What am I expecting from the upcoming trip?
Somehow I have found Asia very attractive and keep going back to this part of the World. I’ve been travelling alone in India on multiple occasions and done some shorter trips with my wife in Beijing and in Thailand. And some trips in Turkey and in the states on the Arab Peninsula. I have seen amazing scenery in the rainforest, on beaches and in the snow-covered mountains in the Himalayan. But I haven’t been in the Philippines and I’m really not aware what to expect. Actually I would like to reset my prejudices and all my hypothetical contractions about this archipelago and its inhabitants. And it would be just pointless to generalize the whole nation by the few people that I have met. Imagine how stupid it would be. However, many people are doing this. There are over 100 million Filipinos and I suspect they are not look-a-likes.
I would be happy to meet people and hear their genuine stories. I would like to get familiarised with local cuisine and street food. As a consequence, I’m fully aware of that, I might be shitting and vomiting like hell.
I have two main agendas for these three weeks. I need to establish a local company and open a fancy office in Tagbilaran city. Preparation for accomplishing both tasks has been partly poor and I have some thoughts about achieving them. I have Jay as local support and I still hope we can pull this off.
The city of Tagbilaran has been described in reviews and Tripadvisor as a relatively ugly city if you compare to the white sandy beaches and green-blue coral sea that surrounds the city. I’ll take a look at the city on my own. I’ve already booked a Honda motorbike so that I could tour around the island too.
The island of Bohol is quite small, it is close to 5000 km2 - that is smaller than Crete (8300 km2), exactly the same size as Trinidad and twice bigger than Saaremaa (2600 km2). The coastline is closely populated with endless villages (the population is around 1.3 million people, that is exactly the population of Estonia or Trinidad that I compared earlier) and the inland toward the mountain should be a more remote area.
Anyhow I’m expecting to see spectacular landscapes and I’m keen to do some awesome portraits of the people I’ll meet. So, I hope I can combine hard work and pleasure.
One of the aims is also to visit neighbouring megacity Cebu City, because it has significant influence over this region and attracts software talents like a magnet. Maybe this will be a one-day trip by ferry.
Am I afraid of anything?
I’m a bit afraid that some of the vital tasks will not be accomplished due to poor preparation or god-knows what will come up as an obstacle. I have started to look for a lawyer in the Philippines, because there might be some paperwork that I need to bring with me from Estonia.
I’m also afraid that I will not be able to change the tone - yes sir, no sir towards me. I tried to get rid of it, but this behavior is deeply rooted in the culture mainly because of centuries of colonisation.
My biggest concern is that eventually I will run out of time and will not find fine balance between work and exploring.
Also I’m afraid of the potential local bureaucracy - the heavy burden to my shoulders. I don’t have the bureaucracy gene in me. As an Estonian, I’m spoiled by the relatively easy paperwork and digital signing and paperless official world. But I hope I will find people to help me in that matter.
Today I’m heading to Asia again. I can consider myself as a climate refugee, because in Tallinn the weather is just unpleasant. Wind is blowing the last leaves off the trees and it is cold. You know this kind of cold that can reach through the skin and flesh into the bones. So, soon I will face the warm breeze. My backpack has surprised me. There was so much stuff, but somehow all fit into this Fjällräven 65 litres bag. If I run out of any items I can easily buy it from the Philippines and most likely it will be cheaper than in Estonia.
I’m able to do the last preparations and do some work before ordering the taxi to the airport. I also took a shower knowing that I will have another chance to get back to the human condition in 17 hours in Manila.
I ordered a taxi and the ride to the airport was only 11 minutes. I went to the counter of Turkish Airlines and I was able to apply for the loyalty program. I realised I have flown this airline many times and there might be some benefits waiting for me. Anyhow the instant benefit was the fact that I was able to change my seats to more cozy emergency exit seats without charge. Looks like this is an official work-around. When you check in online you need to pay extra for these seats, but when you ask the counter lady to re-check and change seats, it is free of charge. Nice. I stood in the line and handed over my backpack. It weighs 16kg which is very fine with both internationals and Philippines domestic flights.
Look at the size of a bag compared to my daughter
Mirjam and Jaanika have arrived to have a farewell coffee with me. That is our tradition as long as the flight will depart during daytime. We ordered coffees, a hot chocolate, a muffin and sandwiches. It is only three weeks that we are apart, but still these moments are kind of emotional. My family will continue their everyday routine life. That includes work, kindergarten, training and logistics. We did the kisses and hugs just before the certain line that splits two zones. Then I hopped over to the zone of the passengers and quickly did the necessary and usual procedures of security checks. There was spare time in the gate and I saw how the Turkish Airline aircraft rolled into the gate. So, it takes some time before passengers will get out and all will be ready for the new trip. Again I’m very happy about the proper headset with the noise cancellation. The airport hall is echoing of the announcements and I’m very happy to ignore them. While I’m sitting in the gate I will see when the passengers start to move and form a queue.
Looks like the regular Boeing 737 aircraft will be almost packed. The flight attendants are polite. Last time they even brought me merchandise for Mirjam when I asked that. Mirjam was very happy over the airplanes and other branded toys. It is very pleasant to sit in the exit seat. It is a bit freighting to sit right next to the huge fuel tank though. Both wings are filled with fuel for the upcoming flight. We lift off from the asphalt of Tallinn airport at 18:15. It is dark outside and I filled my time with the Invictus movie of South African rugby. It was a story of Nelson Mandela, sport, leadership and regognisalisation. We landed in Istanbul at 10PM. Istanbul is a vast city and in the darkness you can only recognize countless sparks of lights. My next flight’s departure gate has not been confirmed yet and I need to wait.
I sat under the departure screens and read a book of tennis player Maria Sharapova. A very interesting piece of reading, because she wrote the book herself. All of a sudden one man stopped by and asked for a quick charge of his cellphone. Well, of course I gave him the cable and the power bank. He said his name is Hamid and he is from Cordoba, Spain. He spoke so little English that we were able to speak in Spanish instead. So, he sat next to me and charged his phone. But then he said something and waived somewhere and he was gone with my power bank. Maybe he said he will bring me back my stuff, but the reality was that he was gone. I took another power bank from my bag and didn’t cry for long. Now I can see my gate number and it is about a half an hour walk from where I was. I sat on the floor close to the gate 227A. In Turkish the word gate means Kapilar - which reminds me of veins and blood. It makes sense in a way, doesn’t it?
At 01:45 I sat on my cozy exit seat again. Boeing 777 is a large plane. There are two isles and nine seats in the row. Today we have roughly 350 souls onboard. Right next to me is German guy Mario who is travelling via Cebu City to visit Bohol. We talked about the usual stuff and about history and geography. I watched a movie and ate lunch or dinner. It’s getting more and more confusing. We started in the night and we are moving towards the sunrise. I tried to sleep, but mostly it is a torture for me - I just can’t sleep on airplanes. I went to the toilet and noticed the bright day light through the window. We are already over Burma. Flight crew served breakfast at 4PM, because most of us were just waking up. Time is a messy thing.
We chatted some more with Mario. We landed in Manila at 6PM. Customs and baggage claim went well. Mario had difficulties getting money out of the ATM, but eventually he got the local cash. We were wandering around and started to walk out of the airport area. We were eager to find cheaper taxis and we got one. We explained that we want to go to two different hotels. I showed the destinations on Google map and the taxi driver said 1000₱, then 800₱ and I said 500₱ and he agreed. We drove to Makati’s subarea named Guadeloupe. Makati streets are sometimes very narrow and the traffic is rather hectic. Everybody would like to press through the gaps and get the small advantage.
At one intersection a lady with a little baby knocked on the window and pegged for money. This is a glamorous finance district and right next to it there are lower building areas that house entertainment and restaurants. Money and pleasure have always been close to each-other. We split the taxi fee and Mario went to his hostel where he is looking for hints about what to visit and what to do in upcoming weeks. He hasn’t prepared anything, except the first accommodation. My hotel Herald Suites Solana is not far away from it. I hopped out of the taxi and checked in. Bell boy gave me fresh mango juice. My room is quite large and situated on the 8th floor.
My daughter found a pile of toys in her bed that I placed just before leaving home
I took a shower and felt like a human again. I went upstairs to see the rooftop swimming pool. It is closed already and maybe tomorrow early morning I will have a short swim. I went to the street. The air is just so humid that my shirt was instantly wet. Today is the holiday of all saints and in a bizarre way it is connected with Halloween. Many of the services are closed. I walked along the main road sidewalks. There are some noises from the shadows asking for food or money. There are also yellow dogs and a variety of cats of different colors on the streets wandering and looking for food. Also I saw 3 people actually sleeping on the street. But in general the streets were relatively clean and very safe to walk around. Anyhow, this is the life of any megacity, even in the USA and in Europe.
My body is still adjusting with new reality and pouring out sweat. I had dinner in the street food corner where I ordered BBQ chicken and chicken guts, Ramen soup, Tempura crabs and Momo-like pastries. It was all good and only the guts were too much at the beginning of my trip. The place was crowded by locals and that was a sign that I can eat the meat here. The cost of my tasty experiment was 450₱ ~ 7€. Across the street was Cash and Carry mall and a lot of people were walking in and out of it. I walked back to my hotel. I took another shower and talked with my wife. Also needed to report certain people that I’m in Manila now. I’m tired and soon went to bed.
I woke up at 5AM. The AC has been off during the night, because I don’t like to sleep in the noise and in the cold breeze. The street below is already very active. It's strange, I’m in Manila's financial district, where there are stone buildings everywhere and I can see skyscrapers from my window, but I still can clearly hear the sound of the roosters. I was happy to find toothpaste alongside shampoos and soaps in the bathroom. Somehow I managed to ran out of toothpaste at the beginning of my trip. I’m sure I will have a chance to buy it in the local mini market in Bohol. I went down to the ground floor to have breakfast. There’s a menu of different dishes, I took omelette. Also there is a choice of juices and fruits. There were also serials and toasts and that’s about it. I had coffee and I felt great. Went up again to bring my bags to the lobby. Checked out and got a taxi from the street. Taxi ride was only 10 minutes and we went up to the toll road called Skyway. Makati City has many tall buildings. The toll fee 45₱ ~ 0.75 € is usually asked from the passenger. I arrived at the airport at 7AM. Security check and baggage drop off were quick. I ordered a lemonade and just sat and waited for my flight.
At 9:10AM we took off as the departure was scheduled. Manila looks vast and endless. The Airbus 320 was full and all seats were occupied. Further south I saw hundreds of islands and bright blue water around them. I also recognised Cebu City. Most of the islands are relatively flat and with no major mountains. Island of Bohol is also very green and surrounded with coral reefs. We landed in tiny Tagbilaran airport at 10:30AM. I have heard they are building a new bigger airport in Panglao island, just south of Bohol. But the current airport is tiny and therefore it was very rapid progress. I got my bag and I walked into the heat of paradise.
I saw Jay with the sign Timm Rannu written on it. Jay is easy to recognise because he has long black curly hair and a wide smile. There are not many guys like him. We hugged and he introduced me a Danish guy Per who is renting me a Honda 150cc dirt motorbike. The Danish guy started to talk about the legend of the flag of Denmark. Every Danish school kid has learned that the Danish flag came down from heaven as a sign of victory just outside of Tallinn somewhere in the 13th century. I said it is a legend, like the Stuart Little story. We had a good laugh. The bike is almost new, done only 8500 km. I paid 12 000₱ ~ 200€, all in the purple bills - these notes are 1000 pesos. We said goodbye and started to drive through Tagbilaran City to the end of neighbouring Panglao island.
Down there is the island of Bohol surrounded with smaller islands and coral reefs
My accommodation is located in Momo Beach and the building itself is a tower. Each floor has one studio room. I’ve got a rooftop flat and that means a lot of climbing on stairs. My room wasn’t ready and it needed to be cleaned. Jay had San Miguel beer and fruits. Fresh mango is something special. It smells and tastes so much better that the mangos we are able to buy in Europe. These fruits are usually harvested as raw and doxicated too. But locals here in paradise have a right to eat proper fruits. We chatted about the values and why we do this company. The room is ready and I was able to move in. Air Conditioner looks rubbish and the bathroom is basically a toilet with a shower hose. I can handle this, but in a way I feel that I have overpaid. We went back down and drove to the city.
There are three major roads on Panglao island that connect the south tip with the Northside and with Tagbilaran. I’m going to drive these roads probably 100 times while I’m here. We went to the mall, where we needed to show the content of the bags in the security. There have been too many shootings and explosions in the malls around the world. It is understandable that we need to do this. We handed over my phone that had a broken screen glass. The new screen cost me 2800₱ ~ 46€, that is twice cheaper than in Estonia. We had 30 minutes spare time and we crossed the road and went to eat street food. I let Jay pick and choose the small dishes. It was all very tasty. I like to eat street food, because this is what local people can afford and what they prefer most. McDonalds and KFC are rather more expensive and exclusive for locals. I don’t mind not eating these American cuisines. I got my shiny phone back and it looks like new again.
Jay went back home to work for Blend IT client projects. I’m very satisfied that we are building up the competence of developing Android and iOS apps. I drove around the city just to get an understanding where things are located. I went to massage for two hours. The cost for Swedish or classical massage is 600₱ ~ 10€. It was good to get treatment after multiple flights. It is almost 5PM and it’s getting dark. I drove over the bridge and I saw the sunset. I went up to my tower and did some work. There is no air in my room and this AC is only blinking the lights, but no dry and cool air from this machine. I sat on my balcony and saw the neighbouring Cebu island and there was a proper lightning.
I’m located in a strange area. I drove past a small hut where guys were doing karaoke. It was loud and out of tune, but most definitely fun for them. There were probably 10 dogs laying on the street and about the same amount of screaming roosters. I can hear dogs barking and the roosters in my balcony very clearly. I can work outside and the only light I have on the balcony is the laptop screen itself and the candle. I decided to drive a little and see what is around here. I drove back to the main road and then to Panglao town. I bought toothpaste, water and ice cream from Seven Eleven. I parked my bike across the street and walked to the park of St. Augustine Church.
There were many people sitting and some of them played guitar and sang. I walked to the Panglao Watchtower and back to the street. One transexual lady started to talk to me. She had a black dress on, a lot of make-up and high heels. She was a bit drunk too. She turned out to be Apoel and she preferred to call herself shemale or ladyboy. Her agenda was to go somewhere. I just sat next to her and said that she has a pretty dress, but I’m not looking for a date. She said that I’m handsome and started to kiss me. Well, that is the first time ever to get a kiss from a male. I said politely that it will not work out and said goodbye. In a way that was a sad experience. She is obviously working, but she was definitely lonely on the festival day when other people are celebrating. Most probably she is excommunicated from her family and maybe most of her previous friends. Because catholic culture just can’t stand the fact she is transsexual.
