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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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philippines

Baguio Philippines

The Punks of Baguio

Baguio

“This is a small excerpt from a book I am currently writing on my recent travels through Southeast Asia last year. It covers my experiences hitchhiking through Asia and this particular story talks about the Philippines. Meeting the Lacdao family when I was in Manila, checking out Baguio, and tagging along with their family to Nueva Vizcaya Solano, Isabela, Manila and Nueva Ecija.”


My flight was delayed by two hours and I arrived in Manila at 2 AM. I sprawled out on the cold tile floor trying to rest in the airport, but security continually woke me up, nudging me with their feet until finally kicking me out at 4 AM. The taxis outside badgered me with their antics convincing me to pay for an un-metered ride to a “budget hotel” at 4 AM…I thought, “Fuck that…” and decided to walk around aimlessly.

I always traveled with little money hidden in separate compartments of my pack in the event of getting mugged. As I walked through the night I noticed the poverty stricken city of Manila first hand as families slept on sidewalks. Wrapped in cardboard next to an abandoned store, they lay there silently, without a home or penny to their name. Homelessness became a common theme as I roamed further smelling the foul aroma of garbage fester in stagnant puddles along the roadway tiptoeing around them as I searched for a place to sleep. Manila was the filthiest, most dangerous city I have ever been to in my life as I would soon find out.

Baguio Philippines

Coming into Baguio, Philippines after a long ride on the UV Bus service

Taxis, tricycles and pedestrians continued to hassle me for a few kilometers outside the airport because they saw my white skin and wanted my money. My polite declines faded towards subtle, angry mumbling and eventually I silently walked away like a mute in a zombie-like state from lack of sleep. A “travel agent” started following me. He was a 33 year old, scrawny, soft-spoken, Filipino man with an ID card around his neck dangling beneath his prominent Adam’s apple. The ID looked fairly legit if one disregarded the time-frame of 4 AM on a Wednesday. He introduced himself as Eric in broken English and continued to follow me around for the rest of the night acting like a helpful friend. I tried explaining to him I didn’t need his help, but he insisted on following me, so I proceeded with caution. I scrutinized him thoroughly noticing his outfit did not warrant a travel agent’s appearance as he sported a white t-shirt three sizes too big and jeans drooping below his waistline. Nothing added up here so I kept vigilance about me as we strolled to an eccentric church with brown, castle-like doors, and brightly colored window panes. To my surprise, a mass of people prayed at 5 AM on a Wednesday to Jesus as the collection basket made its rounds row-by-row, everyone donating the little money in their pockets. The Filipinos exhibited strong religious upbringing from Christian missionaries sent over from America back in the day.

After a brief religious cleanse we meandered to the Asean Mall, which sat still and quiet in the early hours of the morning. I stepped back, my blood pumping, waiting for a moment when he might attack me or steal my pack and I exited the shadows of the desolate alleys towards a more populous attraction, the stone walkway along the coastline of the deep sea.

Baguio Punks

Crashing on a couch with a bunch of punks in Baguio.

By this point we walked for a few hours and I still could not get this man away from me. He acted like a lost puppy nagging me at every turn. The sun rose through the clouds with its luminous feel striking the ocean and for the first time in Manila I saw its true filth shining in the murky, turquoise sea. Foam hugged the seawall while the spaces between each rock filled to the brim with fermenting trash as seagulls poked their heads in for any last drops of food. The smell reminded me of the Schuylkill River as I lay there on the wall waiting for Eric to capitulate and leave.

But like the tiny parasite he was, he continued to feed on me as I tried to break away to grab breakfast. My zonked state of nothingness made me yearn for sleep. My puffy, red eyes screamed, “Zzzz.zzzz” without any acknowledgement due to the circumstances I found myself. We walked in the complete opposite direction to a street vendor in a busy part of the city, my feet aching to the bone with every slight movement. I ordered a rice dish with beef and he helped himself to one as well. We both sat their nibbling at our food in a half-dazed stupor, nodding off between bites, but I regained some energy after eating. When the time came to pay I put a bill on the table. One of the waitresses motioned to me to bring it over and without hesitation Eric picked it up walking towards her to pay. Not really thinking about it I figured whatever while I sat there in my foggy state-of-mind. I looked down for a second to grab my pack and he darted without a trace through the busy crowd of people hopping onto a Jeepney, sticking me with the bill.

I sat there expressionless for a moment and felt so thankful that he finally left only stealing 500 pesos. The thought crossed my mind that had I slept that night he could have walked away with my pack or pulled a knife on me so I just embraced it with positivity. In that situation I wished he begged for money rather than scamming people as I knew for certain I was not the first tourist he fooled.

