After I posted the last two posts on Monday in La Carlotta I felt a hunger stirring in my belly. This hunger was a little suspicious, however I trusted it and bought a bag of popcorn and some water. It was late and I was exhausted, so I went back to the pension house I was staying at (Comfort Inn, I believe; a block west of the plaza) and went to sleep. The air conditioned room made it very easy to fall asleep.
Suddenly, my peaceful dreamless sleep was interrupted. 3:30am. In a panic I arose and realized the hunger was not really a hunger at all but a carefully concealed FOOD POISONING. I desperately sought out a bucket wherewith to deposit the remnants of my Jollibee feast. Memories of the chicken barbeque I ate at the La Carlotta Jollibee were recalled, appearing a little suspect and too old to be served. “I’m sorry sir but we are out of hamburgers” “Fine, do you have Chicken Barbeque?” In my anguish, the deep and scary slow motion voice of the tiny Jollibee girl answered “Yyyyyeeeeessss sssssiiiiirrrrrr” as she slowly turned around to grab the plate holding the towering piece of spoiled chicken. I ate at countless dingy, unsanitary, fly-infested hole in the wall restaurants (carinderias) while I’ve been here, where a high roller might throw down ₱50 for a meal. And then Jollibee poisons me. Suddenly the smiling jolly bee’s visage is not quite so jolly, now a little sinister.
Pacing too and fro I braced myself through several cruel false alarms.
Lying on the cool concrete road, the mangy dog raised his head to gaze across the street to the dark building – dark save for a single window lit up with yellow light. Lowering his head onto his paws, his gaze remained locked on the only other evidence of life in La Carlotta; the soft murmur of crickets the only sound in the darkness. A sudden and savage roar pierced the darkness and the dog’s hackles raised immediately in response; terrified, the dog leapt to his feet and barked furiously at the faceless monster, unseen in the distant room. The beast responded. A passionate exchange of beasts continued for several minutes. Eventually the monster quited and the window finally became silent once more. Victorious, the dog stretched back down on the asphalt. He kept his eyes locked on the illuminated window until, in an instant, it joined the rest of the world in darkness.
The next day I still felt very sick. Food poisoning and all the friends it brings to the party wreck havoc on a person. Tuesday was supposed to be the day I drove around to say hi to all my old friends in La Carlotta and San Enrique, however since any activity would have to be limited to 10 meters from the vicinity of the bathroom for the next day at least, I tried as best as I could to sleep. At least I was in a cool, comfortable air conditioned room. Until the brown out.
In the purgatory of sweating, fanning myself with my map of the Philippines, finding soothing music to help me sleep, and actually sleeping I spent my afternoon. Finally at around 5:00 pm the power came back on and the invention that, in my book, tops sliced bread was once again blasting me with a stream of cold air and ants.
I slept for a while longer, however around 9:00 pm I decided I felt good enough to try and take the Test. “What is this test you speak of?” you ask. When I get food poisoning or anytime I get sick enough to throw up, I eventually have to take the Test. Simply, when I am vomiting to and fro I usually avoid giving myself any extra ammunition. I don’t eat. This obviously helps stem the flow however it also introduces the confusion of whether I feel sick because I’m starving or because I’m still sick. So, Tuesday night I still felt sick but I was unsure of whether it was a throw-up-y kind of sick or whether it was a ‘I’m starving feed me’ kind of sick. So, I threw caution to the wind and went to the only place open this time of night (yeah, 9:00 pm), a greasy roadside hamburger stand Keru Burger. I bought two hamburgers and four bottles of water and took them back to my room to eat them in my shame.
I must have looked pretty bad because usually Filipinos can’t help but ask why I speak the local dialect (plus a hundred other questions). Tuesday I got none of that; I was all business, like the front of a mullet. Get the burgers and go, as the saying goes. Maybe this was why, when I got back to my room and told the kindly old man who manages the pension house I might check out tomorrow and if he could let me know how much I owe, I got a discount and only ended up paying ₱250 a night for an air conditioned room. What a great old man! He must have either felt sorry for me being sick or been terrified of me. He had arrived at the gate just before me without seeing me coming up behind him; I was too tired and grumpy to say hello but since I was only a few feet behind him he sensed something. His head slowly turned around, his eyes slowly turned up until they locked onto mine and it seemed it took a while for him to recognize the 6’3” white man standing there silently behind him, holding a bag of pungent burgers.
I obviously don’t have many pictures so far and really for this whole week I only have one picture and aside from being kind of funny it’s not that interesting. I just haven’t had much gumption to whip out my camera. Perhaps it’s because much of the novelty has worn off a little and also because I haven’t been touring much. Maybe it’s because of the craziness that’s been going on. I’m already at 1043 words. I warned this might be long-winded. I warned.
Once back in my room I chomped on the first greasy Keru burger. It went down easily, however the second was harder to finish. Eventually, however, I washed the last burger down with a few bottles of water and went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up at 6:00 am. I felt wonderful! My stomach felt great with no hint of the previous day’s unpleasantries. I fell back asleep and woke up at 8:00 am, feeling not as wonderful as before. I trusted, however, in my previous feeling and started packing up to leave La Carlotta. I decided the night before that before I take any more time in La Carlotta I ought to go to the Cebu Temple open house which is ending on Saturday.