I drove a little bit further to the north on the coast line. Today is Souls Day which in the catholic tradition means family meeting in the cemetery. The whole family ate and drank and memorised the beloved ancestors. I stopped in front of one of those family tombs or sepulchre. I asked if they might ask about the tradition and about their grandparents.
This grave is for Leonarda and Diego. So, yesterday was All Saints Day and today is All Souls Days. Today the family will gather and be in connection with their loved ones who have died. I also tasted local sweet Biko which is sweet rice with coconut. They were interested where I’m coming from and what I’m doing in Bohol. I thanked them for the warm hospitality.
These teens were memorizing of one of their baby brother
I walked further to the cemetery and saw how some people played cards and drank alcohol on the grave. I’m pretty sure they poured some liquor and they might even share some cards to the person who they are memorising. They looked amused and they were loud. One group of young people sat around a small grave. It turned out that this is a grave of a baby boy. This boy’s sister and her friends were in very naughty or happy mode. One young lady, maybe she was 17 or 18, grabbed my hand and said that she has a new boyfriend. They were laughing and they really were happy. I thanked them too and started to walk back to my bike. What a bizarre and at the same time interesting evening I have had. In Europe we also memorise the All Souls Day by light the candles on relatives graves or just lighting a candle on the window sill, but we don’t do this in the festival fashion. Russians very often have even a bench in the cemetery to spend more time with the dead relatives and often pour some vodka to the dead relative as a drinking companion. It is getting late.
I drove to Momo beach and turned off the engine. The beach area is quiet and you can only hear the waves rolling to the shore. There were two dogs investigating my shoes. On the other side of the streetI can see thunderstorm and massive lightning. It is still so far away that I can’t hear any lightning noise. I climbed up to my tower again. I did some more work and wrote about the first day at Bohol. Went to bed.
It was a rough night in terms of humility and the noise outside. The AC is still not working and it was just hot and humid and the sheets just glued to my body. But even worse was the noise that came all around me. Roosters and dogs were so excited about the sunrise, that I had difficulties sleeping. And somehow after a little while I slept like a baby after sunrise till 9AM. I had a plan to go swimming at 7AM, but now I needed to rush to the city. I had a quick shower.
I drove to Tagbilaran and to Tamper cafe. Jay introduced his girlfriend Chihiro, which means in Japanese 1000 beauty. She has been here in Bohol already since February and she is working on an environmental project. Jay used to work in the same company and she was his boss there. Somehow there was the workplace romance. We had very interesting talks and we ate breakfast together. This cafe is a bit fancier and a bit more expensive than regular cafes. There are also burgers and pastas alongside with local snacks.
At 11AM we left Chihiro to do some work in the cafe and went to visit two office options. One was on the ocean side and looked promising. The otnother flat was situated on the side of the port and airport. Flat itself was depressing with small windows. And this flat is on the edge of the city. We will not consider that as an option. We will see the third option on Monday. While we drove in the city Jay showed me the local College and the University. We went back to the cafe to rejoin Chihiro and chatted some more. I can’t imagine that Chihiro is 27, she hardly looks 20 years young. Jay teached me some words in local Bisayan or in other words Cebuano language.
Salamat - thanks. Maayong buntag - good morning. I drove back to my tower. I asked the local host family to fix the AC. They said if this machine is not fixable there is not more they could do. Of course they don’t have the right to buy a new AC. I decided to go swimming. I quickly changed my clothes and put flip-flops on and drove a few hundred meters to the beach. There was a group of Spanish diving tourists just finishing their session and changing clothes. Water is warm and the whole beach is covered with shells and white corals. Next time I will wear my special sneakers, because the sea floor is covered with corals and all sorts of marine life. Especially bad consequences might be if I step on these black Sea Urchin. So I just didn’t go further and laid down and waves massaged me gently. After a short swim I went back to my tower and prepared myself for dinner.
Sky has turned grey and it might start to rain. But I decided not to take a rain coat. It turned out to be the wrong decision, because it started to rain halfway to the city. And it is a tropical rain and not a mild shower. I did make a stop under a tree to get cover from rain, but the damage was already done. I was wet like a kitten. I drove to Gerarda restaurant. Jason was already there. Jay had reserved a table for six people. Only Cif is not able to join the get-together. We will have a separate lunch with him. At 6PM we sat around the table and said Terviseks as for the health in Estonian and started to eat. We ordered a mix of seafood and different meat dishes.
San Miguel as local beer was also an option for many of us. Although I still have my doubts about the fact that this beer is originally from the Philippines, because I have drank that in Spain and in Mexico as a local beer. It was great to see finally the team live and not through a Skype call with noisy roosters and dogs in the background. I shared the vision of 2019 and the main point why we are doing this business. Jason even got some chicken in a doggy bag for his boys (1 and 4 years old). They seemed to like chicken. The cost for 6 people meals, desserts and drinks was 2700₱ ~ 45€. In the front of the restaurant we had some boys talk too about the motorcycles. I tried Joseph’s naked bike Yamaha 150cc on the neighbouring streets. Felt reasonably ok, but street-bikes are not my cup of tea.
We said goodbye and I drove a few blocks and went to the Royal Thai Massage. The male therapist was able to give me an one hour Swedish massage with the Thai flavour. It was very good and cost me only 330₱ ~ 5€. After the massage I drove all the way back to the tower. On these long roads I saw about 5 dogs sleeping on the warm road, some of them in the middle of the road. Looks like they just want to get their belly warm. The main road is not asphalt and it is made of concrete and some parts have even LED lights in the middle of the road separating the two traffic directions.
Horizon is very dark and I see lightning. Luckily I got into the room before it started to rain. My AC is working, juhuuu! I sat on the balcony by the candlelight. I hear the raindrops coming down on the leaves of the palm trees. Now I can hear the rumble of the lightning. But it is still very warm outside and I don’t have a shirt on. Amazing climate. OK, now the wind is picking up and it looks like we are going to have a proper storm. So, I will escape to my room. I noticed that I have a dog on my balcony and I tried to invite the dog into my room, but she was well trained not to come in whatever circumstances. Soon I will go to sleep.
I woke up at 4AM. The storm has calmed down and the roosters have just started to scream again. I had no sleep and I Skyped to my wife to share the events so far. After a while I went to sleep and woke up at 9AM. I read a book and just enjoyed the nice Sunday morning on my balcony. Jay and Chihiro arrived at 10:45AM and they also got a chance to witness the nice view. We drove to the nearest beach where I have swam already. The sky was dark grey up to the sea.
Abandoned resort has been taken over by natutre
Jay and Chihiro guided me first to the deserted resort where there were swimming pools, causeways and recognisable bridges. The pools were filled with vegetation and you can start to imagine there are hippos or crocodiles swimming inside the pools. It would be a perfect environment for them. It used to be a very fancy beach resort, but it has been abandoned now. It started raining heavily and we waited a little while in the shelter. Soon the rain stopped and we went snorkelling. Water is still warm and I wore the rough surface sneakers that I bought from Jordan with only 3€ a few weeks ago. We walked a little and started to swim. Jay gave the rookies a mask that covers full face and the snorkel is built to prevent water going in. Simple design made all the difference.
I swam over the green fluffy vegetation very slowly and I was able to see and record video of small fish. Some of them were really Dory and Nemo like beautiful and colourful fish. I swam until the edge of the sea floor where the surface dropped down and there was no point going any further. Chihiro did a small loop and went back to the shore. Me and Jay did a couple more loops. Jay took Starfish out of the water and I saw how slowly it moved it’s legs. I placed the creature back to the bottom of the sea floor. I was very satisfied with the snorkelling. Marine life is so rich, but at the same time I know due to pollution and the rise of the ocean water temperature we will lose these forms of life for good in the next 10-20 years. It’s a shame really.
We went back to the tower and changed clothes. We drove to Panglao town and visited the market. There was a proper choice of fruits and vegetables. The variarity of the fish was also amazing. We will definitely do a BBQ fish party. We bought watermelon and mangos. I thought I needed petrol, but it was still half full. The tank is 5 litres. My bike suddenly died off and I thought the petrol was out. False alarm. We drove a bit further to the St Augustin Church park and we ate the fruits there. Very fresh and tasty. We chatted about many topics and just felt relaxed. Today is a perfect day and it is not too hot. Sky was partly cloudy and gave some shade.
We decided to go south to the Alona beach. This is the real tourist town and construction of a new airport on the way right next to this town. So, in the future tourists will arrive here and go back much easier and not needing to go to Tagbilaran at all. We drank coffee in an Italian place. One of the topics was mixed nationality marriages and how their families are taking their relationship. And another interesting point came out. Why are Asians wearing mouth masks in public places? It turns out that it is not because they are afraid of getting infected with some viruses, but they themselves do not want to spread diseases while they know they are sick. It is a kind of common agreement to prevent diseases from spreading. Additionally coastal megacities in Asia have faced multiple aggressive viruses in the nearest past to name just Sars and Bird Flu. Makes perfect sense to me.
Jay and Chihiro drove back to Tagbilaran and I went to the beach. I sat at the stairs by the sea and just observed people and the beautiful landscape. I started to chat with Leyton and John who were from New Zealand and from the UK respectively. Leyton had a lot of photo gear and he was also shooting portraits like me. They are touring two months on different Philippines’ islands. The sun started to set and I bought some fruits and vegetables for mornings and drove back to Momo Beach. I sat on my tower’s balcony and enjoyed the sunset. I made a small video call to my wife.
My room had been cleaned up, the bed had been decorated and Sipsik - an Estonian cartoon caricature, that was smuggled into my bag secretly by Mirjam - was laying in the middle of beautiful towel art work. I started to go down the stairs and there was my friendly dog laying on a step. So, he is like a custom officer asking calmly for a scratch. Well, I did the scratching. It is rather chilly on Panglao and Tagbilaran is a lot warmer. I try to record a GoPro video of driving on the night roads. Let’s see how it works out.
I drove to one massage spot where all the therapists are blind. This was Chihiro’s recommendation. The male masseuse caused me pain and I did my best not to scream and yell over other sufferers just the other side of the curtain. Sometimes he had some longer chats with co-worker through the curtain. That was the only downside of the whole experience. The cost was 300₱ ~ 5€. Looks like I am going to become a massage holic. I said salamat and toured around the city.
I was starving and after longer search I localised yesterday’s Gerarda restaurant. There were still so many good dishes on the menu that I would love to taste. This time I ordered Blue Marvin fish steak and salad. Both were extremely tasty and both were chef specials too. The fish arrived in a boiling and sparkling hot pan. The cost with coffee was altogether 605₱ ~ 10€.
The stomach is full and it is time to drive back to Momo Beach. At the entrance from Panglao island there is Plaza Rizal and the traffic goes around that park. Multiple one way streets will add some confusion while you are trying to drive to the certain point. But in general I started to understand the logic of downtown and I didn’t need Google Maps assistance anymore. I walked up to my penthouse room and went up even another floor and I was watching stars on the rooftop. There are even two chairs for watching stars and consuming the sun.
The sky is packed with stars and the layout is unfamiliar to me. In the horizon I can see lightning that is coming toward us. I went back to my room and soon to bed.
Somehow I was able to sleep until 10AM. There was rain during the night and this settled down the roosters a bit. Anyway, it is a beautiful morning and the sky is cloudy. I’m working on the balcony and eating mangos and bananas. Life is good. I did a mini break and went to swim. It is a 5 minutes to walk to the beach. I took some pictures of the roosters around houses alongside the beach. These beautiful birds are raised for the cock fight. There are still cock fights on this island and this tradition is deeply rooted among the local men mostly. Swimming was nice and I walked to the nearby beach where people were embarking on a tiny boat with all their luggage. It turned out that they came ashore from a bigger boat with this rather small landing craft, because there is no port around here and the ship that goes back and forth between Cebu island can’t beach here.
I met my landlord, the Dutchman Mark who is married to Filipina Ana and the Indian born free diver instructor Cyrus. We had some longer interesting conversations in the front of the tower. I took some pictures of the landlord’s family son Miguel. I went up to the tower and worked some more. I packed my stuff and drove to the city.
On my small road I noticed a little bakery and kids rushing into this very small building. The bakery is just across the street from the local school. More kids made their way to the shop. I bought some pastries and ate these along the drive to the city. Also I took some portraits of the school children.
I drove to the University of Bohol and more precisely to FabLab, where Jay just gave a workshop of robotics. There were about 20 students who were excited to build robots and use all sorts of sensors and other gadgets. Jay also introduced the machinery and there was a huge CNC cutting machine, 3D printers, embroiderer and a huge plotter. Basically there was everything for prototyping.
We drove over the bridge to Panglao and went to see one bigger flat in the residential compound. It was ok, but we need to think about it. We drove back to the city centre and to the mall where I bought a snorkelling mask and we went to eat at a nearby cafe. We had a discussion about the office rental options and we made a Skype call to Tõnis in Estonia. Tõnis has been here in 2017 and he has founded the Blend IT company. We went through the plusses and minuses of the two remaining office space options. We will gather some more details and try to bargain a bit. Eventually we would like the employees to choose or approve the office space as a cool place to work. After all, me and Tõnis are still in Tallinn and in Muhu island and local guys need to work in this office every working day. So it will be their decision. We ate a combo of salad, rice, fish and chicken. I also had a homemade avocado ice cream. It was surprisingly good.
At 10PM we went out of the cafe and Jay drove back home. I did a break in massage parlour. This time the massage was too gentle, but still good and relaxing. I hopped into the neighbouring karaoke bar. Actually I heard the noises of that bar at the massage place. So, I took a look at the genuine local karaoke bar. Well, there was a semi-professional karaoke singer singing and the public were just laying on couches. Guys drank beer and chatted and the girls had their own talks. Time to time some people went behind the curtains, I assume to the toilets. Bar served only alcohol and the coffee machine was out of order. Ladies were dressed up and had their make up and mostly watched their phone screens. Guys have not really prepared for the event. They had just casual T-shirts, jeans and flip-flops. It is a very common way of entertainment here in the Philippines. People do love to sing and one of the channels to practice it is these karaoke bars.
I drove through the city in lights and most of Panglao length back to Momo Beach. I heard talking noise from the yard house of the tower. It turned out that Cyrus, Cyrus' girlfriend Pari or Parinaaz and Ana were there drinking coconut wine, also known locally as Tuba. They were very surprised to hear that I went to Tagbilaran. Looks like locals are considering 20 km a vast distance. Tõnis is living on the island of Muhu that is twice the size of Panglao. There might be something to do with the psychology of the islander.
Pari told me about pumps and hydrants in detail. She is working in this kind of company as a board member and also as a shareholder. She was very passionate about these pipes and pumps. I was hardly keeping the pace of the knowledge she had about the topic, but yet she is facing a typical issue. She is the only lady and the youngest board member and some people are envious or just can’t bear the success of a lady. Anyhow we have similar problems also in Europe. Women still have like a glass ceiling that is the obstacle to equal success. I said good night and went up to the tower. I took a look at my emails and messages.
