Cebu City, The Philippines
I open my bag. A large, striped cockroach makes its way out of my bag into daylight, probably wondering where he has been brought to. Just like me.
The Philippines are new to me. I look at a map and plan my move to Malapascua, a small island north to Cebu. Only a long bus ride and a ferry away. It starts raining rumors in the hotel. A storm will be coming. No ferries going north. Plans will have to be changed.
A day, a ferry ride and a motor taxi later, I walk down Alona Beach on Panglao, Bohol. I receive a warm welcome by a cheerful committee of over twenty people who all jump up to offer their assistance: How about a room, motorbike tour, dolphin trip, drinks, a dead fish, anything else?
My “No Thank You” does not seem to make the slightest impression on my new friends. In my most persistent voice I ask them again to leave me alone. I just want to find a room, have a beer, and free my roach. It works.
The next day I get to see Alona Beach at daylight. A strip of sand, many resorts, not great swimming, cloudy and a storm on its way.
Or better said: a super typhoon. Alarm signal three out of four for our area. They can’t predict the details yet. Very strong wind will be expected with all its consequences. Prepare for the worst. Does that mean that people might die? Or our roof might blow off, or that the lives of many will be destroyed? Or that we will just be uncomfortable and trapped in our rooms like sardines in a can for a while?
Later I find a note on the door of my hotel room:
“Typhoon is coming. No Electricity. Water will be on between 10-12 A.M and 8.00-10.00 P.M. Make sure to charge all your devices. Regards, your reception”.
Outside it is awfully quiet. Calm before the storm.
When I wake up strong wind is blowing in. I can hear the trees and roofs fighting the storm outside. I go downstairs. Heavy rain. A lost umbrella flies through the air. Trees bend over. Nuts are falling down. Is this only the beginning? Another strong gust of wind throws all items off our table. I run back to my room while I listen to the sounds of the storm.
Four hours later. It has stopped raining and the wind has slowed down. The damage seems less than expected. The electricity is still off.
Three quiet days without electricity follow. Water is limited. No fans working. No internet connection. No cold drinks. No showers. No phone signal. No television. No news. No ferries. My phone battery is dead. Here and there the sound of a generator. Thirty phones in line to plug in. No contact with the outside world. No music. The smell of rotting meats. My cockroach is still alive. He seems to do well in the darkness and heat of my room without power.
During one of the quiet days I visit a local event.
A small cockfight, well hid and set in someone’s muddy garden. We enter an organized chaos of mostly men, roosters and chicken. People are shouting , roosters are defending their lives as well as their territory. Feathers are flying through the air. A small ring, also known as “the cockpit” is set in the middle of the garden. Men are walking around with dead and alive chickens under their arms. Roosters are compared and the owners decide carefully which roosters will be competing to make the game as exciting and long- lasting as it can be. Villagers place their bets by yelling and making all kinds of hand gestures. A new world opens up to me.
A fight is starting. The shouting gets louder. Two big roosters are introduced to the public. They stare at each other. Cock –a –doodle-doo.
One testosteronized rooster starts to approach the other. Possibly one of his last actions. I look at the people around me, placing their bets, all excited. Feathers fly around.
The slaughtering takes thirty seconds. Blood. The owner of the winning rooster takes the dead rooster and some money.
A break. I take a sip of warm beer and look around. The people are all very friendly to me. A woman sells beer, eggs, and fried chicken. Of course. No cockfight without chickens in all varieties. A chicken family walks past me, a mother with eight fuzzy chicks.
Two days later I leave Panglao. Because I can, the ferry is running again. The electricity is still off.