Twenty Four Pesos of Separation (continued…)
Proving that it’s more fun in the Philippines, we took him on a road trip down South with the highlight being the tourist trap du jour of Whale Shark Watching in my father’s hometown, Oslob. The crowd was pretty thin in comparison to the stampede-crowd-at-six-AM two years ago but the operation has expanded to milk what remains of its latent popularity. Activity prices have since then shot up to a P500 local rate and P1000 for foreigners for the basic swim package. Rafa had his encounter with the gentle giants of the deep while we commandeered a cottage and helped ourselves to the resort’s menu.
At my slightest suggestion to the PussyKat for breakfast, the resort manang conveniently popped up from behind our cottage to take our orders as if in anticipation. I predictably fell for a burger and my girl, even more predictably, went for a Tapasilog.
Her Tapasilog was expectedly nothing fancy and did the trick. What I christened the Butanding Burger had ham, shredded cabbage, ketchup, mayo with a rough patty of what couldn’t possibly be beef between two slices of instnotthatwereoutofburgerbunsthisishowwedoit white sliced bread. I wouldn’t say it was even good but it was strangely satisfying. I wasn’t hungry until noon. Rafa finally came out of the water and worked with the apples we had with us either in atonement for sins committed at the mall strip eats and the downtown eat through of the past two days or in anticipation of more.
The PussyKat finally happy with my hard drive’s worth of pictures, we then booked a rather pricey tricycle ride for the Sumilon Island Bluewaters Resort Mainland Reception Beach at the next barangay, Bangcogon. Having our fill of the sights, and more pictures, we jumped onto a passing jeepney to my dad’s ancestral home in Mainit, Oslob.
The house was as I have always remembered it to be: a block and mortar ground level shop with a second floor of light materials finished only by the sea breeze. Accordion doors were opened to the store but the grilles kept in place for security. I said hello to Manang Alma to announce my arrival to my dad’s brother, Jesus. He came up to the grilles shortly to exchange small talk but strangely did not let us in. An awkward eternity standing with the grilles between us later, I had to ask if we can be let in to take respite from the heat and have some cold drinks. While I am admittedly not as close or in touch with this side of the family, it hasn’t been that long that I haven’t been in his company. Feeling that we may have overstayed our welcome not fifteen minutes later, I asked for leave to take my guests to the spring pool around the block and to the beach across the street. Now it is expected in what is one of the most hospitable countries in Asia to offer some sort of refreshment to any visitor but the place also being a store made it imperative for me to offer payment in gratitude and a gesture of respect. That is, of course, with the expectation along the cultural and family norm that what is due will be waived. My uncle then mouthed off the prices and summed up the total of the titular twenty four Pesos. Two bottles of Coca Cola and one C2 Green Tea Apple flavor has never left a taste in the mouth more uncomfortable than that.
“Are you sure he is your uncle?”, Rafa laughingly asked when we were finally out of the shop.
A Korean-operated beachfront dive hotel probably blocks the view of the beach from the second floor of the house. But I wouldn’t know that for sure now. The beach itself remains natural and untouched. The tide was high and inviting, the sun high and oppressing. Maybe another time.
The spring-fed, flowing-water public pool looked like it had some improvements. Bipedal whale sharks may have had something to do with those and the significantly upped fees for use. The water was cool and inviting, the sun was high and oppressing. Maybe another time.
Catching the next available bus, we made a stop at Carcar City Public Market for our guest to have a look at the Southern city scene. We were just going to check out the lechon alley and other sections for market goodies. Just to take in the sights, sounds and, scents, you know? We had no plans of eating. The lies we tell ourselves, huh?
Here Rafa finally had his puso. On the side was some atchara — pickled papaya, carrot and pimiento — and guso or seaweed in a salad with some onions and tomatoes dressed simply with local vinegar. Full after fending off pesky flies and peskier streetkids throughout the meal, we made our final rounds of the marketplace and courtyard.
Colonial parallels with Ecuador were again drawn in the plaza rotunda setup and the native delicacies. Practically everything with a Spanish name they also have in Ecuador. Chicharon, barquillos, galletas, palmares, etcetera. So much for native.
A multicab took us in the direction of the West Coast high up in the mid-highlands of Barili where we got off at the Milk Station. This popular stop now has their famous Carabao Milk Ice Cream as a soft-serve. It was not much different from regular cow’s milk ice cream except for a heavier mouthfeel and a slightly more intense milk flavor.
All that jumping around already wearing us down, we got on what careened around the bend only to find it already packed. Wanting to get back to the city before nightfall, we stayed on in hopes some passengers getting off along the way would free up some seats. The PussyKat took the first one beside a family too eager to overshare the most inane details of their lives to the rest of the bus. We got ours a city before Metro Cebu.
One last Filipino meal at Kuya J’s of Lumpiang Sariwa, Chicken Inasal and Pork Barbeque to cap Rafa’s Philippine leg. We were too tired to even take pictures. We bid farewell with the promise of visiting him in Beijing or if it would be opportune, Ecuador.
It used to be no more than six degrees of separation between people. Now we’re quite sure it’s definitely way so much less than that. Give or take a generation, one hundred twenty kilometers and twenty-four Pesos.