(Part 2 of ‘Bohol Bound’, Part 1)
Believe it or not, it was a much simpler process getting myself and my stuff to the Philippines from the US than simply switching from the island of Mactan over to Bohol. Not that either was necessarily all that much a problem. It’s just that going from island to island involved more than just getting on the craft and looking out the window.
But now, it really WAS the day before I was set to leave. And I really did need to start packing because I had arrangements for a relative of a friend (Delia) to come with a truck and haul my stuff to the Pier in Cebu where it was to be loaded on a LiTE Shipping vessel that afternoon. If I’ve learned anything here it’s that if you need to get something done by 12:30pm.. you better start at around 8am if you want any chance of getting it done. So there I was, looking at my stuff in my studio the day before still thinking there wasn’t much to pack and it should only take me an hour. Ninety minutes at most. I’d already taken three suitcases of my stuff to Bohol the week before. All I saw was maybe a week’s worth of clothes, a laptop, some dishes.. shouldn’t take long. That was at around 2pm and it was a bit warm so I figured I’d go goof-off until the day cooled a bit before packing anything.
Skip forward to 10pm that night and I’m thinking to myself, “All right.. I really, really.. really should start packing.” You know, it doesn’t look like much when it’s scattered all over the place in different rooms.
So I started putting stuff in the suitcases and boxes. Tearing down the portable tables and gathering up all my laptop gadgets. Meanwhile I’m playing some Stones as the night wore on. Finally, it was all packed and ready to go; at 6:00am. That night sure went fast. The truck was arriving in 2 hours and I still hadn’t slept since the day before. But I still had enough time for a power-nap. Ninety minutes later I got a call.. they were on their way. I jumped in and out of the shower and was just getting dressed when they showed up at the door. Delia, her uncle and his son. I’d seen the truck before and even when empty you could barely put three people in it. Hmm.
I stuffed my mattress into the stand-up closet along with some pillows and shoes before tying it up with cord and shipping tape as if about to perform some magic trick with someone locked inside. That’s how I thought of it anyway, it keeps my mind busy. The whole time I’m worried that when we get it and the sealed boxes to the pier that they may want to inspect inside and I’ll have to re-tie everything at the last moment. Nothing I could do about that stress point except bring along the leftover cord and tape with us.
As I packed away the last of my toiletries and clothes into a backpack, along with some hard-boiled eggs I’d made for a snack during the night, one of the guys began to pull the air-con unit out of the window for me. Here, when you rent an apartment it’s common to buy your own a/c unit and take it with you. I knew the truck had a very small bed in it and already I was thinking I might have to go to a Plan B. If it wouldn’t all fit, I could ship just the big stuff and return for a second trip that night and bring the suitcases myself. I really underestimated how much stuff I’ve accumulated since getting here just 7 months prior. But I needed it all now. The fridge absolutely had to be with me. I need ice. I just do and it’s not negotiable. I also need the oscillating fan. She’s practically been my semi-silent roommate since I got here. She’s red so, her name is Ruby. I don’t know how I’d have dealt with the heat without her. She literally helped me keep my cool.
The PC table, stand-up closet and the air-con.. I needed it all and was not about to leave them behind. I kept waiting for the guys to make the announcement that there was no more room left on the truck. When the last box went out I took a walk outside and somehow these guys had managed to fit all my stuff onto that tiny truck bed. These guys should be making tournament money playing Tetris or something.. I still can’t figure how they fit it all together into one cube-shaped load. But they did and I was ecstatic. Problem now was.. no room for all of us. So Delia and I took a taxi and then the real fun began.
By this time, despite getting started at 8am it was now already almost 11am and.. we hit traffic. The boat leaves at 12:30pm and we have to visit two other offices to have my stuff inventoried and fees paid before they’ll let any of it go on the ship! Ohh.. I was feeling so screwed. But, we still had almost 2 hours and this was still conceivably do-able.
