It was another very exciting week here in Kalibo, both for
work and for after work. The most significant event did happen on
Thursday - since then I am the proud owner of a motorcycle here in the
Philippines! But lets start the week properly.
Monday was my first language lesson in Aklanon language. My other
Australian volunteer friends already took lessons and it was time to
start as well. As my language coach I picked Erleen, the trainer for
Peacecorp volunteers and of my predecessor in the PDRRMO. And what I
can say so far, it wa a good pick. Language training with Erleen is
quite fun. And even more fun it is to practice these new skills with
people at work. Particularly the 'Naila ako kimo ('I like you') phrase
is pretty popular.
On Wednesday we got a visit from the regional manager and the country
manager of our Australian volunteer program. It was a more or less
scheduled visit to take place one month after my arrival at the
assignment location. And I was looking forward to it. As you can tell I
have settled in alright, both at work and in our new home. In fact I
keep having an awesome time here and people having a good time with me
too. So all good news. To my surprise I also got issued a brand new
satellite phone as a sure way to establish contact if any of the many
potential disasters strikes. It's a pretty cool thing to have. It comes
with all contingency measures: power plug adapter for pretty much all
countries. Plus a car charging adaptor. Plus one to connect to a car
battery. Plus a solar panel. Plus a spare battery. Really no reason not
to call in after an emergency. I kept playing around with it fully
fascinated. Just not using it for calls, with the exorbitant rates it
sure wouldn't be appreciated. So after all the visit of our two
managers was a happy occasion with all happy news.
To be honest though I was eagerly waiting for their visit. For a
private reason. I so wanted to have a motorbike during my time in the
Philippines. If you have read my previous blogs you know how much
motorbikes mean to me. A motorbike is a means of freedom. First and
foremost. It is the vehicle of freedom to make your dreams come true,
dreams of exploring, dreams of accessing the cooles spots, dreams of
getting into the wild, dreams of connecting with people, dreams of just
getting out there when you need to. The best year
of my life I spent on the back of a motorcycle riding through Africa.
In Australia the motorcycle kept me dreaming, kept me living, just for
providing the opportunity to go explore, go relax. In fact riding a
motorbike is my favourite way to relax my mind. It's like a drug - once
you're on it you will never be the same again. And here on my
assignment, the all important country security plan stated that any use
of a motorcycle is prohibited unless the country manager approves of
it. Suddenly my dreams were in the hands of another person, someone who
seemed less than keen on approving me riding. So I did everything to
meet other conditions. Patiently waited for one month as required.
Procured a local Philippino licence as required. Went to a motorbike
shop and saw the ideal bike for me. A 150ccm dirt bike of the local
brand Ruso. So beautiful and affordable. The shop had three of them, a
black one, a white one and an orange one. I had the money and was ready
to buy just there and then. Full of excitement I notified the country
manager of my intention. And she said no. No, wait till I come and
visit you. So disappointedly I waited, another weekend went by without
the freedom of a motorbike. And on Wednesday she came. And gave me her
approval. Yes!!! Finally!!!
So Thursday morning, with my workmates just as excited as myself, four
of us set out to return to the Rusi shop to buy the lovely orange bike
we saw the week before. And in a moment I will remember for a long time
they told us that all three bikes have been sold to other shops. None
left. None. Waiting these few extra days was all that's needed to
reduce the number of available awesome motorbikes from 3 to 0. In an
effort to do business the shop owner phones the three shops who got the
three bikes from Kalibo. Two of them were alredy sold. The third one
was still there. But in a location from where it would take a week to
the bike back to Kalibo. Another weekend without a motorbike loomed at
the horizon. They had other dirt bikes in the shop. But they were the
latest model of the year and therefore unaffordable. Apart from being
beyond the budget I was willing to spend to have a motorbike for 9
months, it as also not a good thing to do. In terms of how I am
perceived here. How can a volunteer just afford the latest model of a
brand new enduro?
No, the new model was absolutely out of question. As beautiful as it
was. Looking at it and dreaming of it, riding a motorbike on the
weekend seemed to remain a far distant dream. Looking a bit closer
though there was an orange bike sticking out. Hey, was that the last
years model? "Of course" the shopkeeper said, "That's only 43000Peso".