Baguio CIty

Chillin in a park in Baguio City, Baguio

The rest of the day I stumbled around aimlessly, never sleeping. I did not know where the fuck I was going and just wanted to get out of Manila and start hitchhiking north to the mountains of Baguio. I heard about them in random conversation. I drug along, scuffing my soles against the hot pavement in a tiresome state, covering roughly 25 kilometers over the course of the next 8 to 10 hours. As I approached an alley-way near Monumento I just missed a bus crash into a concrete telephone pole. News reporters jabbed their microphones into the driver’s face questioning him in Tagalog on live TV about the accident. I walked behind the camera and for a split second I was on live television. People crowded around the scene while I walked some more trying to find a place to squat or a cheap motel. Night approached and I my body shut down completely as I pushed it more with each little step.

So many homeless people occupied the streets of Manila and police manned several stations keeping people out of abandoned structures as they slung their shotguns across their chests looking for trespassers. There was nowhere to squat in Manila, but the open sidewalk, so I walked on some more hoping to hitchhike out of the city. I saw the NLEX, which pointed north to Baguio and tried my luck walking down the highway despite the, “No Pedestrian” sign. Within seconds a police officer with a shotgun stopped me telling me walking was prohibited on highways in the Philippines, which made hitchhiking more difficult. My exhausted demeanor overpowered the fear in my eyes from the close proximity of firepower strapped to this man. I so badly wanted a place to rest and finally gave in as I approached a cheap motel called, “The Chill Motel,” which charged per 8-hours instead of nightly. I assumed many of these motels operated as prostitution rings for business men looking to have a short-hand fuck, setting up enough time to get the job done, relax, nap, eat and then leave.

Baguio

A park in Baguio with beautiful flora.

I crashed momentarily as my face hit the stiff pillow and body sunk into the old mattress nearly touching the frame. The creaky springs poked at my ribs agitating every inch of my skin as I moved for comfort until I eventually passed out from sleep deprivation. Instead of one 8-hour stay I paid for two nights waking up 14 hours later at 11 AM. My eyes still fluttered and I moved at a snail’s pace from over-exertion feeling achy and really freaking tired, but I ended up checking out to try hitchhiking out of Manila on day 2.

I hobbled down the road further, my joints locking up from lack of potassium every few minutes, as I scurried to the corner of a gas station where I flew a sign that said “Baguio” in big dark blue letters across a crumpled piece of cardboard. I knew hitchhiking existed in The Philippines I just did not know how to do it effectively. The problem with flying a sign sparked the curiosity of Filipinos to huddle around me trying to help me out by pointing to the bus station a few kilometers away, which I already knew. The bus lacked adventure. I wanted to hitchhike to end up places randomly and experience the culture through meeting its people, which the bus rarely gave me. Their persistence of circling around me made me surrender to a different location where people driving might see my sign and stop to give me a lift. I just did not know where to go.

So without much thought I stopped the first preppy business man, dressed in a sports jacket with a polo, khaki pants, and suave black hair parted to the side, asking him for directions to Baguio. The man looked about my age and resembled a Filipino version of Enrico Iglesias. After short conversation and one glance he brought me back to his house where he gave me hand-me-down clothing along with a hefty bowl of beef fried rice and a fresh shower, forgetting the last time I took one. Like most countries I hitched through they lacked hot water so my shower involved a bucket of cold water and a bar of soap. I filled up the five gallon bucket just one time using the mini bowl inside of it to dump water across my dirty skin and greasy hair. The suds soaked into my pores as streams of black grease trickled down my skin slowly making their way to the drain in what looked like an exorcism. I washed away the Black Death after much scrubbing and rinsing finally getting all the grime off of me. I tossed my nasty shorts, now black and covered in filth, trading them out for tight jeans with a paracord belt since the waist was two sizes two big, and threw on a black shirt that said, “Baguio, Philippines” in light blue lettering. My skin felt fresh and body smelled of Tide laundry detergent for the first time since I could remember. I looked like a person again as I exited the tiny, corner, bathroom astonishing the man with my new presence. We chatted for a bit about my destination and trouble leaving Manila. He understood hitchhiking after much explanation and told me the best place to hitch from giving me accurate directions to the NLEX ramp right outside of Balintawak near the highway.

Throwing a few pesos to a Jeepney, I took a ride a few kilometers in the opposite direction to test my luck out on the on-ramp, holding my sign confidently, trying to find a ride out of this god-forsaken shit-hole. I stood there for four hours, sign in hand, trying to wave down vehicles or trucks, but none of them stopped and people ended up flocking to me again. My confidence slowly stripped away hour-by-hour as night crawled in and there was no way in hell I wanted to stay another night in Manila. An elderly Filipino man expressed his concern stating the bus stopped along the shoulder of the NLEX taking people to Baguio and other cities in and out of the Luzon Province. People feared picking me up because of the high crime rate in Manila since they did not know my intentions. After much frustration over two days of trying to find a way out of Manila by thumbin’ it, I gave into the bus, but not in the way one would expect.