Also made a video call home. And before long the time was 2AM. There were three things that came to my mind about today. On the way to Tagbilaran there is a village just before driving to the bridge. I made a stop there and heard a weird noise. First I thought the noise was coming from my headset, but after I paused the podcast, the noise was still there. Is my bike having a mechanical problem and creating such a noise? No, the origin of the noise came from a ditch just next to the road. It was frogs generating such loud noise. I couldn’t see them, but I was able to hear them for sure.
Another remarkable thing happened in the mall around 6:30PM. All of a sudden people in the mall, both employees and customers, got slow moving or stopped, were quiet and were thinking their inner thoughts. And there was radio broadcasted praying, kind of like one common praying time. After the prayer people did cross movement on their chest and the regular life went on. It is a nice tradition. I haven’t seen such thing elsewhere, maybe closest to it is the public call for the praying in Muslim countries. And the third amazing thing was a little insect flying in my balcony. The fly had bright neon yellow light on its back like a LED light. And when it was flying it reminded me of a spark of the fire. Actually I know it should be possible to see thousands of them in the short while somewhere in Bohol. I can only imagine the LED-lighted miracle in bitch black darkness. Went to sleep.
I woke up at 9AM by the sound of the alarm. Today it is a hot day and I can feel it while I’m in bed. And it is windy due to the fact that my room’s curtains are kind of waving and spinning. My room is like a weather or flight control tower in the airport. I can predict what kind of weather to expect within ... well, 30 minutes. That’s it, not further, because the climate here is really unpredictable. I ate some leftovers, that is a banana, tomatoes and a lansone. The tomatoes were rather raw and green when I bought them on Sunday, but now they are bright red and juicy.
I drove to the beach and tested my brand new snorkelling mask. Today waves are big and the whole sea floor is deeper due to the high tide, like half a meter of water has been poured on top of it. I wrestled into the water and soon started to snorkel. The corals and the white sea bed are sparkling by the sunlight and the waves above. Fish are very active and not afraid of a big sloppy fish like me. So I can watch these beautiful and colourful fish in very close range. Amazing site. I went back to the tower, had a shower, worked on my emails and prepared for the city trip. I drove to Tagbilaran and to Lantaw restaurant. This place has no walls and only a huge roof over the eating area. I was there first and soon Jay arrived.
We ordered some spring rolls and calamari rings as a snack. They also served a fruit drink called Cordoba. Soon Cif arrived and we ordered a combo of different fish and chicken food with rice. Locals presumably can’t imagine life without rice. That might also explain why Chinese tourists prefer Chinese restaurants on their European tours. They miss their rice. We had a chat on multiple subjects and also discussed his role in Blend IT. Cif is a very talented full stack developer who is also keen on hardware. Then we went together to see the Calcaben office premises nearby. The local manager showed us the flats and it turned out the third flat is also available. We might actually rent the whole penthouse floor? This might be too greedy in 2018.
We departed our ways and I drove back to my tower to do some work. Just before the Skype talk to Tõnis I went snorkelling again. Today there is a rough sea and waves are quite high. Crushing waves are propelling the dust up from the seafloor and the water was not transparent in the beginning. But the good thing about big waves is that the fish are gathered in their safe places all together. So I had a very good time seeing more than 30 fish at one coral structure. At the cliff edge where the big drop down of the sea floor, I saw an amazing group of blue-green coloured fish that came closer to investigate me whether they were supposed to be afraid of me or not. I went back to my tower office to have a Skype call and do some more work. Soon it started to get darker.
One group of children who were gathering just next to our road started to shout Hello louder and louder towards me. Well, I waved then and they were happy. Then I packed my stuff and went for a walk. The same kids were very curious and I showed them my previous pictures of neighbourhood children. I walked further along the road that I usually drive to my accommodation. While you walk you notice so much more, the pace is much slower than driving past.
There was an unknown booth where I have seen people in front of it every day. It turned out it is a charity lottery. I made a bet on 360 numbers and my investment was 5₱ ~ 10 Euro cents. First I thought this is the bookies of the cock fight. It might still be, although they said there is no such a thing. I think they were a bit suspicious about my curiosity on that particular matter. They said the official fights will take place in Tagbilaran. I’m pretty sure there were some illegal cock fights somewhere in the village every now and then.
I walked further and stopped in front of the house where 10 children were playing. Mother of 3 children has put up a pop-up BBQ. There was basically everything that you can think of that is possible to make out of chicken. I took chicken drumsticks and some other snacks that you need to dip into the sauce. But there were also available chicken guts, toes, livers and heads. I took some snacks for breakfast too and the bill was 86₱ ~ 1,5€ and I gave away all my coins as a special purpose tip. I said if there will be kids that don’t have money she could give at least some snacks to them using this tip.
I thanked and walked even further to the bakery. I bought 4 pastries and walked all the way back. It is very dark and I use the torch of my phone in order to be visible on these sometimes very dark village roads. I peeked into some houses and noticed that there are no doors that separate the living room and bedrooms. They use curtains instead. It seems people are living here very closely to each other. Population of the Panglao island is 80 000 people and in comparison to Muhu, which is twice bigger, the population is 1900 people. I went up to my tower and wrote and uploaded the images to the cloud. Soon I went to bed.
Chicken BBQ pop-up bar on my street
I woke up at 8AM and read the Maria Sharapova book, it is almost finished. Jay arrived at 9:45AM and we went snorkeling first. Waves are still quite big and the tide is even bigger than days before, but today it is sunny. I got some amazing video footage of beautiful fish and underwater landscapes. It was good to have this refreshment before the start of work.
We decided to do the blendit.eu tasks together. We were sitting outside on the balcony. At 2PM we drove a little and sat down in a local diner. There were 3 guys competing with each other in karaoke. Somehow the karaoke machine evaluates the singers and gives them scores. The table in front of the participants was packed with large beer bottles. The whole thing was very loud. I was surprised how high the local lads are singing, sometimes it was freaking Bee Gees. We ate rice, noodles, chicken and fish. Small portions and tasty. And the cost was just 110₱ ~ 1.8€ for both of us. We drove back and did some more work.
Karaoke machine is a mandatory in the café
Sun came out again and it burned us and we needed to move our temporary office to the shade on the other side of the tower. I really like to work like this with Jay. At 4:30PM he drove home and I went to explore Doljo beach and the whole peninsula which is the western tip of Panglao. I drove through small villages and I took some nice pictures of inhabitants there.
The beach itself is rocky and windy. If you get over the cliffs you will find a sandy sea floor, though. I admired a beautiful view to Cebu and to Balicasag island. Sunset was perfect and the sun set behind the hills of Cebu island. There were around 10 Spanish and 1 Italian tourist too to appreciate the scenery. I drove through the private property sign again and to the town of Panglao. I don’t mind doing this, because what can they possibly do to the white European tourist monkey like me if they caught me.
This Honda 150CC bike served me well in three weeks
I noticed a massage parlour in the town of Panglao called Renaissance. This is a new parlour and they are only settling in. Yesterday was an exception and I didn’t have a massage. I’m kind of a massage holic or expert in a way, but when it is that affordable, why not. I chose a male therapist and he did a good strong job. The cost was 300₱ ~ 5€. We talked a little with the lady at the counter and right next to me was a Korean tour guide who was having a pedicure. He has been working here and on the neighbouring islands for 5 years. He said that tomorrow there is going to be a hurricane at the sea between Bohol and Cebu as he was looking at his weather app on his phone. I thanked and walked over the street to buy some fruits. I asked for bananas, mangos and pineapple. I love to eat local fruits for breakfast.
I dropped in to the restaurant La Familia and ordered coffee and omelette. There were surprisingly many tourists or actually Europeans who are living here and have local wives. Then I met the Dutch guy Leon and it turned out he is owning this joint and we talked eventually over an hour about life here and how people are treating each other. He told me super touching stories about learning, committing, helping others, hard working and on other hand also about ultimate laziness, stupidity, lack of caring and just reckless behaviour. It was good to hear a story of European learning and coping with the local mentality and how he has managed to change some individual's destiny. He showed me the restaurant and the second floor and I thanked. Of course he knows fellow Dutchman Mark and Ana as my landlords in Momo Village. I drove back to my tower and asked a knife from the open air kitchen and asked Ana to check me in for tomorrow’s trip to Oslob in Cebu island. Also handed over the greetings from Leon. Well, tomorrow I need to wake up at 5AM. I packed my stuff and went to bed soon.
Well, this is early. At 5AM it is still dark and roosters are screaming like hell, it’s their job, I guess. I ate a mango and brushed my teeth and drove on my motorbike to Momo beach. I was the last person to walk to the landing craft. Today is low tide and water has gone away and I was able to see many starfish laying on the sea bed in very shallow water. The walk was longer because of the low tide. The sun is rising and it is a beautiful and calm morning. We on-boarded a bigger boat. This boat is Mark’s dream, but as we discussed with Ana, it is an expensive hobby and this is the reason why they do these shuttle trips between Cebu island - to get some money for paying the costs of keeping this ship floating. We were with 20 tourists on-board. Some of them had many suitcases and most probably they are leaving Bohol and continuing their vacation on Cebu island.
We needed to wait a little to pick up 5 more people who came after me. We departed at 5:45AM. The sea is rather calm and we sailed past the Doljo beach and then we left for the open sea. At 7:30AM we were on the shore of Oslob and a little motorless boat did the last mile which was something like 100 meters. The boat cost another 20₱ one way per person. I started to talk to a Polish lady Boguscha and a Czech guy Miroslav who are living in Brugge in Belgium and we shared the tricycle to drive to the whale beach. It took 15 minutes to drive over the mountains on this tiny engine motorbike to reach the very crowded beach.
Whale beach is very crowded
We paid the entrance fee of 1100₱ ~ 18€. And we were able to use lockers and change clothes. Another small vehicle took us to the actual beach. We got the brief instruction of the adventure that laid ahead of us. We were not allowed to use sun cream because it contains chemicals that may harm the whales. We waited our turn a little. This is very much a mass tourism attraction and the beach is packed with tourists going on and off the tiny fishing boats.
I had my camera bag with me and noticed that I had also left the computer there for some reasons. So, I needed to be very careful to avoid waves crashing into my bag and not tipping it over board. Fishermen used to catch, or rather hunt the whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) by harpoons, but since 2015 they are not allowed to do this and instead the very same fishermen have the exclusive right to entertain tourists. We sailed or rather the fisherman paddled the boat about 200 meters off the shore to the deep water. There were about 20 boats and each boat had about 10 tourists onboard.
We were allowed to observe the whales for only just 30 minutes. And right away we started to see these huge creatures. I took some pictures with my standard camera and then gave the bag to the fisherman to hold. I went into the water and immediately I was somewhere in the wonderland and among the fairytale dragons. First I was just happy to observe this amazing huge and at the same time very calm and gentle mammal. It has relatively small eyes compared to the 5 meter body. The mouth was very wide and flat. When it opened the mouth it swallowed in all the floating small shrimps. A few fishermen on even smaller boats fed the whales. All of a sudden I was in the middle of these whale sharks twisting and turning around and below me. They even touched me gently with their tails a couple times. They are so calm. But I also saw how they accelerate and use the tail power. I recorded amazing footage with my GoPro camera. Buguscha made a brave effort to try my full mask bearing in mind that she did not know how to swim. She saw these huge animals too. This site will take your breath away.
There was an American couple on board of our tiny boat and the lady said that this was just amazing or awesome. Some Americans say that sandwiches are awesome, but really the sandwich could be just tasty and perhaps great. The whales were awesome. I was drifting away from my boat and ended up in the wrong boat and I said hi to Koreans and swam back to our boat. Alongside with whales there were a lot of smaller fish who also took full advantage of the feeding. Our time was up. And I dragged myself up to the boat and headed back to the shore. There were showers for washing off the salty sea water and we hopped on a small car. We took our stuff from lockers and our tricycle driver was already waiting for us. We drove back to the beach and needed to board the tiny boat first and then the big boat. Looks like they will go back soon. We waited till 11AM because people were still coming. Our ship had more passengers than in the morning. Sea is quite rough and big waves are crashing onto the boat and splashing the water everywhere. Miroslav did a brave thing and went outside to the front of the ship. He was instantly wet by the next big wave. There was a Danish couple who did a crossing of strait yesterday, but sadly the sea at the whale beach was too rough and the whales were gone. So, I need to consider myself lucky to see these animals today.
Waves are spraying people in the salon. Sky above the island Panglao is grey and it seems to be raining there. At 1PM we arrived back to Momo beach. Once we were almost on the beach it started to rain very heavily. I said ciao to everyone I met and ran to my bike and drove to the tower. And the rain stopped and the sun was heating again. I went up to the tower and realised that electricity was gone. I made an audio call to my family. For them it was a busy morning just before going to kindergarten and work respectively. There was a Father's Day event in the kindergarten. My father in law was my substitute there and did together with Mirjam a bow tie and they participated in an exploring game in the yard. But still she misses me. She is counting the weeks. One done and two to go. And also she is preparing for the upcoming birthday party in the beginning of December. It was good to chat with them.
I drove to Panglao town and to La Familia restaurant. I ordered a salad, omelette and coffee. Also I had a few words with Leon, the owner of the place. Food was tasty and soon I drove back to my tower. It started to rain very heavily. I had a Skype conference call. It is another sunset in Panglao. I’m sitting on my balcony and rain clouds have disappeared, but everything is still wet from the recent rain. The air is so fresh. Also I can clearly see a yellow-black bird Oriole with an amazing sound. This bird has like an amplified and echo added sound. It’s relative is also living in Estonian during summer. Yesterday night I saw a gecko on my wall and it made a distinctive sound ik-how-ik-how. It is a small lizard who eats flies in my room. A very positive little fellow.
I decided to drive to Panglao town, but on my way I stopped on a small road in front of the house of Mary Joy. She is BBQing chicken. I ordered a wing side of the chicken. There were around 10 kids who were sitting there or running around. They were very curious and they practised their English. Also I gave them a mathematical challenge. How much is 36 times 36. One boy got very close by heart -1310. However, the right answer is 1296. I gave my lottery ticket that I bought the other day to this boy. One boy hasn’t been in the school for 4 years due financial reasons and he has been sent to stay with his relatives here. He is looking for a job and he has done several helping jobs, but he is just a kid. We discussed education and the new way of learning - Googling everything. The main thing is to have curiosity and consistency. They were interested where I’m coming from and I showed them Estonia and its neighbours on the map. The chicken was very tasty.
I drove to the massage place in Panglao town. This time all of the therapists were occupied and the reception lady did me the massage. It was very good and might be even better than the young therapists have given me. After the session I drank tea and started to chat with Korean tour guide Kim Do Hyping. Actually I have seen him and talked to him before in the same Spa. His Korean accent is kind of difficult to understand and it took 15 minutes to start making sense of his sentences. When I asked the meaning of his name, he was able to translate all except Kim. He did long pauses and finally said that the name Kim is a very complicated name. Of course it is complicated when you have a next door neighbour dictator with the name of Kim, but at the same time Kim might be the most common name in Korea. I said thank you and drove back. Soon I went to sleep.