Within a split second it was all there again. The excitement. The
adrenalin. The sense of adventure. There it was, my mororcycle.
Beautiful and orange. An Enduro ready to go. Why the shopkeeper kept
from mentioning this bike to us is way beyond me. It was exactly what I
wanted. Just there. And he knew. And ignored it. Weird. However, a
happy end to the story and a very happy Marco rode his own dream bike
back to the office this same afternoon.
This little Rusi has not had a break since. Only when I got it did I
realise how much a motorbike was missing from my life. It's been in use
every day since. Including this Saturday when 5 excited people set out
from Kalibo to 'break in' the new bike and go to Boracay, the beautiful
island paradise just 70km from Kalibo.
It is hard to explain why I love motorbikes so much. To be honest, I
don't need one here. Tricycles are a formidable way of getting around
town. And there are plenty of public transport options to get out of
town too. But it's not the same.
Reflecting back to my In Country Orientation 3 weeks earlier in Manila
one returned volunteer gave us the advise to make time to reflect.
Every day. Being here, here in this new country, making these new
experiences, being together with all these new people is quite
overwhelming. Also exciting and interesting. But having half an hour
every day to step out of this exciting new world and sit down by
yourself and think, reflect on what's happening and what it means, all
that helps you to stay yourself. To not lose yourself in this new
world. It helps building a rock to give you a refuge, something to
hold on to. A baseline. And I totally agree with that.
I have lived in many different places. Back in Germany but much more so
in Australia. What all my home towns have in common is a 'magic' spot.
outdoors, quite, open, lonely, with a spectacular view. A refuge where
I would go and find peace whenever I need some, where I could escape to
and sit by myself and think. For me it is incredibly important to have
such a place. And the best decisions in my life have been made in right
that place. About Kalibo, the motorbike now provided the opportunity to
find a place to relax and to access it at will. And the first morning I
was just there. Excitement did not let me sleep a lot. So I left home
early and explored. Went to the river. Was all by myself. Just at the
mighty Aklan River as it peacufully completes it's journey from the
green mountains of Panay Island's tropical hinterland and now leisurely
flowing through the flat basin in which Kalibo was built. With the
green mountains in the background this was the perfect spot. 5 km from
home. And there and then, sitting on my motorbike and watching the
river flow by, all of the last four weeks came crashing down on me. All
the happy moments, the excitement. The people I met and who play such
an important role in my life here. The realisation of where I was and
how much I loved everything here. It makes a difference to reflect on
everything around you and to have the time to realise how much you
actually love it. And how happy it makes you. This moment and this spot
alone were worth the investment, worth the struggle with procedures,
absolutely worth getting a motorbike. And that was the reason behind my
desire to have one. Access to these places. And access to adventure.
How does adventure fit in with a little 125ccm motorbike? The people I
spend my time with here, the SEALS volunteers and Jayfree are
explore, they know places and people. But only have Jayfree's little
motorbike. And unaffordable public transport. Unaffordable for
volunteers who do not earn a single cent. Being able to provide my own
motorcycle incredibly opens a new world. There is room for two on mine
and room for three on Jayfree's so there is the potential for 5 people
cheaply going to places! And that makes all the difference. And today
and yesterday, my first weekend having the bike, we made full use of
But enough about motorbikes, summing up the week, it was a great week
again. Culminating on Saturday when 5 of us on two bikes went all the
way to Boracay to enjoy some time and relax in a tropical island
paradise. I was happy to cover the costs for all five of us, the fuel
for the two bikes, the ferry fares and snacks. Because the guys loved
it as much as I do to get out and do something. And they wouldn't have
the funds to join. And we're talking about $15 all up. Which still,
over here constitutes a considerable amount of money.
What I learned in Africa - exchanging money for happiness is always a
good investment. Money can buy many things but it can also facilitate
happiness. Going to Boracay made 5 of us happy. Even though coming out
of my meager volunteer allowance.
