Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dusk on the Philippines

Another two days left in my vacation here in the Philippines leaves me with feelings of both satisfaction and sadness. The country is much larger than could possibly be seen in just one month, so I certainly feel dissatisfied that I didn't have a chance to explore the islands of Palawan, Luzon, Mindoro, Bohol, or the Eastern Visayas. Mindanao and Sulu I'm happy to have left alone, considering the recent kidnapping of Red Cross workers, and my fellow teacher's stories of having seen the dead bodies of soldiers and rebels in the streets of a city he visited there.

I'm also quite sad to have missed a multitude of chances for snorkeling and scuba... but my attempt at snorkeling in Mocambique some years ago proved beyond doubt that I'll need either contacts or eye surgery before I can make a real and satisfying go at that. The "Blue Hole" dive, wherein one descends into the open maw of an underwater volcano, as well as the numerous WWII wrecks, and an unmatched diversity of corals makes this one of the great regrets I'll leave behind me here.

I will miss the calamansi (a kind of lime) drink, as well as the delicious local cuisine that I've had a chance to try at numerous family-run 'toro-toro' (point-point) establishments. And in the grim Chinese winter, with the soot of a thousand factories clogging my throat each morning and the small racist indignities that go along with life there, I shall most particularly miss the fresh, clean sea breezes and the correspondingly light-hearted and breezy Filipino ethos. The tension of haggling and forcing one's way past hawkers is severely depleted when they all seem to be smiling and drunk on the eternal sun of the tropics.

Today I've been racking up a few expenses in the resort locale (I'm staying in quite humble and cheap accomodations, however) of Tagaytay, just an hour or so south of Metro Manila's incalculable chaos. The city is one long strip mall that runs along a crater ridge... the outermost crater of a vast, flooded volcano, actually. The restaurants here are stilted out over the edge of the crater's jungle-clad wall so as best to view Lake Taal (the flooded volcano) with its islands, including an island volcano that has another small lake nestled within its crater. Lake within volcano, within lake, within crater... a beautiful location, too well touristed for my tastes, but a suitable place to enjoy grilled lapu-lapu (grouper) and a cold calamansi juice as I simultaneously bemoan and rejoice my return to China.

Dusk is coming, but there is a full, silvery moon coming with it.

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