Imagine the weirdest possible place from which I could be writing this blog post right now. Now make it weirder. Imagine harder. I’m talkin’ real strange, people. If you’re envisioning me coming in on hour four of a fifteen hour ferry ride between Coron and Manila on a metal bunk bed that’s way more comfortable than it looks, surrounded by nothing but friendly locals and the occasional roaming chicken (don’t ask) and looking up into the night sky bc why have a roof when you could just not, then you hit the nail on the head.
According to my best friend Becka, a fifteen hour ride is no longer classifiable as a “ferry” but rather the maiden voyage of the Mayflower all over again. At this stage in the game, I’m inclined to agree with her. The journey certainly didn’t start out in my favor when as I was trying to board the ship and EVERYONE WAS PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT WAS GOING ON AHEAD OF THEM, I literally fell down an entire flight of stairs. Yup. It was wet and my sandals with traction that are the least attractive but the most intelligent choice for wandering around on a ship on a rainy day literally broke THIS MORNING, so I didn’t have much choice. Whatever.
So getting away from my inability to walk like a normal human with basic motor functions, you know how sometimes you meet people and you’re not sure why it works or how, but it definitely does? That is the kind of friendship I found in Jill and Frejya, the two lovely Canadian ladies I mentioned in my last post (you know, the ones that say their words wrong). It took us all of 24h to get comfortable enough to be making stupid sounds and ugly faces in each other’s general directions while swapping insults and somehow still looking out for each other. I definitely lucked out meeting these two idiots. After the excruciatingly long travel day that was getting from El Nido to Coron, we arrived at our hostel to Danica, Luke and Jen – the owners. They’d kept the kitchen open late for us after having corresponded with us all day to make sure we would make it safely to Concepcion (the town we tricycled to with the driver who was trying to break the land speed record for snails) and they were there to socialize and welcome us with open arms. It wasn’t long before we were crawling into bed with our last bits of energy after having booked a new boat tour with our fellow dorm-mate, Martin (German) for the next day.
For some reason my body decided about a week ago that the only time I should ever wake up is 7.30AM, so I was up quite a bit before the girls and enjoyed a few cups of French press coffee and scrambled eggs with veggies (not the usual way out here where they just throw cucumbers and carrots on top of a plate of eggs, but the real way with cheese and tomato and onion). I chatted with Danica and asked her to reset the WiFi (the connection was there but just barely and we spent the entirety of our time at this hostel awkwardly asking the staff to reset it like broken records but my mom would kill me if I didn’t let her know I was alive every 24h so I didn’t have much choice). We started our boat tour at 9AM with all the necessary provisions (food and rum-infused jungle juice) and set out to do some free diving of a local WWII shipwreck which after some serious hesitation and fear for our lives, we swam through 5 times until our ears hurt - which is usually a good indication that you should stop doing whatever you’re doing (Coron is known for its wrecks and diving btw, I’m not sure if I mentioned that but now you know). We saved all our foods and drinks for our last stop where we enjoyed a beach BBQ and competed with the locals to see who could fit more people in a hammock (we lost, but to our credit we are bigger people). We watched the sun go down as we took the boat back to the hostel and headed to bed after a quick dinner bc we planned to dive the next morning.
Now, listen. I mentioned before that Coron is known for its diving. Jill has her Advanced Cert (like me) and Frejya has her Open Water, so we were all planning to do some solid wreck diving. We even thought about taking more courses to better our abilities before finding out a few days before heading to Concepcion that there are only two dive shops in the area (the rest are in Coron city itself which is a ways away), and one of which was sketchy at best. Naturally, we decided to go with the one that wasn’t notoriously shady, but we were refuted before we could even make an actual choice as the reputable shop was booked full for the week. We’d read that there was one dive guide (the owner) at the shady place that was totally safe and worth going to – as opposed to the rest of the staff – and contacted him to see what we could make happen. We’d agreed on three dives for 4,000 pesos (approximately $80 so not bad by any means) and headed to the shop the next morning to prep for the day.
What we didn’t know was that our untimely deaths were closer on the horizon than we anticipated. We signed our lives away with the usual diving waivers that release the shop from almost any blame for anything ever before piling onto the boat and heading out to sea. One flooded regulator, two faulty tanks with air leakage issues, several gauges with inaccurate readings, and two unbelievably short dives later, we were almost relieved when our guide called off the last dive due to an ear pressure problem. Seriously, ya’ll. We 100% thought death was coming for us. But it didn’t so like yay us, right?! We spent the rest of our night appreciating that we weren’t dead and excited for a chill morning the next day bc we felt like we’d earned it, and who doesn’t love sleeping in? Naturally I woke up at 7.30AM bc my body hates me, but I had another slow morning listening to the rain with coffee in hand as I looked out over our hostel, which was enveloped completely by lush forestation and only a two-minute walk to the water. It’s a rough life boys and girls. I headed back to bed soon after breakfast where I was soon joined by Frejya and Jill for an almost-comfortable three-way-split of my twin bed, which was soon interrupted when Frejya and Martin took a motorbike into town to pull out money from the closest ATM. Jill and I, however, did not move for almost the entire duration of their absence except for to order/eat lunch and crawl back into bed talking about everything from boys to life plans.
