I told him I'd be back, but I don't think he believed me. As the minibus pulled up outside Rocksteady, Gerd was straight across the dusty road to give me a bear hug and grab my bag. It was great to be reunited with my diving mentor. Nothing's changed at the shop, or indeed in town. Still dusty, still polluted, still crazy.
There were no guarantees of work at the shop, but I'd known this before setting out. In front of me were three other DMs: Dean (name changed for reasons to become apparent), a overly talkative American with a suicidal diving style; Miro, a flaxen-haired and mild-mannered German of some experience; and Helen, a robust Brummie tomboy destined to become my best mate here, and a friend for life (much more on her later). So I grabbed a crate and decanted my kit, ready for a dive the following day.
The town has suffered recently, the electricity being cut every day between 7am and 7pm. The authorities were in dispute with the power companies, who decided to show them a thing or two. There was allegedly 60K GBP of relief money in public coffers, but the Mayor and Governor, the Reyes Brothers, allegedly used this fund for alleged personal projects. Corruption? Here in the Philippines? Surely not? And that's quite aside from the fact that the Governor and Mayor of a town are not allowed to be related (would be difficult in Burnley). So it's been a pain in the arse getting something to eat during the day, and it's a good job I like tuna sandwiches.
One laughable change in the town centres around the waterfront. A new pier was under construction when I was here last, and one small corner of this twin football pitch area has been completed. It looks nice enough,with wooden benches, trees and paved areas. The trouble is, the grassy area needs watering every day to cope with the heat...and this is costing thousands of Pisos in water. Didn't really think it through. The Mayor's latest idea is for the redevelopment of the current waterfront buildings, stratched out on stilts and concrete piles around the bay; apparently he's seen some photos of Venice he quite likes, and wants that here. The mind truly boggles...I'll believe it when I see it. Which is highly unlikely, judging by the current snail pace of Filipino construction.
So it's a bit of a dump, but it's homely. I know people here, and it certainly feels good to be back.