After leaving Mactan via the bridge we then made our way to an office about five blocks away from the pier. It was after 11am now and we had to take a number after speaking to the person at the first window. (It seems there are always at least 3 windows involved when you need to do something here.) We waited and waited. Time was ticking by. Oh, for the love of God.. just call my name already. I was staying outwardly calm but inside I was already imagining myself sleeping overnight on the dock next to all my stuff waiting for the next voyage to Bohol. The guy behind the first window said something out loud in Visayan. Delia said, “Oh boy.” When she says that, I know it just hit the fan. She tells me, “He just announced there’s no more room on the 12:30pm boat to Bohol.”
But I still didn’t panic. She went up to ask the lady at window #2 how much longer before calling our name since we were on a tight schedule to be on the boat in an hour. The lady at window #2 said, “Oh, we don’t call your name.. you just come to this window. What’s the name?” For cryin’ out loud.. I wanted to throw something at the guy behind Window #1 for telling us to wait for our name to be called. Something told me that might affect my voyage in some way so I put the hard-boiled egg back into my backpack. No point wasting it on him. I’ll let karma deal with him later.
I paid for the fees, something to do with paying for my stuff to go on the boat and then went to Window #3. They told us to wait for our name to be called. I looked at the clock; already 11:40am!! With or without me that boat is gonna leave the dock in just 50 minutes. After about ten minutes again Delia went on my behalf and in Visayan used her charms to let the woman know that we were trying to get on the 12:30 voyage and really needed to buy my passenger ticket as soon as possible. She summoned me up to the counter where I handed out some more money and my ID. In minutes I had both a ticket for me and my stuff and we were ready to rock. Sort of. Now we had to get to the actual pier.
It was only 5 blocks and we began to walk while the truck followed slowly behind us. Why slowly? Because of all days to get TWO flat tires, this was the day. But there was enough air to keep driving so it lumbered along behind us like a big, square, yellow elephant laden with the last of my valuables on this side of the planet. Another look at the time and I hailed a taxi that passed by. Soon we were at the pier.
And yet.. one more office to get clearance from. Delia and I asked and were told to walk upstairs while her uncle and nephew stayed with my stuff in the parking lot. We got up the two flights of stairs and showed my paperwork to the man behind the desk. He spoke in some kind of Taglish and even I could understand we’d been sent to the wrong office. So.. back downstairs we went where… we had to get a number and wait. I have to hand it to Delia, she really was a trooper on this whole venture and I seriously just COULD NOT have done this without her. I stayed as calm and upbeat as I could but as I looked at the clock we now had less than 30 minutes to get whatever clearance we needed from this window show it to the foreman-dude at the dock, get my stuff physically transferred to a pallet which was then to be loaded into the ship’s cargo bay. It’s a good thing I’m something of an optimist because despite the odds I kept telling Delia, “We can make it. This is still do-able.” She agreed. I’m sure part of her thought I was insane, but she backed me up despite the odds.
With only 20 minutes left before the ship was to leave, Delia once again bolted up to the window and in a polite yet terse and logical manner explained that if we didn’t get processed all our paperwork would be nullified for the ship’s departure. At first the woman behind the glass window wasn’t buying it and told her to wait until our number was called. That’s when Delia pointed out that another foreigner who had arrived after us had already been processed so he could catch that same boat. Check-mate. The lady behind the window conceded and stamped off our paperwork after collecting some more fees. She then told us to go to one more office.. the one we’d been to upstairs already! Again we rushed up the stairs and presented the paperwork to the man behind the desk.
Now, at this point we were so damn close. I feared the worst. I imagined he would at this point tell us with only 15 minutes left until departure that they needed to inspect inside my boxes first and I’d be screwed. Then I would go completely ape-shit, security would come in, a struggle would ensue, shots would be fired and next thing you know I’m a Wanted man on the run for shooting the Sheriff. (But not the Deputy.)
Fortunately, it did not come to that.
He stamped off our stuff and we raced back down the stairs. We gave the paperwork to Mister Dock-Person guy and the truck with my stuff was given clearance to enter the dock where they began to load my stuff into the boat. Only, instead of putting it onto a pallet and fork-lifting it all in one nice package.. it got taken item by item to the passenger area on the upstairs area of the ship because no room was left in the cargo hold. Well.. that’s close enough for me. At least it was on the boat. Ship. Whatever.