I opened my eyes at 9AM. Looks like I’m starting to cope with the heat, the noise of dogs and roosters outside. My breakfast was minimalistic - a mango and half on a pineapple. I drove to the city and stopped in a bakery and bought some pastries. This morning we are working at Jay's place. Their family is living in a middle class residential area on the same island. I tried to find the right house and drove around the streets. And then finally I saw Jay walking towards me.
Jay Paul (standing in the front of his parent's house) is the host for me and the Blendit team leader
They have quite a big two-story stone building and we sat in the living room on the first floor. All of the family were in their working places. Jay created a new server account for building client work and for trying out new things. He also set up the playing ground or sandbox for Magento e-commerce platform. We are aiming to sell Magento developing service a lot. We had a break. We went to the city and to the harbour area to eat. Chihiro and her classmate from Spanish lessons Ryo joined us. We ordered shareable food. Food was very tasty. Chihiro and Ryo will join us on the road trip to Anda and Carmen on Sunday. Ryo will stay here only for four days and then he will go back to Osaka, Japan. It was nice to eat together. We drove back to Jay’s house.
In the living room there is a wall of fame. The all three sons' images of the graduations, medals and graduation diplomas are all carefully preserved in golden frames. The mother of these three sons must be very proud of them. We started to work on the office project. There is so much to do and we gathered all the tasks into the project management software. Jay prepared coffee for us. It started to rain outside quite heavily and soon it was all over again. The gravel roads turned into muddy rivers. School children who are coming home from school are trying to navigate between little ponds and mud. I smell that one of the cats in Jay’s house has pissed on my bag. This might be as an acceptance signature. We drove to the city to visit the telecom offices.
School children who are coming home from school are trying to navigate between little ponds and mud
We need to get the fibre optical cable connection to the office, but in the first run they all seemed to offer the 4G connection. Well, we need to investigate this matter more. We also visited the furniture mall to get a picture of what we prefer and what is the cost level. We drove to Chihiro’s office and I had a chance to see her lab type of office and the furniture. It turned out that Jay has manufactured the plywood tables and chairs in the FabLab. I drove further to the Island City Mall. It is a huge mall with brand shops and food courts. I stopped in several shops and started to drive back towards the city centre to a buffet restaurant Abi where we eat dinner together with Chihiro and Ryo.
The fee of the buffet of seafood and other tasty food was 250₱ ~ 4€. We had a good time together and decided to go to the island of Balicasag. Jay has arranged a private motor boat for four of us. This is a famous diving resort and also famous because of dolphins and turtles. So, it will be another early morning waking. We were going to meet in less than 8 hours and we went apart. I took money from the ATM. I took 10 000₱ ~ 166€ and the service fee was 250₱, that's almost one massage, that's robbing. Anyhow I drove just a little bit further, noticed Nuat Thai and asked for one hour of massage. Cost is the same as elsewhere - 300₱ ~ 5€. This time they offered me a male therapist. After the massage I drove through the city and almost the whole length of Panglao to my tower at Momo beach. Soon I went to bed.
I woke at 5AM and roosters out there were just going nuts when welcoming the approaching sunrise. I ate the remaining half of the pineapple. It started to rain a little, like fog rain. It is only 15 minutes and 7 km to Alona beach from Momo beach. We met at the front of Alona Kew resort. We are going to the island hopping. Let’s see what the hopping stands for. The streets are busy with walking tourists who are marching towards the sea and to their boats. They also have some kind of trip ahead.
Well, Chihiro has had an accident and she has fallen with her scooter badly. She had blood and bruises on both knees, feet and hands. I asked the first aid kit from the hotel and the receptionist gave me a negative answer. Only for hotel customers. What the fuck. Well, I turned into a bar on the street and ordered a shot of vodka at 6AM!!! They were also kind enough to allow Jay to clean the wounds of Chihiro in the bathroom first and they also gave proper first aid kit. Chihiro screamed when I cleaned the wounds with vodka. She was brave. I put the waterproof plasters on the wounds. It was still raining and we started to walk to the beach. Jay carried Chihiro on his back like a big backpack.
We went to the boat. The boat is a typical motorised canoe with the support skies both sides that are gliding on the water. There were two guys on board and they navigated us to the open sea. The engine is a very loud Honda motorcycle engine. Basically you can’t talk while driving. It took an hour to reach the coastal area of the Balicasag island. There were many similar boats, mostly bigger boats with 20-30 people on board. And around 30 of these kind of boats were just wandering around and looking for dolphins. We did the circle around the island, but no luck.
We sailed to the shore and a smaller boat, actually a very tiny boat took me, Jay and Ryo to snorkelling. We went to see the turtles. We spotted a small baby turtle on the edge of the coral cliff. We started to swim on top of it and followed it along the reef edge maybe 200 meters. Turtle was so efficient and did the bare minimum movement and glided seamlessly in the water. We also saw bright yellow and black fish and other colourful fish. Along the way there were at least five boats and splashing tourists that we needed to navigate through and around. And then the turtle turned to the open sea and ditched to the deep blue sea. When I surfaced our snorkelling guide announced that our time was up and we are not allowed to snorkel without paying more money. This service was already 400₱ ~ 4€, which is an annoyingly high price. Anyhow, Jay saw my boiling point for the first time, it is around 100’C. This kind of tourist trap mentality drives me mad. We went back to our boat and went to the shore.
The coast is a messy place. There had to be at least 50 vessels on the shore of the island. All these boats are parked in the irregular manner. We climbed from one boat to another. Jay did the same while he had Chihiro on his back. We noticed with Ryo that the beach had no sand and instead the sand had eroded to the sea and revealed the rocks with fossils inside. There were recognisable coral plants and shells trapped in stone like in a time capsule. It is amazing to see such a miracle. We went to the closest cafe. It was an expensive and rather pointless place, but I ordered some fried eggs and ham for breakfast. The toilet fee was 20₱ regardless whether you were a customer of the cafe or not. This place is starting to irritate me. It’s a shame that this spot is so commercialised and in a way screwed.
Coral plants and shells trapped in stone like in a time capsule
We headed back on our noisy boat and we reached Alona beach at 11:30 AM. We went back to the bar to eat something more. So, there will be no diving as it was planned because of the Chihiro accident, but Ryo was keen to snorkel at least on Momo beach. So we split. Ryo hasn’t ever driven a scooter. So, we went really slowly. On the Momo road we decided to test his DJI drone, but we were not able to find the following object function. So, I tried to drive and control the drone at the same time. It was really hopeless and I lost the drone to the trees, but it turned out it escaped the branches itself and the drone was just standing by in the air right next to the very high tree. It takes a few hours to practice this device. Japanese are obsessed with electronic gadgets. We put the stuff in my room in the tower and walked to the beach. It’s cloudy again and there is no sun. We started to snorkel and we saw different fish and nobody asked any fee. We had no tourists there, the beach was literally empty. This is my way of doing things. We walked back to the tower through the abandoned resort complex. The vegetation is so tense like a jungle and it has grown only for past 20 years.
I changed clothes and we drove to Panglao town and to the Renaissance SPA to have a 1.5 hour massage. It was very pleasant and pleasurable. Then we drove just around the corner to La Familia restaurant. We ordered rice and chicken. We went back to the street and Ryo had a cigarette. We noticed across the street on the football field a preparation of a training session or friendly match between European tourists and local kids. Very cool.
We went back to the restaurant and ate our meals. Again very good food. It is starting to get dark and it was about time to start rolling back, because Ryo hasn’t ever driven in the dark on a scooter either. I gave him instructions on how to get to the city and also my cell phone number. We went apart on the intersection where I turned to Momo beach and he went on to Tagbilaran.
I stayed in the room and chatted with my wife and daughter. I hope to get to bed sooner today, because I have a deficit of sleeping hours.
Nice coastal road to drive on
I opened my eyes at 7AM. I ate a banana and packed my things. Today is the road trip day. I rode to the other end of Panglao and crossed the eastside bridge to Bohol. There was a market where mainly fish and vegetables were sold. I bought two mangos and asked to prepare them for instant consumption. Fish was very fresh and very colourful. The eyes of the fish were so clear. I hope we will have a chance to have a proper tuna grilling party at some point. I drove a little bit further and noticed 3 local motorbikers on BMW GS 1200 bikes having all the coretex protection clothing and gear. They are proper bikers and not like me in shorts and sneakers. They are also driving to Anda.
Then Jay joined me and we drove just a bit further to our office. Ryo will join our road trip. Soon Joseph arrived and we started to drive on the coastal road. Today it is low tide, the water line has given away about 100 meters and revealed the otherwise hidden shore. But it is smelly too. Local kids are harvesting the crabs and snails there. The coastal road is fun to drive, the scenery of the vast ocean and surrounding green hilltops is just breathtaking. This road goes through major towns and all the coastal villages. Actually there seems to be no unused land or fields, it is just houses after houses like an endless village. We drove through towns like Baclayon, Loay, Valencia and Jagna. In Dimiao Jason joined and we drove towards Anda, but we passed the junction to the road to Anda and stopped in Candijay to buy picnic food.
Candijay market ladies prepared us the vegetables that boys called cows food
I never though there are so many different kind of rice
Me and Ryo went to the local market to buy vegetables and we asked to cut them to snack size pieces. Also we bought ice tea. Jay bought grilled chicken and pastries. All of these items have fancy local names, but it is sometimes hard to remember them.
We continued our journey and soon we turned to the uphill road. Soon the proper concrete road ended and we continued on a gravel rugged road. It was not pleasant for a scooter and street bikes. But for me it was just about the right terrain, because I drove a dirt bike or small enduro. I do admit it is rather a dirt bike look alike, because the suspensions and shocks absorbers are not for motocross and might be taken from a regular street bike. But it had some advantages over street bikes though, like ground clearance for example. We rode through villages and local boys and girls waved at us and waved back.
I saw the whole circle of rice production on both sides of the road and actually on the road too. The rice fields are canalised by the streams of water and the local farmers even use cultivators with small engines. In India I saw the cultivation done by using ox power or just human muscle power. The rice fields are often on multiple terraces and this is a nice scenery. The harvest has been laid on the road sides and they dry the rice in sunshine. Rice mills are also in full steam in every village to provide the main source of food to Filipinos. At one point we needed to pay the entrance fee of 20₱ per person. We reached 300 meters in the village and started to descend to the valley.
We stayed at this shelter when there was a heavy rain
Street bikes are not suitable for offroad
We saw the valley was covered with dark grey clouds and soon it started to rain. We took shelter in a picnic hut just on the edge of the valley. We enjoyed the view and picnic. All of a sudden we had a dog in the middle of us asking for the remains of the chicken. She despises carrots and cucumber understandably, because she is no cow or pig. Well, boys were not much different, they called the vegetables and salad cow food and preferred chicken instead. Soon the heavy rain stopped and we continued the rapid descending on this extreme slope to the bottom of the valley. We made video recordings with all the GoPros we had. Maybe we can mix the short clip using all of them. We parked the bikes in the parking area and walked on the trail and crossed many small bridges to the spot of the Can-umantad Falls.
The river is leaking over the sandstone cliff and drops to a plato that sprays the water. There are many shallow terraces and ponds. We swam and walked through the curtain of falling water to the cave. It is a very pleasant and well maintained tourist attraction. Again it started to rain very heavily. At 2PM we started to drive back and at 3PM we arrived at Anda Coco Loco restaurant.
Anda is a much nicer resort than Alona beach on Panglao. It’s much calmer and more relaxed. We parked our bikes right next to the café. I ordered chicken cuisine called Adobo which was basically chicken drumstick in the sauce of vinegar and soya. I left a written pinned paper review to the board. I even added 5 stars and something in Estonian. The co-founders of this restaurant are Robin and Birgit Gurney. I know them from the era of working together in Altex Marketing in Tallinn, Estonia. They were here for a year or so and established the restaurant and the AndaKidz foundation. We had a proper lunch and went snorkelling. The beach is close by and we walked to the bright white sandy beach.
Co-founders of this Coco Loco restaurant are Robin and Birgit Gurney
We needed to start swimming soon because we did not want to step on coral, because the low tide had taken away around half of a meter of water. I was able to see the fish and marine life very closely. Joseph and Jason haven’t done much snorkelling and they were doing their loops close to the shore. Me and Jay swam further away and saw the fabulous fish and underwater world. I also swam towards the open sea, but there was no cliff or drop off, it was just the end of the white sand in the sea bed and rocks started to cover the sea floor. I turned back to the more shallow water. I noticed the catching net in the bottom of the sea bed. What is the purpose of this net here? You will never catch proper big fish. I saw only struggling and stuck colourful Nemo type of fish. The marine life here is richer than in my Momo beach. We walked back to Coco Loco.
Across the street I heard the sound of birds, especially the sound of the parrots. It turned out that the restaurant on the other side of Coco-Loco has multiple birds including big Haras and Nymphs. One young bird Erne just wanted a little bit of attention from me. I found some more Nymphs a bit further inside and I put my finger through the grid of the cage and scratched gently their necks and they were so satisfied that they closed their eyes. I knew that because we used to have parrots ourselves. The owner was from Germany and he had also three giant mastiffs laying on the floor and some of them were happy to be treated with scratching from the behind of the ears as well. We went back to Coco Loco and ordered a Halo-Halo ice cream mix. Some of it was very spicy.
At 6PM it was dark and we decided to drive the same road back. We went to buy some stuff from a local convenience store. After turning into the main road Joseph turned to Carmen. He is living in the middle of the island in Carmen. Me, Jay, Ryo and Jason continued till Dimiao where Jason also turned home. We continued together till Tagbilaran and turned to Tamper cafe to have dinner. Tomorrow Ryo aka Ryohei Shimada will go back to Japan. I ordered a pasta carbonara for a change and coffee. I also drove to Thai Royal Massage to have butt treatment. The therapist literally saved my ass. It was hurting because of the long ride. Most of the enduro bikes are not for enduring, at least the seat is not and the seats just creates suffering. After my butt was fixed I drove all the way to the other end of Panglao. The road was covered by walking or sleeping dogs. I can’t imagine running into one of these dogs. At 11PM I arrived at my tower and had an audio call to my loved ones in Tallinn. It was Sunday afternoon back home and they were driving. I lit a candle on the table at my balcony and wrote the diary. Only wind, some rain drops, crickets and some dogs are creating the night noises. No roosters just yet. At 1AM I went to sleep.