The drive to Bacolod only took about an hour and would have taken much less if the roads weren’t under construction. Bacolod was almost just like I remembered it, with a few differences such as a new SM mall. My first stop was the mission office; I needed to find a place to ditch my bike for a few days while I took the Ceres bus to Cebu (it is much cheaper to take the bus than to take my bike on the ferry). The AP in the office and I had a nice chat and he let me know that Bro Cobing, who I was hoping to find, was working in the church across the parking lot as the CES director. I went across the street and waited for him to come back to his office. When he came back we had a warm reunion and he took me to his home to see his family. It was nice to see them again, they were incredible when I was assigned in the Bacolod 1st ward.
I asked them if I could keep my bike at their house for a few days and they said it was no problem. They even offered me a place in their house to sleep, but with seven kids it would have been very difficult in their small house so I politely declined. I found out that the Ceres left for Cebu at 12:30 am and would arrive in Cebu around 10:00 am. This was the regular bus (non aircon) that went up and around the northern tip of Negros to San Carlos and crossed over to Toledo, Cebu. After a delicious dinner and spending some time with their family, they took me to the Ceres terminal at around 12:15am. I thought I could easily sleep on the bus and arrive in Cebu with a spring in my step. I was wrong. The road was awful, the bus was bouncy, and the seats were so close together I couldn’t sit straight. Sleeping came only a few minutes at a time. It made me wish I had paid the extra ₱55 for the aircon bus.
When I got on the bus I noticed the back row of seats was completely filled with small boxes covered with holes. It looked like they were transporting fighting cocks but they were strangely silent. “They must be sleeping,” I thought gratefully. When we were close to San Carlos we stopped for a few minutes. In a window of silence only a few seconds long, where there was no rumble of the engine, no creaking of the windows, no crying of children, no shouting of the men loading packages onto the bus, the sound of a single rooster crowing far off in the distance drifted across the fields. In slow motion, my sleep deprived brain struggled to understand the significance of what had happened, and more importantly, what was about to happen. Suddenly the small boxes covered with holes came alive, each one struggling for supremacy in an epic crow-off that seemed unnoticed by everyone but which made sleep impossible for me. In my sleepy wrath I swore vengeance on the whole chicken race.
I was able to sleep on the ferry; from the moment we embarked to the moment we disembarked I was able to sleep relatively comfortably because I paid the extra ₱20 for the air conditioned sitting area. It wasn’t enough however, and by the time we reached the Ceres South terminal in Cebu City I was looking for a pension house where I could sleep the afternoon. Even a short time hotel would have worked. I found a place close to SM mall in Cebu City, Sugbo Bed and Bath which, despite its misleading name (it has hostel style sleeping arrangements) was decent with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and power sockets at each bed for ₱250 a night. That’s cheap by Cebu standards but I was irritable and wanted a private room so I left and walked to SM. I got online, and after chatting with Julie for a couple hours I went to see Prince of Persia. I thought I’d sleep through one showing and then watch the next, however I slept through both in a fitful unsatisfying sleep that lasted only about 10 minutes in any given position. Unfortunately the arms did NOT fold up otherwise I would have been in there for at least 3 or 4 showings.
I left SM in the evening and went to the Cebu Temple to go through the open house. It was gorgeous inside. I was very impressed with the way the designers implemented Filipino elements in the interior decoration. The walls were covered in a wall fabric that was textured like the walls nipa huts. The railing up the grand staircase reminded me of the railings I see here made of thin pieces of bamboo. Many of the glass etchings reminded me of the clumps of bamboo and the way the long slender bamboo poles arch across each other. There were brass lamps that looked like banana leaves. In one of the instruction rooms all the walls are part of a single vast mural of paradise, Filipino style. There is a rooster. I liked that part (despite my experience earlier in the day). There were many subtle touches that all combined to create a natural, elegant Filipino atmosphere that combined powerfully with the strong Spirit that I felt there.
After the Cebu Temple open house I went back to SM for dinner and decided to stay at the Subgo Bed and Bath until my bus at 4:30 am. I set my alarm for 3:30 am to be safe and slept soundly. I woke up in a panic thinking I had overslept and missed my bus but looked at my phone to see it was only 3:33 am. “Oh, I have plenty of time” I thought as I dozed off. I looked at my phone again. 4:15 am! I hopped out of bed, jumped in a taxi, leapt out of the taxi and into the bus as it was leaving. I was able to sleep pretty well in the cool confines of the aircon bus as it rumbled toward the port of Toledo and onward to Bacolod.
Once in Toledo we got on the ferry and I slept well there too. I slept so well in fact that my bus left me because I was too slow getting off the ferry. ₱130 wasted since I had already paid my fare from San Carlos to Bacolod. I didn’t lose much time however and went to the San Carlos terminal and caught a non-aircon bus for Bacolod. We went through Don Salvador and got to Bacolod around 12:00 pm. I went back to the Cobing family, grabbed my bike, and found a pension house in Bacolod for ₱250 a night with a fan and private bath. Not bad! And that’s where I am right now, writing this blog. It’s hot in Bacolod. Tomorrow or Monday I am going up to Mambukal to cool off and have a look around.
This is an entry in my Philippines 2010 travel log. Thanks for reading!
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