Selfie Baguio

Selfie in Baguio

I stood on the sidewalk next to the shoulder of the highway trying to wave down a Genesis bus headed for Baguio without much luck. None of them stopped. Not just one bus, but two and three buses hauled by me all in the far left-hand shoulder, which meant the hit their capacity. Two more hours passed by as I stood their patiently with no idea what I would do if I even made it to Baguio since the sun started to set and I still stood on a congested, disgusting sidewalk in Manila. I began to loathe this place. My body tired again from excessive standing all day in the heat with no luck of leaving anytime soon. I felt sore, angry and flustered as I lost all hope holding my sign for even a bus to stop for me. I just wanted out of Manila and for the first time on my travels I hit bottom, thinking about my hometown in Delaware and suddenly I missed my friends across the USA almost incessantly. But the joy of hitchhiking and walking came with its ups and downs much like a roller coaster of emotions and the unexpected unknowns of randomness made it worthwhile. I laughed at how suddenly my luck changed with a simple, “Hello” as I looked at the burly man across from me waiting patiently with his luggage on a long 8-hour bus ride to his hometown. He introduced himself as Wellbur Lacdao. His chubby, tan face made him look like a harmless, Filipino teddy bear. He wore a slicked-back, bleached, mo-hawk a few inches in length with black, buzzed, hair on the sides, a few tattoos on his forearms and blue painted toe nails, which I found a bit peculiar. He spoke in broken-English as we stood around waiting for our buses. By this time another bus zoomed by and I practically gave up, hating this city a little more every minute that passed, but I stood there in great company, which I cherished. I jokingly blurted out to Wellbur that I was going to get on the next bus regardless of where it went as long as it was not Manila. With an act of luck, five minutes later, his bus slowly screeched up to the shoulder coming to a halt and he offered me a place to crash on the floor of his home in Nueva Vizcaya Solano, as we entered the cool air-conditioned bus.

We sat there in the back row both ecstatic to leave Manila for very different reasons that ended up bringing us together. I leaned against the window, my face smooshed up against the glass leaving a nice smudge of my cheek on it, as I slept in a restless fashion. Drool dribbled down my face with my mouth open as I fought the urge to sleep. I watched dusk approach leaving my view of the outside to oncoming headlights and the occasional star in the night sky.

After many stops for food and bathroom breaks we finally arrived in Nueva Vizcaya Solano, Wellbur’s hometown, where we signaled for a tricycle taxi to chauffeur us to his front door. He lounged on the back of the motorcycle behind the driver while I stuffed my pack and body into the side carriage welded to the frame of the bike. The wind chilled my face and moisture wrestled my nose as I peered off trying to distinguish my surroundings without lampposts and telephone poles. Within a few minutes we pulled onto a rough dirt road, zigzagging between both lanes to avoid pot holes. I covered my mouth from the abundance of dust as it seeped into my eyes, rubbing them profusely. With an abrupt stop, I looked up at his humble abode, my eyes red and teary, where ten family members lived in their small 3-bedroom concrete shell. It looked like a simple one-story home made of concrete and sheet metal roofing nailed to a typical wooden frame. He apologized for his small home, but I looked at it as a beautiful wonderland of new experiences as I rolled my sleeping bag out on the hard floor I noticed a cockroach wiggle between my feet. “Smack…crunch…” followed as Wellbur stomped on it with a look of slight embarrassment. I did not mind though. I disregarded the vermin wondering if they might crawl across my face or party in my sleeping bag. The first ten minutes I felt restless worrying about these critters, my only allergy other than Prilosec, but eventually I calmed down and washed away into a dreamless night.

Cheap Philippines Brandy

Drinkin’ Brandi with the boys in Solano.

I woke up late surrounded by a gang of little Filipino children all interested in this white man sprawled out on the floor of their home. Wellbur shuffled out into the living room to greet me and introduced me to his family, Jona, his wife, Chona, his brother’s wife, “Blank”, his brother, “Blank”, his daughter, Kyle, and Glen his nephews, little Chadwin and Chloe, his kids, and his mother and father. He joined in the circle around me with a cheery grin on his face excited to tell me about the occasion, Chloe’s 4th birthday. Would I stick around for the party? Of course!

He brought me along on his own personal tricycle to run errands and showed me around town, introducing me to his friends and neighbors, in the process of all the pre-birthday festivities. I found birthdays held a special significance in The Philippines, much like America. Everyone was invited. Friends, relatives, neighbors and children of all ages hovered outside of the Lacdao residence where they munched on platters of Filipino food dished out across a fold-up table covered with birthday tablecloth. I indulged in bits of their culture with each bite of shanghai, sopas, pansit, macaroni salad, roasted boar, fried tilapia and chicken. They feasted in celebration of his daughter’s birthday with a Goldilocks cake and four candles brightly lit, ready to make a wish.

