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Asia » Philippines » Mindoro » Puerto Galera
March 25th 2010
Published: March 28th 2010
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What else can i say?
After a few drinks to steady my nerves of the rocky start to the Philippines, I took in my surroundings. This place was paradise; huge mountains covered in tropical forests, palms and flowers stretched far into the distance and swept down towards the clean and empty white sands.

I trawled the beachfront bars and restaurants to find myself some friends. With no luck and sitting alone, I was a target for the beach vendors peddling their massages and crappy necklaces. It was becoming very frustrating and I couldn’t find anyone to help me put sun tan lotion on by back, so I walked back to my room to write my journal on my balcony for a while before I couldn’t bear the silence and loneliness and went back to chat to the vendors some more! I did find out that there was a Frenchman residing in the hut next to mine, who was also travelling here alone, however after closer investigation, it turned out he spoke no English.

As the evening drew in, I wandered off to the quiet end of the beach to snap a few sunset photos and pondered what the hell I was doing alone in the honeymoon capital of the world. I felt incredibly lonely and thought more and more about going home. Tropical paradise is nothing without someone to share it with, play cards with, build sandcastles with etc. I decided to go and get some pancakes and the restaurant worker asked me what I was doing here alone. As she poured out pitiful comments such as ‘you will be very lonely in the night’, ‘don’t you have any friends?’ and ‘why don’t you have a boyfriend?’ and again, without warning, I began to cry. This place is wonderful and I couldn’t enjoy it. I’m not sure if there is something wrong with me or whether most people would feel this way here alone a month after being abandoned on a train in China and a few short hours after wondering if they would ever put feet on land again. I opted for an early night after wrestling with my mosquito net for a while, and looked forward to a fresh start the next morning.

I enjoyed my long and relatively undisturbed sleep. I ate at the nearest bar to my hotel and spent a while on my laptop, scanning the beaches for new tourists I may spend the day with. With no luck I went for a swim in the sea by myself. I was getting very, very tired of the constant hawking and pestering and began to wish I hadn’t booked so long here. Matters were made worse by every time I sat down, some bar/restaurant worker asked me why I was there alone/why I didn’t have a boyfriend/am I lonely etc. Lovely people, just trying to be friendly but it was making me sad. I started to ponder the possibilities of going somewhere else other than White Beach to find some company, less beautiful perhaps, but more touristy.

I lay in my hammock on the palms beside my hut - it was quiet there, nothing but the birds, sound of the sea, the shade of the trees and their cool breeze. I took out the laptop and started writing, did some drawings and filed in my scrapbook. I did puzzles, juggled for a bit, listened to music and enjoyed being alone for the first time.

After a few hours, I went for a swim in the sea and came across a British couple on their honeymoon. I had reservations about interrupting them but I hadn’t opened my mouth all day, so I started to chat to them. After an hour or so swimming and talking, they divulged that they had hired a jeep for the day and were off to the town of Sabang in a short while for dinner. Without much thought I shoved a dress on, grabbed a bag and headed out to take advantage of the company and the free air-conditioned ride.

On arrival we headed straight for a bar on the ‘beach’. It was a very narrow string of sand to call it a beach, but there were a lot more people and the shops, restaurants and bars extended far back from the waterfront. We talked for an hour or so; I very much enjoyed the company of some mature people. Well, any people would have done, but they were very nice indeed. We finished up our drinks and headed to Capt’n Greggs for dinner. I ordered a pizza, which was spectacular, and it didn’t take me too long to realise that Gin and Tonics were actually CHEAPER THAN BEERS so I took heavy advantage of that. We talked till long after it got dark until they had to go. I popped to the bathroom, realising I was slightly beyond tipsy, and to my great surprise they had settled the bill and refused to accept my money! Wonderful people! I declined the free lift back to White Beach in favour of trying my luck at finding some tourists in the busier resort of Sabang.

I walked along the waterfront, meandering between the bars and massage parlours to find some cigarettes. In time I found a bar with two western men in it and after inquiring as to whether or not they spoke English, I asked if I could join them for a drink.

Frank and JP were on holiday for two weeks and after a few more drinks, we headed out to find a bar. During the search, the boys got distracted by massage offerings and decided to go for an hour’s foot massage. I didn’t really want to spend the money, and I had been turning down massage offers all day on the beach, such that I hadn’t really thought about getting one at all! I didn’t know what else to do while I waited, so they convinced me.

I was lead into a candle and incense filled room, instructed to lay on my front on the bed and let her have at it! It was absolute bliss - I almost fell asleep, I have never been so relaxed! At first I had tried to bargain them down to a half an hour massage as I imagined being bored during a full hour. However, it was over before I knew it, and it was time to go drinking some more.

