Each time I expelled the yellow curdled phlegm from my lungs, I’m reminded of the luminosity of that quiet moon 4 days ago; an expanse of overwhelming peace that gently invited my blissful surrender. The wide, open sky shrouded me like a dark cloak held in place by the moon as its only incandescent button. A constant breeze swam past my out-stretched fingers, the air was cool. And from my wrists down, I was dripping with sweat.
THE SQUID DANCE
Like a possessed antelope, I was bouncing around the podium reliving those dance moves collected over my years of clubbing. The Boracay beach parties were just great! I haven’t danced so wildly and vigorously for the longest time. I must’ve danced non-stop for about 3 hours. The music at Cocomangas that Wednesday night was not great, but the bar prices were A-grade! A bottle of Red Horse (local brand) beer cost P60 (S$2.00) and a potent cocktail called Illusion went for P200 (S$6.70) per 750ml bottle! The moon, the sea, the sand, the cheap booze… all the right elements to get me partying vigorously. That I did. For 4 consecutive nights. And now that the alcohol-induced euphoria had dissipated, my aching body and cough serves as physio-souvenirs. Everything comes with a price. There is no free lunch in this world and some things got to give. It is just how much inconvenience we are prepared to take. I realized my limit.
This week-long holiday to the Philippines resulted from the generosity of my friend, JW. Otherwise, I don’t think I would ever see Manila or learn of the hospitality of the Filipino people. The trip started with a 2-day stay in Manila, then 4 days at Boracay (an island about 1 hour by flight from Manila). Three of us (myself, JW and JT, a Filipino working in SG) came from Singapore and met up with a dozen of their Filipino friends in Manila. At some friends’ gatherings that I had attended in SG, most of the time, the ‘new kid’ is pretty much left alone and it’s the job of the ‘bringer’ to entertain the ‘bringee’. That’s not the case there. My newly introduced Filipino friends initiated conversation and made me feel a part of their closely knitted group even though I had only known them 5 minutes ago. And they really talked to me. Not just surface stuff, but sharing with me things that go on in their lives. Hope I can remember everyone… there was George, Joaquim, Nathan, Allan, Ken, Doc Jay, AJ, Macky, Jury, Noel, Jesse, Art, Dhave, and Paolo.
Manila Accommodation : Renaissance Hotel, Makati
Boracay Accommodation : Residencia De Tirol (section 1 of Boracay beach)
Exchange Rate : S$1.00 = 30pesos (Total spent about S$500)
Note : don’t go to the money changer at Lucky Plaza, the one facing McDonald’s by the steps. I wanted to change S$300 to pesos, but instead of multiplying the S$ dollar with the selling price to get the equivalent amount in pesos, he divided the total pesos I would get by the buying price to arrive at the equivalent S$. I ended up paying S$301.75 for P8,500. I was in a rush then and didn’t realize. I checked with currency converters online and with friends, I should be getting more than P8,500. Wondering if I should go back to the money changer and have it clarified.
Cab Fare : P30 (subsequent increment is P2.5. Insist that they use the meter)
Trike Ride : P40 per trip (Trikes are motorbikes attached with a 3-wheeled carriage. The other form of common local transport is the jeepney)
Airport Tax : P550 (departing from Manila to SG)
Manila city is much like any other cities. On the outskirts, there’re shoddy wooden planked houses and old 2-storey shophouses, while the skyline gets more crowded as we approached the central business district area with the glitzy hotels and strapping condominiums. Did nothing much apart from shopping and eating so I do not know what else Manila has to offer as a tourist destination. Shopping-wise is not too bad with a good mix of familiar high fashion boutiques and local brands. Being the cheap bargain hunter that I am, naturally, I didn’t find much amusement in the Greenbelt Malls. But I do particularly like one of the local clothing retailers, Bench. It offers mainly casual / beach wear, but the must-buy is its underwear with outrageous prints.
Boracay is your typical beach resort with transparent waters that deepens to an emerald green and 500 meters offshore, it darkens to a sapphire blue. The beach is clean but there isn’t much marine life close to shore so it’s not much for snorkel ogle. The character of this beach would be the many beach bars, restaurants, and shops that lined up the whole beach. There’re 3 sections to the beach that stretches, I don’t know, 10km? It is a huge beach. And at night, these beachside bars convert into open-air clubs with Hollywood searchlights shot into the night sky. It is rather grand with those beams of light slicing up the sky and each club plays a different kind of music. They’re side by side so you can change from trance music to live band in a few steps and they open till dawn. I’ve grown a penchant for beach parties because nature inspires this relaxing awe in me when I’m high and looking out into the horizon, the waves, the glimmer of the moon, the sea breeze… and it’s not smoky with plenty of fresh air.
I got stung by a sea urchin on my 3rd day in Boracay. I was swimming very close to shore and was treading water when I felt a sharp pain on the sole of my right foot. In that split second, I can feel the prick of hot needles as the urchin harpooned 5 simultaneous stings into my flesh. There appeared 5 black dots on my skin where the stings were embedded. The pain burned. I panicked a little. Not so much from the pain, but the fear of poisoning. I was advised to pee on it but I was not prepared to whip out my urethra in the middle of the beach and the toilet is too far away.
So I took Doc Jay’s advice and hobbled over to get some vinegar from a nearby restaurant and poured over the wounds. It was said that vinegar will help dissolve the spikes and if I’m poisoned, I would know soon enough. So I closed my eyes and lied down to catch a tan while waiting to see if I would foam at the mouth. I mean, the sun is too glorious on that day to waste on a lousy sea urchin sting and even if I forgot to wake up, my golden tanned complexion would look good under mortuary lighting. Luckily I opened my eyes again about half hour later and allowed the evening chillout grooves to sway my feet back to my normal stuttered dance.
Travelogue and more about the trip in my photo album, Fill Phil.