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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

March 3, 2004-Arrival In the Philippines

Arrival In Philippine Islands March 3, 2004

At dawn we sighted land, as you do when first light lifts away the veil of darkness. A new land (referring to our last email); long and low and slightly hilly, and in a bit of brown haze that looks somewhat like Southern California.

Just short of four days out of Palau, we have arrived in the Philippine Islands.

The wind was good when we started but it has been dying the whole trip, really. After a fast start, we're now reduced to motoring. The wind is only 4.4 knots. Still, it has been a reasonably fast passage, (we averaged 128 miles per day) and very, very easy. We arrived with a freezer full of Mahi Mahi, and well rested.

Today we'll go ashore and see how many pesos we can get for a sawbuck.

Day Two: First impressions of rural Philippines.

Dapa is a busy little town, crowded, jam packed, but poor, very poor. Conditions are bad, filth, little or no infrastructure. Fresh water is available on the street from hand pumps like on the well out at the farm when you were a kid. No tourists or ex-pats seen here, but a place called General Luna, just down the road, is a big tourist destination. Surfing, etc.

People are ever so friendly, always a smile, and happy to help. You hear "Hey, Joe!" yelled at you often, and I'm wary of getting my pocket picked. Store clerks tend to overcharge you or short change you at the store, however things are so cheap here you don't notice. We bought a shopping bag of fresh fruits and veggies, and a few liters of beverages, including beer and a fifth of rum, and the total was $US4.90.

Boats here are different, a lot of personal transportation is by boat, but instead of 21 foot fiberglass Pangas with big outboard motors, like seen in the Solomons or Papua New Guinea, (in Palau, by the way, they travel by car), here all the boats here are narrow, well crafted, plywood trimaran's, powered by inboard, air cooled, un-muffled, direct-drive, lawn mower motors. We have not seen a single, not one, outboard motor yet in the Philippines (well, its only been 24 hours). These trimaran's, and while most are about 20 feet long, some can be up to 75 or 100 feet long, move surprisingly fast, and constantly you can hear the putt putt from the motors of the little ones as they go flying along, spray splashing from the outriggers.

Taxi cabs, taxi motorcycles for three persons, pedi-cabs, and Jeepny's. I'll write about these later, but trust me, they are all colorful.

Philippine people are small, and their stores, at least in rural Dapa, are small. A typical grocery store is packed with goods, and no room in the isles. You duck your head to walk in, and have to turn sideways to pass someone, no room at all for a shopping cart, and you are constantly stepping over someone with a carton of canned goods, on the floor, restocking shelves. The streets are small, often paved, but too small to carry much traffic, not even made for cars it seems, and the town is for living in, not just shopping, with two story wood houses with balconies looking over the streets. There is a bit of Mexico in these towns, and as you walk the quiet, shady streets, there are people sitting in doorways, and they smile at you, and a mother tries to get a toddler to wave.

There are election posters all over town. The candidates are referred to by first name, "Gloria", "Roy", their pictures show them with bright shiny faces, looking slightly upwards, and promise good things for the Philippine people.

That's the first stop, sort of a culture shock for me, but interesting. We're on the move towards the big city hereabouts, Cebu City. I'm sure that will be much different.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, The Philippines
09deg 45min N, 126deg 03min E

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