Friday, 3 April 2009

The Malapascua Gang

Last night a smiling Filipino man encouraged me as I stroked his cock.

But more on that later. There's not a lot goes on in Malapascua. You can walk around the island in a few hours, and there are few bars save for the ones on the beach. These and the resorts were all moved back from the shoreline a few years ago, to improve the look of the place. Only one escaped the 30 metre ruling: the massive blue-painted eyesore belonging to the Mayor. Funny, that.

I'd been eating at a place called Ging Ging's, near to my bungalow (which was, incidentally, the nicest I've had since Thailand). The food there is great, which was a nice change. I'd got chatting to a Canadian called Dan, a fell in his 40s from Bristol called Chip, and their companions Elayne and John from Primrose Hill, London. Chip was hilarious...he'd been tagging along with John and Elayne for months, no idea of where he was or was going, and starting drinking at 10am every day. He even had a ten minute Power Nap on bar stool one afternoon, woke up and finished his beer. Amazingly amusing fellow. I'd love to get him travelling with The Colonel and film it, I think we'd have a cult TV show on our hands....Mr Chips And The Colonel Go Bonkers In Asia.

There was a Fiesta on the island one weekend. Cockfighting, Ladyboy Beauty Pageant...the lot. They call it Miss Gay here, though. Canadian Dave was selected to be a judge. I didn't stick around for it, though. The music they were playing at the Fiesta was killing me, the worst type of R&B imaginable and some dodgy Filipino love songs. Chip wandered off alone with a big bottle of Red Horse beer and fell asleep under a tree. John's night was cut short after he fell down a 10' deep hole while looking for him...he emerged back into the lights of the party covered in a foul-smelling muck. Luckily it didn't appear to be human excrement. Small mercies.

I passed one evening with Elayne and Chip in a tiny local bar. Tanduay Rum, Red Horse and San Miguel being a lethal combination. As is my wont when drunk, it was time to play with animals. There were four puppies the size of a fist, and myself and Elayne had one each to pet. Then I saw the cock. There were lots of these on the island, in preparation for the fighting, which is something of a national sport. I decided I wanted to play with that, too. It seemed quite happy to let me stroke it, only pecking my hands a couple of times. The owner was amused. Cockfighting seems a bit brutal; the birds have a razor attached to one leg. But when these bastards have been crowing outside your bungalow at intervals of 30 seconds from 3am, you lose sympathy. What happened to doing it at the break of dawn? Where's the sense of tradition?

Dan's Dives

I'd met a German instructor on leaving my Cebu hotel, Wolfie, who recommended the dive shop he works for. Dan's Dives is run by a wizened old diver called Dan (funnily enough), an American in his 60s. I liked him immediately; looked like he'd just got out of bed, and his shop was a tip. The gear was in good nick, though...so I didn't shop around, just booked 8 dives with his crew.

There was a dive booked that afternoon, so I tagged along. Having been used to checking gear with your buddy, and having a proper briefing, this dive made me a little nervous. The Divemaster and Kris, a Kiwi, were in the water immediately. I'd forgotten my mask, and the spare was a bad fit. This, coupled with my apprehension over my ribs, led me getting into a right fluster on the surface...the sea was pretty rough, too. Incorrectly weighted, I was struggling to descend, and almost aborted the dive. It's not pleasant when you're a little nervous.

Taking a moment to calm myself down, I eventually made my way to the bottom. And there we sat, at Monad Shoal, for 45 minutes. No Threshers turned up. In fact, I dived here three times and didn't see a single one.

I had more luck at Gato Island, a great dive spot with a swim-through tunnel. Three White-Tip Sharks were around that afternoon: two sleeping on the sea bed under rocks, and one in motion. Shy creatures, this one was off in an instant, with me in pursuit trying to film it. No chance, it was off away in the blink of an eye. It's odd; you expect to nervous when sharks turn up, but the fascination and awe wipes out any trace of nerves. If anything, it's they who are more skittish. Be different if it was a Tiger or a Great White, obviously. Wouldn't be me doing the chasing, I'd imagine.