Flowers Nueva Vizcaya Solano

Flowers in Nueva Vizcaya Solano after heading back from Baguio

I watched the party happen around me as every action and food preparation took me to a new level of life never before experienced. Earlier in the morning, the roasted boar and three chickens rested as livestock in the front yard waiting for their demise. The pig took a crew of five Filipino men wrestling it to the ground while a man in the front shanked the throat, the blood oozing into a bowl. The red pool filled higher as the pig sank, its feet collapsing, as it fell to its side dying shortly after. They strung a rod through its mouth out its anus and perched it over the fire for roasting, turning it ever so gingerly with the help of a few strong men. They ate everything and wasted nothing. I bit into my first morsel of pig after a few hours of it churning over the fire. The charred, orange-brown skin twinkled with a shiny coat of grease dripping off my fork. The crunchy coat shattered in my mouth leaving a crispy aftertaste. I did not care much for the skin, but enjoyed the pig meat, as I joined the celebration of those feasting.

The chickens on the other hand suffered a similar death. The Filipino ritual for killing chickens involved holding the chicken upside down by its feet and gripping a large stick in one’s free hand, then beating it to a pulp. I participated in this ritual, which made me feel skeptical at first, but we ate every part of the chicken so I obliged. My hands shook in fear since I never before killed an animal. Perspiration dribbled down my palms as I softly started whacking the chicken on its neck. They smiled, insisting I use more, “oommff.” After the adrenaline wore off I smacked the chicken harder and harder, a loud thumping noise echoed with each smack, as the neck dangled freely like a limp noodle. Then I switched to clocking the underarms with powerful swings. The chicken lay there motionless holding onto its last bit of life as its blood rushed to its head. One of the Filipino men grabbed the chicken from my hand and rolled it over the fire like a rolling pin. The chicken screamed in pain; sadness and guilt flowed through my veins as I heard its last plea for life putting a lump in my throat. White feathers burned, floating freely through the air as the chicken became naked, slowly frying in the fire, until it finally became a part of the other platters spread out along the birthday table. My guilt washed away as I witnessed my Filipino friends basking in joy, smiles sparkling across their faces, from all the food and closeness to one’s family. It was nice. I felt like one of the family.

They celebrated the whole day from dusk until dawn. I danced with my cheesy disco moves from the 60’s as a beautiful Filipino woman joined me. The rest of them sang Karaoke from a portable KTV jukebox and surprisingly, their accent disappeared as they enunciated perfect English lyrics.

While we danced the children gathered around a piñata full of candy. Chloe, Chadwin, Kyle, Glen, and the rest of the group tried their luck at breaking open the animal dangling from the ceiling of the patio. Their faces covered with a bandanna as Jona spun them around in a circle. They each held the bat with all their might, as it swayed them in every direction, until whiffing the air. After several attempts the children almost gave up, but the littlest kid in the group took a big swing, making a full contact hit. The piñata burst open, candy sprayed everywhere and chaos transpired as tiny kids ran around frantically stuffing their pockets full of everything they put their hands on, making it a true fiesta.

Hitchhiking Isabela

Hitchhiking to Isabela after some adventures in Nueva Vizcaya Solano and Baguio, Philippines.

One by one, people left, first the neighbors, and then most of the relatives, but Wellbur’s crew of friends stuck behind and broke out a bottle of Brandy. We sat around a small plastic table with leftover chips and dip, sipping on the bottle and smoking Fortune Sticks (cigarettes, the irony) as they all sang KTV. I took a few shots and it sucked me into a drunken mess as I stuffed my face full of food, taking drags on a cigarette for a quick buzz. I sat there in appreciation. Strangers took me in off the street and before I knew it we all partied like friends on Wellbur’s porch just enjoying each other’s company despite the language barrier. The more we drank the less we understood each other until finally I walked through the screen door and lay down on the floor, passing out on a few cushions underneath a warm quilt.

I woke up with a slight hangover ready to move on to the next place. I shortly found out hitching rides through random countries was no more dangerous than taking the bus or shuttle as I experienced on my four hour ride through the mountains to Baguio. I hitched a ride to the location of the UV Express Van on Wellbur’s tricycle and waited patiently for the shuttle to fill up with 12 passengers outside the petrol station. Wellbur and his family waved goodbye and a look of despair crossed their faces. They invited me back to their home for “Blank’s” going away party. Canada approved his work visa so his family gathered a few suitcases and packed for their move to Calgary to save up money and come back to the Philippines. I held back my tears of melancholy and a spirit inside me thrived like a feeling of enlightenment. I knew this was not our only time together and with that emotion held inside of me the shuttle embarked through the winding backc ountry roads to Baguio City. My adrenal glands pumped and my heart thumped as the vehicle meandered through the curvy mountains passing vehicles over the double yellow lines around sharp turns at high speeds. I bumped back and forth squished between two other passengers who slept without a care in the world as I held on for my life fearing death each time he revved the engine to pass another vehicle. We steadily climbed up the Cordillera Mountain Range as I peered out the window at the open scenery depicting rice terraces, tiny valleys with nothing but river for miles and miles and a mixture of brown and green mountain peaks spiking up in the distance. The shuttle drivers took life-threatening risks putting all our lives in jeopardy passing vehicles around winding turns on 6-10% grade climbs, but I arrived in one piece.

