Traveling in the Philippines in 2000
I felt like royalty traveling through the Philippines. Every thing we did seemed to be blessed. Not easy, maybe, but blessed. My friend C and I met in Manila. She was working for the Peace Corps, I was single and ready to travel. Nearly 13 years ago, I flew to Manila and met C for two weeks of adventure, exploring the mountains and cities of Luzon. We traveled by bus, jeepney and other public transportation. We mostly slept in hostels or pensions where there were often more cockroaches than guests. It was magnificent.
Once I arrived in Manila we took a 12-hour bus ride out of Manila to explore more rural areas. We spent our first night in a pension that was fine…except for the cockroaches. Where I grew up there were no cockroaches. While I can handle lots of creepy crawly things giant cockroaches and their antennae were not one of those things. There was no avoiding them traveling on just a few dollars a day. I grew to tolerate them.
Exploring the main island of Luzon with only backpacks on our backs was an experience I’ll never forget, but the details are starting to fade after more than a decade. Yesterday I dug out my travel diaries to jog my memories. What follows is a journal entry about one of our first pension stays written shortly after our trip.
Morning in a Filipino Pension
Early morning heavy with heat, sunlight and humidity, standing over the shower drain in the moist, hot bathroom, watching cockroach antennae wiggle through the floor drain. Making every effort to make an entrance. Me with all the power of a giant standing, ready to kill. Poised to kill with my bucket of water raised above my head. To release the flood, to at least discourage the thing while I showered.
A rooster crowed again and again as I doused myself with cold water from a bucket, shivering, eyes closed, trying to ignore the image of the little lizards that attached themselves to the pension’s walls, the too big bugs that attached themselves to the outside of the nearly transparent curtains, silhouetted in the sunlight. Trying not to think about the hundreds of ants that had made themselves at home in and among my q-tips. But mostly squinting my eyes shut against the rather alarmingly big antennae lurking in the drain.
I survived that shower (by bucket with cold water from a spigot in the shower wall) and several more like it. While it was hard to get used to ignoring the unfamiliar creepy crawlies, it became clear that I wasn’t going to let them ruin my amazing trip through a beautiful country filled with the friendliest people I’d ever met. Paging through my journal, I’m amazed at how lucky we were to travel unencumbered and carefree. Today I try to recapture that feeling, that sense of adventure, when we travel (near and far) with our son and all the limitations, extra planning and accessories that comes with him. We may not travel like royalty these days, but we still travel with that sense of wonder.