I woke up at 7AM. Roosters are screaming like crazy. I decided to go back to sleep and opened my eyes again at 9AM. Today I will move out. I packed some of my stuff. I drove to the city and found a laundry service. The fee for a big bag of laundry is just 180₱ ~ 3€. I drove to our new office. We waited for the landlord’s son and then we went up to the 4th floor and signed the contract. The whole top floor will be for us. The signed contract will be notarised and then we will get our copy. After the signing we went to eat with Jay in a nearby fish restaurant. It is raining outside again and we are in no hurry to go somewhere. And after 30 minutes it was again sunny and the heat was back. I drove to Momo beach to check out. The fee for 10 days is actually quite expensive. Instead of 12 000₱ I was able to pay 200€ in cash, because I have ran out of pesos. I packed my stuff and drove back to Bool district in Tagbilaran city.
Sipsik moved to the new place in Tagbilaran
The cleaning of the rooms was in process and some furniture that we didn’t need was also on the way out. I occupied the last unit and did an account in TransferWise for sending the money to the landlord. It took 30 minutes to do it for the first time. Jay arrived and measured the roof area that we want to cover with transparent plastic material in order to keep the balcony nice and dry even if it is raining. At the moment it rains through the current roof and the balcony floor gets wet and muddy. I unpacked my stuff into the first unit that became my accommodation for the remaining 10 days. Jay went to the city to meet Joseph and get the sample of the plastic roof. It is dark outside and I’m sitting on the balcony and the only light I have is the candle on my table. The street below is a bit noisy, but I assume I’ll get used to it soon. I realised the roosters are back, in the backyard. I heard the distinctive sound of the roosters through the bedroom window. So, they are everywhere.
Street photografy: Sometimes I do portraits without asking a permission to shoot
Jay came up and said that we are going to eat dinner at Socorro. We picked up Chihiro in the city. She is wearing only one shoe because the injured foot has been swollen and she also has crutches for better mobility. We drove to the restaurant and ate tuna steak and other good food. It rained almost all the time and we heard the raindrops coming down on the metal roof. Chihiro is doing well and she will go to her office tomorrow. She might also visit the doctor if the swelling does not go down soon. Chihiro explained the biases of Flipinos living in the villages, in a way it's a very similar mentality in Japanese society. People are keen to avoid any confrontation to the ruling authority. Therefore there are very few demonstrations if any. Also people do not want to be different then the rest and they are very likely to bend their opinion if needed. We also talked about the role and position of women in Japan today.
At around 9PM we drove to Plaza Rizal and bought the Balut. A lady behind a plastic table has warmed eggs in a portable little thermo box and she gave me the egg. The egg is 14 days old and contains the embryo of a baby duck. The whole thought of having such a snack is absolutely disgusting. Well, I tried to do the journalist job here and opened up the egg. The yellow part tasted like chicken egg usually, but part of the egg had already developed into a shape of some creature, it was just uneatable. At the same time I saw 2 workers stopping by and asking for the Balut too. They sat down on small plastic chairs and started the feast. They didn’t seem to be bordered too much of the abortion of the baby duck. Anyhow it’s done now and I can torture Jay with similar experiences in Estonia with the food that he might consider uneatable or just interesting. We went apart. I walked in this little garden at the Rizal plaza and drove a little in the city. I found another massage parlour and asked for a foot massage. I went back to my new home. I made a stop in the convenient store and bought eggs, oil, snacks and toilet paper. I also noticed snacks that were made of worms. I went home and soon went to bed. I’m very happy that the landlord also provided the sheets for the beds and also towels.
I woke up at 9AM and did the photo shooting of my flat, because we are going to promote this in Airbnb. We have a right to sub-lease it if needed. And in the beginning we don’t need 3 flats, we only need 2 flats. I took a shower and started to upload the images from the camera to the computer. Jay arrived and we worked together. At lunchtime Jay went to pick up Chihiro and buy food. We said Ita da kimas and Head isu which are Bon Appetit in Japan and in Estonian respectively. We ate together different beef, fish and chicken dishes and steamed rice. We did a tour in the office and she said that she didn’t expect something like this. She expected to see a more orthodox Philippine office, maybe even a prison cell type of office with very few windows and dark atmosphere. We went through the list of things we need to buy for the office. Jay and Chihiro went down to the parking area and I helped Jay to carry Chihiro. She is still using crutches and stairs are causing too much trouble. Chihiro is so light, maybe only double the weight of my daughter.
I went back up and worked a little more. It started to rain and I can hear the thunder quite loudly. I wrote the ground rules of the office and made preparations for office opening. There is so much to do. At 5PM Jay needed to take Chihiro to the hospital to show the swollen foot to the doctor. Soon I rode to pick up my laundry and I went to the market. I bought a salad mix, black pepper, soya sauce, mangos, onions and tomatoes. The market also had a big variety of seafood including squids, tuna and other fish. I drove back. I fried two eggs and made a salad. Chihiro and Jay are still in the hospital and waiting for the doctor. I drove back to the city to the harbour area to have another massage. At the distance I see thunder flashes in the dark grey sky, but I can’t hear the thunder. It means the thunderstorm is far away. Massage was relatively good. I drove back home. I sat on the balcony and read a book. Soon I went to bed.
I opened my eyes at 8AM. I made breakfast and drank tea. I read a book and rode to the city centre to do some serious shopping. I followed the shopping list and bought cutlery and tableware. The total cost of my shopping was 3400₱ ~ 59€. Well, I’m not really the shopper type of person, but it was good to purchase the stuff for the office with the helpful guidance of the employees of the mall. I took the tricycle back to the office, because I was not in the mood of riding a bike with huge boxes somewhere around me or between my legs. Tricycle ride was only 60₱ ~ 1€. I started to unpack the goods and Jay arrived so we finished the unpacking together. We went through the priorities of upcoming tasks. Soon Jason joined and he started to work on the bicycle battle kit. We also saw Reden who is working on a daily basis on the first floor. Slowly our office becomes more crowded.
It was time to go to the city centre and meet lawyers. I hopped on Jay’s scooter and we rode to the office. It turned out that the lawyer was not there and she would come after a few hours. Well, it should not surprise me, but it still drives me crazy. We have an appointment, but somehow it is not valid and nobody even mentions this to the client. Anyhow I went to the mall’s coffee shop and Jay was walking to another lawyer's office. I had a coffee and looked at the people around me. I’ve always loved to do so. Soon Jay came back and said we had 30 minutes till we’d meet the lawyer. We went to see some jewellery for Jay. It looks like he is thinking of proposing Chihiro while they are on the trip in Japan in December. The rings are beautiful, but crazy expensive for locals.
We went back to the same office and the lawyer was there this time. Well, there was a live queue and people were sitting in the lobby and waiting for the previous person to come out. I haven’t seen such a thing elsewhere. But this lawyer was quite bright and obviously knew the local system and had the best practices. He pointed out the fixed price and papers we need to bring in order to establish the company. We thanked and promised to contact him once we have papers ready. We walked through the rainy city centre and ran from one shelter from the rain to another. We got really wet and our feet were wet. The second lawyer also had a live queue and we sat in the waiting room. He didn’t know specifically our needs, but he promised to do some research.
Finally the rain stopped and we rode to the closest department store to buy stuff for our office. We rode to my bike and then drove back to the office. I was driving while a huge plastic bag was hanging on my handlebar. You never do such a thing in Estonia, but here in Asia, it is a very normal thing to do. As long as you can drive, you can have loads of stuff hanging everywhere. I do remember how two guys transported a living coat on a tiny scooter in India. Basically your scooter is a lorry, just smaller.
Rey and Jason were working in the office. They are so happy to combine software and hardware for a change. They needed an HDMI cable and Jay went to pay one. Rey and Jason went to buy some food from a local store nearby. And Jason started cooking dinner for us. Soon it was dark outside and we had a nice dinner together. Reden also joined from the first floor office. This was our first proper office day. Soon boys went home and I walked to the store. I bought coffee for the morning. I crossed the road and went into a nice hotel.
I started to chat with Judie who is working in the reception. She has an American boyfriend who is back in the US and she is kind of wondering whether she needs to be jealous or not. She speaks good English and we talked for maybe an hour. She is 22 years and she has written fiction stories, but hasn’t had the courage to actually finish one book and try to publish it. I showed my books online and she was able to download my latest book about India. I hope I gave her a little push to start going forward with her dream. I might have a proper coffee here on some of my remaining mornings. I walked back and went through my emails, had a shower and went to sleep at midnight.
I woke up at 8AM and had breakfast and coffee. It turned out that the coffee powder that I bought yesterday disappeared from my new coffee maker, there was no powder left. Well, it was again something else than real coffee. We decided to go to Cebu City today after all. So I packed my stuff and tried to catch a tricycle with little success. The jeepney, a very long version of jeep, is the most common public transport, was so full that some people are hanging at the back door. Tricycles were also all crowded. So, I took my bike instead. It is still raining and the water is everywhere, the rain flooded the streets and the water splashed on my shoes and legs. I parked my bike in front of the gate of the harbour just before 9AM.
I bought water from a little shop and the lady there had been looking at different countries on the map. When she understood that I was from Estonia, she was excited, because she had been discovering this area on the map recently and felt the connection like she had been there herself. Then I realised that I needed to drive further through the gates. I rode in and parked the motorbike, but we were late for the 9:20AM fast ferry. So we bought tickets for the next OceanJet for the 10:40AM trip. One way ticket is 500₱ ~8€. We went to the terminal top floor and did some work. Soon the hall was crowded and very noisy because a group of Chinese tourists came in. Soon it was time to go to the jetboat that can transport 250 passengers. Sea is relatively calm and there are no big waves.
We hopped to Jeepney as the local mass transport in Cebu City
Tall housing is pressing on and soon these smaller buildings will be all gone
There is heavy rain in Bohol and the coast line looks very dark and rather monochrome, no bright colours of green forest and sandy beaches. Just different gray colours. I did some accounting and Jay worked on our website a bit. We arrived at 12:45PM, so it took 2 hours to cross the strait of Cebu. We walked a little and hopped on a jeepney that carried us to SM Mall. The journey of this jeep is exciting and very cheap, less than 20₱.
We walked into the mall and ate Japanese food, because Jay will visit Japan soon. We took combo offers including soup, salad and a set of makis. Food was very tasty. I needed to exchange money and changed 300$ to pesos. I got 15,795₱. In order to exchange currency you need to fill a form which includes data of your passport. What they will do with such information and who will process this data manually? Now I have more blues, that is 1000 peso bills. We took a taxi and drove north to the 2nd hand office furniture shop.
Eating the leftovers of mango is very much part of common childhood
Well, it turned out to be a disappointment. There was only expensive stuff and the style was not for us. We found plenty of tables, but these tables were not on sale and just too expensive. We decided to visit another furniture shop nearby and we walked a few blocks. We went on an alley or rather narrow street that went through a low residential area. The roadside was a buzzing mini commercial area. There were services, street food and also kids were playing on the street. The narrow street was also a shortcut for cars and it was often jammed with a single line of cars. This poor neighbourhood will give away land to tall new buildings within a few decades . I have seen the similar story and destiny in Beijing, Bengaluru, Delhi and elsewhere in the megacities. The land beneath the poor community is just too valuable and tempting. What also amazed me was the amount of cables hanging on the posts and balconies and actually covering the entire street above you. You can see this only in South-America, Africa and Asia. Europeans even don’t know that they might have the same amount of cables, because these cables are all hidden beneath the surface or under the roads. We bought fruits called rambutan. We walked to the next furniture shop that was a tiny antique furniture shop. Not for us.
We took a taxi and drove to a fancy business district. We stopped in front of the Symph office. One of the founders - Dave - just walked towards us and let us in. We went to the 3rd floor which was a huge room filled with tables and computers. We met with CTO and the second founder, Albert. We had a long talk with birthday boy and Jay’s friend Dan.
They have arranged some workshops and startup events together. When he came into the office the team started to sing the well-known Happy Birthday To You song, but it was kind of difficult for the ears to bear. I thought they had practised enough singing in karaoke bars. Anyhow, Dan shared the way they recruit people and how they operate here.
Dan is the head of design in Symph
This guy has an open air mobile phone repaire shop
We were very thankful for the knowledge he shared. We invited him to visit our office too. We explained our strengths in terms of skills and assured that we were open for cooperation.
We went back to the street and walked towards the port. It was around a 4km walk and along the way we bought a fresh mango shake and visited many furniture shops. Soon it was dark and it started to rain. Along the street there are interconnected galleries on the ground floor of buildings on both sides of the street. So we walked in these little endless bazaars and we escaped the rain like this. There was everything you can imagine you can buy, but there were also unexpected services on these pedestrian roads. I saw how one guy changed a phone screen on the street on the blanket on the asphalt. One guy had a table as a workshop for welding wires and micro chips. Amazing. Of course there were similar single table workshops for repairing shoes and other usual stuff like BBQ chicken and mini toy shops.
I noticed kids playing around their working parents. They don’t have iPads to make the children stay still and have their eyes locked on screen. Instead these kids always find something to play with. I saw how they played with rounded stones by throwing them to the floor and in a way it reminded me of Beyblade. One boy played with a plastic bag that was blown into as a balloon. Creative isn’t it?
Soon we arrived at the port and bought the tickets. We went to eat street food. We ordered a whole BBQ fish and a part of chicken and rice packed in leaves. The cost was 195₱ ~ 3 €. It rained very heavily and we ran to the terminal building. Soon we went to the OceanJet boat and departed from Cebu City at 6:40PM. We arrived at Tagbilaran at 8:30PM. We were a bit sleepy because of the long day. We went our separate ways and I drove just a little bit further and stopped in a massage parlour. After the massage I rode back home and read some emails and wrote. Frogs are creating a surprisingly loud sound. It looks like they have some sort of song festival there. Soon I went to bed.
I woke up at 8AM and took a shower. It is very hot outside and it will be another tropical day in Bohol. I had my breakfast and drove to the laundry shop to hand over laundry and shoes. Then I drove to the next town called Baclayon and to the cockpit arena. This is a special occasion, a festival and it will be held from 10AM till 6PM. I can see by the amount of scooters that the event is popular. I’m sitting in the arena and I’m trying to make sense of this phenomenon. I try not to be critical about the tradition and after all who am I to criticize it. The entrance fee is 250₱ ~ 4€. The main crowd is men, there might be maximum 10 women too, but they are selling food and beverages.
About 50 men have gathered and are sitting on the benches facing each-other and they are holding their roosters. This is the time for showing and introducing your rooster for later bets on your rooster. In a bizarre way their owners seem to care about the roosters just like they care about their beloved pets. They stroked and tried to calm down the rooster. I assume the gladiator roosters are really stressed out of the noise and the presence of other roosters.
From time to time the owners are kind of sharpening up their roosters by dropping the roosters to the floor right next to other roosters. Sometimes even forcing roosters to have a body contact, but only with their bottoms. Some people have said that the roosters are drugged and pumped up with steroids and antibiotics. Anyhow the whole occasion is a matter of pride for the family. But the biggest drive is actually money. Men are betting thousands of pesos on roosters. There have been fights when they have realized they had lost. Also I believe wives back home are not very happy about losing money. So, this is a very complex matter and not describable in only one way.