Baguio ran out across the mountain peaks of the Cordillera Mountain Range with tiny, tin, adobe shacks plopped next to each other through a congested city of Jeepney’s, university students, Filipino’s and tourists. The climate changed drastically from what my body adapted to over the past months, changing from the humid, sticky, jungle, to a cool, mountaintop breeze with a weather system of clouds moping at each apex. The brisk feeling of the wind chilled my arms and I bundled up in my jacket for the first time in months as I roamed the streets looking for shelter. Every few blocks homeowners set up rooms for “transient housing,” as they called it, for backpackers and wanderers. They reached out to me on several occasions, speaking in broken-English, trying to negotiate pricing, but I walked by them without interest, testing my luck elsewhere.

After a few kilometers, I stumbled upon Aguinaldo Park across from the University of Baguio. Much of the wilted flora looked on the verge of death as I walked down the cobblestone pathway towards a statue of “Blank.” The open sewer system waved through the center of the park emitting a faint odor unpleasant to me. I lurked in a corner on the stone platform across from the statue gazing out at all of the diversity around me as I popped the lid to a can of mackerels. A group of Korean photographers snapped photos of shirtless models posing on the steps next to me. I reminisced my past of weight lifting as my eyes caught the physique of a Brazilian Arab models flexing on the steps with a cigarette in hand, but my attention turned towards the female model lain against a “Blank” tree. She plucked two yellow flowers from it, placing them in her hair, as my eyes followed the path of her luscious brown hair ending past her bosoms. With the flick of the wind, a photographer snapped multiple shots of her slender figure under a vibrant sea of yellow flowers, her hair flowing like a team of dolphins. I turned away with the sight of two erect nipples; my cheeks flushed a rosy red in embarrassment. I found it odd to see such a display of nudity in a public park, but I enjoyed the view of this half-naked Korean girl as I finished my dinner.

As I turned around, I noticed these two punk-like kids hanging at the bottom of the steps in the park. The one lanky Filipino with a black buzz cut and “crustache” signaled me over pointing to his cigarette (I briefly picked up smoking in Southeast Asia as a means to socialize with new people, but it made for an easy conversation starter, bumming cigarettes or asking for a light). I hopped up off the stone ledge and walked over to them, setting my pack down beside me as we all took drags on a few cigarettes.

As we sat Indian style in a circle, we jammed out to the small library of Punk music on our phones and I watched them spange some money for Ginebra Sam Miguel gin. This liquor was the cheapest shit to drink in the Philippines at 100 pesos for a bottle, but we all chipped in some change and at that moment, I found myself partying at 5 PM with the punks of Baguio.

We passed the bottle around, drinking a few sips of potent liquor that smelled like the essence of kerosene. It did not take much for me to get buzzed, just a few shots. We yammered on, loudly head bobbing to tunes, and they introduced themselves as Ya-Ya and Zea. Ya-Ya stood tall and slender with a small, dirty, mustache and black buzzed hair, while Zea looked a few inches shorter with a slightly more muscular frame, longer black hair and a smooth face. We continued to drink and after half the bottle disappeared Ya-Ya pulled out some weed for his one-hitter. He passed it around and after a few hits we all got pretty lit. We kept giggling at the group of Koreans taking pictures with their fancy Nikon cameras. I felt like I sat on a cloud as I watched these models continue posing in the cheesiest fashion. As the sun set, the park died down. The models and photographers left, but Zea, Ya-Ya and I continued drinking in our corner of solitude. More people joined our circle and after an empty bottle of gin we all gathered our change for another, exchanging stories and showing tattoos. We perused the topic of anarchy as they expressed their views on government and religion. I listened carefully, slowly losing their trust as we dove deeper into the conversation.

Ya-Ya bragged about stealing, arson and destruction to the corporate body. He saw no issues with stealing from privately owned businesses or monopolized corporations, along with defacing buildings and starting fires. His violent past of living on the street sprouted a future of panhandling everyday for cash, drinking in Aguinaldo Park, smoking weed and dumpster diving, but everyone in the group shared similar stories. Some of them hitchhiked, and traveled around the Philippines. They used beautiful women to lure in dump trucks. As she waved them down the men hid behind shrubbery off the highway and just as the truck started to drive away they all hopped on the back hitching to the next city. One of the punks who went by the name, “LA” spoke about his traveling friends hitching boats to Cebu, and some of the other hundreds of islands off the mainland.

I wished to meet these travelers he spoke of, but instead I sat between a bunch of beggars who panhandled for money to muster up enough change for a few bottles of gin, and weed. They drank and smoked daily, content with partying and never leaving Baguio City. For food they all rummaged through dumpsters or stole petty items from stores. They lived a poor lifestyle by choice, refusing to work, but living on their mother’s couches instead of on the streets. I embraced their company regardless of my lifestyle and differences of opinion. I found it interesting and similarly comparable to anarchists in America, who for the most part, were nothing more than glorified bums living off the wages of the middle-class. It was not my lifestyle, but nonetheless, I respected them and the fact they let me into their small anarchist commune for a night of wasted fun.