With an amazing 10 minutes to spare I thanked Delia profusely and she told me I better get my ass moving or I’d miss the departure. I am not kidding.. I got onto the boat, found my bunk and only a few minutes later.. we were heading out to sea! I was so incredibly and thankfully amazed that it all pulled together successfully. I went to the ship’s edge to see Cebu slowly pulling away into the distance and said to myself, “Wow.. I cannot believe it. I’m actually on the boat.” And with my stuff as well. I found a porter who already seemed aware that all that stuff in the passenger aisles was mine and he said I could hire some porters at Bohol to unload it for me. If it had been put on a pallet a forklift would have done the job but, well.. at this point being flexible was my only card left to play.
As the ship gained speed and got into open water, I sat cross-legged in my bunk with my laptop bag and backpack. There in my backpack I had a breakfast from Jollibee, some bottled water, the hard-boiled eggs and some cashews to hold me over for the five hour trip. The shipping ferries don’t move as fast at the Oceanjet passenger ones which make the trip in about 90 minutes. But I was in no hurry now. It was midday, the hectic morning was over and now I could breath a sigh of relief. I sent some texts to Delia to once again thank her for her huge help in making this happen. I ate my breakfast, had some water and then leaned back into my bunk for some rest. Somehow that one hour I’d slept didn’t quite do the trick. With my legs up against my laptop bag and backpack in case anyone moved them.. I nodded off for awhile.
When I awoke about an hour or so later it was because that water was ready to go right through me. I made my way down to the CR (comfort room) and did my business. Coming out I motioned to the ladyboy at the sink that I needed to wash my hands. I’d say he was about an 8.5 out of a possible 10 on the ladyboy scale. 2 of those points were for proper make-up application. Even a lot of women can’t seem to get that right and go with way too much foundation. As I made my way back to my bunk upstairs I took an inventory of my fellow shipmates. After all, we could end up stranded for months or years on some deserted island if this thing hits an iceberg or coral reef or something. I gotta know who’s sketchy and where the cute women are at.
I meandered in a slow, random fashion through the passenger area and took some mental notes. A few married couples. A lot of middle-aged guys. Only one kinda-sorta good-looking Filipina and altogether four ladyboys. The one I’d seen in the bathroom was the best of the bunch, the others were fooling Ray Charles maybe, but not much else. There was a young couple with a fairly newborn baby next to my bunk. A husky Filipino dude was in the bunk next to mine who every so often dropped his arm against me in his sleep. But he’d wake up quickly and move it. Glad to know we’re on the same page. That side of the rail is yours, this is mine. If everybody keeps their hands to themselves, nobody has to disappear accidentally from the back of the boat.
I put on my reading glasses and read another chapter from the book I’d brought along, “The Cay“. But that and the swaying of the ocean were just way too relaxing to resist so I took another cat-nap.
Next thing you know I’m waking up because people are moving about. Most of them were huddled up against the.. whatever the ‘left’-side of the boat is. Why they can’t just call it left, right, front and back is beyond me. People were taking photos.. land had been spotted! It was a small island just off the coast of Bohol. Might have been Panglao, I don’t know. All I know is we were damn close to Bohol. Sure enough, we rounded about the isle and there before us stood the familiar port of Tagbilaran.. my new home away from home that was away from my other home. I was definitely jazzed about this development.
I put my sandals back on and did a quick inventory of how many items of mine were on the ship. I sent a text to Delia’s brother who was to meet me at the pier with another mini-truck when I arrived. No answer. The crew did their usual thing easing the ship up against the pier for docking and I made my way down the gang-plank, runway, gainway.. the bridge thing that takes you from the boat to the pier.. and I met up with two porters. After a bit of communicating I agreed to pay the two of them a total of 600 pesos to move my stuff from “that boat.. to that spot” on the parking lot. Problem was, I didn’t have change.
