Closing my eyes I hear the rumble of tricycles and machines grinding metal. The smell of coconuts marks the entrance and exit of small villages. I pass signs advertising Bibingka (local cake) and Halo Halo (An iced drink consisting of many ingredients many times corn), sometimes even signs selling love. The age of most Filipinos can be determined by the number of teeth left in their mouth, where most women and men over the age of 30 have lost their rear teeth; which becomes noticeable with their huge smiles. Motorbikes sometimes carry whole families and many times there is a baby sitting on someone’s shoulders.
A smile goes a long way and many times pays the rent. When looking for a place to camp; I ride up, make a camping gesture and smile.
All day I am greeted with the phrase “Hey Joe, where you go”? I have been called “Joe” so many times that when asked I say I am “Joe”. Locals are completely distraught at the sight of me pedaling by and stop whatever they are doing to wave as I pass.
Dealing with locals seems to take up most of my energy; as most are looking for an opportunity to take advantage and make a few extra Filipino Pesos. I once ordered two Halo Halo’s for 20 pesos then was told that if I wanted to make a local call it would cost 50.
While staying with new friends in Calapan I decided to visit the relatively unknown islands of Romblon. I pedaled south to the port and noticed when boarding the boat that I was the only foreigner. After carrying my bike across a narrow plank, I stacked my gear next to a wall of rice bags. The boat was completely filled with locals carrying plants, fruits, vegetables and enough rice to sink the small ship. Each passenger had a large sack rice so much that I began to wonder if I would find food on the islands. Halfway through the 3 hour journey the boat encountered rough seas and many of the passengers rushed to the few windows and began vomiting. I started to feel sick my self and was wedged between two sleeping locals, and a pregnant women vomiting to my right.
Upon arriving I noticed that most if not all the businesses were closed for Chinese New Year, a Filipino national holiday. A few kilometers later I learned that it was also prom night. I pedaled south and eventually found a quiet white sand beach for camping.
There are 3 islands to explore in Romblon province and plenty of great diving. Today I road on a small provincial road which traveled past rice plantations, hog farms and villages. Tomorrow I will travel to the smaller island of Romblon to dive.