Every one of them showed off their body art depicting some kind of jailhouse anarchy tattoo from the stick and poke method. I sat across from a young male who sported checkerboard sleeves from his wrist to his shoulders and learned it symbolized equality between all of the races no matter skin color. The lot of them offered me a free tattoo if I stuck around Baguio for a while to attend one of their weekly gatherings as we quickly changed topics from government to religion.
LA, a young Filipino in his mid twenties, short and thin like a skeleton, with a thick head of black hair and smooshed in nose, like he took a slobber knocker to the face, mumbled in a drunken stupor about the weekly gatherings the punks attended. He uttered the words “La Krshna” and their idealism of being “Vegetarians” better known in America as “Freegans” or “Scavengers.” As vegetarians they believed in a lifestyle of free living by scavenging for leftover food off restaurant tables, or dumpster diving along with stealing food, since every person no matter social class deserves the right to eat. I ended up finding out later that the food we had eaten while drinking was all scavenged from the trash.

We switched chill spots to a different park, which after drinking a shit ton of gin and trying to climb a gated fence out of the park ends up being a tough task. At this point I blacked out. I paced myself and I’m not quite sure how I blacked out, but everything is foggy from that point onward. I remember sitting at the second park, drinking in a circle with at least 12 punks. All of them with sleeves, half sleeves, or face tats of some kind. The one guy whose street name was, LA, ended up giving me a La Krshna necklace as a souvenir. 2 AM rolled around and we all got so drunk we took a taxi to Sharks place. We had like 12 people jammed in the tiniest room with two tiny boards on cinder blocks as couches and a small 24″ tube television straight out of the 90s watching some cartoon in Tagalog. I passed out on the board and woke up the next day with all of my gear in the corner of his room and my jacket, but no phone. I have no idea what happened to it, but other shit was in the same pocket so someone walked off with it.

Isabela Philippines

The mountains of Isabela are covered in corn stalks, rice terraces and fish ponds along with a variety of other plants. It’s beautiful here!

It was 4 PM at this point lol…we slept the whole day and I was so hungover I could not move or eat. We went back to the same park and they were back at it again. I passed, I’m not an alcoholic, but I’ll drink now and then. Zea wanted me to leave my shit there to go meet the skaters, but after losing my phone I took my shit with me. Met the skaters of Baguio, chilled there for a bit and the rest of the crew was gone. I ended up crashing in the bushes in Aguinaldo Park.
Morning came I checked out Mines View Park, The Botanical Gardens, The Mansion and a few parks by randomly walking after taking a Jeepney into the city. I walked around until it was dark and took a Jeepney to Wright Park and walked down the road crashing in front of a sign, “No Trespassing Govt Property.” I didn’t sleep at all that night and it was cold as fuck. Something I ate off the street gave me food poisoning. Fiddling around with my gear without a headlamp in the dark I ended up getting bit by something on the back of my neck, a tiny spider. The whole night I had diarrhea, and could not get warm at all. It sucked balls. Wellbur invited me back to Vizcaya earlier in the day when I touched base with him on Facebook.

I woke up early morning at sunrise and hopped the brick wall. The first jeepney that drove by I waved down and they took me right to Baguio Plaza which ended up being exactly where I needed to go to get to Vizcaya. I tried sleeping on the UV Express Van with no luck and felt sick as shit with my stomach in knots, and ass raw from diarrhea.

I took a tricycle to his little village outside of Solano called Curifang and ended up passing out on his floor for hours. Over the course of the next week I suffered from diarrhea, stomach pain, and now it has passed, but I’m severely constipated. It felt like getting stabbed with knives in my abdomen for a while, but now I’m just bloated. I ended up meeting the nicest people ever here and gained a few village friends out of it. I’m kickin’ it with him until the 29th before I head out to Batangas and then America, but it’s been a fun ride despite all the craziness.

I ended up hitching a few rides with them to Senora Falls on Mt. Palali where we went cliff jumping. I saw my first leech there and learned about the AEIOU Religion. We also ended up going to his brother’s wife’s parents place in Isabela where I jumped in a filthy pond they owned on their farm and caught Tilapia with my hands as they drained it with a generator. Mud up to my thighs and all over my chest and face next to a drunken Filipino putting live fish in his mouth and swimming in this shit like a little kid made me laugh hysterically. Despite the stomach pain through all of this I still managed to have a great time and it was a great experience catching the fish, gutting them, cooking them and then eating them. Tomorrow we are cooking a pig for his brother’s going away party as they leave for Calgary Canada and then we will split ways. If I didn’t meet this guy randomly on the bus I don’t know how I would have managed with this food poisoning over the past week.

I experienced my highs from meeting hospitable families and hitching rides from the friendliest people while my lows came with walking long distances through monsoons and the summer heat.