We wandered to a few clubs, but they were all dead. Eventually we found out where everybody was; I lifted a makeshift curtain/door to reveal a strip club, filled to the brim with older western men, Filipino men and women alike. Not usually my scene, I decided to head in as at least there were people there. Frank and JP asked if they could pretend I was their girlfriend to any prospective prostitute hawkers. I obliged and we sat down for our drinks. The girls danced around a platform in the centre of the room, and the bar swung around them. They were all utterly gorgeous, but looked very unhappy and far too skinny for the Canadians taste. The clientele all began staring, but for once, not at me. They made eyes, gestures and facial expressions at my companions, who were getting very uncomfortable. Within a few minutes, each of the boys were approached by brazen girls, looking for some money. Even after announcing I was dating the boys, the go-go girls didn’t blink an eyelid and carried on bartering for a nights fee!!

I found the whole situation very amusing and enjoyed myself for a while, until the music began to get dire; a mixture of club RnB followed by broken heart love ballads, with a bit of children’s party music thrown in! There was something far too disturbing about mid 50’s fat old western men, alongside stunning young Filipino women dancing all the actions along the bar to ‘Kentucky fried chicken and a pizza hut’ or ‘The Music Man’, so we decided to leave.

We headed up to the boys plush, air-conditioned balcony, up some steep stairs, with a beautiful view of the bay beneath us.

Suddenly, I realised that I hadn’t really thought about getting back to my beach hut; I didn’t have the address, phone number or anything! Worried about the lack of motorbikes, jeepneys or tricycles, I decided I had better head back and said goodbye to the boys I had been so grateful to spend the night with.
I stopped a tricycle in the street and haggled the cost of returning to the other end of the bay. I hopped in with Victor, who tried to talk to me all the way back, but I was unable to hear a thing in the loud compartment beside his bike. I was suddenly very nervous about the bumpy road and the bikes flickering lights. I was aware there were a few sheer drops to the beaches below the cliffs we were traversing, so I shut my eyes and thought of England until it was thankfully over.

I asked Victors opinions as to what I should do with my time in Puerto Gallera. He very eagerly told me about the waterfall trips. I had already heard a lot about them from the beach-touts but was reluctant to pay the 3000 pesos (roughly £22) offered throughout. Victor told me he would be my personal chauffeur and guide for the day on his tricycle and I offered him 500 (a steal!), shook his hand and arranged to meet him at 8am the next day outside my huts local bar.

God knows why I agreed 8am - I didn’t get in until 2am the previous night! So very wearily, I opted for some mango-pancakes for breakfast and read my Climate Change textbook until Victor appeared. I had reservations about how long it would take to explore the island on a beaten-down tricycle, but the fresh air on my already red skin and the views from my seat were a relaxing and cheap alternative, and after all, I am in no rush!

As Victor spotted me attempting to snap photos out of the blurry transport, he pulled over at various scenic spots and asked me to pose in front of every picturesque view we came across - much to my delight as I hadn’t had any photos of me out here and wondered if I would ever get any! After about an hour we arrived at Tamarraw Falls, which were gorgeous. The water cascaded down the palm covered high cliff face and into a man-made pool, which channelled the water under the road, and went on to form several other falls below.

I paid our entrance fee (15p) and trekked down the steps to the beautifully clear pool. Victor kept telling me I should swim in it, and proceeded to splash me until I might as well have done already. So I got in and paddled around for a few minutes, posed for more pictures, and then we headed on our way to the next lot of falls I had heard about, about 10km away.

On the way, Victor kept asking me if I would like to drive the bike for a bit. I have never driven a motorcycle before so I eagerly took hold, which was a lot of fun! Eventually we swapped over again as the ‘road’ was becoming a dense tropical forest, which seemed to go on forever! After about half an hour we stopped at a clearing in the jungle and hopped off the bike. Victor took this moment to mention that it was impossible to drive to the falls and we had the option of a caribou/water buffalo ride, or walking. Obviously, I chose the caribou, much to my bums dislike. Victor treated me like a queen and held a parasol over me to shield me from the scorching sun and pulled my sarong over my shoulders when it dropped down from the bumpy ride.

The view was amazing - we passed clear babbling streams, flying storks, wild cocoa plants, coffee, figs and guava. One of the girls from the clearing was following behind, and picked some fruit the likes of which I have never seen and handed it to me. In time we arrived at Tekurran falls, which were much more breathtaking than the previous set.

