Mindoro or "Hey Joe!"

Trip Start Aug 26, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2009

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Flag of Philippines  , Mindoro Oriental,
Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mindoro Island is a deceptively large area, as when one views it on a map it appears relatively small but there are many villages and inhabitants. Dave and I had decided to stay, close to the Puerto Galera. which is where our ship from Batangas had first docked.
After we had alighted our boat and found our way to the main road, we donned our back packs and decided we would walk into town as we were curious to meet the people of the island. We had thought there was probably no better way to do this than by walking right past their front door step and by chance, strike up a conversation with the locals. 
We had not been walking very long when a fleet of Jeepney and tricycles, surrounded us all shouting... "Hey Joe"! you lookin for a ride into town.."you come stay at our hotel Joe",... "we look after you Joe".....We got plenty beer.. plenty girls,..  if you like Joe.".." We fix special price for you Joe"...," Hey no problems Joe, special price, ride into town, fix hotel room for you supply American music, plenty beer.. sexy girl come with" .." No thanks" we yelled back as the cavalcade of jeepney and tricycles had now reached epic numbers, and had pulled in along side us. There  we stood in the heat with flies buzzing around us. We had changed our pace to a slow walk now, trying to listen to what the drivers were saying, as they gathered by the side of the roadway. We stopped momentarily to adjust the position of our backpacks which were slung low across our hind quarters.
 I asked Dave ,"what's this Hey Joe bullshit"? and he then explained to me that 'Joe' was a common nick name for American male tourists who had come to the Philippines, looking for rest and recreation and usually had American dollars to spend.  These Filipino guys  had thought that maybe we were Americans . That sort of explained it, but when we begun yelling back to them that we were walking into town and didn't necessarily, want a ride in a Jeepney or tricycle. I suddenly heard one of the Filipino drivers comment.."Hey what you guys walking into town? ... " What are you guys  nuts or what?"..  We  replied that we  are walking into town and going to meet the people on the way"..I then heard him mutter in reply, something to the effect of  " now I know they must be nuts".. and with that he started his motor cycle engine and sped off, leaving a huge cloud of exhaust fumes for us to choke on. It was at about this time, that I had also noticed that there were black rain clouds moving in from the ocean across the island's foreshores and the wind had begun picking up from a north easterly direction.  However we continued on our walk in the general direction of the township and passed some very interesting hovels and houses. Some we noted with a thatched roof' and makeshift walls, some of modern brick exterior, some with corrugated iron construction and unmistakeably some of the old Spanish Colonial architecture. I dreamed a short dream, of what it may have been like in this location  when the Spanish ruled the Philippine Islands a few centuries ago.
  By now I had noticed a number of small dusky skinned children beginning to follow us, as we made our way along the side of the road.  I marched right past one little darling girl, who cried out to her mother" Mum, Mum look' Americanos' walking past our front yard. I  was very tempted to add, No! No! not Americano but 'Australianos'... and  that we were not Joe.! .".we are Derek and Dave "..but I thought, why confuse the sweet little girl?.  Let her have her dreams. So I just kept walking, and said nothing, and all the time marching three feet behind Dave, who by  now was making good time on foot.
 As we walked on through the steamy morning, there were glimpses of people sitting on their front verandas, peering out windows as we passed by. One elderly Filipina appeared to be cooking fish in what could have  been a Chinese wok. I could see she had a large bowl of rice ready to serve  some expectant children sitting around a small makeshift table. It was propped up by two old kerosene tins and I must have caught her attention as she briefly, glanced up at me passing by her open dining room window.   As I momentarily entered the lives of these humble people, it occurred to me, that I should be  feeling more of an intruder than a travel blogger. As although I had come to meet and write about the people, looking at how they lived, I also had a feeling of shame, for the fact that I must have been living in comparative luxury and was now peering into the everyday lives of those a lot less fortunate than I.
    Further on along that potholed and unmaintained road, a sad looking goat briefly lifted its head to take a look at the two back packers, as they passed by the shed where it had been tethered. Dave had been smiling and saying his good mornings to the people sitting on chairs and upturned milk crates in their front  yards . Some people looked startled at first to see the two strangers walking past, some people nodded as if in respect of the fact that we had smiled at them.  Others watched us cautiously, as we made our way along the side of the now seemingly long road in the direction of the town.
   By mid morning we were still walking but had not reached the township proper but had decided that we would check out, a very comfortable looking place that lay up the road just ahead.