Fishing Isabela Philippines

Fishing in a pond in Isabela Philippines!

Isabela, Philippines, Tilapia…Oi…Oi

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.

Mountains of Isabela

Mountains of Isabela

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.

Isabela Philippines

He’s just chillin’ in a ditch like a gutter punk haha

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.

Isabela Philippines

The mountains of Isabela are covered in corn stalks, rice terraces and fish ponds along with a variety of other plants. It’s beautiful here!

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.

Fishing Isabela Philippines

Fishing in a pond in Isabela Philippines!

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.

Village Life Isabela Philippines

Some of the villages in Isabela Philippines

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.

Isabela Philippines Talipia

Chilling by the fish pond!

Despite the stomach pain that followed most of the ride home it was worth it.

Senora Falls Philippines

Mt. Palali and the Blood Suckin’ Leech

Mt. Palali – Nueva Vizcaya Solano

Cliff Jumping at Senora Falls

Cliff Jumping at Senora Falls

After leaving Baguio for Welbur Lacdao’s house in a village in Nueva Vizcaya Solano I arrived early in the morning and took a day to relax. Something I ate in Baguio destroyed my stomach making it twist and turn in all directions. We spent the day talking and listening to the Voice on YouTube.

Senora Falls

Walk to Senora Falls

AEIOU Religion

AEIOU Religion

The next day we woke up and I hitched a ride on Welbur’s motorcycle to Senora Falls on Mt. Palali. It’s a 5 KM ascent up this non-paved driveway of stone and grass. When we reached the top there is an expensive resort hotel perched on the top of the mountain. The view from the outside eating area overlooked the whole city. From up there the mountains of Baguio peeked out in the distance and the city of Solano sat below in the valley of stone and a lone river. The houses of the village in the mountains followed the pathway to Senora Falls. Each marked with an “AEIOU” trinidad symbol consisting of a triangle, with an eye and three A’s in each corner, wings stemming off the triangle. I later researched the topic and found that the symbol referred to the Infinito Dios. A religious symbol influenced by the Spaniards when they came over in the Philippines to spread Catholicism. The symbol lined every house in the village in red print with a white background.

Overlook from Mt. Palali

Overlook from Mt. Palali

Senora Falls Mt. Palali

Right outside Senora Falls on Mt. Palali

As we walked closer to the falls the scenery just became more incredible. Bright greens, beautiful pink, purple flowers, palm trees, pine trees, and the clearest water my eyes ever witnessed. We took off our shirts and leaped into the water. My nipples became hard and I shivered as I swam to the surface. Despite being 90 degrees outside the water felt like 40 degrees. I felt like a member of the Polar Bear club. We swam for a while and jumped off the top of the falls, which is like a 20 foot leap of faith. We hung out there for most of the day until returning back to Welbur’s home.

Senora Falls

The beautiful views of Senora Falls in Nueva Vizcaya Solano, Philippines!

Senora Falls

Going for a swim in Senora Falls

Wright Park Baguio

Backpacking the Philippines: Straight Out Manila

Backpacking the Philippines

Backpacking the Philippines to Mines View Park

Backpacking the Philippines to Mines View Park

So I ended up getting kicked out of Manila Airport in the Philippines around 4 AM and instead of taking an un-metered taxi to god knows where I decided to just walk. Manila is one of the most dangerous parts of the Philippines. Much crime takes place and the city itself is a filthy, polluted mess. I ended up getting followed by this guy who called himself a “Travel Agent” and went by the name of Eric. But at 4 AM I found it odd this guy wanted to follow me around and help me out. We walked to a church where I learned most Filipino’s practice Christianity or Catholicism. Even at 4 AM a lot of people sat in the sanctuary worshiping God. This church stood near Metro Park. After that we checked out the Asean Mall and I noticed a pyrotechnic musical was being held on the 14th of March. He then took me to the deep sea by the coast, which we ended up walking for a few hours and chilled by the pathway that followed the coast until sunrise. At this point I just wanted to sleep, but I did not trust this guy at all. He would not leave me alone. We walked to breakfast and I ate a simple rice dish from a street vendor. Within a few minutes both of us finished our platters and when it came time to pay I put down the money on the table. The ATM only spits out 500 peso bills so I needed change. He offered to take it up and acted like she didn’t have change so he walked over to the nearest jeepney. I looked down to pick up my pack and the guy ran between the cracks, gone. He robbed me of 500 pesos and I needed to pay another 120 pesos for breakfast. So, needless to say, my first night in Manila was not the best. It didn’t really get much better from there.

I spent the rest of the day walking and trying to hitch out of Manila. I ended up walking about 25 KM. I saw a bus crash into a telephone pole and ended up on the news. I bumped into Paul Raymond Acosta who hooked me up with some lunch, clothes and directions to the best on-ramp for hitchhiking out of Manila to start backpacking the Philippines. I took a jeepney to Monumento and then a jeepney to Balintawak. I walked down the on-ramp and held my sign there near the NLEX on-ramp, “BAGUIO!” No one picked me up over the course of 4 hours. Apparently there is too much crime in Manila. People kept coming up to me trying to guide me to the bus stop, which I already knew existed.

