Tales from the Philippines: Siquijor

My new local friends in Bohol get nervous when I tell them my next destination: Siquijor.

The island has got a reputation for paranormal phenomena such as voodoo, black magic, witchcraft, shamanism and the existence of special creatures and spirits living among the local people on the island. I should avoid looking people in the eyes, as they can hypnotize me quickly. People can put spells on me. If a white, beautiful woman with golden hair suddenly appears to me I should run.

It is also a beautiful island. I want to go there.

map siquijor, drawn by Greg Rodgers

When I board my ferry the next day, I am filled with excitement over my new, mysterious destination. Until my ferry stops at Negros and does not run any further. A new storm will be coming.

A warning from above?

It does not prevent me from going. Three days later I am, again, on my way to Siquijor.

Later that day I arrive at a lost resort on an isolated beach, that, according to my old Lonely Planet, ever was a lively place for backpackers to stay. Not so much anymore.

Greg and me are the only guests.

The evening falls, and we have some drinks on the terrace. The staff goes home around nine o clock, when the bar closes. We have the place to ourselves now.

Sequijor beach

In the distance a dog barks every now and then. The sound of the waves breaking on the beach. We listen to our own voices. There are no traces of any other people nearby. A small candle lights our table. It is the only light around us and makes our shadows look huge and surreal, like we are different creatures.

Maybe it is all the stories I heard, maybe it is the silence around me, or our shadows, but something starts to spook me out. Just a feeling. I scan my surroundings carefully for any abnormal actions taking place around me. Nothing unusual. I tell myself to relax and distract myself with drinks and easy conversation.

spider, by Greg Rodgers

Greg leaves to get a sweater.

Now there is just the waves and the silence around me. No distractions. I feel restless and think of the function of silence in movies, where always something really scary happens after all the background sounds have disappeared. I try to ignore myself and relax.

“Whooaaashhhhh”

A sudden sound. A light flash. On my left. My heart is racing. I look right in the green eyes of a cat I have never seen before. Maybe he caught something. I nervously tell myself it was nothing, and I tell the spirits, if they exist, to leave me alone. My new mantra. I am freaked out. Completely.

Greg comes back. I pretend to be all cool and tell him in my most unconcerned voice that there was something up with a cat. Inside I feel still terrified. I try to distract myself with a sip of rum, and suck on a piece of dried corn.

amulet, Greg Rodgers

Two hours later. I am in bed, and still recovering from the earlier event. Suddenly, just after I have switched of the light I hear footsteps. They are approaching , getting closer and closer to my bungalow. I am listening, eyes wide open, shaky hands. A man’s voice: “Hello? , hello?” He sounds like a normal person. He talks to someone else in a language that I don’t understand. I wonder how they have found this place, that is even at daytime difficult to reach, and why they got here this late.

Then I remember again that the guesthouse was listed in the Lonely Planet. They must have taken a late ferry or something. Greg responds: “Hello”. We hear their footsteps now in the distance. I open the door, look outside my room if I see anyone. No one is there.

They probably decided to turn around when they did not see anyone.

The silence is restored. As I try to sleep, all I can think of is how badly I want the night to turn into day again. Surely, the fear was just within me, nothing real has happened.

It was all just a feeling. And some scary legends.

Daytime beach, Laura Mayer

Tales from the Philippines: Bohol

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.

Alona Beach

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?

Continue reading

Notes from a Mountain

Flims, Switzerland.

A woman with her well-groomed dog that is dressed in a fancy coat, is walking past. Her hair sticks up in the air.

I am sitting in the sun on the terrace of my guesthouse trying to sort out Amsterdam, Kentucky, Southeast Asia, and finally Switzerland. A journey through my notebook, while the snowman in the garden is melting. As his shape changes his posture becomes more human like.

sneeuwman

Amsterdam to Florida to Kentucky to Thailand to Laos to Thailand to the Netherlands to Thailand to the Philippines to the Netherlands to Switzerland. A mouthful.

I look at one of the many half blank pages. The page is filled with just one sentence, taken from “The Darjeeling Express” soundtrack:

“Where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed?”

I am back on Long Beach in Koh Lanta. Continue reading

Flavors of Khao San Road, Bangkok

New spices fill the air. Hints of sweetness, humidity, garbage, food, and perfumes. People are talking in different languages. The sounds and flavors of the unknown.I am surrounded by  street-vendors, 7-Elevens, brightly colored signboards, street- performances and loud music blasting out of many speakers.

The sky is thick with dark clouds. People start covering their goods.Tension builds up in the air. Something is bound to happen soon. Continue reading

Jars and Craters

Phonsavan, Laos, 2013

I had never seen a bombshell. Or just maybe, never paid much attention. Until Phonsavan.

I came to see the Plain of Jars, a gigantic collection of big jars made of stone, that have been there for thousands and thousands of years. Their origin and function are unknown, a mystery.

Jars

I expected the Jars to be Phonsavan’s main attraction. I was proved wrong. Continue reading

Mushroom Tubing

Vang Vieng, Laos. 2007.

A small town in the middle of nowhere. I am surrounded by limestone rocks, wild caves and a river. And lots of young travelers. Most of them are here to party and to experience tubing: floating down the river in a big truck inner tube, while sipping on alcoholic drinks. The dream of any adventurous teenager.

vangvieng 3

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A Mekong Flashback

Early morning. Huay Xai, the Laos border. I feel weak, like an overcooked noodle, and try to bring back parts of yesterday evening. My first shots of Thai whiskey. Excitement over going to Laos, seeing the Mekong River and all the adventures to come. Straight shots. The more, the better they taste. Or maybe, the less you taste them.

The border. I try to organize myself and find my passport somewhere way down in my bag. Continue reading