It was around this time that things really got interesting. Earlier that day, Martin had mentioned to the hostel owners that we may want to book a boat to visit the island we’d already seen and hang out there for the afternoon. There was no official plan established and no serious communication ensued between the potential attendees, so around 1.30PM when the boat was about to arrive, and we had eight people sitting around confused about timing and price and unsure of whether to go, it didn’t take long for half of them to dip out. Mind you, they dipped after the owner (Danica) had left for a meeting – she was lobbying against the local government implementing environmentally unfriendly policies – so there was no one to call and cancel the boat. This meant that the four of us (including Martin) felt reaaaal awkward trying to explain to the boat guy why we were no longer going on the trip (it would have cost too much as the price was supposed to have been split between eight people not four and by this time it was getting to be late enough that going to the island wasn’t really worth it). Things didn’t get bad till Danica got back and we had to explain what happened (and how the other four people – two couples – basically left us hanging). They were understanding, especially bc we’d been getting to know them the last few days and had built up a solid relationship already. They mentioned that we’d need to pay a 60 peso cancellation fee bc they’d had to find and hire a boat and he’d come all the way out to get us, to which we agreed bc 60 pesos is the equivalent to a little over 1 USD, so whatever. This did not fly with the two European couples on their return (they’d gone out on motorbikes to the local waterfalls all day), and it ended up being an all out shouting match between the owners and some of the guests. It was incredibly awkward to watch, let me tell you. Between the definite lack of professionalism on the part of the owners and the serious overreaction and lack of perspective on the part of the guests, things got out of hand real quick. It was another half hour before everything settled down and those of us who hadn’t spent the last thirty minutes in a metaphorical group cage match went back to having a few drinks and socializing as the dust settled. The incident aside, it was a pretty fabulous night playing Cards Against Humanity and enjoying some solid jungle juice and chats before heading to bed for the night.
The next morning (today) involved a decent hangover, a broken sandal, a race to make it to the ferry (this was the most stress I’ve had about making a travel plan since I don’t know when bc if I missed this boat I never could have made it to Manila on time for my flight), and a quick goodbye to my two new favorite Canadians. It sucked to part ways after having had such an amazing time with them this past week, but I have literally zero doubt in my mind that we’ll do some more traveling in the future seeing as I will force them to whether they like it or not. It doesn’t hurt that they’re already super well-traveled and I hyped up my family so much that they now want to meet them and will inevitably like them more than they like me but that’s not new so I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
What else? Let’s see. Oh! Being on a boat for 15h with no internet access and an overactive brain gives you lots of time to think. So here are my thoughts... Prepare yourselves. As much as we are inclined to believe that places like California and the Philippines are worlds apart not only geographically but culturally as well, and there is a lot to be said for the distinctions, I think the similarities are important to bear in mind. Don’t get me wrong, casual chickens walking across your lap and no phone service to speak of and varying social norms are a big deal. But when you look around – after putting the chickens out of your mind – you start to notice the ways we are all the same. You see a grandfather playing with his rambunctious grandson, a mother comforting her daughter who took a fall and scraped her knee, couples so in love it’s almost gross, and people everywhere with a smile and willingness to lend a hand.
When you travel alone, you notice more bc you don’t have a perpetual buddy to focus on, and the more I look the more I see. This month of solo travel has been such a gift to me; I’ve befriended locals and backpackers alike, had new experiences that I may never have been given the opportunity to try, and learned as much about myself as someone can in a month’s time. **Things I’ve learned include but are not limited to the fact that while I am the most social person I know, I can in fact survive on my own without talking a mile a minute 24/7, which I wasn’t sure about before this month, so that’s nice. The point is, us humans are fundamentally the same when you deconstruct all the bullshit and appreciate that people are generally good and full of love and wanting to make the world at least a little bit of a better place. I know, not everybody is like that (@ the asshole who stole all my belongings bc I’m still bitter), but I like to think that we have enough good to outweigh the bad. Maybe I’m naïve, but maybe not.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a five-year-old boy and his little sister absolutely begging me to play hide and seek with them through the bunk beds and a very smiley group of grandparents who’d like to chat with me about where I come from and what my thoughts are on their beautiful country. And after that, it'll be about time to cuddle my backpack so no one steals my stuff while simultaneously trying not to fall out of this bed made for small humans rather than tall humans.
So that’s all for now folx – I hope you’re excited for my next post where I have an emotional breakdown bc I will be back in the States in TWO DAYS after traveling for SIX MONTHS and I am going to experience reverse culture shock in every possible way while losing my mind over the fact that I’ll get to see all my favorite people for the first time in what feels like eons.
PS. This country is FULL of backpacker couples and I have never felt so single in my entire life. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.
PPS. Martin cut his ankle while we were free diving the wreck and did the most German thing ever by insisting that he go to the hospital to get stiches for his deadly (almost nonexistent) wound. We gave him a lot of crap for that one. I’m fairly certain he regrets hanging out with us.
PPPS. The suffix -po adds politeness and formality to many Filipino phrases and I think it's super cute when people use it (unless it's right after calling me ma'am and I know they're just being polite but I do not qualify as a ma'am yet dammit.
PPPPS. This is the last PS I swear. Jill does this thing where after I make a quality music-reference (usually by singing the first line), she knows the next line and could totally continue it so I don’t look like a dumbass but instead just looks at me like I’m an idiot and encourages the awkward silence that inevitably follows my outburst. I know this isn’t really relevant to anything nor is it something you needed to know, but I would like to be able to look back at this post and remember that she is a jerk. Yeah, you @Jill-IAN.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)