Nothing quite sharpens the senses like walking around Malate with 400 quid on you. There being no ATM in Coron, there was no other choice but to withdraw all the cash required for four to six weeks' stay on the island. So I'm reduced to strolling unevenly around the district like a man with a badly-fitting corrective shoe; your money is safe in your trainers, though...Filipinos wouldn't rob a man of his shoes if they weren't going to fit now, would they? Most Filipinos wouldn't rob you of anything, to be honest...but the ones in Malate just might.
While in town, I thought I'd go to the flicks. They like big blockbusters here, and I was torn (hardly) between car chases and explosions, or a Nicholas Cage film called Knowing. He's consistently shit (Raising Arizona aside), but the entrance fee was around 2 quid so I coughed up. What a load of nonsense it was, but I laughed all the way through...so it was worth the money. Just about. I don't think it was supposed to be funny, though...the locals gave me some quizzical looks. "Watchable Shit" is the category I put this waste of celluloid under. Nice effects, just make sure you're under the influence of something if you pick it out of the bargain bin in Blockbuster.
That laughable tale didn't deserve a digression of that magnitude, but there you go. Back to the (vaguely) interesting stuff...
I spent a few hours to-ing and fro-ing over the Divemaster course location. Coron's not exactly Party Central, but 6 weeks on the Gilis would cost a fortune in booze...and wouldn't do me any good. So I bit the bullet, paid the extortionate visa extension fee for 30 days (65 quid), and bought a few diving bits and bobs for the course. A tenner flight back to Coron softened the visa blow, and the following morning saw me scanning the screens at Ninoy Aquino airport.
A tepid cuppa and tuna sandwich later, I was sat reading my book at the departure gate. An English fella nearby was reading a dive mag, and when he settled down for a nap I asked if I could read it. A short time later, he and his two companions were off for a fag "Could you watch the gear for us?" asked one of his pals in a Yank accent (I thought). Sure. On their return we got talking diving. They'd come from Boracay, and this flipped a switch. Especially when the fella said he was involved in work with whalesharks. "You're Canadian, then?" He was. "Is your name D'Arcy?" It was. I introduced myself and we both started laughing. A mutual friend had put us in touch via Facebook, and we'd been texting and mailing since I got to the Philippines; travel advice, arranging a meet to dive and the like. It truly is a small world.
The lads were hungover, and regaled me with some recent tales involving fire-extinguishers, escaping from irate hotel owners, drink-related injuries etc. Probably a good thing they were only out for a few days. Not that I got off to a good start with D'Arcy's mate, Jon; I don't think me telling him he reminded me of a cross between Michael Elphick and Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast was much of an ice-breaker. It was either that, or me enquiring about how he'd lost half his ear. "Bitten off in a fight" he said, without a glance in my direction. Oh.