It's the end of another busy week and I have been travelling about this weekend. Three weeks in and I still haven't worked out the Jeepney routes they all seem to change depending on how the driver is feeling and if there are floods in the city (which is often). The weather forecast on Tuesday said that there was a tropical cyclone developing to the east of Luzon (large northern island where Manila and Navacan are) and sure enough the rain and wind started to come on Wednesday. I went shopping after work on Wednesday and it had been raining for most of the day but it was relatively calm when I entered the mall near my hotel. About 20 minutes later I went to walk home and looked out of the windows to see peoples' umbrellas being turned inside out and the trees bending over due to the wind strength. The rain was coming down hard too and it made me reluctant to go outside because I automatically thought of British storms which are usually pretty cold and grim affairs. I needed to get home though and so stepped outside. The walk home was really pleasant because it felt like
A new cat litter
There are many cats and dogs around the city and this is a common sight.
someone was waving a strong a hair-dryer over me which countered the effects of the rain. That was the best the cyclone had to offer me though as the rest of the week and weekend has been very, very wet and windy. After work on Thursday there was a leaving party for one of the social workers who was leaving to go and live in Micronesia which is a group of tiny islands to the east of the Philippines. As I went to leave work, at 8, I couldn't because all the exits from the hospital had flooded, so I went back in to wait for the water to subside. 5 minutes later though I heard my name being called and when I went outside to see who it was an ambulance was waiting to drive me through the floods. It's not what you know...
On Friday I planned to travel to Navacan which is where my friend's (Raul) parents live. The downside to this was that it meant a 370km/10 hour bus journey (the train system in the Philippines is practically non-existent with only one line which runs south from Manila for a few hundred km). The floods were
Pork pieces in spiced pigs blood.
all over Manila on Friday morning so all the taxis had doubled their prices and I had to haggle for ages to get a decent price. Word of the week is towad, meaning bargain. After some dithering and indecision at the bus terminal around which bus to catch (the buses run every hour but there are four classes and four prices for the same journey) I got on one with a tv screen. We set off at 8AM and I had a good seat right at the front with a decent view of the road ahead. The bus was full with all ages of people and so you can imagine my surprise when the film started playing at 8:30 with Bloodsport - Jean-Claude Van Damme - not a family film. The coldest I've been here was on the bus travelling on Friday - the air-con was turned up to full and there was no way of blocking the vents. However, this didn't detract from the scenery. Much of the landscape was of vast plains with volcanoes and mountains far in the distance. Much of the land is farmland and because it is that start of the wet season the fields
are growing nothing but rice. Every so often we would cross a large river bridge and because of the rain the rivers look huge and powerful. Banana, Mango and Coconut trees are everywhere lining the roads and marking the field boundaries. There are lots of Water Buffalo in the fields as they are used to pull ploughs. All the way up the bus would stop to let on food vendors who were selling pork scratchings, corn, sweets, soup, nuts and more. They would walk up and down the bus to sell and then the bus would stop 5 minutes down the road to let them off, where they wait for another bus going the other way. It was such a relief to reach Navacan and get off the bus especially seeing as there was a friendly and familiar face (Benny, Raul's Dad) waiting for me. As it was raining so hard I stayed around the Ramirez household for the weekend but this was just what I needed to relax after three weeks in the chaos of Manila. It was also a chance to give my lungs a break from the diesel fumes. The journey back was much like the way
there only with more food/comfort stops - Filipino's certainly like to eat.
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