Backpacking Baguio Philippines

Tramping down Kennon Road to see the mountains in Baguio, Philippines

I ended up giving in as I tried hitch hiking previously near a gas station and just tramping down the road didn’t work either. So I stood on the sidewalk where the Genesis bus stops for Baguio passenger pickup. Three buses later (Some Victory Liner buses as well) and no luck I almost gave up hope. By this time it was 6 PM and the sun just set. The people helping me out had left and I almost took a jeepney back to the Chill Hotel to crash for the night. It was then I met Welbur Lacdao. He was taking a bus to Nueva Vizcaya Solano. We talked for quite a bit and after a while I told him I’d go on whatever bus came first, Baguio or Vizcaya. The Baguio bus was full and his bus ended up stopping a few minutes after. We got on for a long 8-hour ride, most of which, in the darkness. I noticed a lot of scenery in the Philippines is covered in a variety of rice paddi’s and mountains.

Baguio Botanical Gardens

Baguio Botanical Gardens

The next few days I spent time in Nueva Vizcaya Solano with Welbur and his family. His daughter just turned four years old so we celebrated her birthday and the whole neighborhood and family came by for the gathering. We ate a lot of Filipino food, shanghai, dried fish, rice with pork, okra, one-day old, etc. and at night time all the adults sat around a table drinking brandy and signing to KTV. In the morning I hitched a ride with Welbur to the UV Express Service Van station and took a 3-hour ride through the mountains to Baguio. The scenery along the whole ride is winding turns going up steep 6 to 10% grades through undeveloped mountains full of green vegetables, terraces and a mix of brown shrubbery along with vibrant, lime green rice paddies sitting between the valley’s of gray granite rocks where a small river runs through it.

Baguio Punks

Chilling with the punks of Baguio whom I met at Aguinaldo Park in Baguio City, Philippines.

The first day I arrived in Baguio I randomly walked through the city and stumbled upon Aguinaldo Park and Museum across from the University of Baguio. I ended up chilling with some punks and drinking the cheapest, nastiest gin while we watched a modeling shoot go on around us. A Saudi Arabian/Brazilian model posed with his shirt off smoking cheap Fortune cigarettes, blowing plumes of smoke into the air while a petite, Korean girl stood in front of a yellow blossomed vine, topless, posing for the camera. I caught a side boob lol. I ended up drinking until the wee hours of the morning with all of the anarchist punks of Baguio. I woke up in the morning on the couch of Shark’s house with the worst hangover of my life. None of us moved until 4 PM. The night prior we hung out at two parks around town just drinking and bullshitting for hours and I ended up getting my phone stolen.

Baguio Philippines

Backpacking through Baguio City, Philippines

LA gave me a souvenir to remember them from the Philippines, a La Krshna necklace, and invited me to the temple Sunday where the “Vegetarians” meet up (freegans).

Chloe's 4th Birthday Party in Solano!

Chloe’s 4th Birthday Party in Solano!

We hung out at Aguinaldo park again smoking cigarettes and just chilling. Zea introduced me to his skater friends and after a few hours of talking and watching them bust out kick flips and variel’s I noticed the punks left. They told me if I wanted to squat in Aguinaldo Park that Lolo, the caretaker, did not mind.

Cheap Brandy Philippines

Drinkin’ Brandi with the Lacdao’s

So I ended up parting ways from the skater’s, hopped the fence, and found a nice place to camp by the sewer in the bushes.

The next day I took a jeepney to Mines View Park and ended up checking out The Mansion, Wright Park, and Baguio Botanical garden. I walked for hours aimlessly with no map and no plan scoping out the area for places to sleep and hit up an Internet Cafe where I got in touch with Welbur who told me to come back to Vizcaya as he just went on sabbatical.

Cheap Philippines Brandy

Drinkin’ Brandi with the boys in Solano. Who would have thought Backpacking the Philippines would end up in a night of being tipsy with new friends 🙂

I walked and walked until I hit Kennon Road and took some pictures of the viewpoint. I then wandered through the city as the darkness loomed in and asked for directions to Mines View Park by jeepney. I ended up at Baguio Plaza where the jeepney dropped me off at the Mansion. Someone started following me around Wright Park so I decided to walk down the road and squat near the Mansion property. I hopped the stone fence and camped right in front of the “NO TRESPASSING GOVT PROPERTY” sign.

In the morning, I literally woke up, hopped the fence, waved down the first jeepney I saw and headed straight to Baguio Plaza where the driver showed me the location of the UV Express Service Van headed to Vizcaya Solano. I walked over and ended up being the last person to fill the slot in the van. I endured 3-hours of head-bobbling and felt extremely tired and sick from something I ate the night before, not to mention, getting bit by a spider while fiddling around with my sleeping bag.

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