Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Philippines - Travelling to Malapascua

Today was a day of travelling. It is very tricky to get to Malapascua Island. We were picked up from our hotel at 7 to be taken to Legaspi Airport. We got there an hour early for our 11.30 flight and were told that the flight was delayed until…14.50. We checked in and went in the waiting room but luckily they let us out to get water and food. The plane arrived at 15.35. It was chucking down again but they gave us each an umbrella for that few meters from the waiting room to the plane. We also saw that the car that carried our luggage was covered and they put up a kind of tent while they took all luggage in the plane. When we finally arrived, we had a 3 hour car journey ahead of us. As we were 4 hours late the boat did not want to leave in the evening as it was too dark and the sea too rough. We had to stay on the main island until the next morning and miss out on a thresher shark dive.

As there was not much happening today I’ll write a little about the Philippines.
I understand that as a foreigner and especially as a diver we only see a certain side of the Philippines. They pick us up from everywhere and take us to resorts that we do not have to leave. They keep us in a bubble so that we don’t see what is really happening around us.

The Philippines is a very poor country. To make matters worse it lies in the way of many typhoons during the wet season. People build their homes that get swept away regularly by a typhoon. In the last big one on Cebu Island we were told by our cab driver that a 170 hectare banana plantation was destroyed and this is just one of many occurrences. Also, on the island we’ve just left behind, there is an active volcano that erupted only five years ago. On our way to the airport we saw that the biggest, nicest and cleanest buildings are churches. They must paint them over and over again to keep them so nice as due to the humidity the houses here get mouldy quickly and the paint starts flaking off. Probably this is the reason most houses are not even painted.

It is very eye-opening to see that on one side of the road are the nice big hotels and on the other side are the local’s houses, only a fraction of them made out of bricks. The rest are made up of (as much as I could see) whatever they could find, mostly wood and palm tree leaves. In our resort there was a security guard posted 24/7 at the reception and behind the pretty bungalows there was broken glass lined up on the top of high walls all around the resort. This stops us seeing all the run down houses and huts just next door.

Talking to our dive master, Justin (who spells his name Justine but pronounces it Justin) painted another picture of living here. He told us he bought diving equipment through the dive company he works for and he is slowly paying them back the money. I know it’s a big leap but I can just imagine the whole diving industry being like that, all these young kids working for these companies for peanuts tied to them by debt. It sounds horrible.

There is also a plus side. The taxi driver I was chatting to told me that the economy is rising in the Philippines. Due to tourism people get paid a bit better and there are more jobs around. Let’s hope that our honeymoon contributed to this a tiny bit.

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