venerdì 27 novembre 2015

Hypocrisy Pinoy Style

We all around the world, not only politicians, are subject to behave in a hypocritical way many times per day but when I was travelling around The Philippines I noticed a very subtle, almost refined, I might say joyful fashion to say/write something and behave in a totally opposite way.
So many times I read words like "Be even if the others are not, will not, can not" not to mention the so many statues of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Maria in the schools, in the squares or at the entrance of a village. Despite I am a catholic and comes from a very catholic country like Italy, I was astonished to take a ride with a taxi driver listening on the radio to a mass, as well as watching a mass celebrated inside a mall on  a temporary church. So you would expect a country populated by devoted catholics where you can breath honesty all around the streets, a kind of Japan where you can leave your bicycle unlocked  or where your forgot belongings will be immediately given back to you like it happened to me in Chiang Mai (Thailand). But the reality is totally different, it strikingly different because if you forget your wallet or your glasses on a restaurant table, you have the same chance to get it back as you would have in Brazil, because if you enter a wrong poor area of a big city you should be as careful as you were in Ecuador. Yet, as my friend Michael suggested me, the biggest and most widespread epidemic known in this country is that of young, if not very young, single mothers who have been, forgive me the rude verb, fucked and then kicked away by their young sweetheart or by their old uncle or neighbour. When locals or my friends who lived there I could not believe it, I mean, when you talk with those lovely, sweet, young students they are polite but they are or pretend to be so shy, modest, devoted to their family and to their future husband that I could barely believe how the real situation is. Elio, 35 years in The Philippines, told me that at the end of the month in Dumaguete City you can see many young students "waiting" on the street side in the hope that a foreigner or local man stop there offering a "monetary help" for their University fees in exchange of some good sex. Please be careful, I am NOT judging these girls, certainly poor, in a negative way, I just say that in the hypercatholic Philippines thefts, assaults and sex are not a taboo at all. On the other side, this is probably, along with Thailand the country where people were so enthusiast of the Francisco Pope arrival (every TV and radio program was for the pope and Manila airport was closed for His arrival), gays and transexuals are openly accepted, even youngsters show openly their sexual tastes and seem absolutely happy and at ease with their life. In this case many countries, Italy included has so much to learn from The Philippines.

giovedì 21 maggio 2015

Cagayan de Oro: a place full of energy

CDO lies on the southernmost island of Mindanao. This island has always strangely attracted me since the first time I was planning a trip to The Philippines despite Mindanao has a very bad if not scary reputation because of Muslim terrorists/independentist. During my stay almost 50 soldiers were killed in the provinces of Cotabato and Maguindanao, nonetheless Elio had a waiter from this area who was supporting his fellow citizens because he said Philippine government try to steal their land in any way whereas they lived these places long before the Spaniards and then the americans colonized this region.
CDO is a middle size town, 600.000 inhabitants, quite congestioned by heavy traffic, some nice place like small street with tiny carenderia, coconut and fruit stalls, a shabby park, in other words it's not a charming town. Davao neighter is but before it has the beautiful Samal and Talikud islands for example. Surigao also is not a charming place but has a nice Luneta Park, many small islands and not only Siargao (famous for beginner surfers), but CDO has really nothing else than a modest but famous White Water rafting and at 3 hours distance a huge and tall zipline park in the beautiful region of Bukidnon.
But I loved this town because his dwellers are so amazing, curious, friendly, warm, sometimes crazy like a few freelance prostitutes who offered me many different services for a pizza or jollyBee meal.
The nightlife in CDO is surprisingly hectic, too many pubs, live music bistrot (Lexis Bar, Lokal and Led), a couple of discos and for the nightclub addicted also several strip-tease clubs like Coras and Coras 2. But also youngsters training their dance steps, their instruments or their tango coreography on the divisoria sidewalk.
At lunchtime I enjoyed one of the many dirty cheap and friendly carenderia whereas for nighttime an uplevel meal of various types was available on the Limketkai area (Jerry's Grill, Siam Thai and Ramentei).
Pure energy, this place was just great!!!