Next week will be rather busy at work. There are a couple of important
meetings planned. Some reports to be completed. And trainings to be
prepared. But I know, before and after work I will be sitting on my
bike with a big smile behind the facade of my new helmet. During these
few precious minutes nothing else matters.
volunteers love freshly picked Pomelos
during a village fiesta
is fastly becoming a famous hang-out-spot on weekends
Islands turquoise waters are just unresistible.
is another one of the good food the land provides
As time goes by I get more and more routine for my life
here in Kalibo, feeling settled somewhat. In a way it is a normal
working life. Be it in the Philippines or back home in Australia. You
still get up in the morning, go to work, come home for dinner. And do
it all again the next day. As an extra bit of routine my life includes
the weekly language training every Monday.
Last week was very productive in terms of work. The main element of my
job here is the design of a Flood Early Warning System. And last week
we did get surprised that there is already an established GIS system in
the province that we can use to create hazard maps. Another surprise we
got when we observed our friends from the Department of Science and
Technology installing and calibrating the automatic sensors to measure
the water level in the river. These senors are surprisingly
sophisticated, broadcasting theyr measurements straight to the internet
via GSM networks. There are a few things I have in mind to improve the
system of calibration, particularly the random definition of the
sensor's zero point. But still - what an awesome system to have access
to in the Philippines! There will
be a meeting with the guys from the Department od Science and
Technology to discuss the approach and I shall prepare a good and
hopefully convincing presentation to make our case.
Anyway, as work trickles along at a relaxing pace, life after work is
busy. It is a very different daily routine here. My days start much
earlier than in Australia. And also finish much earlier. I usually get
up at 6am. To go to the bakery and buy something freshly baked for
breakfast. Every morning they have different things to the morning
before. Sometimes banana bread. Sometimes peanut muffin. Or cheese
cupcake. So it does add variety to my breakfast. Sometimes I leave home
early too to go on a little joyride with me new motorcycle. I love
doing that in the early morning. When the air is still fresh and cool.
And traffic is easy. A loop past Kalibo Airport, along the small roads
of some Barangays (villages). Where people are already up and busy with
their lifes, shops are open and little items for breakfast are ready to
be sold. Such as noodle sandwiches. Or sweet rice wrapped in banana
leafes. Things are either rice or baked. There is not much traffic that
early in the morning so my presence is unusual. And people follow me
with their eyes. I am kind of camouflaged wearing long pants and a full
face motorcycle helmet. But I'm sure people can still spot me as a
foreigner. And will wonder what my business in their little Barangay
Just outside my window is a strange celebration. A wakening of a dead.
He died over ten days ago. And now his friends, his family, they stay
awake all night, every night to - well I dont know, to remember him? It
seems to be a happy get together though. There is lots of food, there
is lots of alcohol. In fact so much that people keep throwing up.
There is gambling. There is also
music and singing. Through the night. It's been going for 10 days now
and still no end in sight. It does cost us some sleep, particularly for
my housemate Jen.
Saturday morning I took my opportunity for the first time to go on a
small overland motorbike ride. Just by myself. It feels good to ride my
bike without passenger, the little Rusi a real light weight then and
heaps fun to handle. The road to Libacao is mostly gravel. And I went
there, up in the mountains of Panay Island, into the rain forest. It
was raining. But rain doesn't matter. Because it is such a hot climate.
Rain actually pleasantly acts as an air con. The road turned muddy a
few times but my little lightweight bike just flew through it without
any hint of trouble.
Besides the fun ride, the bike is in use every day and quite often also
for purposes of work for the Seals volunteers. When we go to training
courses. Or for leisure. It's usually a group of a few motorbikes and
way too many people on them. I successfully limited my bike to a
one passenger. Other bikes you see in the Philippines with 4 to 5
people sitting on them. Somehow 5 people do fit onto a little 125ccm
bike, it's amazing.
So my Seals friends and me spent most of last weekend together.
