The hotel and its compounds looked terrible compared to the others. I had booked it online and the price was very good. The room itself was good and clean and it had air-conditioning for a little more than fan rooms at other establishments.

I then made arrangements for snorkelling with the whales-sharks for tomorrow. Then I enquired about diving at Manta Bowl; the instructor manning the desk was really good and told me to leave it for a few days as the weather hadn’t been the best.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Ermita Nighstop

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large_5550_13616259111945.jpgJeepney to Lagawe.
I expected a long day of travel ahead, so had set the alarm for 0600. I left the hotel soon after 0700 and went to the jeepneys. I found one that went straight to Solano without having to change at Lagawe; good start.

When we got to Lagawe, I was the only person left onboard so the driver put me on another jeepney to Solano. That was the original expectation anyway. The two jeepneys took less than 3 hours in total.

It didn’t take me long waiting at the bus shelter at Solano for a Victory Liner to come along bound for Manila [Manila-travel-guide-885524]’s Cubao and Sampaloc stations. It turned out to be a Deluxe bus with 3-across seating and cost a little more. I was happy with that and 7 hours later (instead of the 9 northbound), I was back in Manila.

With a taxi ride, I was in the Tune Hotel at Ermita after 11 hours of travel. I had been hanging out for dumplings in hot and sour soup, so headed to the Suzhou Chinese restaurant across the road.

Having paid for the air-con credits at the Tune Hotel for my brief nightstop, I stayed in for the rest of the evening. There’s nothing else around Ermita that interests me … I’ve done all that I want to do around the neighbourhood.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Rain rain go away

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large_5550_13615257967786.jpgOur 155cc tricycle with 3 passengers and driver.
It is so unlikely me to sleep badly but I did. My street front room was noisy with people chatting through the night. Then there was the gurgling of gutters from the rain.

I woke at 0600 and had a light breakfast. Our tricycle driver dropped in and suggested we cancel our 0700 departure to Batad [Batad-travel-guide-1320874]. The rain would mean that the conditions are too muddy for enjoyable walking.

He suggested that we go to Hapao (where there is a hot spring) instead where the walks are partly paved. As it would be a shorter day, we could leave at 1000.

At 1000 a different driver turned up for some reason. The two Quebecistanis piled into the sidecar while I was pillion-bitch once again. The 25km ride through extremely bad roads took about 1h30.large_5550_13615257971276.jpgQuebecistanis in the sidecar and once I again I was pillion-bitch.We stopped for a few photographs of terraces, including the one at Hungduan, despite the rain.

The new driver suggested that he guide us through the best views for the terraces and we agreed after some negotiation. The walk took about an hour through the rain before we got to the hotspring somewhat drenched. It was greener and prettier here than back at Banaue [Banaue-travel-guide-874280]. With the rain, the river was gushing. And so was the overflow system that allows water to go from each level of the terrace down to the next one.

We took a different walk back for a different perspective of the terraces. The driver successfully upsold us into a detour of the Hiwang Native Village on the way back for a little bit extra.

Fortunately back at the hotel, the hot water kinda worked a little bit more than yesterday and I was able to wash myself.large_5550_1361525797217.jpgWe couldn't see much of the terraces at first.In this cool damp weather, I don’t expect all my wet clothing will dry before I go early tomorrow morning. I'm glad I pushed myself to go out in the rain today; I'm only here once!

I feel like I've seen enough of the rice terraces, even though I hadn't seen the "best" ones at Batad. I gather they go up higher hills. It probably woud have made a small difference to me but not much.

After dinner I bade farewell to the Quebecistanis. I really enjoyed picking Jonathan’s brain with travel and diving. We appear to have a bit in common: we both love Syria and Iran, we both learnt Arabic, he would love to go to Yemen (including Suqutra) which I have already been to. I sold him the joys of going to Pakistan and Ethiopia (during Epiphany). We shook on meeting up in Sudan one day for culture and diving the Red Sea.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

The rice terraces

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large_5550_13614540553214.jpgSolano at breakfast time.
I walked to McDonald’s for breakfast as it seemed healthier than doughnuts and other fried stuff. I got talking to two Canadians from Quebecistan; it all started with his Komodo t-shirt.

They were headed to Banaue [Banaue-travel-guide-874280] as well and were wanting to know where the jeepneys left from. As it turned out, it leaves from opposite the hotel and they had checked-out and carried their packs with them.

I headed back to my room to pack up then joined them on the jeepney to Lagawe where we changed to a smaller one to Banaue. The two rides and the seamless transfer took 3 easy hours. The ride was on a mix of paved and unpaved roads but it wasn't unconfortable. I saw a man carrying two baskets filled with a couple of dogs each, with their snouts taped up.large_5550_13614540567302.jpgFree paper at McDonald's shows that Philippines' claim on Sabah may not be over.Kinda confirms my theory about dog-eating amongst Christians in the Archipelago.

After checking in at the People’s Guest House, we grabbed lunch together then walked to the various viewpoint for the rice-terraces that Banaue is famous for. The scale from top to bottom (hilltop to the valley floor) was impressive, as was the expanse extending into the yonder. However due to the time year, it wasn’t very green. The most impressive part I guess is that they were built around 2000BC making them about 4000 years old.

Despite the lack of green, I wasn’t disappointed. The long journey here to Solano wasn’t painful and the two jeepney rides this morning were a pleasure. It didn’t feel like a big investment that turne into a disappointment.

My new companions, especially, Jonathan is very well travelled and I found his experience in various places and dive sites very inspiring.large_5550_13614540561348.jpgOn the jeepney to Lagawe where we transfer to another one bound for Banaue.I tried very hard to repay him with inspiring photos of Pakistan and Yemen (especially of Suqutra).

When we reconvened for beer later in the afternoon, the Quebecistanis had arranged an outing to Batad [Batad-travel-guide-1320874] for tomorrow and kindly included me in their plans.

After dinner, I checked out the shower and found that there was no hot water. After some attempt by the hotel to fix it there was a dribble which then turned intermittent. I resorted to the bucket and scoop with cold water. I’ve had colder washes in colder places so this was just a minor hassle. We are after all in a very remote place where some many not wash very often (shampoo and detergent is sold by the sachet). On country roadsides where water may run off hillsides in rainy weather, people set up tarpaulin shelters as makeshift shower rooms. I consider myself lucky.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

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