These were the only sharks I was to see. Apparently that, and the shorter visibilty on some days, were the result of the full moon. Disappointing, but at least I'd had my first view of a shark on one dive. North Point and Lapus Lapus are another couple of dives I'd recommend if you're in the area.

All in all, good to be back in the water if nothing else. Ribs held up nicely, despite my terrors of some deep water chest collapse...

Malapascua: Deal Or No Deal?

Malapascua is a tiny speck of sand and rock off the northern tip of Cebu, a mere 2.5km long and 1km wide. It's a favourite with divers, known for its cleaning station at Monad Shoal, frequented by Manta Rays and Thresher Sharks. It had long been a definite on my list of places to visit.

I'd arrived in the small town opposite the island too late to get a boat, so myself and a German couple wound up at the Abba Lodge for the night. It was a relief to get off the bus, as the driver had been a lunatic, racing another bus down the country roads in the pitch dark. There had also been a guy on the bus warning me about thieves in the Philippines who was getting on my wick. He'd said they'd steal my watch. "I don't wear one" I said (it was fastened around my ankle at the time). "Ah, you hide it in your bag?" he asked. "No, I don't wear one". He continued "Ah...is in a secret place?" What's with all the questions? Thankfully he got off before I did.

The next morning, we were up early for the first boat. I'd been told to expect all the usual blags, such as the boat not leaving until full, but we could get a private boat for 300 pesos each (the ferry costs 50 pesos). A local likely lad started trying it on. 300 each for the three of us and we leave right now? I just started laughing and didn't even look at him. He wandered off, and I whispered to Steen that we'd wait for 150, maximum. He grinned and agreed. Sure enough, Del Boy comes back with 250 five minutes later. "No way, mate...too much". A short wait later it was 200. Nope. The locals gathered around the dock were loving it...a couple of old blokes laughing at us. When Del Boy wasn't getting any further with me, one of the men shouted over "400 pesos for three. Deal Or No Deal". Absolutely brilliant; I flashed him a big grin. "Deal". A bit over the odds, but worth it for the laugh.

As it turns out, we didn't leave right now...we waited til the boat was full. No surprises...

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

Cebu's a grotty, ramshackle kind of town. If anything, it looks worse than Manila's edgier areas at times when dark, as there aren't as many people around. I've got my Manilero head on now, it's easy to go with the flow and not be intimidated by the city and it's goings-on.

If Manila attracts the out-and-out Sex Tourists, Cebu seemed (to me) to attract a different type of white man: the Lovelorn Loser. I'd got chatting to the irritating Yank from the airline office, Eric, at my hotel reception. He was actually OK when he wasn't banging on about how great America was (aren't they all). He was here to find a wife. Hence his behaviour at the airline office, I suppose. I asked him why, and he told me American women are hard work: they don't want to clean or cook, or look after their man. I burst out laughing, but he was earnest. Each to their own, but I prefer a woman who's going to tell me to Fuck Off now and again, and give me a run for my money. Eric's mate was a headcase. I'd seen him at the office, too. He wears a bandanna, tight vest, cheap jeans and possibly the smallest cowboy boots I've ever seen. With big heels. His trick to attract the women was to flex his biceps every now and again, treating us to a less-than-pleasant waft of B.O each time he did so. Good Luck, mate.

By far the saddest case I came across (in both senses...I felt a bit sorry for him) was Andy, a 45-year old Californian. His wife had stitched him up, and he was paying maintenance to their two kids which crippled him financially. So he'd come to the Philippines to meet a Filipina via a dating website. Turns out she'd invited three prospective husbands, and was trying all out at the same time. She picked another fella, and even asked Andy for advice on him. Talk about painful. So he was currently chasing another girl. He let it slip that his former wife was also a Filipina he'd met through another dating site. I was walking beside him in a daze as he told his story; it was depressing me. Talk about a glutton for punishment. If I ever get like that, a bullet would provide a welcome release.

The next morning I woke early to extend my visa before heading for my first dive destination since busting the ribs: Malapascua.