In a recent article, “Time Flies, Remembering Bohol“, I ended that segment with my ferry ride heading for Cebu with Bohol trailing into the horizon behind me. I figured I’d pick up from there in today’s segment.
I clearly remember when the ferry arrived at the Cebu docks. There’s no other feeling like sitting on your motorbike, engine warmed up there on the ferry and once that ramp is lowered onto dry land.. riding off the huge metal plank and blazing into town. Yes, ‘blazing into town’ would have been nice. Instead, I rode off the plank and immediately, traffic jam on the pier.
I weaved in between the stalled buses and line of tricycles waiting to pick people up. It was at least 10
minutes before I finally hit a surface street into Cebu City. I knew where my first stop would be.. the AA BBQ just 3 blocks from the pier, across the street from the Fort and park.
The AA BBQ is a favorite place of mine. Plenty of outdoor tables, fresh bbq, great fruit shakes and I can always get a metered taxi from there if I don’t have my motorbike with me. And the prices are decent as well. It’s also a favorite place because I went there often to see my very first Filipina girlfriend, Delia. We used to call it the, “Triple-Double A BBQ Place“. Many good memories there.
Ready to my trek to Cebu.After a relaxing meal and pondering my next move, I saddled up my gear back onto the bike and found a hotel about 6 blocks away. At this point I had my backpack, overnight bag and a large duffel-bag in tow. That was all I was taking with me and, in retrospect, it was too much stuff. I had another suitcase on Bohol with my buddy, Brian, which I picked up about a year later.
Even though I’d been living on Bohol and Panglao for the previous ten months, I’d kept in contact with Delia (ex-g/f), Kristine and Jaem. I’d met many other Filipinas over time, but these were my closest friends at that time, so it was good to be able to see them again in person.
Delia and I met up for dinner, at the AA BBQ (of course) and had such a great conversation, I cancelled a date I had that night and we ended up talking until almost one in the morning as we walked the park across the street. We’ve been through a lot together, and even though staying together didn’t work out, we appreciate the time we had during our three years.
Later that week I met up with my long-time friend, Kristine. She and I have never been romantically involved. We just happened to become really good friends when I first arrived in the Philippines. I’ve known and trusted her the longest, second only to Delia. We don’t “date”, we never did. We just hang out and enjoy doing nothing in particular together. She’s a kind soul and I’ve become a bit protective of her. A platonic friendship is something of a rarity in the Philippines between an Expat and a Filipina. So that’s why I value her place in my life as a solid friend.
A few days later I then met up with Jaem. Jaem is a single-Mom with a heart of gold. She runs her own business doing make-up for local models, weddings and special events. She is truly devoted and gifted in her work. She knows what she’s doing and is very good at it. She eventually met an expat and began a long-distance relationship that has lasted over a year. Things are going well for her, so I’m happy for her and her wonderful little boy. I normally don’t have much of an opinion about most kids, but her boy is truly a really good kid.
I spent another week in Cebu meeting up with other female friends I’d not seen in a long time. Many of them were more of a ‘fleeting moment’ sort of relationship where they expected no attachments from me and vice-versa.
By the end of two weeks in Cebu I knew it was time to ride the scooter south, to a place I’d heard about called, Moalboal. All I really knew about it was that it was a scuba-centric type of town. My plan was to live there a few months and see how things went. So I got what I thought would be an early start, at noon, and rode the highway south out of Cebu on a clear and sunny day.
I rode for about two hours and by the time I had reached Carcar, I was caught in a very heavy downpour. So heavy that I had no choice but to exit the road and wait under a rain-shelter that was beside the road. In the Philippines, these rain shelters are about every five kilometers or so. Just make-shift stands with a decent enough roof to stay out of the rain on days like this. From September through January it can rain quite a bit, every day, for several hours of heavy downpour. So these rest-stops from the rain were a real place of refuge to get off the road when it becomes unsafe to ride a motorbike on the open highway. I shot some video while waiting for the rain to stop, this is it here;
The entire rest of the day went like this. I’d ride in sunny weather for about an hour and then get caught in another deluge. I passed Carcar (my big mistake of the day) and kept going down the Cebu coast until I reached Argao. I had missed Moalboal by several hours. I had to go north again, then turn west at Carcar and by now it was already evening. The road that leads from the east coast of Cebu to the west coast is up and over some fairly tall hills.
Fortunately the rain had stopped and I had most of the road to myself as it got later and later into the evening. I found a remote place about midway across the hills where I got some cold spaghetti, a hard-boiled egg and a soft drink. That’s all they had available at that hour and I was fortunate to get that since there was nothing else up there but trees, stars and winding highway.