sabato 9 maggio 2015

Camiguin Island: a pearl of beauty

I talked with my friend about Camiguin Island as a beautiful place, or at least this was my feeling after reading some travellers' report. It could not be more true than it was, a couple of hours of Bus from Cagayan de Oro and then 1 hour by ferry toward this small island which has the highest number of volcanoes (all of them exctinct and just one dormant).
Caminguin has not huge, sandy beaches like Boracay or Bohol, however despite its tiny size (23Km long and 14km wide), this island is a real concentrate of natural beauties, populated by friendly people, no thieves (Guido's wife told me you can live your shopping bagon your motorbike without any risk)and a deep atmosphere of pure relax. No wonder that Camiguin is populated by many foreigners, also lot of italians, who settled here to run a business or just to live here. And no wonder this was one of my 2 months trip highlights.
You can get cheap, medium or expensive accommodation near the capital Mambajao, then by a rented motorbike or by bicycle you can start to explore the island chossing between the many waterfalls: Katibawasan Falls, Tuasan Falls. But also snorkel between the waters on an old Spanish cemetery sunken during the 1871 Mount Volcano eruption is a nice way to see many corals and fishes other than a huge ancient cross. Ardent Hot Springs are such a lovely place, open all the night also, where you can relax at a very cheap price (fortunately in The Philippines foreigners dont pay more than locals like in Thailand or Indonesia), not to mention Bura Natural Soda Water Swimming Pool, you can swim there but you can also drink this alcaline water and if I were living there I would spend a couple of hours per day there. There is also a Giant Clams Sanctuary, not easy to get there, but once you arrive you can really enjoy some snorkeling among this nice, anormous clams but be careful not to put your hand inside them ehehehe.
At the Sunset I and my friend had a delicious fish soup (chowdury) in the Laguna Bistro, a small restaurant built on stilts at the lagoon where the sun creates an evem warmer atmosphere between the waters and the mangroves.
Last but not least Mantigue island, a very microscopic island at 10 minutes of boat from Mantigues, well, when you get here you feel that God exists and did great things (despite we all are trying to fuck our planet in any way..): palm trees, white sandy beach, emerald waters, a huge number of fish on the reef of this tiny paradise island where you feel a kind of Robinson Crusoe.
To add some charme to this destination you can have a delicious dinner at La Luna restaurant where Guido, his wife and Vincenzo will prepare you wonderful pizza, pasta and bruschetta or to have a more international food in a very romantic sunset scenery you can go at Casaroca Restraurant-hotel run by a friendly Canadian guy. Considering that Filipino food is not the best in the world and that Italians are quite piky about food, this island was also a culinary paradise!

martedì 28 aprile 2015

Exploring Mindoro Island

Mindoro is one of the biggest island of the huge archipelago forming The Philippines and is relatively close to Manila, you just need a couple of hours to get to Batangas wharf and one more hour by boat.
I followed Leandro suggestion and stayed in Amami Resort, in Talipanan Beach.
In general I would not consider Mindoro, or better the tiny part of the island that I visited, as a Highlight, especially Porto Galera and White Beach which are very touristic places, often expensive and surely crowded with hawkers insisting in selling you some tours. However there are some nice places and spectacular waterfalls like Tamaraw Waterfalls, just on the main road near Porto Galera and the even more spectacular Tukuran Falls near San Teodoro village. Yet the part of the island between Porto Galera and San Teodoro is highly spectacular with scenic view of the ocean encased in a lush, green, rainforest.
I was told that the nicest and wildest part of Mindoro is on the south west coast which is a still undeveloped area, difficult to reach, difficult to travel because of gravel road full of potholes and crevices, very spectacular though.
Once you get to Sablayan, a slamm fishermen village, by boat you can reach the tiny Pandan Island where 30 years ago a frenchman settled a confortable but laidback resort. No wifi, no TV, I mean it's a lovely way to relax in a very secluded island and also to visit the near Apo reef which is also a spectacular and natural place to experience a wonderful excursion between sea and mountains.
I spent a very pleasant week in Amami resort (1500PHP per day) thanks to Fabio and his Pinoy mom, they are a perfect mixture between Pinoy courtesy and Italian exuberance, always helpful and friendly. Moreover, Max, their friend, cook, associate-manager prepared delicious meals (pasta, grilled fish, roasted potatoes, marvellous salads) and had a huge amount of patience to explain me Pinoy culture with its ups and detriments. He has been living in The Philippines for the last 6-8 years and he really knows how deep is the gap between western and Pinoy culture, from small cases to important stuff.

sabato 18 aprile 2015

Palawan: a secluded wonderful island

I heard so many friends talking about Palawan that it was my "duty" to go there and visit its famous places. Flying to Palawan is not cheap at all but being this island quite far, on the westsida of the Philippines archipelago, was the most convenient option.
Puerto Princesa is a boring, unappealing, chaotic city with some good restaurants, a few live-music clubs and a nice walkside on the Baywalk. It's nothing special but along the seaside there are some small food stalls, some shop sellers, lot of teenagers and families enjoying one of the few relaxing areas of PP.
I and my friend visited the famous underground river with its emerald green waters, its majestic wierd stalactites and stalagmites shaped in different ways (Holy Family, Jesus Christ face, corn-cob) and its unique microfauna living inside one of the few floating caves in the world. It was a nice experience the friendly tour guide seemed to repeat a "lesson" learned with the huge amount of touristis crowding this place but for sure it's a kind of exaggeration saying that this site belongs to the new list of the most beautiful places in the world. In Italy we have too many caves (Frasassi, Postumia)that are not less spectacular.
After a long and tiring trip we arrived to the famous El Nido, a tiny, crowded, now touristic village who was born as a fishing village and as a place for "harvesting"the sparrow nests (El Nido means The Chest in spanish). This strange and dangerous activity is quite famous alla around asia: some brave locals use long and tall bamboo ladders to grasps these chests made by regurgitating sparrow saliva, and this very expensive saliva is considered a very good and natural medicin for many diseases other than a skin tonic.
However the last 10-15 years this place underwent the assault of mass tourism thanks to the amazing beaches, the pristine waters and it's natural and unique bays. North Europeans, Australians, Americans and, during Easter time, Pilipinos throng this places and as a result everything costs between 30 and 50% more than in the other regions of The Philippines (except Boracay).
Excursions, especially A and C, takes you with about 20 US dollars to marvellous islands, amazing coral reefs, incredibles hidden coves, stunning small churches and super snorkeling spots.
Once in your life you have to come here but a second time, in my opinion, unless you rent or owns a sailboat that will allow you explore many other spots, I will not return and prefer explore one of the many other natural jewells of this country.

