29 October 2012

The Philippines Photo Journal, Days 3 - 6: Boracay Island (Part 2 of 3) . . .

The Philippines is a fascinating place:  the colors are vibrant and the people have amazing spirits, filled with kindness and laughter. And travel from place to place is just as fascinating.

When we left Katti's house in Manila for Boracay Island, I imagined us hopping in a cab and going to the airport. I only knew what I was used to doing . . .

I guess I have always taken travel for granted. I find that I am quite adaptable:  if I need to get somewhere, I get there--be it by foot, bus, car, or bike. (Sometimes all 4 in the same day.) But never have I encountered 8 forms of transportation in one day.

I just kind of silently tagged along behind Katti the whole way, snapping pictures left and right. It was such an energized day of travel that it wasn't until we got to our hotel that I realized what had happened. And once I counted up the number of transports we used to get to Boracay, I couldn't stop mentioning it whenever the opportunity arose. I even typed a list in my iPhone, so that I could recite them--in order--at a moments notice.

For this very reason, I thought it only appropriate to start out this blog post with a clip from Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, the 1987 classic featuring Steve Martin and John Candy. 

1.  Jeepney

About 2 blocks from Katti's house we caught a jeepney. Jeepneys are the most popular form of transportation in the Philippines. The word jeepney is a combination of "jeep" and "Jitney". Jeepneys were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II and they are known for their flamboyant decoration and crowded seating.  

From the moment I landed in Manila, I was obsessed with jeepneys. It's as if Xzibit from Pimp My Ride went over to the Philippines and worked some magic on a bunch of jeeps. They are airbrushed with images ranging from religious to family names to women in bikinis. And at night they are completely decked out in lights. Jeepneys have open windows and open backs, so people wishing to ride them just jump in the back and pass their moneys forward to the driver. And, "barkers" work the vehicles. So, they are constantly calling out to get you to ride their jeepney.  

We rode the jeepney to a mall where we then walked for a ways to catch a train.

2.  Walking

What's funny is when we got out of the jeepney at the mall, I remember asking Katti if this was where we would be catching the bus. She said that we needed to catch a train first. So we walked through several malls that were connected before we caught the train. For a brief second I felt like I was back in Singapore, mall-hopping.

3.  Train

The train took a few minutes to arrive, during which I got a whistle blown at me as I tried to shoot a picture down the track. I stepped over a yellow line, which was a no-no. When the train arrived, I was surprised to find that it was an above ground train. And it was super-packed. I wanted to get closer to the windows to take some pictures, but it was not possible. In two stops we got off of the train and walked some more to our next transport, the bus.

4.  Bus

This is what we walked down several flights of stairs to . . . 

A barrage of buses waiting for passengers, honking away as a police man franticly directed traffic by hitting the buses with his baton. We made our way to the green bus stop, marked with the letter B (pictured above). When our bus arrived, we got on and told the conductor, the ticket-taker, that we needed to go to terminal 2. Ah, the airport is close, I thought. Nope:  we rode the bus for about an hour and a half.  

And, we missed our terminal 2 stop at which point Katti exchanged words with the conductor, all of which I could understand was:  it didn't help that she was white?! We got off of the bus and caught a quick trip on a second jeepney to terminal 2.

5.  Plane

We almost missed our flight, but made it safe and sound (first catching a shuttle bus out to the runway for boarding). The flight was pretty much empty which gave us room to spread out. But just as soon as we got our peanuts (perfectly labeled Happy Nuts), it was time to land. Our flight ended up being one of the shorter forms of transit that we took, which I found hilarious.

6. Shuttle Van

At the airport we were able to secure a spot for each of us on the shuttle van and boat for 250 pesos (about $6 US). The shuttle ride was an hour long and one of the most exciting trips I'd been on. I was sitting in the back and Katti was sitting in the front. We were snuggled in with about 10 other passengers. Before the driver took off, Katti pointed out a billboard featuring apl.de.ap from the Black Eyed Peas. (He's from Manila, so the whole time I was visiting Katti I kept asking her if we would run into him. We didn't.)

The shuttle van took us through the most beautiful countryside I had ever seen. It was luscious green and the little towns we passed through were peppered with houses and churches in bright yellows, blues, and pinks. Roosters, dogs, and kids meandered about--sometimes out into the middle of the road even. There was very little traffic, but any chance the van driver got to honk, he did. We sped past motorcycles with passengers in side cars, one of the side cars carrying a cow. We passed a man walking his carabao down his rocky driveway, a truck with two pigs laying down in the back, and a bright pink school where all of the students wore uniforms of the same color.  Incredible visuals at every turn!!

I kept thinking that there was no possible way we could be near the beach, but sure enough--over the hill and through the woods--a beautiful sea of blue appeared. We had arrived . . . Almost.

7.  Boat

We got to the dock and immediately boarded a very nice boat. We even got to watch part of X-Men Origins:  Wolverine. I kept mentioning during the boat ride how I didn't really like movies like this . . . But sure enough, we got completely engrossed in the movie and had to be asked to leave the boat because we had arrived in Boracay and we needed to get off of their ship. They had been waiting for us to leave.

8.  Motorcycle Sidecar

Our final transport to where we were staying on the island was via motorcycle sidecar. Katti and I rode in the front, as 4 guys piled onto the back. While we were going up a hill, Katti and the driver spoke to one another. She then turned to me and said--in so many words--"lean forward, sometimes these tip over backwards." Um, great . . . I'm happy to report we did not tip over. But, the thought of possibly tipping over definitely kept me wide awake for the remainder of our journey (a quick 15 minutes). Apparently the driver had also asked her if I was a nun because my head was wrapped in a scarf. (I'm curious if that would have made a difference in our journey if she had said yes, she is a nun.)

The whole experience--our journey from start to finish--was an absolute thrill! I wouldn't change any of it for the world. We made it! And it was totally worth it . . . 

Because at the end of our journey, this was waiting for us.