Saturday, after my joy ride to Libacao, they all came over to our
apartment to hang out. We trained Aklanon language for a while. We went
to the market to buy food for dinner. A big whole tuna and a lot of
small fish. And rice. We cooked it all and it was delicious. We also
watched movies afterwards. Till after midnight. And again in the
morning. And during most of the Sunday. We did have a projector from
work, attached to my laptop we could watch the movie beamed onto our
big naked living room wall. A short cable connected the laptop with the
AUX-IN socket of our cheap chinese radio and, way more powerful than
you would expect from that radio, the sound of Hollywood boomed through
our small apartment complex. Finishing the left over from Saturdays
dinner and having some coffee in between, it was a relaxed weekend. Jen
spent it on Boracay to complete her diving course. Later that evening
we all joined Lesther's mother for her 59th birthday party. And had
more delicious and calory rich food.
It is this sort of thing which I really like on my Philippine life.
Things are low key. 8 young people spending all weekend together.
Completely unplanned. And without drinking even one drop of alcohol.
And still having a good time. Things just happen here, they are rarely
planned. And that makes it so good.
favourite beach hang-out near Numancia
getting approval to ride a motorbike - my new way of transport here in
Aklan - a locally made Rusi 125ccm enduro bike. This picture was taken
the first morning after buying the bike, excitement did make me wake
early for a sunrise trip to the Aklan River.
of a rain sensor in the rural town of Altavas as part of our Local
Flood Warning System
It's been a busy week and a busy weekend. It's incredible
that another week has gone so quickly. But when time is flying it
usually means one is having a good time. And so have I most certainly.
There are ups and downs in my life in Kalibo. Last week I had a bit of
a down time while attending a most uninspiring workshop about
improvement of local disaster planning. There was not really anything I
had to contribute and a big part of the workshop was really some
activities of the participants where the facilitators could just simply
wait for them to be finished. The workshop lasted for two days! And
held in local language which I just started to train. On the
plus side though, even in the most uninspiring circumstances you meet
very inspiring people. In this case many municipal disaster managers
and chiefs of local villages. And one fellow english speaking guy. He
was born in the Philippines but his parents moved to the US when he was
only one year old. He grew up over there, becoming a succesful business
man. Having his first business already at the age of 16! End even
though everything seemed to work out just fine he decided to return to
the Philippines 8 years ago. Giving up his business, his success, his
source of good income, even his family, mum and dad. Just to come back
to Aklan and live the simple Philippino life.
In a way I do understand him. Money and business is not everything in
life, I think we can all agree on that. When you're living in a place
like the Philippines you can still live like a king even with
comparably small amounts of money. Most people live of around $3 a day.
I do live like a king for $15 a day. That includes lots and lots of
food, fresh big fish from the market, lots of fresh sweet bakery
products and lots of fresh fruit such as melons or pineapples. Even
my breakfast consists of incredibly expensive things like oats and milk
and milo, I'm still staying in the $15 a day bracket. It also includes
living in a luxurious big house and an internet flat rate. If I wanted
to have all that in Australia I would need to work really really hard.
And would feel kind of bad for lavishly spending so much money. Here I
can pretty much live of not much. As my new ex-Californian friend does.
What he earned
back in his years in the states will provide a luxurious life in the
Philippines till the end of his days. Why would he choose to continue
working so hard for decades to come???
Another big topic of last week was the conducting of a flood emergency
drill in the Barangay Laguinbanwa. Which actually happened today. But
to make it happen we had to have one workshop to prepare and plan, one
trial-drill which happened on Saturday and then of course the actual
drill today. Spending three days in a small Barangay is in a way
interesting. Because the lifestyle there is totally different to the
life in Kalibo. Laguinbanwa is beautifully located. Just around
west of Kalibo. On the Ibajay River. It is as rural as it gets. Lots of
small bamboo houses, lots of green. Only one road leading through the
Barangay. All else just narrow footpaths in between the houses. There
are no distinctive property boundaries, just land and houses and people
walking in between the houses as they need. Along the river it is even
greener. There is a massive Balete tree on one spot where a small creek
joins the river. The tree is so big that people fear if it falls, it
will dam and relocate the river and flood the whole Barangay. Balete
trees are special. Stories
circulate they are haunted. No one will ever fell one. People don't
even go near. Although this tree was indeed beautiful, majestically
towering over the river, many hundreds of years old. A trunk diameter
of some 4m. Maybe it is due to
the tree and it's evil spirits. Maybe it's just bad luck. But
Laguinbanwa has had far more than it's fair share in disasters. In
average the river will flood the Barangay completely three times a
year. Asking the residents how high the flood waters would be in their
houses they made me raise my hand to represent the waterline. Higher
and higher it went. When I reached my chest height they finally said
'stop'. That's it. Three times a year the flood rises that high that
only my head would stick out of the flood water. The Barangay is all
level, all flat. No area is spared. Not even their Barangay Hall. Being
the official evacuation ground, no, even the Barangay Hall will be
water. The unwavering hope is not just written in the smiling faces of
everyone, it is also reflected in the choice of items people bring
along in their evacuation. In between all the rice and canned goods
there was this one statue, big and heavy, standing almost a meter tall.
