So before the pandemic happened, I had originally wanted to update this blog with a series of posts with pictures from my trip to the Philippines. Since the End Times drew near, I decided to spend my time gathering supplies and buying action figures before the world really ended. Since that hasn't occurred yet, and won't occur until July 5th, I thought now would be a good chance to just catch up with my plan. I felt kind of burdened by this so I'm just glad to get it out of the way so I can return to posting nonsense and bulldada. Expect the third installment in a few days at least.
The Philippines was once again an exhilarating experience. For a tubby couch potato like me, this trip was a total adventure. I did all the things I hated to do and I conquered them. It's difficult for me to gauge how much I really traveled while I was there, but I can say with some certainty that I saw most of the Philippines. I recall taking like 5 or 6 short flights while there, sailing a bunch, going up mountains, driving for long hours, and climbing into caves. This was far more than was originally planned, and I was nervous half the time but it was all worth it.
Oh and a volcano erupted while I was there, so that was definitely something new for me. I was kind of near the volcano when it happened too but just missed the actual eruption by like an hour or two. There was a healthy coat of ash everywhere the following day and I had meant to gather some up as a souvenir but I forgot.
Before anything else, I just wanted to share some snack food mascots I saw. I thought they were pretty amusing. Some were just off-model versions of famous cartoon characters, while some were their own crazy creations.
Here's a Sweet Corn "Minon"
A Cracker Nuts "Dale" sporting a squirrel's tail
A Corn Bits cousin version of "Twinkie the Kid"
And I don't know what this guy is but he's my favorite. Some sort of Pseudo-anime character with giant hair on a futuristic motorcycle, wielding an icicle pop! In my mind, WindRider is the king of bonkers Filipino mascots! Just look at all those powerful muscles!!!
So yeah, I ate a ton of snacks while there, but that's to be expected. Especially on the long drives. The longest drive we had while I was there was the near 12 hour drive to the top of a mountain where we still had to hike like 40 minutes to reach the famous tattoo artist, Wang Od. This was a big deal because not only is she a legend, but she's still active at 104 years old. She's tough too, acting much younger than her age and showing a spirit that is almost supernatural. The plan was to go meet her and get some ink done.
Okay so, it was a long drive and although the countryside was beautiful, we mainly drove overnight so there wasn't much for me to photograph while we were on the road. We did make a pit stop in Banaue, and we got some food not far from there.
Breakfast was some rice, a fried egg, and some pork... stuff. I don't rememeber what it was called but it was delicious and I could have eaten like five more plates of it.
Below are just some of the wondrous views of this place. I can't even begin to describe how it all felt. Philippines is a humid place, so there was this cool rainy smell as the sun rose up for the day. We got here right before 6AM and it was definitely worth the drive.
These statues were located at the very edge of a platform near the edge of the mountain where the little eatery where we had breakfast was located.I'm uncertain of their significance, but they were beautiful and almost as tall as I am.
Sometime after that, maybe an hour or so, we made it to the top of the mountain where we had to climb down into a valley then climb back up to the other side to meet Wang Od. I'm not exactly in the best shape for this sort of thing so I made sure to be extra careful. The climb was very muddy and slippery; so much so that even our guide slipped and fell! It's not exactly and expert climb or anything like that, but I took it seriously and by the end of it I was a total sweaty mess. I had to take off my Creepshow hoodie and stuff it in my bag.
The tattoos given by Wang Od and her pupils are done in the traditional way. They're essentially chisled into the skin. It isn't very painful at all, but that depends on you as a person I suspect. Wang Od had some trouble with giving me my tattoo, saying I had skin like an "ox-cow" or something like that. She actually got winded half way through and needed a rest. I felt bad making her work so hard so we made sure to pay double; which was about $40 in total.
There were different designs based on Wang Od's culture, but I was surprised to see the Christian faith-hope symbol there. I suppose since the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic/Christian country it makes sense.
There was also this hut where folks left their cards and I.D.'s , so I decided to leave my Discordian GOD card. I have plenty of them so I felt like this was a worthy place to leave it for all to see.
We had lunch while waiting our turn for my tattoo. The view is pretty amazing there. The road we drove on just resembled a bit of thread. I didn't feel like we were that far away; the hike back was only 10 minutes and was way easier than the hike up to see Wang Od.