lunedì 13 aprile 2015

Manila: an awful metropolis

When you get to a huge asian metropolis you rarely expect to find a nice place. It's quite normal to get into a nightmare place made of pollution, confusion, traffic jam, pick pokets and expensive prices.
However I recognize that Jakarta has a vibrant nightlife and convenient priced hotels (traffic jam is unbearable though), Bangkok has a marvellous collection of temples, a lovely Chinatown with delicious streetfood and an charming system of cheap waterways...what about Manila???
Manila, on the other side, has very little to catch the interest of a visitor, I might be wrong, maybe expats living there got accustomed and like it, maybe you need some time to discover its hidden "treasures", however I spent as little time as possible there visiting a few places.
The airport is in a total permanent mess: lost baggage is a regular affair, long rows of angry passengers, delays and cancellation of flights, timetables shown only 30 minutes before the supposed time of departure.
Quezon city is not too bad, has some interesting nightlife on the Tomas Morato with many clubs and bars, it's far from the airport but well connected by the MRT.
Malate some years ago was the red light area of Manila but now is a quiet, area with some small restaurants and an ugly seaside populated by the longest row of clochard I have ever found. I didn't feel in any kind of dangers, they just seemed very poor people, sometimes entire family, often earning little money giving massage. There I and my friend met some nice teenagers listening to good music and keen to chat with us.
Pasay city is a very crowded area conveniently located at 15min from the International departure, it's not too far from the Farmer market and has small alleyways which reminded me Vietnam, nothing special but small food stalls and some friendly people which make it an interesting overlooked part of this metropolis.
Rizal Park has not the beauty nor the charme of Lumpini Park in Bangkok, but it's a lovely way to escape the crowd and the pollution of Manila. It has a small lake, several statues of the national hero J.Rizal and a beautiful Chinese park very relaxing with its Chinese red lantern and cute paths.
Makati is the downtown, the business district, the expensive, clean and false face of Manila, just the opposite of the many shanty town were poor people are obliged to live.

mercoledì 8 aprile 2015

Travelling Somewhere New

November 2014, just returned from my marvellous 3 weeks travel from Indonesia and, since Ebola was scaring my parents and brothers, I skipped west Africa and planned next trip to The Philippines.
I had lot of tiny silly doubts about this country because some friends and acquaintances reported the Phlippines, the only catholic country in Asia, as a place where you should be "careful"of thieves and criminality in general.
As I said many times, most of us, if not all, are afraid of whatever is NEW, we fear any type of change, from food (Italians become mad when they cannot find a good plate of pasta..)to people, from habits to language. Once you find enough courage to get there, you discover how EXCITING is everything you find, how tasty is every kind of food you eat, how nice and lovely and friendly locals are, especially those curious to talk with you. Yet you realize that no suggestion, no tip, no book, no friend can predict what your feelings will be once you get somewhere new, this kind of exciting mistery, this small big rick is the main reason you should give a try.
I did it and, thanks God, loved the Philippines after a 10 days of confusion and dizziness.

sabato 3 gennaio 2015

the way I experienced Indonesia

Just one day before my next trip to The Philippines I have finished to read the brillant, funny and interesting book of Elizabeth Pisani, Indonesia etc. and I would like to write a short essay from her epilogue because it matches so much with my 3 weeks travel experience:
"Like all Bad Boyfriends, Indonesia certainly has its downsides. The staff in the tourist office are spectacularly incompetent, it's true (and also utterly charming). The cops will try and shake you down every now and then, without doubt (but they will also steal your bike back when you lose the key, and drive you to the locksmith into the bargain). The government makes a habit of announcing  cataclysmic political changes with a minimum of preparation, certainly. But Indonesia's upsides, the openness, the pragmatism, the generosity of its people, their relaxed attitude to life, are ultimately the more seductive traits, and the more important."
No way to say that I should also thank all the Indonesians we met in our route for their kindness, friendship and generosity.