When the dust cleared, the truck exhaust dissipated, and the sound of bad karaoke had faded into the distance, I had traveled over 5,000k (3100 miles) through the Philippines on Bernie, my little 125 cc friend. Island after island, beach after beach, I discovered more of what makes the Philippines tick.
I crossed 5 seas (The Bohol, Sibuyan, Camotes, Sibuyan, Sulu, and Visayan) and boarded 9 ferries to plant my feet on 13 different islands. Not bad right? That only leaves 6,994 Philippine islands I have yet to explore (yes, seriously).
Immediately upon arriving in the Philippines, moto hunting commenced and I found myself thrust into an oh-so familiar yet always foreign environment.
“The scenic route” through life for me has become one of neighborhoods in foreign cities and towns that are even foreign to most locals. Searching for the right sprocket to fit my motorcycle, or a Chinese made part to replace the original that failed in my bike. I saunter through metal marketplaces trying as I may to maintain an aire of disinterest and of belonging. This is the mask any veteran traveler learns to wear. It’s difficult. Because EVERYTHING is interesting, and you definitely don’t belong. You want to gauk, to stop, to stare, to point your camera. Sometimes you resist for reasons of security, to be less of a target for pickpockets or whatever other danger hangs in the air. Mostly though you simply and inherently want to avoid looking like you are an observer in a zoo. The realization often escaping you that it is you who are the zoo animal.
My journey in Philippines started before I landed. The friendliness of the people, I would learn, ranks in the tops of my global experiences, and this began with a conversation I had with a friendly fellow named Bernard who sat next to me on the plane. Bernard was my first introduction to the Philippines and would turn out to be a true friend. It’s no coincidence that I named my motorcycle “Bernie”.
My second introduction to the Philippines was Manila. Most densely populated city in the world. After I finding my Philippine two wheeled travel partner, I would claw my way in and out of this metropolis several times, each with the same determination that was required of me many years ago to hack my way through the Amazon jungle. Big trucks unleashing clouds of unimaginably thick exhaust that my lungs absorbed with disapproving resolve. Traffic was stifling.
Philippine roads overflow with contraptions called “tricycles” which transport impossible numbers of people in one fell swoop. They are powered by motorcycles with engines that we would consider fit for lawnmowers, yet in this country they serve as buses. My daily game is to find the tricycle with the biggest burden. How many do you count? (Hint, there are three inside of the little sidecar).
There are other machines that hog the roads, elbowing the three wheeled minibuses out of their way with a blast of a horn, they are called Jeepnies. The national animal of the road. A remnant of America and WW2 that integrated itself into the Pinoy life and culture. Competing for kitsch and color with the tricycles, they are two things that are distinctly Philippine.
Other things Philippine are scarce. 500 years of colonialism has robbed it of much of it’s original identity. I hunted for culture but came up with a coconut and a handful of beachsand. If you were hoping to find some little souvenir to bring home to your family, you would be hard pressed to find one. There are no wooden shoes, no statues of buddha, no handwoven rugs. What is Philippine? They would proudly show you one of the 14 local malls in their small city, I don’t think they know those came from America too.
There were many pitstops in towns begot by the average traveler attracting the attention of locals who love to chat. Most people speak at least some English so chat you may, perhaps with the man who just slashed open the coconut with a few clean swipes of his machete that you now drink out of from a straw. The best thing about the Philippines? The people. If only they sold Philippine smiles at the airport souvenir shop.
Ill keep this brief, and sign off here. The stories are in the photos (the images themselves but I also added commentary to many of the photos).
TO SEE PICTURES AND READ MORE STORIES JUST CLICK HERE
Or CLICK HERE to continue to the next post in this series “Indonesia, China, Mongolia, and the Trans-Siberian”
Prologue: The Philippines behind me now, I find myself on the Island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Digging up some new stories. To read the update on that and what came after CLICK HERE