My tattoo is the "snake with eagle wings bringing messages from the heavens" I believe. The three dots are Wang Od's signature. I know thousands of people have probably gotten a tattoo from her, but this feels special. Like I'm a part of her legacy as an artist, and that's pretty rad.
After we were done getting tattoos, we drove immediately to Sagada which might be my favorite place in the Philippines because they have a cool atmosphere and low humidity! It was glorious!!
Our main objective here was to see the famous hanging coffins, which was how they used to bury their dead before Christian missionaries ruined their traditional culture.
I really love this place, but foreigners aren't allowed to purchase homes here; if they marry someone native to Sagada though it's allowed. There is a population of retired American soldiers who now reside here and run pubs and restaurants.
But come on, look at this view and just try and breath in that fresh mountain air. It's real easy to fall in love with Sagada.
Our tour guide explained to us that people were hung in coffins by the side of the mountain so their spirits could have better access to the forest and mountainside. Being buried underground was seen as strange because it stifles the spirit and they can't freely explore the world. I think this is beautiful actually and I would love it if this was my final resting place.
There were some human remains in a cave nearby; an old coffin had rotted open and some bones fell out of it. Our guide had mentioned that during the carrying of the coffin that if any fluids, like blood or whatever dripped on you it was considered good luck. I wonder if that applied to bones as well.
There was a weird flow to this area. Knowing that this particular style of burial had fell out of favor for a more traditional Christian burial bummed me out, but it also made seeing this all the more special. I believe our guide mentioned that there is still the occasional hanging-burial (if you could call it that) but I can't remember.
This is Sagada Bear and he's my best friend. He was my reward for surviving my first ever cave tour. I went spelunking and it was pretty terrifying. There are no real pictures to show from inside the cave since we were too busy climbing and trying to survive to take any. Plus the bats wouldn't have enjoyed the flash photography. But let me just say that cave climbing is fucking crazy and I hate it, but I'm glad I had the experience to know that I hate it! Still, I couldn't probably be talked into doing it again.
This is the only picture of me in the cave. I believe we were something like 5 or 6 stories underground. What's crazy is I even managed to fit in all the tight corners of the cave. It took a lot of effort but I managed to do it. I say if you've never done it before, do it once and see how you like it. I have some fond memories from this trip, and this sure as heck ain't one of them; but at least I can brag about it now!
And besides, the locals says if you haven't gone cave climbing then you haven't been to Sagada at all, so I guess I passed that test!
So after Sagada we did a bunch of stuff. We went sand-duning, we saw an old lighthouse, got lunch near a wishing tree, etc., but this place was beautiful. I'm a former Catholic so I still have a bit of love for old churches and basilicas. This is a 300 year old church in some town I can't remember.
I'm a sucker for old architecture, and I loved the look of this place. Being an ordained reverend, I took it upon myself to inspect the joint and let me tell ya it's a real swanky place.
After all that adventuring though, we needed some quick grub so we swung by a McDonald's for some quick garbage food! A little taste of home while we were in the middle of the Philippines did me some good.
I was real surprised to learn there was an official secret menu! No McGangBang listed, but there was other stuff there. The Double Big Mac was listed here before it appeared officially in the US, so that's something, right? Or maybe it isn't anything. I dunno man, I just wanted a cheap burger.
The Rich Chocolate Pie was a bit too rich for my taste, but it was something new to try. I remember when I was in Japan I had the McDonald's Cherry Pie was was more my taste. But nothing will replace the Apple Pie in my heart.
Like later that day, because we were driving for like another 10 hours back to the airport so we could catch a flight, we had dinner in a small Japanese-Italian place in Palawan. They had picture of Wang Od on the wall so we knew this place was legit.
I ordered this monstrous burger because I could. I haven't nothing else to say really. It was just a massive goddamn burger and I ate the whole thing. It was delicious.
In Palawan we did a lot of sailing and island hopping.It was pretty relaxing, but the boat we were on did break down for a bit so we got worried. If I'm not mistaken we even went to the real "Blue Lagoon" so that was somewhat exciting.
The canoeing was a first for me. Because of my size the damn thing tipped over and so we had to have three people on the canoe with me to maintain some sort of balance! It was worth it though. I think this may have been my favorite part of this portion of my trip. We even saw some baby sharks swim past our little canoe.
Next time: Guimo battles a volcano!