It's a statue of 'Senior Sto Nino', the infant Jesus Christ. Someone
brought little Jesus along amongst the most basic needs. A message of
hope? It is stories like these, and you hear many of them, watch many
of them, told by
earnest but still smiling people with their kids running around us and
a chicken on their arm, it's these stories that again and again take me
back to the importance of my assignment. It's just a tiny detail in the
big picture to make their village safer. There is not much I can do
really but whatever it is, they deserve all support they can get.
But things are not that easy. The way things work here in the
Philippines is very different from how things are done in Australia.
Here, patience is a much more important commodity for success. And some
processes require a lot of it. Just in order to do a simple training
course a full budget application to the Provincial Government is
required. Budget just simply to cover the costs of lunch and snacks for
the participants. These budgets go a long way around, have to get
signed off and approved by a lot of people. So the application needs to
be lodged more than a month in advance and we need to jump through lots
of hoops to get it approved. And even when the budget is approved by
everyone who has a say in it, it still does not mean the money is
released. Quite often that last step of transferring the already
approved money to us is linked to extra conditions. Conditions that
involve supporting a friend of an important person for example. Or some
weeks through the process, after some succesful signatures have already
been collected, one person decides not to sign off. Just for a
formality that has not been to 100% followed. Or often that formality
has just changed last week. It stops the process and restars it from
scratch. And everyone is patiently going with the flow and the system.
It's just the normal thing to do.
Today was a pretty good day. We did start early in the morning with the
Flood Drill in Laguinbanwa. Returning to Kalibo just after lunch there
was not much work for the remainder of the day. So Jayfree and me, we
took the opportunity to go to the bank and withdraw money that was
donated to the SEALS from Australia. My predesessor Aussie volunteer
Lauren did some awesome fundraising efforts back home to support our
rescuers to renew their gear that has been used up or damaged during
the 'Super Typhoon Yolanda' in November. We received 60000 Pesos, the
equivalent of over AU$1500. This money will do a lot of good
things here but to buy things we needed to get it off my local bank
account. I was expecting to go to the bank, fill in a form at the
counter, show my bank card and receive the money. The actual process
was more difficult though. And as I understand it is the normal
procedure from withdrawing money from your own account.
First, when we got to the bank, the door was blocked by a timber bar
and the security guard had to remove it for us to get in. We were then
to the small machine that prints numbered tickets. In order to get your
number you need to type in your bank account number into the machine
and also the amount of money you intend to withdraw. It is printed
together with your queue number on the ticket. Also you need to sign
the ticket and print your name on it. Done that, I was sitting down
waiting for my number to be called. But no. Next step is to take this
and queue for the branch manager. She will check the ticket, her
computer showing your photo and signature. My signature on the computer
looked different to the one on the ticket. Of course because I did not
think much of the queue ticket so my signature was very hasty. So I had
to sign again. The bank manager now happy signed the ticked as well.
And only then can this ticket be used to wait in the waiting area for
your queue number to appear on the screen. When it did I went to the
counter showing my ticket. And received the money straight away. At no
stage was I asked to show andy ID or even my bank card. Anyway, handing
over 60000 Pesos to Jayfree made him a very happy man. The money will
go to replace the First Aid kits that were used up during the Typhoon
Yolanda Response and also to repair and replace the radio equipment
that was damaged last November.