So while they unloaded my stuff onto a large cart I had to make my way to the snack bar to get change and then make my way back to the unloading portion of the dock. As I walked past security he began to tell me I couldn’t return that way. He got up from his chair and started walking toward me. I really did not want to be separated from my stuff any longer than necessary so.. still walking past him from about 20 feet away as I spoke, I made lots of arm gestures and I shouted something like, “I’ve got people.. doing the thing and I gotta.. but I’ll be right back.. gotta do the thing at the thing….”. He just kinda looked at me like I was a lunatic and figured either I knew what I was doing or I wasn’t worth starting a scene with.
The porters had all my stuff on the huge cart and I motioned for them to follow me. Again we passed by the same security guy and I pointed at the porters with my stuff and shouted, “The guys.. with the thing.. and.. I gotta go over there and unload and stuff and...”. This time he just looked up from his paper momentarily and let me leave without incident.
The porters unloaded my stuff, I paid them and then sent another text for my ride. I took some photos as I waited. It was about 5:30p or so and the sun was setting, giving me some pretty good light to work with. When the truck rolled up we set about loading everything in. When it was all loaded it became evident that there was no room for me in the front cab and my only option was to ride in one of my large plastic chairs perched in the back of the truck, looking back into the traffic. So I climbed up there and off we went to the city’s edge. And there I was, getting the head-turn of everyone on the street as we passed through town. I felt like I was on a parade float or something. I couldn’t help but wave at some of the people as they stared at this strange sight. A foreigner.. perched on top of a load of stuff.. on the back of a truck. What’s up with that? People seemed to get a real kick out of it.
We hit the edge of town and began the very bumpy ride into the jungle, province area. It’s about a 2 or 3 mile trek on a very rough path that is kinda, sorta carved irregularly from the coral surface. From my vantage point I could see the sun setting directly in front of me with twilight creeping up behind me at the front of the truck. To my left and right were trees, bushes, trees and more trees as far as I could see. It was one of those surreal moments where you just sort of laugh out loud and say, “I’m really here.”
The ‘streets’ have no names so I tried to make mental notes of where we turned either left or right in the forks of the road. I ‘think’ I know my way out. Sort of.
Finally we came to a stop directly in front of my new abode and I unlocked the door to my new place for my first night and.. I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. Not just a ‘few’ mosquitoes.. but literally a swarm. The house had been vacant for over a week and since the window screens have not been installed yet, mosquitoes have been finding their way in but not out. Every few inches of space in the house was just filled with them at every turn. I opened the door wide to let a bunch of them out and I began to open all the shutters to the windows so they could escape. First order of business: Get an anti-mosquito arsenal put together. But first, we had to unload all the stuff.
After getting everything in there we took a ride “into town”. Again with the bumpy road and soon I was in a beautiful, air-conditioned mall. Along with some groceries to hold me over I got some mosquito-repelling incense coils, the ever-powerful Baygon spray and lots and lots of matches. One thing I’ve learned since moving here is that with the ample moisture in the air, even with proper kindling it is a challenge oftentimes to get a good fire going. And I intended to start a bonfire in the yard to smoke out those pesky hypodermic misfits.
Getting back to the house I launched a full-on, frontal attack. I lit up a mosquito coil in every room until there was smoke filling every room. I turned on Ruby to fan out the air while bringing fresh air in from the window. Meanwhile I sprayed a layer of Baygon all along the ceiling crevice of the house and double-dosed the bathroom as well as the bedroom. Those little bastards were dropping like flies. In fact, the next morning I swept up a fairly nice-sized pile of them as I swept out the house.
Years ago, in high school actually, Mr. Cabrera posed to the class a question that came back to me at this particular moment. He asked, “When you move into a new place.. what do you set up first?” We made some guesses and finally the answer came: The Music. Gotta have some tunes while moving crap around. Get that energy going, give a feel to the new place. I set up my laptop and external speakers and to the sounds of some Stones, Blues and 80’s music I began to settle-in.
I dug through my suitcases and pulled out my defense mechanism.. the Mosquito Net. I didn’t have a bed yet so I’d be spending my first night sleeping on a long work-table. I knew the following day I’d be buying a handmade bed of bamboo from one of the local vendors in town. But for tonight, I was just thankful I wasn’t going to be sleeping on the floor. Why? Because already I’d killed off TWO of the Giant Spiders just in the first few hours here. At my place in Mactan I only had 2 giant-spiders get in the house during seven months. Here in Bohol, in 12 days I’ve already killed 7 of them. One got away and ran under the bed. I try not to think about that too much. I really need to install some window screens.
