So before the year ends I'm going to wrap up this series of posts about my trip to the Philippines from December 2019 until January 2020.
Who would have thought things would be the way they are now. Looking back on these photos I'm still surprised because when I left NYC for the Philippines everything was still normal, and when I got back everything started to change and crumble around me. It's been heartbreaking so let's look back on the "before times" when we didn't have to wear a mask everywhere, or gloves, and our friends and loved ones were still with us.
If you haven't seen the previous posts you can check them out by clicking the links below. The Philippines is a really beautiful place, I really can't stress that enough.
Check out Part 1 HERE
Check out Part 2 HERE
Before I continue, in Part 2 I mentioned how I got a tattoo from th\e world famous Wang Od, the 104 year old tattooist from a headhunter tribe that is slowly fading away. I forgot to post the video of that event so click here to check it out!
So, in Palawan we visited the Butterfly Sanctuary and saw a lot of amazing creatures. There were of course the butterflies (click here to view the video) and the Bearcat (which I believe only exist in Palawan; click here for the video).
We had a lovely tour of the sanctuary and I just can't get over how beautiful everything there was. I especially loved all the Bearcats. They're SO cute. Just bit blubbery tree climbing babies.
Besides all of the animals and butterflies, there was a small exhibit filled with creepy crawlers that we were allowed to hold, like this millipede friend who I wanted to take home with me.
Well, we weren't allowed to touch the Malay Giant Scorpions, but it was tempting. I think this was the first time I ever saw live scorpions so clearly. They move quicker than I expected; they practically skitter across their cell.
We also watched a performance by a local tribe who had a working relationship with the sanctuary. They shared their music, games, and even sold handmade items to tourists. It was really cool but I have no pictures from that because I was so focused on enjoying the event live I just forgot to take any pictures or videos.
Directly after the Butterfly Sanctuary we went to Baker's Hill, which is famous for their bakery but also for their park filled with off-model cartoon character statues. This place may have been my favorite from this portion of my trip.
There's not too much to say about Baker's Hill. The sweets we purchased were very tasty, but I couldn't tell you what they were. I think they were like mango-filled sponge cakes. But the real joy of Baker's Hill is walking around and seeing all the statues and taking pictures of all the crazy stuff you see. If I lived in this area I'd be here like every day I think.
Volcano Eruption Volunteer Work
So a big thing that happened while I was in the Philippines was there was a volcano eruption the same day I returned from Palawan (I think, I remember I was returning from somewhere). We were hanging out in outside of a mall and suddenly ash started falling from the sky. At first I thought maybe there was a fire nearby but then we heard people mumbling about a volcano that was roughly 25 miles away from where we were. What's crazy is that we were in that exact area not long before the eruption driving on our way back.
(here is some of the volcanic ash we collected overnight from the balcony)
The amount of property damage, loss of animal life (horses, dogs, etc.), and displaced people was difficult to know at the time. And to be honest I refused to look too deeply into it because it was already so heartbreaking to hear about.
A day after the eruption, my life partner and I decided to lend a hand with relief efforts. We returned to the mall and spent about $500 on supplies. Friends from Twitter and Dobbs.Town contributed to this, as well as some of my old co-workers and friends. The folks at the pharmacy where we were shopping gave us every discount they could so we could buy more as their way to help out.
Later that day we took a trip to what I think was a church group who were making care packages full of supplies for people who lost their homes. We also brought with us a great deal of dog food, cat food, and other pet stuff for anyone who might be traveling with their pets.
I couldn't fit in the area where the care packages were being made, so I made myself useful by carrying all the heavy stuff out of the trucks that arrived with more supplies. Everyone was really trying their best to make every care package as full as possible so folks could have what they needed to get by.
This was also my first experience wearing a facemask! Funnily enough we had brought these cloth masks with us because the air in some locations of the Philippines is kinda smoggy, but as it turns out it came in handy during the volcano eruption. There were people who were having trouble breathing because of all the ash and soot falling from the sky.
I think the saddest part of that time was the night after we did some volunteer work I went out to get some food for breakfast and I found a poor kitten that had died because of the ash. It's little body was just covered with in and it made me wonder what other poor animals died because of this eruption because they were left behind by their owners. It's awful to think about.
I think it was the following day were we met up with some of the people we met from the church group for a larger relief effort. They took all clothing donations into a massive truck and we had planned on delivering it directly to the affected areas.
We all met up very early in the morning, and some breakfast, and went to find our groups. It was all fun until we started to get the breakdown of what we were getting into. My partner told me if I wanted to I could wait for her back at the place we were staying, because of my physical limitations, but I told her there was no way I was going to let her go alone.
For a bit, we all thought this was going to be our swan song. We were heading to the center of this thing and we were going to help as many people and animals as we could. We were all determined and there was a huge part of us that thought that this would be the end of us. Even with the precautions we were taking, we really didn't know what was going to happen.