The water ran over several layers of parched rock, forming many pools and mini-falls. Victor and I began to climb the rock faces to the top. He was a perfect gentleman the whole way, carrying my bag, helping me up and down the rocks in the burning sunshine. We reached as far as we could go and I immediately went for a dip. The currents were very strong and it took all my effort to stay away from the edges. I spent about half an hour in the top pool alone; the water rushing from above was so warm, I have never felt anything like it.

We slowly wound our way down to the bottom, stopping at every drop and pool to swim and take more photos, till we reached the very last rock face, at which we both dived in the 15ft deep water beneath and paddled around the fishes for a while.

I knew how dangerous these activities would be for my fair, white skin so I admitted it was probably time to go around 1:30. On the way back, we stopped for a break on a bundle of rocks with a statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the bay for a cigarette and a break.

I arrived back on White Beach around 3:30pm, said my farewell to Victor and opted to stay inside and use the adjacent hotels internet for a while till it got cooler.

The next few days were mostly relaxing, uneventful and quiet, apart from a slight shock Friday afternoon when there was an earthquake (see previous blog). I was enjoying the peace and quiet in the shade when a twenty-something Manila lad showed up and asked to share my hammock. A bit upset to be disturbed, I reluctantly agreed - it didn’t belong to me after all. He was extremely forthcoming in his advances on me and I was beginning to get a little nervous. I made my excuses and went inside my hut. I fell asleep after a little while but was woken up to the sound of him banging on my door. He asked me to go for dinner and I politely declined. Less than 5 minutes later he was back again, slamming his palms on the windows and door begging me for a drink, I faked illness and he started to get abrupt and rude with me; I began to get even more creeped out. I was suddenly too scared to leave my hut. He came back a further 5 times in the space of 2 hours and I resigned myself to pretending I wasn’t in for the rest of the evening and watched a few films by myself.

I woke up really early and nervous about catching my ferry back to Batangas and onto Manila. I was extremely upset that I had got up early enough to eat breakfast and was then told the ferry was at 8am from another pier, rather than 8:30am from White Beach. I was very frustrated at this; I was hungry and I had phoned the hotel I booked the bus/ferry trip with to double check the times and locations. In what now appears to be typical Filipino fashion, I was rushed towards a tricycle, told I was very late and I would have to pay extra to rush there, then to be dropped off at a pier with an empty ferry that wasn’t scheduled to leave for another 45 minutes.

I sat on the pier, hungry and fed up when a familiar voice called to me; it was the wonderful couple who had bought me my dinner in Sabang. Again, enormously grateful for the company I rushed over to them. We talked for a while until we boarded the ferry (typically, it didn’t embark for a further half an hour) and soon after, one of the young ferry workers asked them to move away from me for seemingly no particular reason.

The penny dropped as he sat down next to me and began to tell me how beautiful I was. He had kicked away my friends to hit on me. Whilst I find it slightly flattering and I assume they’re only trying to be friendly, Filipino men are very creepy - he assumed I was lying when I told him I had no phone number to give him and began to get rude with me. Having had enough at this point, I asked him to leave me alone and I spent the last enduring hour of the ride listening to my music and thinking about home again, anxious to get back to China and continue my journey towards the more populated back-packer routes.

In my week alone here I have been burnt to a leathery-Willie-Nelson-crust and had plenty of time to think about my life. I have decided after my thought-provoking ferry and natural disaster experiences here that I think I will return to England after my Asia trip. The possibilities of using the internet to find an Oz/NZ/South America travel buddy or someone (NOZZA/ROX/JEBS etc) getting their act together to come with me are making me more excited about it all. I am also starting to doubt I will have quite the volume of money I would like so perhaps 6 months UK work will add a boost of enthusiasm and cash to the mix. I have also been thinking about a Masters of PhD and what and who is really important in my life. It is nice to have made my mind up now.

So I am pleased to announce I will (possibilities of more disasters aside) being seeing you all sooner than I thought 😊

Additional photos below
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28th March 2010

The place looks amazing! Glad to hear you are making the most of it all though. Very very jealous now! :) Thinking of you! (been showing so many people at school your blogs and photos!)
19th July 2010

i feel da same :(
i m in visit around filipines and alone also ... by myself n was checking on internet abut spots to visit or someone to share ..really wonderful place but unfortounatly to book a trip to here alone also ! the same question everywhere i go i ve been asked , why u alone here ? .. came along a trip of 20 hrs n more from egypt n wished to enjoy the peaceful place i see but seems the loneliness was hunting me down all th way .. just wrote u this to share wat i feel Right now .. and thank u for ur blog , that let me breath out some ciao hope ur having great day n no more lonly tours ;) ps my email is in case u felt alone again in any trip u can chat with me ,, haha at least i m nt a vendor lol ..ciaossss

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