Sunday, March 28, 2010

Philippiens Trip - Butuan

After the Shangri La, we took the 45 minute plane ride to Butuan City where Mushna grew up. I didn't bring my camera down there because I didn't want to worry about it while we were there. Butuan is in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. If you've followed the news at all recently, you know that this is the region known for terrorist activity (the decapitate foreigner white boys like me kind) and the massacre of a local politician and their family (over 50 people in total). I was a bit nervous.

As it turns out, Butuan City is actually a good distance away from the violence. It's a small, much calmer town in the northern region of the island. The airport is very small with only one runway that serves both take-offs and landings. You land on the runway and when the pilot reaches the end, he turns the aircraft around and drives back down to the terminal, which is just a small building. You exit the plane right on the tarmac and a representative from the airline greets you at the bottom of the stairs with an umbrella.

We checked into our hotel and Mushna's brother and cousin came to meet us. We then rented a multicab (not my video) to drive us out of town to pick up her Dad at a co-op farmer's meeting. There was a congressman there (it's election season in the Philippines), so he couldn't come. We rode on to his house to wait for him.

We turned off the main highway onto a dirt road. As we drove down the road, we passed the houses of lots of Mushna's relatives or people she grew up with. They all eventually made their way down to her Dad's house, about a mile or maybe two down the road.

When we arrived at her Dad's house, all the kids from the houses around came out to see, well... me. There isn't much reason for tourists or foreigners to visit her hometown, so as weird as it sounds, there's a good chance a lot of them have never seen a white guy before. Mushna said that even the adults were outside lurking.

As we sat in her Dad's house talking to her relatives, I was watching kids line up at the screen door to look in at us. Her Dad's screen door is the type where the screen is on the top half, and the bottom is like that siding material. There was a hole in the plastic and the whole time, I was watching kids' faces fill show up on the other side.

After hanging out for a few minutes, we went outside to look around. Mushna asked if I wanted coconut. Next thing I know, there's a dude running up a 75 foot + tree with a huge knife. He cut down four or five coconuts and we cut them open to drink the milk. We then got a spoon to scoop out the meat. It was pretty good, but a lot different than what I'm used to and expected coconut to taste like.

All of her relatives were very nice and accommodating. They were all doing their best to speak English (they had practiced questions to ask me). When they noticed I was sweating, they made sure to direct the electric fans at me.

Mushna's Dad finally got home. This is pretty much the second time I've ever directly spoken to him (the first was to ask his permission to marry Mushna). He sat down and the first words out of his mouth were, "So, when do I get a grandchild?" Yeah, I was pretty stumped. Mushna jumped in to help explain that we were going to wait a while and that having a child in the US is very expensive. Immediately her Aunts offered to come to America to help raise it. Her Dad then said we could leave the kid in her home town and they would raise it there for us... Just send them back when they're 18.

After a few minutes, we ate the dinner they had prepared for us. Mushna's home town is pretty much surrounded by rice fields, so the rice is absolutely delicious. They also had some other food, including raw tuna fish in a vinaigrette type sauce, which is really, good. Her family watched me eat and was really surprised I tried everything and really liked most of it. They were really surprised I liked the rice so much (I ate a lot of rice).

After a while, it was getting late, so Mushna's good family friend Uncle Eric offered to drive us back to our hotel.

Uncle Eric is a retired Police Lieutenant who drives this old, Volkswagen dune buggy type vehicle. Mushna and her cousin were in the back seat, and I was in the front with him. As we're driving along, through these long dark stretches of road, he's randomly flashing his lights and honking his horn. I was really confused, but didn't say anything (partly because I don't think anyone would be able to hear me over the noise of the vehicle). On top of this, this thing's brakes were pretty much gone. To stop, he'd start violently pumping the brake a good distance before he had to stop. Fortunately we managed to stop every time, but I was a bit nervous... haha. Later I asked Mushna why he was honking and flashing his lights. As it turns out, if you're driving through an area that is known to have spirits, or an evil presence, it's customary to make your presence known as you pass through it.

The next morning, we rented another multicab and cruised around Butuan City. We visited Mushna's mom's grave, then got lunch at a small buffet type restaurant. There were about eight dishes available. If you leave food on your plate, they will charge you double.

After that, we headed back to the hotel and waited for the van to come shuttle us back to the airport. Mushna's Dad and Brother would be coming out a bit later to visit Bohol with us.

Philippines Trip - Shangri La

Instead of spending our day at the Plantation Bay resort, we went to the Shangri La. We bought a day pass which gave us access to everything on the grounds and lunch at their buffet. They have a large, white sand beach and a marine reserve. We spent the day swimming and snorkeling around the reserve. We saw a lot of very interesting fish. There was a guy in a boat watching over everything who gave us bread to feed the fish with. I wish I had an underwater camera because as soon as I held that bread under the water, every fish in sight went into attack mode. Mushna freaked out and dropped hers, but I held it while the fish ate right out of my hands. Of course they didn't always get bread in their bites, but their little nibbles felt cool.

The buffet was awesome. Fresh seafood, fruit and a lot of other choices. I ate a lot of food that afternoon, but it was totally worth it. Mushna's always told me about mangoes in the Philippines. This was my first time trying them and she was right, they're out of this world.

You can view my Shangri La set here:

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

Shangri La - Cebu, Philippines

This resort will definitely be on the list of things to do next time we head out.

Philippines Trip - Plantation Bay and Taoist Temple

Mushna and I made the long flight out to the Phillpines recently. We left on February 22nd and returned on March 11th. We've been pretty busy since we've been home. I filled about four 4-gig CF cards while I was out there. Granted, I shoot in RAW format, so each card holds around 275 photos (depending on what ISO I shoot at) as opposed to the 1,000+ if I were to shoot in JPEG. Still, it was a lot of photos to get through.

We arrived at our hotel in the Philippines at around Noon on the 24th (losing a day due to the international date line). I thought I was feeling pretty good. We were planning to go to the store for groceries and to get some food, but as soon as I sat down on the bed to watch TV, I knew it was a lot cause. I crashed and ended up waking up at around 5 am the next morning.

That day was our first adventure out. Our friend Lizzie joined us for the afternoon. Our first stop was a tour of the Plantation Bay resort. We were thinking about spending the day there, but their bay was actually man made, so we decided to spend our time at another resort (more on that later).

Plantation Bay

After the Plantation Bay tour, we headed to Beverly Hills, Cebu City. This area is up int he mountains and is where the rich people live. In 1972, a large, Taoist Temple was constructed. It's large, but the grounds can easily be covered in an hour or so.

Here is the set:

Taoist Temple, Cebu

Taoist Temple, Cebu

Taoist Temple, Cebu

Taoist Temple, Cebu

After that, we spent the rest of our day at the malls and stuff doing the shopping we were planning on doing the day we got there.