.Our next bed for the night, was in another very modern clean two bedroom hotel, named the Calapan Bay Hotel. Here we found clean serviced rooms with hot showers and very lovely  ocean views from the balcony. It was very comfortable.
   Upon  our arrival we showered, changed then ordered lunch, which I might add was superb. The whole time we spent, at this hotel we found the food and service to be absolutely first class. Dinner that night was served by a very shy but beautiful girl whose name was Rose. When Rose smiled, it lit up the entire place.
We rested well and enjoyed watching the ocean virtually spill over the fence into the back court yard as the Calapan Bay Hotel is built  directly on the bay side itself, and when there is a high tide, the ocean waves break right across the rear fence, sending a cool spray of sea water over those sunning themselves, laying on deck chairs within in the back yard of the hotel.
  I must add that the image of 'Jesus' seemed to follow us around wherever we travelled in the Philippines. This I guess is not really surprising when you consider that the majority of the population is Catholic. Still just the same, I had noticed that Jesus appeared on road warning signs of steep mountain declines, pictures of Jesus painted upon Jeepney doors and pictures of Jesus inside the side cars of tricycles and also pictures of Jesus in the back seat of taxies in Manilla, but once again, a statue of Jesus just above a low constructed wooden beam, half way down a staircase at the Calapan Bay Hotel. On this beam I nearly bumped my head several times coming up the stairs and also descending these stairs to the foyer of the hotel. Each time I would duck in the nick of time, to be saved by and faced with the image of Jesus.It was as if Jesus was there to warn me to watch my step or else I'd bang my head on the low wooden beam. Yes I realize it was subject to interpretation, but I had heard that the Philippines people held a mixture of strong religious beliefs but also superstitions which had been believed by the island's people, for centuries. Some of the elderly people in the outer provinces still believed in magical curses and taboos. There was also a strong belief in ghosts.  There existed 'faith healers' in the mountains of Baguio ,however I never did meet them as such, or get to see any psychic surgery being performed. None-the-less, I found this subject fascinating, if from nothing more than a cultural point of interest. 
     On a slightly different matter, I must admit, I did witness something I thought rather odd. I saw one Filipino man trying to mop up the sea water as it cascaded over the fence railings onto the back court yard. Yes it must have been a bit like being a deck hand on a diving submarine. For, I could not see what progress he could possibly have been making, as the water just kept on pouring in over the railings, covering the area he had just mopped. When I asked him about the futility of his actions, he replied  "some ones got to do it". Hmmm,  I thought, he is either nuts or he's having a loan of me. I tended to think the latter as, some Filipinos take delight, if they can play an innocent joke on some foreigners,. This may be done to pass the time and share a laugh with their friends..all good fun. However I'd also recently read about a syndrome known as "island madness' and I had begun to wonder whether I had witnessed a case for the first time, by watching this Filipino worker mopping the ever filling courtyard?  Finally, I couldn't decide as to whether he was really nuts or was indeed trying to fool me? There was most probably a rational explanation for his curious behaviour.  Maybe he drove a tricycle after hours and his name was Joe? Who knows?

Later that evening, after eating a very well prepared dinner and downing  a few very welcomed beers, we retired to bed  and slept very well indeed. We did not awake until 8:am the next day. Dave had begun to comment that it did not particularly look sunny outside and upon opening the curtain of our hotel room window, I noted that it was absolutely pouring with rain. The cyclonic weather had seemed to follow us in a southerly direction and was now once again catching up with us. It seemed a shame that we would experience so much heavy rain on this beautiful island paradise.
It was at about this point in our journey, that we met a travelling sales representative woman by the name of Angie. She was also staying at the Calapan Bay Hotel.  The three of us got along famously, as we sat eating breakfast and comparing stories about how different life was in Australia to that in the Philippines. Angie lived in another part of the Philippines and missed her children very much, but she was not always able to be home due to her travelling work commitments. Her children were mostly at home being cared for by the maid,  ( who incidentally Dave and I  both met during a later reunion, with Angie on a return trip to Manila City). I asked Angie what her name meant in Spanish, and she told me it was short for Angelica. Yes, I had began to think that her fine physical features did resemble that of an angel. She just needed wings and would be complete. Angie had become one of the rays of sunshine that we occasionally met on our long journey, throughout South East Asia.
Then the time had come to part company, as Angie had her work commitments and had to once again begin to travel on to another destination. We all exchanged hugs and shook hands and then I snapped some photos of Angie and Dave standing together.  We then  sadly went our separate ways. Such is life.