We were filled with adrenaline, anxiety, but most of all determination. We were on the road and we were going to punch this volcano in the face.
But, fate had other plans for us; the local police refused to let us travel into that area and instead directed us to where we could really be useful. There were local schools that had people left homeless by the volcano staying as temporary residents while everything was being sorted out.
It was both a huge relief and a disappointment, but still, we made ourselves useful and distributed the goods we brought to three different locations.
And me being the big goon that I am, I carried the big boxes around while everyone else (who could speak Tagalog) asked people in the area if they needed anything. We gave away a lot of masks, clothes, bottled water, meds, etc. and it was all very much appreciated.
The volcano erupted the day we were supposed to head back to NYC, and so our flight was delayed about a week. I'm really grateful to all of my friends who helped me out by sending me a few simoleons so I could last a few more days. And that was already on top of sending money to help out with donations! Everyone was so wonderful, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Layover in South Korea
One of the major changes to my flight home was the 15 hour layover in S. Korea. It was either we just hang around the airport for that time or we go out and find something to do. So, using the money sent to me from my pals, I found a nice and inexpensive hostel to stay at that was only 20 minutes from the airport.
What I loved most about South Korea is that they were in the middle of winter! The Philippines is always hot and humid, even at night, so it was nice to have a temperature contrast after a month of boiling heat.
The trains by the airport were spotless. And there were mascot characters everywhere, one of my favorite aspects of Asian culture. Thankfully the train systems weren't too overly complicated and we were able to find our way to our hostel pretty quickly. I was pretty tired at this point.
I don't remember the name of this place, but it was adorable. We arrived around 10am and the manager was nice enough to give us a quick tour before he went to bed. We were only there to freshen up and sleep before our flight.
The area was in the middle of nowhere, so our food options were limited. There was a Dominos pizza place but my partner would have killed me if we went there!
So, after a bit of searching, we found a pub that only served grilled eel.
The Grilled Eel Restaurant
There's not too much to say about this place. It's definitely the best grilled eel I ever had, but the portions were also kind of small for a guy my size. We had some Korean booze too, but it was somewhat strong.
Stuff from the convenience store
It was around this time where it really felt like our adventure was really winding down. After dinner we stopped by a convenience store just to pick up some simple snacks for breakfast. It was fun seeing American products made for the Korean market. We really should have resealable Spam cans here too! I mean seriously!
I think the only really eventful thing that happened here was a drunk man entered the store, saw me, said some stuff in Korean and gave me a handful of unwrapped candy which I ate in front of him because I was terrified, haha.
These fried Popeye branded snacks were my favorite. Sweet and salty bits of fried noodle chips and little sugary stars. I feel like I see these sometimes in Asian markets here in NYC.
Not much to say about our flight back. It was fine actually. The only interesting thing was this in flight video game called Bump Out that was kinda fun, even if it was a bit clunky and slow. It was like if Clayfighter was Mario Kart, and directed by Tim Burton. Just a weird dark game that was gross looking but addictive when you have nowhere to go for 12 hours.
The moment I got home I felt an instant sense of relief. And it started snowing. I was tired but so, so happy to be home and I was looking forward to the new year.
Remember, this was me back in January of 2020. I had heard of the Corona Virus while I was in the Philippines, but at that moment it was still something that was only going on in China, and as I left the Philippines there was only one instance of it even leaving mainland China.
Just so much has happened since then. So much death and tragedy, also a great deal of lonliness and disappointment. Everyone was saying how this was going to be "their year"; myself included. I wanted to go out and try new things, and I guess that did happen, but not in anyway that I can say was good.
I mentioned it almost in passing here and even here somewhat that I probably almost destroyed the world via a prayer I had on New Year's Eve of 2019 to Eris of Discordia. It's something Discordians aren't really supposed to do, we're even warned against it, but I said hey it'll probably be fine.
And maybe, just maybe Eris went a bit too far in answering my prayers.
I even shared the above image on Twitter, with the best of intentions. I felt a bit of turbulence would be good and even healthy to a lot of us who were stuck in a rut like I was for so many years. Any change would be good change. So, I prayed to Eris for 2020 to be "an interesting year for all of us".
I just wanted a big change in my life and the lives of those around me. I left my old job without any real plan but I figured I would just go with the flow and see where it all takes me. In that respect, this year was kind of a success. But so much happened, and I can't believe how bad it actually got. It really felt like the End Times.
But now that I look back on all of it, I have to ask was it all worth it. I think so. Loss is just another part of life, and all sensible people did their best to take care of one another but there will always be selfish factions who refuse to play nice because it's all too inconvenient for them to have any sort of common decency towards others. There will will always be a Conspiracy, and Hodge and Podge will always clash.
2021 finally approaches and I wonder what new challenges will come with it. I can't say I'm prepared, but honest I've never been prepared for anything so it hardly matters. And for a bit I was debating whether or not I would try to counteract my prayer from last year, but I think I'm going to double-down on it.
Let's just see what happens next.