Hitchhiking Isabela Philippines
The past few days the knots and twists in my stomach killed me. Literally incapacitated, I slept most of the past two days, with the exception of hitching along for a ride to Isabela (a small village town in the mountains outside of Solano). The ride to Isabela took me through beautiful mountainous terrain. Green and chocolate peaks with yellow corn stalks sprouting from the bases, and bright lime rice terraces interlaced for miles on end. Our van hobbled down the back roads to Isabela Philippines. Dirt, gravel and dust flew in the air and the weight of 12+ passengers made the slightest bumps and cracks a challenge for the driver to escape with an unscathed undercarriage. Many times we bottomed out over speed-bumps, but kept on plugging at it. After a few hours we arrived in the village of Isabela. Many Filipino’s greeted me and the kids all stood around me in a circle staring. I was probably the first white person they ever saw in person. My stomach at this point still felt like knives twisting and turning in my abdomen. I could not eat at all, felt nauseous, slightly sweaty and not talkative in the least bit, which being a new exotic ingredient to the group, definitely made me slightly annoyed. I just wanted to be alone at this point, but everyone took such interest in me so an escape felt impossible.
The worst part of all of this came as the assortment of food covered the tables. Chicken, rice, fried fish, pork, chili pepper scattered across the table with sticky rice, cookies and other desserts. My nose tasted the aroma of all the pungent smells spreading through the air and yet I knew I could not indulge in any of it. They all looked at me with the utmost concern. Robert, a drunk Filipino man who sipped on Ginebra Sam Miguel’s Gin the whole day, approached me and stuttered in broken English, “YOU EAT THE RICE???” Not understanding my stomach felt like daggers punching through flesh he stood there confused as did much of the group. I really wished I felt better because I ended up missing every single meal they prepared in Isabela.
However, after camping out in the van for the night with Allan James and taking some medicine in the morning my stomach finally felt capable of eating some real food. Other than crackers and a few pieces of papaya I just could not stomach anything for two full days.
We woke up at the crack of dawn around 5 AM. The KTV from the night before finally faded. The voices of drunken Filipino men slurring Tagalog songs over a microphone lasted for much of the night. They finished bottle after bottle of gin, chasing it down with coconut juice from the trees scattered throughout their properties.
I indulged in crackers, and coconut juice. My stomach felt a little better, but I think I got food poisoning from a few nights prior after eating raw squid. The day progressed and we ended up going back to Robert’s father’s tilapia pond across town. There we caught fish. By this I mean, they pulled out the generator from their bamboo hut, hooked up the hose and we all jumped into the muddy bog-like pond. They fueled her up and started her. The pond drained over the course of an hour. Three Filipino men, Robert, Allan James and Welbur accompanied by myself and a naked little Filipino kid all roamed around looking for the presence of nearby tilapia. The mud squished between my toes and each step felt like quicksand as the mud inched up past my knees to my thighs. Mud ended up everywhere all over my body. My face, arms, hair, chest, legs, crotch all covered with the nastiest, smelliest brown mud from the Philippines. The feeling of diving after these slippery little fuckers definitely heightened my spirits. After spending much time sleeping in agonizing stomach pain I enjoyed getting my hands dirty catching fish or at least “trying” to catch fish. I think after much of the water drained and the pond was left to pockets of mud and water I ended up catching about ten to twenty fish of all sizes. Gills pricked my hands and left cuts and splinter-like marks across my palms and fingers, but by the end we all caught about 20 kilograms of tilapia total.
The best part of it all when I bit into that juicy, fried fish. I took a half-ass shower from the well water pump by this point. So I no longer looked like a dirty homebum from LA, but that was the most fresh seafood I have ever tasted in my lifetime.
Despite the stomach pain that followed most of the ride home it was worth it.