It is all about betting on roosters and gambling in the end
I was amazed how much these guys cared about their roosters
The show started. The crowd gathered at the arena. In the middle of the arena there is an area that is elevated and surrounded with a glass barrier. It has lights above the centre of the killing field. The surface of the floor is concrete and there is a little bit of sand on it. I went to the side and to the gate where the pair of roosters and their owners were preparing and walking into the arena. Every rooster has a tag with a number and the pair has been chosen by weight and age. One guy gave me a brief about the details of a proper gladiator rooster. Usually 2 year roosters are in the best shape and with powerful leg muscles. The owners are having their last comforting words and calming touches before stepping into the killing zone. I saw the fear in the eyes of the rooster. He was about to die or get multiple injuries. So they went in and started to show their roosters to the public. Soon one guy with a microphone started to collect bets and cheer up the crowd.
Then the owners took away the cup of a very sharp knife that is attached to the foot of the rooster. And then it all started. The roosters dropped down and faced each-other. Usually they are going to fly on top of each-other and they try to hit the head with cloves or beak. And after just 5 to 40 seconds it is all over. However, most of the vital injuries are caused by the knife. In the latter stages the referee will step in and keep the roosters apart and put them together head to head in the air. If the losing side is still responding by hitting its enemy, then the fight goes on and if not then he will call out the winner. The whole concept is very much like a boxing match. Owner of the winning rooster will come out first and bet keepers are exchanging money between losers and winners. The owner of the looser rooster will carry out the rooster to the back end of the facility where they chop off the leg with the knife for later use.
She has helping dad since she was a little girl and has been in all major rooster fights
The rooster might be still alive and then they put the rooster to boiling water. That is the quick and grim reality of the loser. Basically it takes 3-4 minutes from the last tender moments before stepping into the arena and into the boiling water. I noticed a lady was cleaning and stitching the wounds of one rooster. It turned out it was a winning rooster, but he will be out of competition for a year at best. This rooster had multiple deep cut wounds. This was a family matter. She has been on these cock fights with her dad since she was a little girl. Her job is to be a veterinarian and try to get the rooster back home in one piece. I went up to the arena and watched another fight.
OK, I have seen enough of the blood and suffering of these roosters. In my mind there is no winner among the roosters, quick death or long suffering. The only winner is the arranger of the bets. I went down and bought water, fried bananas and eggs. I asked from the ladies who cooked the burgers and bananas what they thought about this event. One lady said that if their husbands would care about their wives as much as they care about their roosters, they would be happy. Well, that might be very much the split of the feelings about these events in general. They continued and said that the betting on roosters is the constant source of fights and arguments back home and creating financial instability.
I have really mixed feelings about the whole occasion. On one hand I see just the suffering of these poor roosters and on another hand it is a very important part of Philippines culture. Local TV shows could talk about roosters for hours and hours, it is an important matter. The raw desire to see blood and have the thrill of betting, is still with us in Europe and in North America. Whether it is a K1 or boxing fights in Las Vegas or it is a bull fight or corrida de toros tauromaquia in Spain. Of course not everybody is keen to see these events. But somehow even regular people who might even consider themselves very peaceful, will continue watching Youtube videos where somebody is clearly suffering or being killed. In a way the lust of blood is hardcoded into us. It turned out that no-one from our team has ever seen the cock fight with their own eyes. Some of them even have fighting roosters back home and their fathers are dealing with these roosters.
I drove back home and made a video call to my wife and daughter. Soon Jay arrived and we rearranged the priority list of furnishing the office. We are going to build our own tables after all. Jay drove ahead to the city to order the metal frames for the tables. These frames will be welded and painted for us. We met at the building material shop. We bought transparent plastic roof panels and plywood for tables and all the necessary for doing it. The bill was whooping 24 000₱ ~ 420€. Transport will be arranged for tomorrow. We drove towards the furniture mall and it started to rain quite heavily. The sky was dark grey and we decided to have a mini break instead of being really wet. We went into a local junk food place called Jollibee. I ordered a burger that also contained pineapple. A few tables away I noticed an old white American guy with a beautiful young Filipina. The old guy was ugly and wrinkled as darkness. I said that when I’m old, ugly, divorced and there is still some money in my wallet, I’ll come to live here. We continued our journey to the furniture mall. We thought we were going to buy carpet or two for our office, but these carpets were too small and too expensive. But the guy in the shop said there will be sales in December and all the prices will drop 30%. Well, let’s buy then. We drove to ICM Mall to look at the bicycles and they turned out to be rubbish Chinese crap. We need to find 2nd hand bikes for our battle kit. We drove in different directions.
First dinner in office
Jay went to pick up Chihiro and a grill from home and buy fish for tonight's party. Rey and Jason were in the office and built the software for the bicycle battle kit. I uploaded my today’s video and photo footage and showed it to them too. Soon Chihiro and Jay arrived. Chihiro went to the doctor the other day and the X-ray showed that there is a tiny crack in the bone of her foot. But luckily nothing too serious. Me and Chihiro made salad and dip sauce. Lads generally consider salad as cow food. Reden joined and went down with Jason to the front of the building to start BBQ-ing the fish. Also Jason went to buy grilled chicken from the street. Of course there was also steamed rice involved. The Filipinos can’t imagine life without rice. It was a proper feast.
One of the drinks was local brandy Emperador. Jay introduced the local habit of how to drink. First of all there are only two glasses that are circling around among all the drinkers. One glass contains brandy and the other one Sprite. First you take Sprite, then brandy and Sprite again. In that way the aroma of the brandy will not go into the nose. It is kind of clever, but at the same time there is a huge fuzz around the aroma of drinks like whisky, cognac and wines. Aroma matters a lot, but here they just ignore it as an obstacle to drink fast. Anyhow I didn’t drink myself, because it is still 2018. Next year I will taste these drinks. We turned the lights off at 11PM. I had a shower and wrote about the day. At 1AM I went to bed.
The harvested rice has been laid out to the ground to dry
I woke up at 9AM. It was cloudy outside and even a few raindrops fell down from the sky, but soon it was warm and sunny again. I wrote a bit on the balcony and decided to take a trip today. Jay doesn’t have any plans for me and I will make my own plans. Soon a small truck stopped in front of our building. It seems the roof material has arrived. I went down and helped them to navigate the narrow stairs with the transparent plastic panels. At 1PM I started to drive to Carmen on small and curvy roads. The roads are just fantastic to drive. When I climbed higher and away from Tagbilaran I saw many rice and corn fields. A few sections of the road went through forest and immediately the sun heat turned to a crisp and fresh colder breeze.
The gate design has some sort of artwork that reminds me most a Disneyland
At Balilihan I made a small stop to buy a cable for charging the pocket wifi. It seems I have left the cable home. And I bought some pastries and continued my trip. Carmen is located almost in the middle of Bohol island. Soon I started to see the hills that are rising from the valley. There are many locations where to see the Chocolate Hills and I had chosen the first one.
I’m at 389m on the top of a hill and I can see these bubbles or Chocolate hills around me. The entrance fee was 50₱ ~ 1€ and I paid that at the foothills of the mountain. This is a mass tourism destination. There were at least 10 tourist busses coming down while I was driving uphill. The view itself is worth driving here and climbing up the stairs. Tourists are taking selfies and many pose with hand and fingers in the mode of touching the top of the hill in the distance. You might have seen the people doing so in front of Taj Mahal and Pisa tower. Anyhow I just found a relatively quiet corner and sat down and just admired the bubbles around me.
These green hills will turn to the brown Chocolate Hills in summer when it will rain less
I made a video call to home and shared the chocolate bubbles with my wife. Soon I started to go down the stairs. The gate design has some sort of artwork that reminds me of Disneyland. I drove down the twisting road to the town of Carmen. Joseph is living somewhere here. He is in Tagbilaran today. I drove through Carmen and Sagbayan. Soon I started to descend down to the seaside and to towns called Clarin and Tubigon.
I tried to find a nice seaside restaurant and enjoy the sunset, but there was no such place. There were only simple eating places along the main road. I drifted away from the main road to a small road along the sea shore in a small village and saw locals playing table tennis. I stopped and played with the local master. I faced a harsh reality and clear loss 4:11 and 5:11. Of course there was unexpected wind influence and the racket was home made… I’m joking. It was pure fun and I didn’t care less of the result. I just tried to put the ball back in play. I thanked the guys and drove further to the south. Some guys were already very drunk around me - it is after all Saturday afternoon.
I stopped and played with local table tennis master
The fish selection is so colourful and rich
I made a small stop in a local market. The fish selection is so colourful and rich. There was also a giant squid and tuna. Again it was all very fresh. I drove through the towns of Calape, Loon and Maribojoc. From Calape I can take a bridge to the island of Pangangan. Cif is living on that island.
In Loon I took a break in a small local burger place. There were many children wearing white dresses or shirts. It turned out these children got the Renewal or Confirmation sacrament. This is one of the 7 sacraments of Catholic Church. So, it was celebration time and kids ate burgers and drank fizzy drinks. I ordered a burger with egg and squid balls and a mango shake. I got actually two burgers because they have such a deal - pay 1 get 2. There were only 3 squid balls, but I was still happy. My meal was 95₱ ~ 1€.
It is almost dark and I hate this period before actual darkness. I can’t see the road properly. So, I picked a fast minivan and stuck behind it all the way to Tagbilaran. This was a fast ride, close to 80km/h as a maximum speed, but most importantly, a safe journey. I didn’t need to worry about sleeping dogs on the road or road crossing bicycles or tricycles. I was in downtown Tagbilaran at 6:30PM and I drove directly to butt massage. The only downside of motorbiking is the painful seat. The seat of these dirt bikes is usually very rough and not meant for 200km trips.
My therapist was Ana and she is 25 years old and has already 3 children and her husband left her for another woman. Well, this story is a very common and very much universal problem. My butt is in top condition after the massage. I drove to the market that is on the side of the east bridge to Panglao. I bought vegetables and fruits. Also I ordered a BBQ chicken breast. The lady who served me chicken was in a bright yellow dress and she was visibly pregnant. She is expecting the 3rd child. Two boys were playing around the booth there. Chicken was delicious. I drove to the laundry shop and got back my clean clothes and shiny white shoes. I noticed the penthouse was lit. Jason was coding the Bicycle Battle Kit. We chatted a little and soon he packed the stuff and drove home to Dimiao. It looks like every team member of Blend IT is actually living outside of Tagbilaran. Except Reden who is living just right next to our office. I wrote on the balcony and drank tea. At 11:30PM I went to bed.
I woke up at 8AM. Actually I would have slept longer, but roosters were already inpatient and woke me up. I ate my breakfast which was a salad and fried eggs. I drank tea and thought maybe I should go swimming, because there are no weekends left before I return home. I wore swimming shorts and I had a towel around my hips while I was driving my motorbike. I also wear rough surface shoes. I took only a few hundred pesos with me in my pocket. I call everything under 200 pesos as small money and I keep the bills and coins in my pocket. 200, 500 and 1000 peso bills I keep in my wallet.
I drove to Panglao where I was looking for Dumaluan beach, but I missed the correct turn and ended up in Alona beach. The beach was almost empty, because the wind was picking up and the beach furniture was starting to fly. Also the boats were drifting and colliding with each-other because of strong wind. Palm trees on the coast line were waiving all over the place. So, the storm is coming. I went into the water and was soon disappointed, because the swimming area was tiny and contained only a few corals. Around one coral there was a family stepping on the coral and trying to make a selfie with themselves and the coral.
I went out and went to eat another breakfast and drink a coffee in a local bar. The lady there recognised me and asked about Chihiro’s condition. I told her that she has a tiny crack in her bone, but overall she is getting better. I’m always amazed by the memory of the waitresses. I drove through Panglao town and stopped in front of La Familia restaurant and tried to see Leon, but he was not there. I just wanted to say hello and thank him for the meaningful conversation one night in his restaurant in the beginning of November. I rode to Momo beach and parked my bike under a palm tree. I have swam here almost every day, because my Momo village tower apartment was just 300 meters from this beach.
This place has specialised more for diving and therefore there are no tourists, except the diving tourist. I swam almost an hour. Weather was changing from heavy rain to sunshine. When the sun was out the whole seafloor turned into a bright and transparent wonder world. I’m still blown away by the colourful and rich marine life beneath the waves.
I saw and recorded a video of Walo Walo, the Coral Reef Snake. In Cebuano language Walo Walo simply means Eight Eight. Somebody clever must have noticed that snakes can form a shape like 8. This black and white striped saltwater snake was looking for food on the seafloor and between the corals and then swam to the surface to take a breath of air and went back down. This snake is poisonous and I kept the distance.
Say your last prayers before touching Walo Walo
Some fish were very tiny, but very defensive and aggressive and some were very curious. Raindrops did a massage on my back while I was observing the beauty of the corals. I walked out of the water towards my bike and it started to rain heavily again. I tried to find shelter and local young ladies and guys asked me to join their table. They were drinking beer in the typical Philippine way. Single glass of beer is circling around the group and it is being refilled all the time. They all were cousins and not married yet. Their age was from 20 till 25 and they are living in the walking distance from Momo beach. Their relatives are living here at the beach and have a shop here. So, one older relative was providing us with pork snack and grilled fish. One of the ladies' names is Joyline. The older relative who provided us with snacks even borrowed my full snorkelling mask and praised it after seeing the clear view. Another younger relative took the mask too and was also happy about the easiness of snorkelling.
Joyline is working in the resort as bartender and another lady is working as receptionist. Two brothers are welders and they proudly pointed to their latest work, which is the brand new cool looking tricycle. Joyline gets 10,000₱ ~ 167€ per month. She has graduated high school, that is 8 grades. Government is not going any further in subsidizing the studies. Going to college and university is therefore already for the privileged young people. I was out of pesos and I showed them my empty pockets of swimming shorts. I said that at Alona beach locals see me only as a walking wallet. These cousins were different. They were not after my money and they offered their companionship and their snacks instead. I like this kind of unforced longer chats.
At 3PM I thanked them and drove back home. Soon Jay arrived with workers who will start building the roof tomorrow. I took a shower and drank tea and enjoyed the sunset. I drove to ICM - Island City Mall. I bought some dresses and shirts as gifts to my ladies back home. And I even bought jeans for myself. I stopped in a Japanese place and ate sushi and dumplings. I saw Ann and Mark from Momovillage and I saw Jason with his smallest son. I went to the supermarket to buy local candies, beer and brandy. It is my duty to buy local beer for my father in law. I’ll most probably also buy Biko, the sticky sweet coconut rice, just before the flight back home.. At 8PM I drove back home. I drank tea and wrote. The geckos are my friends here too and they are doing a loud tik-tik-tik noise. They eat ants and flies. Soon I went to bed.
