24 Immeasurable Hours In Siquijor, Philippines

disappearing in Siquijor Philippines

3:30 a.m. Cock-a-doodle-doo at dawn is a sweet myth. The roosters crow at dusk, at noon, whenever the mood suits. If their solitary calls do not wake you up, the impending sunrise will.

5:30 a.m. Check your alarm clock. Yes, natural light is threatening to demoralize the curtains- but no, it’s not mid-day. Closing your eyes again is  as futile as ignoring the roosters.

7:30 a.m. Karaoke starts. Who’s singing at this early hour? And when, when, will it stop? No one needs an excuse (or an award-winning voice) here; with luck, they’ll run out of pesos before the fifteenth song.

9:00 a.m. When you finally pull yourself out of a sweat-stained bed (air con being a luxury of German flashpackers and  wealthy American husbands), a swim is in order. Chances are, you’re still wearing your swimsuit (energy should be used sparingly here). Question: pool or ocean, each conveniently located 5 feet away?

9:30- 11:30 a.m. Read. Journal. Sit in still contemplation. Count local fisherman, wading in the shallows for sea urchins and smaller catch. Saunter (slowly, slowly) to the local store for a newspaper and some sweet bread. Wonder for the hundredth time why all the foods taste like a bowl of sugar. Oh, fresh tomatoes today- shall you cook a lunch, or just savor them now?

11:00 till hungry. Sip a glass of filtered water from the local spring, to keep up your hydration. Re-apply sunscreen and bug spray. Tiger Balm the bites you acquired when you slept outside of your sheets. Ask the neighbors how the produce looks at today’s markets. Is it worth the 20-peso tricycle trip into town?

12:30 p.m. Mid-day already? Hail a half-full tricycle, telling the other local passengers they don’t need to climb up to the roof just so you can have a seat. But they will, shining with hospitality; and so you tuck your limbs into the passenger side, space made for people half your height, and say “San Juan town, please?” The ride will be broken by warning honks (for wayward chickens and wild dogs); giggling school kids (who laugh at your still-pale-by-comparison skin tones); and miles of produce (coconut husks and corn kernels lined along the roadside to dry).

Filipino Tricycle

1:00- 4:30 p.m.  Do something in town. In the Philippines, a town may be indicated by a shop sign, or one elementary school, or nothing at all. Half are not marked on maps, and half merge naturally with the town next door. Predominate factors seem to be: a daily market, a fresh fish stall (red snapper, flying fish and a trevally or two), a lechon stand (spit-roasted pig, a national specialty), and multiple puroks (large gazebos, where towners can escape the sun and just…sit…).

4:30 p.m. Knowing that 20 pesos will buy an ice cold San Miguel pilsen, you opt to stroll home. The walk will be entertained by an assembly of livestock (goats and unleashed cows); views of the ocean (across which you can see the islands of Negros and Apo); and flirting children (who utilize every ounce of English to shout out “HELLO! HI SIR! HELLO!” with the fervor of an impassioned dictator). Often, these calls echo from behind fences, or through closed windows, leaving you without a face to grin back at. “Where are you going?” and “How is your name?” appear from nowhere, followed by bursts of laughter and the scamper of hidden feet.

4:50 p.m. Happy hour, self-enforced. Also mandatory. If the pool hall next door is open, you wander over to play a round or two on the old, unbalanced table- aiming your shots around clucking chicks and rocky ground. The owner commentates through the windows of his house, coming out when your Grande bottle of San Mig (3.5 beers) looks low. By the time you’re called champion, every other adult male in the neighborhood will be watching your skills from the side benches, and asking for the next game.

5:30 p.m. If you’re still thirsty, another cold one as you watch the sun slip down in a bed of pinks, roses, rouges and violets. This is the high point of every day, the place where everyone pauses their activities to admire, reflect, and just be. If, for some reason, this display of nature is missed, regretful comments ensue for at least the next hour.

When bad karaoke goes…more bad…Rachel, Alec and Hadyn serenade the locals with Whitesnake.

6:00 p.m. The fire pit is smoking, your friend stoking it with an expert’s hand, the pork loin you bought from the butcher reeking of garlic and onion marinade. If you’re still hungry later, Nene has a bbq stall down the street- when was the last time you tasted chicken feet or intestines? On the hottest nights, you might find some halo – shaved ice topped with condensed milk, marshmallows, chocolate sauce and tortilla chips – at another roadside picnic table. You’re in no hurry; nothing presses down your agenda; just good company, liquid refreshments, and the static whisper of cicadas.

10:00 p.m. Karaoke is still going. Though for you, and most tourists, a few bottles of Tanduay Rhum (1.50 AUD) is necessary equipment for this battle of the vocal chords, Edwin and his friends could croon until the KTV (karaoke tv) exploded. You find yourself humming along to the Fichard Marx, for the fifteenthtime that day.

10:01 p.m. till sleepy. The nearest city, Cebu, is so far away that smog has no place in this island sky. If you had the time – and you do – you could count every star from here to the next Universe. Maybe outline a few, wish on one, and reapply that bug spray. Would you say it’s been a wonderful day, by every example that counts?

I do. 

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