Friday, December 17, 2010

Port Barton, Sabang, Clark and Subic

I've already put this off long enough, so i will wrap up the last week of Philippines in one mega post.

We left El Nino with an early morning, 5 hour jeepney ride, bound for the lazy town of Port Barton, where we did absolutely nothing for two days. And it was great. Here's our jeepney.

Honestly, the best thing to do in Port Barton is nothing. We stayed at Summer Homes resort and had a nice bungalow in a beautiful garden setting right on the beach. It rained all of day one, so we slept, had a few meals and slept more. Day two, we set up our hammocks on the beach, swam a little, played frisbee, drank beers and tropical beverages, and relaxed. We also played with a huge Python. Port Barton: Done.

We then took a boat to Sabang for one night as an alternative to Puerto Princesa. There are no ATM's in Palawan outside of Puerto Princesa and Coron and we had run out of cash, so we stayed at the 2nd nicest resort in town because they accept credit cards. It turned out to be a great deal because they included a wonderful breakfast and arranged transport to Puerto Princesa the next morning for a third of the normal price. Sabang turned out to have the nicest beach we'd seen and we spent our precious few hours splashing in the huge waves. If we knew before, we would have planned a few extra days there. Next time i suppose.

Leaving Palawan, we flew to Manila for the Manila Spirits Ultimate Frisbee Tournament, which was held two hours away in Clack. Clark is home to a former US Air Force base which was vacated in 1991. Interesting history, Clark still has ten's of thousands of prostitutes leftover from those days. It also has a fairly large population of Filipinos in their 20's who are half American. Go figure.

So, we played ultimate. Our men's team won the Open division on Friday and our mixed team won the B Pool championship on Sunday. Overall, it was a great three days of disc, with a few awesome parties mixed in. Highlights from the parties were: face painting, carnival games, awesome filipino friends, a live reggae band, and green man (spot him in the middle picture below).

We had one day off before our group flight to Beijing, so we decided to head to the beach town of Subic. Almost everything about that day was an adventure. It is a place i would never recommend to any tourist, and i can safely say i will never go back, but i'm glad i went. Our hotel turned out to be perfectly adequate, and cheap. But we soon found out why it was so cheap: we were not in a great part of town (if there even was one). Stepping outside the hotel, you are mobbed by "Parking Attendants" who wish to "help" you get taxi's or offer you "advice" about the town. If you let one of these people help you in anyway, they will demand forcefully that you owe them money. Some "helpful" things that required payment include: not leaving us alone as we walked to the nearest bank, standing next to me while i haggle the price for a jeepney, or my favorite, pointing me to the 7-11 as i'm standing in front of it preparing to go inside.

First, there weren't any taxi's to be had, so transportation was at the mercy of the jeepneys. With 15 people to shuttle around, we never would have arrived anywhere together. I took the initiative to secure a private jeepney ride to a beach that was recommended by the hotel. We piled in and off we went, Parking Attendant included. After getting lost and going too far, we eventually found not the right place and went inside. Parking Attendant tried to rip me off, but he was only able to get an extra $1 from me, which seemed like a small price to pay to get him off my back. The total price ended up being $8 for 15 people. Man- i can't get over how much i resemble my brother Mike in these pictures.

We headed down to the beach where it was already dark, and we met Frank. Frank was the caretaker of the beach, and he looked after us well. He informed us it would probably not be safe to go buy food and beer ourselves, as Subic has not yet acquired the manners and acceptance shown by the rest of the Philippines. He sent someone off to buy us a case of beer, gin, chicken, fish, veggies, and rice for consumption on the beach. Frank turned out to be a blessing, completely trustworthy and at the same time, shamed by the behavior of his local countrymen. He turned a potentially miserable adventure into a delight. Here's Frank with Baby Girl.

While waiting for the food, i made friends with a group of off-duty policemen and women who were getting (already?) drunk and singing karaoke in a private beach hut. They poured me shots of apple vodka and made me sing with them. I chose "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and got a score of 96 (according to the scoring system in the karaoke machine). My friends later joined me and, eventually, took over the karaoke machine. Below is our food hut on the left, and karaoke hut on the right.

Um, i think we all got drunk and went home eventually. A few of us went out for dinner and drinks later. I ordered what must have been the worst burger ever made. The meat(?) was inedible, but no sooner had i ejected it from the bun than Baby Girl popped the entire lump of meat(?) into his mouth, making (faking?) sounds of delight. He was never the same again.

Also the mayor of Subic is named Bong Gordon. Awesome. Still not going back.

And that basically wraps up our vacation. Headed back to Chicago and Colorado shortly for the holidays. It sure has been an exciting year.


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