Only 4 days left. I woke at 8AM and did my regular morning activities. Soon Jay arrived and we discussed the catering issues. He also brought the screws and silicon. Jay left and at 9:15AM the workers arrived. They immediately started working and the progress was visible. The forman estimated that they needed another pack of screws and a tube of silicon. I went downtown and bought these items. Soon the roof was ready and I paid 4000₱ ~ 66€ for a half a day of work for 3 people. Of course they didn’t have any safety ropes or anything similar to protect them while they were climbing on the rooftop. They might even say that ropes are for the pussies and real men should be agile and flexible as monkeys. I cleaned the floor and washed it too. Now it should be nice and clean to walk barefoot on the balcony floor.
I drove about 1.5km along the East Tagbilaran Road to the edge of the city to Astoria Bohol Resort. I drove down the slope to the beach café. It is an amazing view here and the resort has cleaned the area of mangroves and laid down the white sand in order to create a wonderful beach. Huge work has been done if you compare the rest of the mangroves on the seaside.Today is a low tide and corals actually have raised out from the water. I sat at the nice beach bar and ordered a coffee and fresh fruits. Life is good. I paid for my coffee and fruits 300₱ ~ 5€ and walked to the beach. The low tide has revealed the world of wandering snails and crabs on the wet sand. That is a feast for birds. One bird was similar to Kingfisher and enjoyed the buffet of snails and small very quickly running white, almost transparent, crabs. I walked back to my bike and the receptionist gave the pricing of this hotel. The room rates just knocked my hat off. 12000₱ ~ 200€ per room per night. I didn’t expect that coming. I thought maybe the price is around 50€. Nice resort, but I can’t afford it for my family for two weeks. I drove back home and walked to the convenience store and bought milk and tea. I did some work and soon Jay came by. He set up the temporary wifi router.
And then he went to the FabLab to cut the tables out of plywood. Soon I drove to the city and bought an iPhone cover that is shiny pink with many hearts on it. This is for my daughter’s first proper phone as a birthday present. It started to rain. Yet again I’m not prepared for rain and I have left my raincoat home. Luckily FabLab is not far away. The campus is full of youth. Students start to study here after elementary school, that is after the 8th grade. It turned out that the government is subsidising the university level too starting from this year and students no longer need to pay the fee. Jay is already working on a giant CNC machine and our tables are taking shape. I helped him to smoothen the rough edges of the tables with sand papers. We finished 9 tables at 7PM. It is raining very heavily outside.
I drove to the mall in downtown and went to the toy store. Jason's son has a birthday tonight and I’m invited and I need to find a decent present for the birthday boy. It is a relatively large store where there were also Lego look-alikes. Just like Lego, but not really, different name. Of course Lego is expensive for Europeans too. I was looking for a truck that has no removable parts. The birthday boy Shaunn Jarisson is only just 1 years young. I found a suitable car and asked to wrap it too. I drove a bit further and bought yellow flowers for the mother of the birthday boy. It was still raining a bit and I drove home, flowers attached to the handlebar of the bike and the present between my legs. That’s how locals are transporting almost everything here. I went to my apartment and put some of the stuff in the bag. I drove to Panglao island and almost to Momo beach. The causeway to the house was extremely muddy and it took some effort to drive through and not cover yourself with mud. Party was in full steam. I changed my clothes to dry clothes. Many of the Blendit team couldn’t come because of rain. Well, the real motorbikers do not mind driving in the rain if needed. Of course it is unpleasant to be wet, but it is just water. The party was held in the main hall that has a high ceiling. I saw Charles just going home from the party. He used to be part of the team Blendit, but now he is working full time for another company.
Jason and a bit frightened birthday-boy Shaunn Jarisson
I haven't eaten any cake
There were 5 children and they are actually together all the time, because they are all cousins. It turned out that Jason and his sister’s family and Jason’s parents are sharing the roof. Jason's sister has 2 boys and 1 daughter. Jason has two sons, 1 and 4 years old boys. I gave the flowers to the mother. There was plenty of food on the table. There was grilled baby pork, chicken, beef, noodles and of course plain rice. Kids were drinking fizzy drinks. For dessert there was the remains of the purple birthday cake and Biko, the sweet sticky rice. Also I had Halo Halo - sorbet ice cream with frozen fruits and jelly candies. And I drank Dragon Coffee, which is basically roasted corn coffee. I call it felon coffee which means the coffee is not filtered and the powder is in the bottom half of the mug.
I ate Halo Halo and took ⅔ of the coffee too. Jason’s father used to be a chef in Alona beach restaurant, but he is retired now. Jason’s elder brother is a priest in Manila. All together he has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. This is a normal Philippines family, nothing out of the ordinary. I made some pictures of children and their grandfather. Birthday boy went to sleep at 9PM. Other kids were still very full of energy and they ran around and screamed like in a regular kids birthday party.
At 10PM I thanked for the invitation and drove carefully through the mud back to the road. I drove to the Renaissance massage parlour in nearby Panglao poblacion/downtown. The ladies there had already wondered if Timm already went back to Europe, since they hadn’t seen me here lately. The Korean Kim has been a more loyal customer than me. He is taking massages every night. My feet were muddy because of the offroad part of my journey, but as a part of usual procedure the therapist will clean your feet in the small bowl anyway. I took 1.5 hours of massage and ended the massage at midnight. The rain had stopped and it was ok to drive back home. I was home at 1PM and went to sleep.
I opened my eyes at 9:30AM because I heard the knocking on my door. The catering has arrived with tables and chairs. I had a clear overview of our balcony now in the daylight. The typhoon rain had slipped in from the edge of the balcony. It had rained the whole night. The rest of the floor is dry. So, the roof is pretty good and keeps the balcony dry from the rain.
Today we will have the opening party of the Blendit Bohol office. The catering guys put the tables and chairs on their places and covered them with the white and blue canvas. I made coffee and ate fried eggs like I do every morning. Soon Jason arrived and I made a new portrait of him for our website in order to change the existing images there. Jason worked on the Bicycle Battle Kit. Jason borrowed my motorbike and he drove to a metal workshop in order to avoid traffic. At 3PM Jason went home and Joseph and Jay went to pick up the tables and frames from downtown by Reden’s van. So, it is a busy time before the event. Unfortunately we will not have the Bicycle Battle Kit welding ready for tonight and most likely it will be ready when I’m back in Estonia.
Today it rained almost constantly and there was no sunshine. At 5:30PM the catering service arrived and started serving food to the tables. The food looks and smells very good. Soon I discovered that they didn’t have the heaters beneath the food serving boxes. Well, they went to bring them. I needed to go shopping and I hopped on my bike and drove down to the intersection nearby and saw Jay drive back towards our office. I pulled them aside. There were Jay, Joseph and Chihiro and also our plywood, table frames and Karaoke stuff in the van. I discussed the drinks I need to buy and we went apart. I went in to a liquor store and bought 24 bottles of San Miguel beer, 2 bottles of Pino Negro red wine from Chile and 2 Proseccos from Italy. My bill was 2715₱ ~ 45€. To be honest, I’ll get only 2 Proseccos for the same amount of money back in Europe. I hired a tricycle and drove in front of it myself. I gave 20 pesos to the driver. I carried up the heavy box of alcohol and placed these bottles in the fridge. Remember, I still will not drink alcohol myself till 01/01/2019.
Jay was setting up the karaoke machine and PA. This will be the main attraction by far, because Filipinos are obsessed with singing karaoke.
It was dark outside and rain just kept on pouring down. Usually there is a sudden rain and then the sun will come out again, but this rain has something to do with the overall hurricane warning for the Philippines. The Philippines archipelago is spread from Taiwan in the north to equatorial Indonesian and Malaysian islands in the south. So, the storm can be in the Taiwan area where hurricanes or typhoons are very common or it could be elsewhere. Anyhow it just rained the whole night. Cif and Jason’s family were not able to come, but the rest were coming. All together we had 10 people. We estimated food for 20 people and that meant we had a heavy load of food for many days to come. Already the first karaoke singers started to sing.
We had an official part where we had a video call to Tõnis in Estonia and me and Jay also had short speeches. We started to eat and soon to sing. For me it was a torture, because I know some of the songs from this huge catalog, but still it doesn’t mean that I can actually sing those lines decently. I sang Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and Creed’s My Own Prison and Cranberries Zombie as a duet with Reden’s wife. The karaoke machine scoring system gave points after every singing and to be frank the system was fraud. I got 85 points while good singers like Joseph’s girlfriend Hannah got 80 and Rey’s girlfriend Rose got also less than me. Well basically every lady was better than me. We made a karaoke competition where there was an elimination round, semifinal round and final for two best singers. Chihiro found even Japanese language songs to sing from this catalog. The finalists were Rey and Reden and for some reason the final ended as a tie, zero points each. So, the machine is totally broken now. It was a lot of fun though. It seems Prosecco as a relatively unknown fizzy and fancy Italian drink got some new fans here. Of course guys don’t mind drinking as long as the drink contains alcohol.
We were grounded and many of us couldn’t go home because of heavy rain. Most of us are driving motorbikes or scooters. I borrowed Reden’s Kia SUV and drove Hannah home to downtown Tagbilaran. Joseph had his bag there too. It was very fun to drive a car at night in Tagbilaran. I was driving on the roads that are very familiar to me already. Hannah went home and we drove back with Joseph to the office. Soon Reden and his wife went home and so did Rey and Rose. Jay and Chihiro drove back home on a scooter despite the rain and the fact that Jay was quite drunk. Well, they made it safely home. Joseph is living far inland in Carmen and he will stay on the couch today and drive home tomorrow morning. I had a video call with my ladies back home and at 2AM went to bed.
I opened my eyes at 7:30AM and there was a war outside. Dogs were barking and roosters were screaming. Obviously they were happy that the rain had stopped and they could enjoy the sunshine. Well, I’m also happy that it is not raining, but I was also happy to sleep a little bit more. I woke up again at 9:30AM. Jason has already packed his stuff and was on the way out. I gave him the Tiina chocolate from Estonia. These chocolates seemed to survive the journey to the Philippines. I warmed up yesterday's food and prepared coffee. It was very good to sit on the couch on the balcony and enjoy the sunshine.
I’m not in a hurry and that is a good feeling, because this is my last long day in Bohol. I decided to work a little and then go swimming. I drove to Panglao island and to Panglao beach, which is basically a fisherman or public beach. I turned off from the main road and soon the road turned into sticky and slippery white clay. I managed to drive through the village to the beach without falling into the clay.
I walked down the small cliff to the shore and I spoke with local security guards. They are watching the resort and private beach area right next to the public beach. The resort has an artificial island near to the shore. I needed to swim quite a long distance before the water was deep enough and the first corals appeared. It is very mystical to swim through the underwater bushes into the small areas of corals and white sand. I wandered around the corals about an hour and swam to the artificial island and walked through the shallow water back to the beach. It was a good swim.
I drove without changing clothes to the main road and turned again off to the road that goes to Hinagdanan Cave. It is another tourist attraction. I paid 130₱ ~ 2€ as an entrance fee that included the entrance itself, allowance of swimming in the cave and parking a bike. I went down by the steep stairs to the wonder world of caves. I saw bats flying in and out the caves. I went to the rather cold water and admired the cave beneath the water level. It was a refreshing experience and I can say the same for mango shake that the ladies provided at the gates. In general this place has all the typical tourist trap features like a gift shop, multiple juice places and even a small clothing shop.
I drove to downtown Tagbilaran and noticed people were playing tennis. I asked whether I could join. It turned out they have a club’s doubles tournament. I sat next to a beautiful and good tennis player called Agnes. She is a tour guide and this is the reason why her English was well above the average. I couldn’t play proper tennis, because I had swimming shoes and not tennis shoes. Agnes gave her spear racket to me. I was able to practice like 10 minutes. They play very much half volley and slicing game and they are not hitting the ball hard at all. It was fun. I promised to become a member of the club. They have a single tennis court in the middle of the city and the club has some heritage already, I suppose more than one hundred years. There were some pictures on the wall where people were wearing white pants and skirts and holding wooden rackets.
I drove to the ATM and took 10,000₱ ~ 168€. I decided to have my last massage in Bohol. I have had countless massages and this was the last one here. After that I drove back home and warmed up the food and drank tea.
I was sitting on the couch on the balcony and it was not cold outside, rather it was a warm night. Soon I went to sleep.
I woke at 8:30AM and packed my stuff. I took a shower and had breakfast. Sun is shining nicely. I took my sheets and towels and dropped them off to the laundry shop. They already know my name as I’m a loyal customer there. Jay will pick up the clean laundry and set up the flat for renting. Jay arrived at 10AM and went through the things we need to do and made the priorities in Asana. At 11AM Rey arrived and I did the portrait of him too. Soon also Jason arrived. I made the last audio call to my ladies back home. I may not have proper internet before Tallinn. We closed the office doors and drove through the city to Tagbilaran airport. At 2PM I handed over the motorbike to Per. Jay gave Bohol t-shirts to me, my wife and daughter and to Tõnis. We said goodbye and I went to the terminal. This airport is tiny, but there are still all the obstacles like double security check and check-in, but in a very small space. I managed to go through the hurdles and I waited for my flight in the terminal. Boarding started at 4:15PM and I was lucky again to change my current seat to a more spacious emergency exit. A lovely stewardess gave me instructions in case of an emergency. Actually we walked from the terminal around the plane and took the stairs up to the plain. I wondered if maybe next time I’ll land at the new airport on Panglao island right next to Alona beach.
The flight took off at 4:40PM and soon we were in the wonder world of clouds. Sun is going to set soon and it is just amazing to see the columns of white clouds like fluffy cotton wool pillars going to the sky. From time to time you can also see some part of the green landscape or shining sea below. It is like flying through the whipped cream. I start to imagine myself flying toward a halo-halo ice cream or huge mountain of whipped cream on the top of a cake. I’m drinking tea and just enjoying the scenery. And now we are entering the dark grey tropical storm clouds and I feel the turbulence and shaking of the plane. And just after 10 minutes we passed the clouds and continued the flight towards Manila. We landed at Manila airport at 5:35PM.
This is a megacity with attractive flashing ads and skyscrapers. No wonder millions of people from the thousands of surrounding islands are gathering here for a better opportunity. I took my bag from the luggage belt and waited for a shuttle bus B14 to take me to terminal 1. It is free of charge, but you need to register for the shuttle bus at the counter. The shuttle takes a 10 minute loop in the surrounding area. I checked in and again I was able to change my seat to the emergency exit on both flights. I went through the second security check and entered the zone of shops and bars. I changed the clothes in the toilet and went to the second floor cafeteria. I ordered a Tocino meal which is pork, fried eggs and rice, and coffee. I have tried to buy an iPhone wallet type cover for 6 Plus, but it seems they don’t have it. I was sure that I would get it for 5€ in the Philippines, but still I needed to order it from AliExpress. There were many options, but not a wallet version.