I finally made it to the west coast of Cebu and took a turn left to go along the southern highway. I had saved some Google maps onto my phone so that I could at least have a shot at finding it despite being offline. I rode along the coast during the later part of the night for what seemed like forever. I was getting down to about a quarter tank of gas and all I kept passing were small villages along the coast, no actual towns with anything open.
Finally I came to a brightly lit gas station on the outskirts of a town called, Dumanjag. It was a bit after 10pm and I was so glad to find a place where I could get a few snacks, water and fill my tank. It was a large gas station and nobody was anywhere in sight except for the two young, Filipina station attendants, Maria and Fey. As I snacked and had my bike filled up, the three of us began some conversation. I stayed for about a half hour. They were each very, very cute. One was very shy and spoke little while her friend spoke very good English and was about to transfer to college the next semester.
I told them I was heading to Moalboal and they said I was within about 25 minutes or so from there. We exchanged text numbers and I promised I’d take them both to lunch after I got settled in to Moalboal. I got on my scooter and rode about a kilometer away when I happened to see a roasted chicken vendor that was staying open late. The girls had mentioned they work ten hour shifts and usually had rice with snacks for lunch. I bought a whole roasted chicken, drove back to the gas station and by this time the mother of one of the girls had come to keep them company at the station.
I was introduced to her. Apparently they’d been talking about me to her in even that brief time I was gone and there was much giggling and speaking in Visayan as the two girls kidded each other. I left the chicken with them and resumed my ride onward to Moalboal.
Now, here’s a bit about Moalboal. It’s a small town. It’s about three blocks long, with a park and a merkado. There are two ATM machines in the whole ‘town’. So when I rode into town and made the first turn in the highway, I was already leaving Moalboal and didn’t realize it. After about a kilometer or so, I spotted some people by the road and asked where Moalboal was. They pointed in the direction I’d just come from.
So I returned and all was quiet. No hotel in sight on the main highway. My first thought was that I might have to cat-nap til dawn next to the bike and my stuff at the park. I sat on the bike, in the dark, engine turned off as I surveyed the situation. Nothing to the left. And to the right, what looked like a college. I spotted a road with a metal arch over it and figured it was the only road in town to take off the highway. So I fired up the bike and drove down the dark road with no idea where I was going.
After a few turns, suddenly I realized that I had found my way to the scuba-center area of town. A tiny, one-lane road led me to a cul-de-sac of restaurants, bars and scuba shops along with the usual tourist gift shops. The only thing is, it was now almost 11pm and everything was closed. Except the bar.
I stopped the bike, grabbed my gear and walked into the open-air bar. It was a small place with a disco-light shining some light pattern onto an area where I suppose maybe two people would have room to dance. Behind the bar were two people, a bartender and a girl sitting on a stool behind the bar. I sat down and figured I was ready for a beer. Naturally, it was obvious I was new to those parts and the bartender asked where I’d come in from. I told him I’d begun in Cebu that morning and found myself in Argao.
“Argao?! Wow, you really did get lost, didn’t you?“, he replied. What could I say? Yah, I’d taken quite the scenic route to get to Moalboal that day. I should have arrived about five hours ago.
The Filipina sitting behind the bar finally spoke up and said, “I know you.” I looked at her and, she seemed kinda vaguely familiar. “From where? I’m not sure I recall exactly.”
It turned out that I’d been chatting online with this Filipina for a few days before I had left Cebu. Her name is Jiejie. Wow, what are the odds? She normally lived in Mindanao, but her cousin had taken a job at that same bar in Moalboal, so she had traveled to see her there. We hit it off famously, but it was late and I was dying for a hot shower and some some sleep after a day on the road.
Steve pointed me to a backpacker’s boarding house down the block, so I paid up my one beer and told Jiejie we could meet again the next day sometime.
I got to the boarding house and.. it was closed. There was a kid nearby so I asked him, “Is there a manager for this place? Where could I find them?“. The kid was about 15 years old. He went to a bar next door while I waited on the street. A few minutes later an older Filipina came by and got me set up with a room for the night. I had my own padlock so I used that to secure my door. It was a simple place, a bit monastic but as tired as I was it was everything I needed, including a mosquito net and a shower down the hall.
I made a quick video despite how tired I was. I had a shower (cold) and then padlocked myself into my room. A bamboo bed with a thin mattress but as I turned out the light I was simply thankful that I survived all those miles on the road to end my day on a cot such as this. The oscillating fan blew a much needed breeze across the bed and I quickly fell into a deep sleep.