Sunday, 13 July 2014

Spontaneous homestay: Living local.

Today I woke up with no idea where I was going to do or what I was going to do. All I know was that I needed to get out of Donsol as there was nothing here for me, not even food or drink!  I figured it'd be best to head towards the area where I'm getting my flight from - Kalibo. So I looked at boats in that direction and realised my best bet would be to get to Masbate City and see where I can get from there. Therefore leaving the hotel, I decided to go to Pilar pier by jeepney for 20 pesos to see when the ferry left to Masbate. 

Being at the pier was one of the most uncomfortable situations in my life if I'm honest! I couldn't do anything without everybody staring at me and crowding around me. I was only the female in the area and definitely the only white person - this made me automatically an attraction because most have never seen a white person in their life, especially not a young British female in short shorts sweating her butt off. They can't speak very good English so just kept telling me it was hot outside. I was sitting in the sun whilst lots were sitting in the shade because the weather was beautiful. They also kept telling me I was beautiful, the Filipinos are obsessed.

Anyway, whilst I was getting a ticket this guy began talking to me in English. At first I was a little hesitant, as one should be when a stranger approaches you, but he ended up being totally lovely. He was telling me about his recent trip to Australia and his family. He protected me from all the creepy men around! He helped me to get onto the boat and sat next to me showing me pictures of his family and friends. He told me that he'd help me when we got off in Masbate as he had his car there. Again, alarm bells started ringing in my head that he could be dangerous, but then we got onto the topic of religion and he was asking me if I was religious whilst he told me about his belief in Christianity. His family are all Catholics. 

So, once we arrived at the pier, sure enough, he had a large and modern pick up truck waiting for him to jump into. It was far later then I had expected and it was starting to get really dark. The area was dingy and I wasn't sure if they'd even have a hostel given that I hadn't seen another tourist in days now. It was make or break and I decided to take the risk.

As soon as I got in the car I began to panic, driving into the town there was a huge sign warning about the high level of human trafficking in the area, and I almost wet myself with fear! There were 3 men in the car and me. In hindsight, the stupidest thing I could have ever done but...

It ended up being the best risk I have taken on my travels and he is the most wonderful man ever with such a kind, loving and welcoming family! He has a few children however I only spoke with two of them. They were both so lovely. At first, the girl was very very shy and didn't like to talk English despite knowing a little bit of it. Instead, to show that she liked me there she made me a really pretty bracelet out of this loom bands that I would have loved as a child too. In fact, when I was in a toy shop the other day I was tempted to buy a set haha, it's made me want one even more! It looks like so much fun. When I told her about my sisters and my mum, she decided to make Vikki and my mum a bracelet too bless her. 

We all sat round and had dinner together. Usually I wouldn't touch the food with a 10 foot barge. But of course they had gone to the effort to make it for me, so I would eat it. To my surprise, it actually ended up being very tasty! Eating fish creeps me out because of their eyes and how difficult they are to cut up, but once I had gotten past that I really enjoyed dinner. His son is very chatty which was really nice. It was great to be around children and in a family environment again, reminds me of being young enjoying time with my siblings. 

The little boy was telling me about how at school, if they don't speak in English, they get a 20 peso fine as they want to improve everyones English. What a great idea. When I lived in Canada, during French classes you weren't allowed to speak any English either. 

His house was beautiful too compared to everyone in the area - and in fact compared to back home. He has a job as a contractor and also owns 5 gas stations in the area so is very wealthy compared to the Filipinos around him. He told me he likes to spread his good luck and in reward he gets positive karma back! At least, I hope he does after all he did for me.

If I'm honest I lost track of who was who, but I ended up staying in a twin bedroom with a really nice relative of his. She works 7am till 7pm! It must be so tiring. She told me how last month she helped a foreigner in Donsol who had been raped and was very distressed with nowhere to stay too. This really worried me, because it could have easily been me. But I knows that's a risk I unfortunately take. It can happen anywhere around the world though, even in your own home... So, to not leave the house because of fear of something happening seems silly. Just pray for the best and try to be sensible I suppose. 

This morning I was awoken at 7am by kids staring through my door excited to see if I was awake. Usually being awake at such an ungodly hour would irritate me to no end, but to see how excited these kids were set my morning off to such a beautiful start. I remember being excited like that on Sundays when I was little where I'd listen outside then sneak into to my parents room to see if they were awake yet so I could come and talk to them. It was sweet.

I dragged myself out of bed and the whole family was up and moving about. I sat at the table with the children and has fried egg and rice for breakfast along with a super tasty Krispy Kreme doughnut that I dreamt about for the rest of the day! The children and I watched the film Mean Girls because it was just what happened to be on TV. 

The kids then took me outside to see the front of their garden which used to be a small port for people to drop off products but the family closed it down as they wanted more privacy. 

After a while I said a sad goodbye to the family, he had arranged for his sister and nephew to come and pick me up to take me about 2 hours to the other side of the island so that I could be closer to the ferry port I need to leave from tomorrow. His sister was lovely and we stopped by his fathers farm on the way to our destination. It was the strangest thing! We were having lunch - pork - because Eglin knew I'm a fussy eater, but they were cooking it using a fire they'd made themselves as they don't own a oven! What... So much effort to cook food, so respectable. A girl who is 15 lives at the farm and helps out loads, it's so weird how different her life is at 15 compared to how mine was! 

There were a few horses and cows on the farm and a bull which I later rode. It was a very weird experience! I thought they were joking when they asked me to ride it... Turns out they weren't... So the helped me hop up and took some pictures, it was strange haha. 

Eventually we headed to our next point, the most beautiful beach I've been on. The water was so clear and shallow, and the sand was such a perfect colour. It was one of those moments I just felt like I was in heaven. I was the only one in the water and after I went out to sit with some of their friends and they just took it in turns to take photographs with me. They were all very funny! 

When it got to 5pm we went back to his fathers farm as his nephew was needed to help lasso some cattle so they could be injection with medication to help their wounds. It was the first time I'd seen people lassoing and it was so impressive! I tried and failed horrifically. 

Anyway, as the sun was setting we drove to our final destination, the gas station he owns that he was allowing me to sleep in for the night. The man who usually sleeps in the room above it was so kind and swiftly moved all his stuff into another shared room for me to have it alone. Elign's sister came along and provided me with a mattress and a pillow to sleep with that he had asked her to buy for me just so I would be comfortable! That generosity is unreal. Time came to say goodbye and express my thanks and I soon walked off to the water to see the view.

There was an amazing sunset, the best I've ever seen, to end the most perfect day. Being with this family has helped to restore my faith in a way. I said a prayer in the cathedral in Manila to be looked after in the Philippines because Manila was such a dodgy place, and sure enough, I was guided through what would have been a very difficult time by the most wonderful, happy, caring and generous people I have ever met. 

When I got back to my room, I was asked if I wanted to shower, to which I agreed. As I walked into the bathroom I then came back out to ask where about the shower was... Then he pointed to the bucket and the tap on the floor and I found it so hard not to burst out laughing. My ideas of a shower went quickly out the window! The whole town had no wifi... It felt like I'd gone back in time! It was great to see kids playing outside.

I spoke to one of the guys staying in the station and he was telling me about how he's a primary school teacher and the kids are so enthusiastic about studying and he loves being able to teach them new things. He also mentioned how some of them walk miles everyday to get to school. It really made me think about how lucky I am and how much we take education for granted.

As I settled in bed, the biggest storm I have ever experienced hit. I think it was part of the typhoon. The thunder sounded like the whole place was being bombed. It was so magnificent at the same time because I love storms and the lightening lit up the whole sky like I'd never seen it before! 

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