I walked down the stairs and sat near to my gate. There is still 1.5 hours left before the boarding. I just sat in the lounge, not the fancy business lounge, but the regular common people’s lounge on the bench. I’m not interested in shops either. The only thing that I might buy is the airplane pillow, but I haven’t seen this kind of shop. Well I did find a green big U-shaped stuffed snake that will be my pillow for upcoming flights. I went to my gate. I noticed many Filipinos are holding an envelope in hand and it turned out that mostly people with envelopes are going to work abroad for the very first time. This envelope contains everything including working permission. Many will go to the Middle East and some will go to Europe too. So, they are part of millions of labor force OFWs as Overseas Filipino Workers. Boarding started at 9:40PM and as always, business class and families with small children board first. Right next to me there was a mother with two suitcases and a sleeping boy. I offered my help to carry the boy. Cheeky isn’t it? The boy's name is Liam and the boy had semi blond hair and he is a mixture of Filipina and Swedish.
We went on board of Boeing 777 and put the boy to the row 16 and continued my walk to the emergency exit seats. The boy had a very deep sleep and he didn’t have a clue that somebody other than his mother was carrying him. I sat down and an Australian lady, Hannah, sat next to me. She is working for the United Nations and in a department of working abroad regulations. She was in Manila just for 4 days for meetings and she went back to Geneva. She told me how much she loves to travel in Europe and how easy it is to go from one country to another. She even had a mini break in Tallinn when coming over from Helsinki. She has also been living in Vietnam. Lovely stewardesses served dinner and I got some Turkish Airline children toys for Mirjam. I’m sure she will like these toys. I watched a movie and tried to sleep.
It was getting cold so I used the airline blanket and even laid one blanket over Hannah too while she was sleeping or faking it, because her body language revealed she had also cold. I think I even slept about 3 hours. When we were over Georgia we had breakfast. I found a toothbrush and toothpaste from my travel kit that was given me in the beginning of the flight. My hygiene stuff is all in my check-in luggage. We started to descend to Istanbul and we landed at 5:30AM. I said goodbye to Hannah and walked through the customs. I took 250TRY (Turkish Lira) ~ 46€ from the ATM and walked to the metro station.
I’m on the European side of Istanbul. Metro ticket cost was 11TRY ~ 2€. It was a little bit of hassle with the ticket machine, but eventually I got the ticket and went down to the metro. I drove all the way downtown and it took about half an hour. I was happy to find a seat, but soon I needed to give it to an older man. I followed the instruction of the stewardess and went off at Aksaray station. It was still dark outside and the city centre was slowly starting to wake up. I stopped by a kebab place at 7AM and ate chicken soup, which was good, hot and cheap (6TRY ~ 1€). I walked to the area of Grand Bazaar, which was still closed, but the little shops on surrounding streets were just opening up. It was still freezing cold, around +10’C and windy. I overestimated the warmth in Istanbul and I wore only a t-shirt.
I found a shop where there was a warm sweater with a hood that called my name. Price 150TRY ~ 25€ was not negotiable. I bought it and started to wear it right away. I wouldn't go to these narrow commercial streets without GPS, because you will lose your sense of orientation soon and you may start circling on the same streets and see the same clothing shops. I turned to Laleli Camii mosque and went in. There was only the imam and a few men praying. It looks like they have had the first prayer already. I just sat on the carpet and admired the artwork of the mosque interior. In the front of the mosque there were friendly cats and dogs, who must be fed here, because they were not afraid and not too hungry. I made a stop and ordered a fresh pomegranate, grapefruit and orange juice. The juice was made on the street on a small table from fresh fruits and the cost for a big cup was 15TRY ~ 2€. I walked to the front of a small 900 years old Bani Mehmed Ağa Kabri mosque and I started to see properly the massive structure of Hagia Sophia. Between Hagia Sophia and the Grand Blue Mosque there is a long park and you can see both holy buildings from this park.
At 9AM the gates to Hagia Sophia were opened and tourists were able to purchase tickets for 60TRY ~ 10€. I said no to guides who were offering their services, because I wanted to explore in my own pace. This building has been built and rebuilt so many times, but the first wooden roof version was built already in the era of Constantinius. These walls and the stone arches and the dome that we can see today are mostly built in the 6th century. This was the biggest dome in the world at the time it was built. Even the sultan who conquered the city was so moved by the site that he came down from his horse and kissed the ground in front of the building. He quickly turned the church into a mosque by adding new banners and taking down crosses and building the minarets and fountains for the washing ceremony. Many parts of the Hagia Sophia were under renovation and closed to the public. I went up by the angled step-less causeway to the upper terrace.
I started to talk with an artist Sedef Soylu, who is presenting two graphic works in the gallery among many other beautiful Islamic artwork. She explained the caligrafic details and the meaning of each word in Arabic. محمد stands for Mohammad and somewhere beneath there is also mother’s name of a great prophet. We discussed the huge changes in the Mustafa Kemal aka Atatürk era. She was not happy that the Arabic alphabet was forbidden and therefore people lost the important connection between religion, language and semiotics. Atatürk also reformed the human rights, civil courts, education, calendar etc. Basically he made a secular republic where religion was not in the middle of every aspect of life anymore. It was fascinating to chat with this educated lady. I noticed the stairs have been worn out and have a 10cm gap to compare to the edges of the steps. Millions of people have made these waves into the marvel and stone. I walked outside and admired the building again.
Soon I exited Hagia Sophia garden and walked into Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamamı, which is a traditional Turkish sauna and bath. The building itself is more than 600 years old and the great hall is already breathtaking. This has been a luxury spa for very rich noblemen and merchants and still is expensive 606TRY ~ 100€, but for tourists mostly now. This side is for men only and the staff is all male. Exactly the same style facility is on the other side as well and it is meant for females only. First I needed to put my clothes to the cabin and put black thin panties on. We walked with Ibrahim to the dome where we entered one crypt where there were three taps. Therapist turned all taps open and the hot water started to produce warm steam. I sat on the warm marvel floor for about ten minutes. I poured the water on me and went to the middle of the dome. He started to scrub my skin with a rough glove. That was very good.
I was the only client in this facility, because it was still relatively early morning. I can imagine this place can easily fit about 12 to 15 clients and therapists. Imagine the noise and echo that this treatment may produce. Next he started to wash me. He took a cotton bag out of the soapy bucket and turned the bag in the air a couple times and then squeezed the soap bubbles to my body. I was inside the bubbles. He also stretched my limbs and muscles. Soon he poured water on me and put a towel around me. We walked back to the lobby area. I drank blackberry juice and Turkish coffee. After 5 minutes we went to the 3rd floor to the massage room where he did a rapid 30 minutes oil massage. We went back down and I changed my clothes. Ibrahim also gave a set of different soaps, shampoos and oils. At noon I walked out of this lovely luxury place and started to head back.
I took a Tramvai, which is Tram in Turkish language. These are very modern trams. I really love this part of the city. Here are buildings that might be 200 to 300 years old, roads are very well maintained and clean and public transport is easy to follow. I drove back to Aksaray and ordered a proper kebab. How can I possibly go away from Turkey without eating kebab. It was more like a streetfood setup and I always prefer this format. The cost of the kebab and tea was 20TRY ~ 3€. I needed to speed up, because I should go back to the airport. I continued my sandwich type of kebab on foot and walked to the metro station. I have used all 3 trips of my ticket. I reached the terminal at 1:15PM and I quickly realized I was not going to make it to my flight if I stood in the huge security check line. There has to be another way. One helpful officer suggested I go to the counter of business class and flight crews. I explained that I’m going to be late for my Turkish Airline flight. It worked.
The queue there was tiny compared to the monster human traffic jam in the regular security check. Sweet lady in Manila had already printed out the boarding pass to Tallinn and also changed my seat to emergency exit. Now I figured out the gate and went there. There was a slight delay of boarding time. I sat next to an Estonian mother and daughter who had just came from Ankara. Her husband is working as an adviser for Estonian embassy in Ankara. Soon they started the boarding and we went to the bus. Boeing 737 was almost full. We took off from Istanbul at 3PM. Stewardesses served lunch. We flew over the cloud covered Eastern Europe and I witnessed a beautiful sunset. We landed at Tallinn at 5PM. It is quite shocking to come from the Philippines sunshine and +30’C into cloudy +3’C.
My wife Jaanika and daughter Mirjam came to welcome me.
It is good to be back home.
These three weeks went by like flying. I have driven a motorbike on this tiny Bohol island over 1200 km. Most of the kilometres came from going to the city and back, but there were also a couple of longer trips. I’m happy that at least our team members do not turn to me Sir or in similar fashion. I know it might be very difficult to overcome the desire to say Sir to me. Our relationship was based on humanity and of course I’m fully aware that there is still this hardcoded sense that I as a leader or European should know everything. Well, I don’t know really. It was generally fruitful time in terms of business and very good new cultural experience. I keep on seeking experiences, there will not be enough. I didn’t meet any fellow Estonians on my way and I can actually see them in Estonia too. Estonians are still going more often to Thailand resorts than to the Philippines resorts for holidays.
People are friendly and curious
I started to love the genuine friendliness and hospitality, which is different from the tourist serving politeness on Alona beach, but the real connections and conversations with Boholianos and Boholianas. Especially it reveals itself when I show my empty pockets and you have a good time regardless of having money or not. There is also this sense of curiosity. Usually I take out my phone and my offline world map there to point out where I’m coming from.
I do remember the Shaunn Jarisson birthday party, he turned one year old. You can’t see this as a tourist thing, can you? In a way kids are kids everywhere and birthday is a big deal regardless of where you are living.
Filipinos love plain rice and they will die instantly when they can’t have it. I’m not a big fan of the rice, but the food generally is always very tasty. There are hundreds of food names, but most of them are still some sort of chopped meat and sauce and rice again. But there are also plenty of options for side dishes. It could be noodles, potatoes and sweet potatoes prepared in different ways. I will point out Dinuguan which is pork blood stew. Again, in a way it should be familiar from German, British and Estonian kitchens where the blood sausage might have similar taste.
Another very common street food is Balut which is a boiled fertilised duck egg. For foreigners to eat embrio is just disgusting. But for locals this is a healthy little snack. After all, eggs contain a lot of protein and you as a consumer will get the benefits like a hatching duckling for rapid growth. Maybe this still does not convince you, but it is as it is.
Food is just delicious
Biko - the sweet coconut sticky rice is a very common dessert. Halo Halo is a delicious ice cream with jelly beans and frozen fruits.
I have taken a full advantage of fruits that grow in the Philippines. I have eaten mangos, bananas, pineapples, coconuts and other fruits. Regular markets usually have a good variety of fruits and with good prices too. I eat the fruits for breakfast or order a mango shake. Durian was one fruit that I somehow missed to taste. It smells really badly, but I hope I have a chance to taste it on my next trip. The durian trees are growing on islands further south from Bohol.
Because Filipinos live on the archipelago they catch and eat fish. The variety of fish is huge. There is big fish like tuna, but also tiny fish like you can see around the coral reef.
BBQ chicken is a cult. When it is getting dark outside there will be popup chicken BBQ places all over villages and on the streets of towns. Basically every part of chicken will be grilled and eaten with spicy sauce. I have ordered BBQ chicken from these popup places and it has been a tasty experience. I didn’t eat the grilled chicken toes and guts though. OK, I did try the guts once in Manila, but it really tasted like BBQ-d plastic straws.
If I compare Philippines driving and street culture to India, then Filipinos are OK drivers
Some people consider the traffic in the Philippines as chaotic and rather unregulated. Well, it depends on the reference point. If I compare Philippines driving and street culture to India, then Filipinos are OK drivers and they follow the traffic rules. Of course there are just too many scooters and motorbikes that are like water leaking through the columns of cars in front of the traffic lights or intersections. That is kind of normal here. The taxi drivers are assholes in every country in general. I felt very safe driving on the Philippines’ roads. Roads itself are in very good shape. Most of the roads are concrete roads. All motorbike and scooter drivers need to wear helmets and mostly they do. I liked the twisting and curvy mountain roads to Carmen.
I also used public transport called Jeepney, which is basically Jeep-looking extended version minivan. Very often these public transport vehicles are covered by colourful lights in front and at the back of the car, sometimes they even have lights beneath the car. Very bling indeed. Also the drivers sometimes have pumped up the stereo system in the salon and they play their favourite music, loudly of course. During rush hour it is very common to see people hanging at the far end of the van and some are even on the roof of the van.
Another typical way of getting from one point to another is to take a tricycle, which is a taxi service. Tricycle contains a motorbike, usually a 150cc engine simple bike, a side carriage and a covering roof.
Both means of travelling are very cheap.
There are multiple options of regular fast ferry or speedboat lines to multiple destinations. So, it is very convenient to travel from one island to another. But when you need to take a motorbike or car to the next harbour, you need to consider the slow moving ferries.
Most of the bigger islands are very well connected to all the major cities by air.
People are living in paradise. Tourists know that and locals might know that too, but it seems Boholionos are not exploring their own island and not seeking the beauty of it. The local people are busy serving the tourists and they are almost dead after working 12 hours a day and understandably they just recover from the exhausting week on Sundays and they just do not want to go for a tour.
I found the coral reefs a very exciting environment to explore. Even with a snorkelling mask you will see amazing underwater scenery. I think I had around 20 snorkellings in total. There are fewer and fewer decent public beaches where locals can go swimming and more and more private beaches for rich people. That trend of course will keep the locals away from the paradise even more. Some local ladies said that they are afraid to swim. How can you not know how to swim when you are living on the beach? Some local guys borrowed my baby snorkelling mask and they were amazed by the clearness of the view.
Panglao island is very populated, 80 000 people are living there. The main resort is Alona beach there. I have been avoiding this place and been more in less crowded and rather quiet Momo beach instead.
At the far end of Bohol there is a quiet resort, Anda, which is perfect for families and there are very accessible and beautiful white sandy beaches and coral reefs.
Chocolate hills and Can-umantad Falls are very much the tourist attractions, but both are worth going to.
Balicasag and Virgin Islands are too commercial and too touristic to me. There you can feel you are literally a walking wallet.
Even though it is also very touristic, I definitely recommend the Oslob whale shark experience in Cebu island. It is only 2 hours crossing from Alona or from Momo beach. I will remember this amazing feeling to swim in the middle of these giant mammals for the rest of my life. When I’m thinking about it or watching the video footage of it, I still get goosebumps on my skin.
Next time I may see the shelter of Bohol Tarsiers (Tarsius Syrichta), the smallest monkeys in the world and just observe these animals. Also thinking next time to hire a boat and exploring the tiny uninhabited islands around the north side of Bohol.
Somehow I have a feeling that I've already discovered more of Bohol than regular Boholionos. And I still think that instead of finding a decent job here, local people look for higher wage and they go to Cebu City, Manila, Abu Dhabi, Berlin, San Francisco, Tallinn or elsewhere to work and earn money for years and maybe one day returning back to paradise.