In last week’s installment, we had just talked to our brother at the mayor’s office, and then received a ride back to our guesthouse, courtesy of one of the mayor’s drivers.
I’ll segue here and talk a bit about local color. The guesthouse was delightful for a number of reasons. My brother and I had flipped for the nicest room and he won, but my room was also very pleasant. It was large and had a window air conditioner and its own bathroom. It opened into a gated courtyard, which led to a breezeway which led to the rear of the property which overlooked Illigan Bay. There was an open-air dining area at grade level, then, up some steps there was a lovely veranda with built in seating that was right over the bay. Everything was very airy and pleasant, and even though we were not too far north of the equator, it wasn’t too hot, most of the time.
I’ve been to Africa, in regions near the equator, so I have experienced the light, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get completely used to it. Instead of a gradual lightening and darkening at sunrise and sunset, the light comes up and goes down like a switch has been thrown. It was the middle of July, but the days weren’t long. They weren’t short either, but it was getting dark not too long after 6 PM. It made it always seem later than it was, but on this day, we indeed got back to the guesthouse latish – probably around 8.
The owner’s sister cooked for us while we were there. There was always fresh fish available. If memory serves, we had halibut that night, with rice. And the remains of the pie. I’m not sure if there are regional cuisines in the Philippines, but in this region, the food was not heavily seasoned. But it was filling and I didn’t have to cook it, so it was OK by me.
After dinner we sat on the veranda, enjoying the seaside ambience and mild night air. There were a number of fishers out in the water, walking in the low tide shallows, pulling nets along the bottom to catch fish. We couldn’t see anything of them but their bobbing lights, but our hosts explained that that was what they were doing.
We retired that night knowing that the next day we would be in “wait and see” mode, but also wanting to do something about our dwindling cash supplies.
The next day our cook made us a breakfast of fish, rice and eggs. Afterwards I went swimming in the morning, while the tide was still high. I had to have the caretaker/cook unlock the gate for me, which opened onto concrete steps ,which led directly into the water during high tide. From the steps there was a small channel that led to an enclosed concrete rectangle which may have been intended as a swimming pool, but it was also possible to exit the enclosure and swim directly in the bay, which is what I chose to do. I was a little concerned about attracting attention, but I didn’t see any boats nearby, and since I wasn’t kidnapped from the water, I have to assume that I wasn’t seen by anyone with nefarious designs.
After the swim I got dressed and we contacted the mayor’s office to request a ride into town. We enjoyed the veranda again while we waited for it to be time for our excursion.
At the appointed time a driver came, complete with bodyguard, and took us to try the local ATM again. Again it didn’t work, so we asked if we could be taken to Illigan City, which was the nearest large metropolis, but which was also quite close to the intersection of the road to Marawi. I also wanted to pick up some fruits and vegetables because I was little concerned that the steady diet of fish, rice, and eggs might cause some issues if I let it go on too long.
The trip into Illigan City was interesting for a number of reasons. One was that with the mayor’s staff escorting us through the military checkpoint, we were waved on with just a cursory glance into the vehicle. This was nice for us of course, but I couldn’t help but notice the very long line of refugees from Marawi, many on foot, who had to wait for a long time to be allowed through the checkpoint and to safety in Iligan City. So, I was grateful for our escorts, and painfully aware of the privilege they afforded us.
Another interesting aspect was simply having the driver and bodyguard. When we went to the ATM they had us approach it in turn. We would use the ATM while they flanked us, facing out towards the street. They were very professional and very serious about their responsibility to keep us from harm. They were also very fit and wore tight t-shirts, but I digress.
We also stopped at a fruit market, where I shopped in the pouring rain while the driver tried to hold an umbrella over me while also keeping an eye out to the street. I got a bit wet, but didn’t mind – I achieved my goal of fruit purchase, even chancing some pre-sliced watermelon because it just looked SO good.
And so it was that we went into Illigan City to get as much cash as we could in one go. As it turned out, our need for cash led to some more complicated logistics, which I’ll discuss in the next episode.