I soon had my mosquito net up and operational. I got the kitchen somewhat functional for the next morning and made myself some coffee. From the suitcases I got the next day’s clothes into the closet along with finding my towel and toiletries for a much needed shower. Before I knew it, the night was pitch-black and I had enough things in place that I could begin working on my Net connection. I ran into a few obstacles with the weak signal at first, but eventually found the primo spot to get the best signal. Thankfully that was near the window where I have a great view of the yard, jungle and looking west into the sunset veiled behind the treetops each night.
The home is a one-bedroom house with more square footage than my studio, that’s for sure. Constructed of brick only two years ago it stays fairly cool with the surrounding trees and my fan during the day. I’ll install the a/c unit later, but there’s really no rush as I’m doing okay without it. My studio never did okay without a/c.. always had to make sure I kept that place cool. But here, not a problem. The previous owners had stopped at the finishing touches of the house. That leaves it up to me to do the painting, tile-work, window screens and other small projects along the way. Once I’ve done a bunch of the painting and such I’ll post some before/after photos. For now it’s got that industrial-grey cement look going.
The following day, after unpacking even more stuff and getting the kitchen even more functional.. I decided to tackle the yard. It’s all fenced in with a natural, bamboo fence. There’s a very nice set of animal hutches and a fish-net hammock in the shade of the front door patio. I fashioned together a small fire-pit so I can have a little fire there at night while I swing in the hammock and listen for the bats that flutter by after dark. The smoke also helps rid of the mosquitoes, which I’ve now learned are most active during the morning and early evening time. Midday and late-night they’re not a problem.
There’s also a fruit tree in the yard. It’s some kind of “apple-rose” fruit that looks like a flower with it’s pink and white coloring, yet has a texture something like that of a pear. I’ve heard they are extremely expensive in some restaurants, said a priest to the neighbor is the story. All I know is every day a black rooster with a yellow top comes flying in over the fence because he’s addicted to eating the fruit that falls to the ground. He gets his fill, flies over back to the road and starts crowing about how good they are as he struts on down the road.
It’s been twelve days since I first arrived and I just love this little home in the jungle. A bit of paint and a few improvements and it’s the perfect writer’s hide-away. Both the days and especially the nights are VERY quiet here. Aside from a rooster or occasional turkey next door, crickets are all you hear at night. What’s really amazing are the stars. It is so incredibly dark out here at night that you don’t have to be an astronomist to find the Milky Way here. You just look up and.. there it is. And so many, many bright stars! Imagine your typical city night.. but ten times darker and with five times more stars and that’s what it’s like here. Standing outside with the lights off in the house and you’d swear you were standing on the edge of outer space.
As if all this were not enough, the fire-flies come out after dark and flit about like magical fairies in and out of the jungle brush. I’ve never seen real ones ever before in my life so.. it is just an incredible a thing for me to behold. It’s like someone seeing the ocean for the very first time.. you just can’t really translate the experience apart from seeing it yourself.
All in all.. this move to Bohol was the right move to make. I am so glad to be here and this is more what I had in mind when I thought of a tropical island. Mactan still has a dear spot in my heart as the small town beehive of activity compared to this evergreen wilderness I now occupy. There will be some adjustments and changes in mode of living here but I am up for it and will do my best to share the adventure with you.
I’ll keep you posted, be sure to stop by every so often to see what comes up around the bend in the next installment. For now, check out some other photos I took during this move, located below.
Henry (Reekay) V.
About Me.. In 2011 I made the decision to move to the Philippines within a year. Since 2012 I’ve been traveling through various islands of the Philippines as a full-time Expat. (Mactan, Bohol, Panglao, Moalboal, Dumaguete, Bacong, Boracay, Cebu) I recently spent the year living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Share with me here my ongoing adventures of life in the Philippines. Dating, vlogging, cooking, traveling and sharing the information with you needed to make your own plans for living as a full-time expat in Southeast Asia.