The next morning ,we once again awoke to sound of rain but this time it was pouring down like I had never seen before. It was heavy. 
Later on in the day, Dave and I had decided to treat ourselves to a ride into the town in a tricycle in an attempt to keep dry, as even though the rain by now had lightened up a little, it was still  far too wet enough for our liking. We ended up each catching a separate tricycle, and it was follow the leader, as we headed for town along the water filled potholed road. It was a strange feeling to consider the fact that we had not long beforehand, walked along this same road, in the searing heat. What a contrast in weather conditions.!! The rainy season is just that. It rains and rains for days without letting up.
On our way into town, there was a huge amount of water splashed up at Dave's tricycle, as  a truck headed in the opposite direction suddenly swerved, hitting a full pothole and sending a torrent of muddy water, 3 metres in height, into the path of the on coming traffic. At first I let out a cry of laughter, as It looked so funny, from behind, that both rider and passenger now must have looked like  "water soaked shaggs",' driving into town in the pouring rain.  Dave's tricycle was in front of mine, but quite unexpectedly, it became my turn next,  as I had also copped a deluge of foul smelling, oil infused,  muddy water from a car headed in the opposite direction. It was my turn and not so funny then... and there followed some choice words uttered by the driver of my tricycle, as he wiped the mud from across his face and commenced spitting the filthy rain water from his mouth. 
We finally arrived in town but not in the location we had asked to be taken. Dave and I both climbed out of our tricycle sidecar seats, and looked at each other drenched through to the skin. For a second or so, we both just stood there. This whole sodden and soggy incident, had defeated the  logical purpose of riding the tricycles into town in the first place, as we had intended to stay relatively dry. Now we had ended up wetter than we would have walking in the rain.  For a few seconds, I thought Dave may have said something like...."Don't you laugh or I'll smash ya!!! ".. but instead he, just looked back at me, and we both began to laugh at how we looked and just what a 'prick' ' he thougt the tricycle driver had been for dropping us in the wrong place. I was very much inclined to agree. Looking back and writing this 'travel blog', this event was really just one of the journey's ironies that we experienced along the way and in fact still causes me to chuckle, when I retell the story.
  Our stay on Mindoro Island was brief, only a couple of days and there were other towns and villages that we would have liked to have visited. However ,we had to be moving on as the travel intinerary had to be adhered to.  There were flights to be booked to Hong Kong and other accommodation also to seek. Unfortunately time was something that dictated the terms of our journey as really it did our lives for that matter.
  We had sailed to Mindoro Island on a car ferry but had decided that we would see if we could return to the port of Batangas in Luzon by a much faster route as the weather was once beginning to look stormy and we didn't necessarily want to be out on the ocean with the typhoon approaching. We managed to get aboard the 'Jet Cat' which was a high speed vessel. The return journey may have begun well, but soon after leaving the relative shelter of the bay, the waters became choppy and the wind and sea swell had begun to make our going a little rough.  
Once again, I spotted another picture of Jesus and then the overhead monitor flashed the words  onto the screen and simultaneously a dvd player began to recite the Sailor's Prayer . It began saying something like:  "Oh Lord keep us safe on our Journey.... and if by chance we don't make it then ?".. This combined with the ever increasing rough sea we were by now smashing into, made me think that, although we were just 45 minutes away from Batangas by high speed boat, that there was a possiblity Jesus may have been expecting us, a little sooner than we had anticipated. I looked around our cabin but did not see any life jackets. Maybe they were under the seats? I looked at Dave who seemed as if he were about to fall asleep. He didn't in the least seem bothered that the seas had now become huge and our Jet Cat boat was groaning and creaking with every wave it encountered. I also looked around at the other Filipino passengers who seemed calm and relaxed. Perhaps it was just me? but the boat rolled and pitched from side to side as we made our way through the rough seas. Of course we did make it but might add that it was a scary ride to say the least..
As on the forward journey, there were dvds screening but this time did not feature Rambo. Instead there was something else called 'Dawson's Creek'. This from memory, was an American t.v. serial depicting someone called Dawson, enacting and depicting white middle class American values.  Apparently the Filipino viewing audience take this show quite seriously. As usual, the dvd volume was turned up quite loud, and I was given a hard time by Dawson. So there we were, being thrown around the ocean, watching Dawson's Creek on the high speed Jet Cat on return to Batangas.
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