I left work an hour early because we also started 1.5 hours earlier
this morning to reach Laguinbanwa in time. It was the perfect
opportunity to add some km onto my motorbike. It is now two weeks old
and today finally reached the 500km mark. This mark is so significant
because it triggers the first service and oil change and the official
end of the break-in period. So tomorrow that first service on my little
Rusi bike will be performed in the local Rusi dealership. I have to
bring my own oil though because they don't sell any. They just change.
During the break-in period a maximum speed of 40km/h was recommended.
Which I did adhere to. From tomorrow on there is no more speed limit.
In order to break through that magic 500km line today, I went on a
little joy ride
straight after work. To New Washington. The road there goes beautifully
parallel to the ocean front. I love the ocean. And this is such a great
road to ride. Riding a motorcycle still relaxes me, more than anything.
The sound of the little 125ccm engine, amplified by it's phillipino
made exhaust to compete against
even Harley Davidsons, feeling the vibration of
the nobbly tyres on asphalt and feeling the cool salty sea breeze
through my open visor, riding that bike is one of my favourite
activities. Usually it's
impossible to ride alone. There are always people with you and always
people who ride on your backseat. Today I was by myself. And it makes a
big difference in the fun factor of a small 125ccm bike not to have an
extra 60kg or so with you.
This week will most likely be less busy than the last. We had many
courses on our schedule but all of them for this week got cancelled.
Some because someone in the lign of sign-off persons refused to sign
off on the budget for procedural reasons. Other just got cancelled for
unknown reasons. So yeah, we will see how this week will develop.
sure about the Australian connection - the 'Australian Eagle', a public
bus linking Kalibo and the rural town of Libacao, and my little Rusi
good day at the beach in Numancia - grilling fish
an Earthquake drill in a public school in near Banga
Rescue scenario training in Ibajay municipality
during a flood drill in Laguinbanwa
- a favourite snack of confectionary, ice and milk
It's been a hot and humid day today. Clearly it is getting summer here
in Kalibo with all the humidity and heat it comes with. Unavoidably.
It's now 10:30pm and I am sitting in my room, still sweaty and
sunburned from the day past. Opening the balcony door and the windows
lets a whisper of cool air breeze through the mosquito meshes. The
local radio playing some golden old songs as usual at this late time of
day. 'Another day for you and me in Paradise'... The town outside is
quite, sleeping. The usual noise of the 2-stroke tricycles has
disappeared into the night as have the many voices of the Kalibo people
and the barking of their dogs. Only crickets can be heard. The noisy
busy town turns very peaceful at night. And I like the late evenings,
mostly for the cooler air temperatures. Today we are lucky, there are
no mosquitos around. So I can sit outside till late, leave the door
This week has been a very
quite one at work. And so is the weekend. Jen is away at Apo Island so
I do have the whole house to myself this weekend. It is for the first
time and somehow it is not too bad having a whole house. It must be
also the first weekend for me here with no plans whatsoever. We did
plan to go hiking in Malay today but the hike was canceled by the
So what to do? Well, it
was a good oportunity to do some exploring. I left Aklan today for the
first time since getting here. I needed to go to the big city for some
shopping and at the same time was looking for an opportunity to go on a
longer ride with my new motorcycle. Okay, that was actually the main
reason. However, Kalibo is a Provincial Capital but is still relatively
small. There are two bigger cities on our island, Roxas, the capital of
Capiz Province and Iloilo, the capital of the entire region. Roxas is
only 85 km away from Kalibo so there I went. Riding a 125ccm motorbike
means that still, 85km take 2.5 hours to cover. The slow going through
villages and construction sites have an impact too. There is a lot of
road works, still in recovery from Typhoon Yolanda damage. In fact the
area between Kalibo and Roxas is the same area that Yolanda made
landfall on Panay Island. Consequently the damages are still much more
evident there than in Kalibo. Houses without roofs are many. Some
houses are peculiarly leaning. Whole swaths of forest still have no
leaves or only slowly growing news ones on the very few remaining
branches. The wind velocity of Yolanda was so strong, it literally blew
off all leaves and branches. Still today you see many ghost trees, just
trunks pointing towards the sky like an army of fingers pointing
towards the source of their misery.
