Balut

Maribago, in Lapu lapu, Cebu.

Same, but different. Well, not really. This time it’s outside of the city, about 16 kilometers or about an hour from the center of Cebu.  This time there is space, its miraculously clean, it looks like people care about where they live and what surrounds them. The multicab that took me there was best designed to take pygmies on safaris; every commuter that boarded and got out had to negotiate the contorted over sized wildebeest wedged in the corner.  7 pesos per 5 kilometers, what a bargain? I really should have paid double I think, the conductor kept moving along the passengers on opposite side to me as he could witness my discomfort. There was a rather hypnotic and beautifully abstract painted concrete barrier that surrounded the road sides and took the journey with me. Tasteful I thought, and a pleasant touch, first impressions count, they should get the governor of Manila down here! It was dusk, and in the fading lights, everything looked and felt better, even the dogs seemed a bit less aggressive and that they had consumed a regular three square meals a day. I glimpsed the ocean, and all was well in my world.

The pad was the anti-climax. Swimming pool it might have had, but the room had the charisma of a worn out crack den, however, It was kind of irrelevant. I was in a new place, that had to be explored and I was just glad to be able to take in the scent of the sea, so went out following my nose until I found it. Down a few dusty tracks, past a couple of Jesus and Mary’s, the welcoming ocean awaited.  The sun was kissing the horizon and storm clouds in place where arranging the appointed colours. There we goats! Taking in the view with me, a weird place to find them, but they looked chilled and where not in the slightest bit phased by my interest in them.  I was more surprised they didn’t have some accompanying beach towels and shades. By 5.30 the sun had disappeared leaving the memory of red and orange for me to savoir etched into a turquoise sky, reflected in the salty water. Even the room looked better on arrival back mind you; Mr Miguel came back with me.

A distinct lack of street lights would make some feel uncomfortable, but not me as I thought I might be able to pass a bit less unnoticed.   It was as if I still walked in the spotlight to the locals as every other motorcycle that passed me wanted to know if I needed a massage, a ride, weed, Island hopping (what at this time! )  Or a room. I’m alright Jack! Just “…. …”  Please! I didn’t mind being asked if I wanted to play basketball though, it’s just that I don’t have a clue how to play it and in my current physical condition maybe it was not a good idea. I wonder if the nets are a bit lower out here.

I moved rooms in the morning and I was ecstatic.  The hotel was a haven for students from Manila who had come as part of their university exchange programme.  I spent the day in the pool and talking to them about our differences and similarities. They tried to explain basketball to me as I remind them of some players, strange that! Being a resort town, it has tourism, which up to this point has been strangely devoid. Koreans, Chinese and Japanese make up the majority of other migratory species.

The next day I went to Colon St, Cebu City via a series of painful multicab rides and I was back in the Manila mind games.  Again, I think I arrived at that part of town where tourists don’t really hang out. Maybe better for me in the long run, but it felt like a new species of animal being lead into the zoo for the first time.

Suffice to say, most “hellos” are greeted with similar responses.  In terms of a nervous reaction more than anything else, I tend to do this whenever the weapon (Nikon) is out.  This is a fail-safe method adopted to test the limits of safety when you leave some areas and go into others. When the “hellos” run out I know it’s time to go back. Mostly works!

City life is more interesting than beach landscapes for Mr Nikon, but I seem to have a phobia about pointing it directly at somebody from the vantage point of my eye. Then, it does feel like a gun! Maybe silly I know, but … that’s the way I look at it. I would rather nobody was around, as I like to see what has been left behind, or the actions of people.

Inner city pressure here is, as it is though out all of Asia thus far, tough!  The breadcrumbs we throw to the pigeons back home seem to be a way of life out here, as a perspective. People here survive on very little. There is no camouflage or invisible coat I walk around with, I don’t want to be or seem like I have indeed come from another planet, but, I have. The locals sat ingesting litter bottles of Tuba (coconut wine) invited me to join in and I really wanted to partake, but the breaches of my comfort zone were by now completely invaded. All around me this army of indifferent people had been studying me as I made perpetual circles of The Carbon market, regarding me more as a confused looking child who had been told that his mother was around somewhere. The old lady who made the tobacco leaves into organic cigarettes was the same texture and colour as the plants she was manipulating. I wanted to stay to watch her, but the one glance she gave me, keep me spinning in the cycle of movement. What am I afraid of?

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