What did I buy in Roxas? Well, a book. It sounds like a strange thing
to buy. But there are no book shops in Kalibo. Nor have I seen any
anywhere in Aklan Province. Roxas City by contrast has a big western
style shopping mall. Like the majority of all shopping malls in
the Philippines it is Chinese owned and airconditioned and rather
I do feel more and more
acostumed to my new environment by now. Although things are so
different from Sydney. Lately Jen and me cook a lot of fish. It is so
handy to live just 2min away from the market that sells a seemingly
unlimited supply of sea food. A whole tuna for dinner? Why not! And it
is so affordable. Often we do not feel like volunteers here, it's more
like a holiday. Yes, there is work. But there is also so much leisure.
And with our allowance we can afford quite a pleasant life.
Due to eating so much fish
now I'm pretty good in gutting and preparing fish too. It's incredible
though how quickly the presence of some fish guts in our rubbish change
the local fauna environment. We put it in a plastic bag and tie a knot
into it. It's airproof as the ballon like appearance proofs. The
plastic bag we pack into another plastic bag and close it with a knot
too. These bags are then put into the backyard. And within an hour a
whole army of tiny ants has found it, built a highway to it, has eaten
through both plastic bags and is enjoying the remainders of our fish.
It's an incredible ants highway, coming down many meters from the top
of the neighboring building, over the 4m tall wall, along a TV cable
and down our house wall straight to our rubbish bag. How do they know
that there is some delicious food here? Can they smell it? Do they have
a network of spies? If you move the plastic bag into another corner of
the small backyard within minutes the entire ants highway is relocated.
Unfortunately rubbish is not the only thing they find. Almost daily we
have another ants highway into our kitchen. Whatever food is not in a
plastic container or inside the fridge, they find it. And eat it. The
new pack of oats packed in a really strong plastic bag? It's
still no match. They know what's inside, build their highway there and
eat through the plastic. Just today I found another ants highway
carrying little pieces of oats through the kitchen and into the
backyard. And there are also roads into nowhere. Every morning there is
one traversing through my bedroom. Coming down from the roof of the
building, along the outside wall, through a tine crack in the window
frame and straight through my bedroom into a tiny hole between the
floor tiles. Every morning I take a broom and demolish the road, every
other morning it's there again. Following exactly the same route as the
However, I do have help in
the fight against the little ants. There is one huntsman spider in the
house. First time I saw it as a relatively small spider in my bathroom.
It lived there for a week or so, slowly growing in size. Giving me a
scare every know and then when I forgot it's there. And then it
disappeared. Just yesterday I found it in my bedroom wardrobe.
Considerably bigger. Hope it likes ants for breakfast. More soldiers on
my side of war are the many geckos. They are outside and inside,
lightning fast. They come in through the smallest little openings under
the doors or beneath the aircons. And just live with me. Pretty nice.
However, the best way to
tackle those little ants is obviously the removal of all rubbish. It is
a pretty cool system to do so. Every day between 5pm and 7:30pm there
is a big dump truck parked near Kalibo market taking on all the market
rubbish. Usually big rice sacks of things. We go there too most
evenings with our little plastic bags full of fish guts and other
things. There are two guys on top of the truck receiving their rice
sacks full of market rubbish. There are lots more people around the
truck too, wondering what the tall foreigner with the small plastic bag
is doing. Usually looking at me and asking if we have any more rubbish.
'Not today' I'm replying, throw my little bag onto the truck and repeat
the same procedure the next day.
The end of this week also
marks the end of my second month in the Philippines. Time is flying so
watching over a small village on the Kalibo - Roxas road. In the
background still visible is the small hill, cleared of tree by Typhoon
Yolanda. The few trees remaining still damaged and leaning.
network of power cables create a fascinating pattern on each power
the various transport options available the tricycle is certainly the
most versatile one. Carrying 10m long bamboo poles? No chance in a
truck. No problem on a tricie.
the best inventions ever. Three-in-one coffee. A pre-mix of instant
coffee, sugar and milk powder. Just add water. Very addictive!
and Christian belief is extremely common everywhere in the Philippines
creature comfort to be found everywhere is Jollibee - the local fast
food chain. It's not just the colour scheme that hints of competition
with the 'Golden Arches' rival, it's their burgers too. Fatty and