At the end of my last installment we had traveled to Illigan City and procured cash and produce. The trip back was mostly uneventful. Night fell as we traveled back, but under the auspices of our driver and bodyguard I felt comfortable being on the road.
The trip back was easier because while there was a checkpoint it was much less busy since it wasn’t processing the huge amount of traffic from Marawi that the opposite-direction checkpoint had to contend with.
Another note on local color; apparently it’s common in the Philippines, or at least in the region where we traveled, to put up road signs to congratulate family members on their achievements. We saw quite a few signs in the villages, complete with a picture of the person being feted, and verbiage, in English and Tagalog, about what they had accomplished – I believe all the ones I saw were about academic achievement – finishing law school, passing exams, finishing a degree, things like that. I liked it – there seemed to be a lot of family pride and a high value placed on education.
When we got back to the guesthouse we ate another fish and rice dinner, with the addition of “mountain soup” which is a clear broth soup packed with green vegetables. I was still glad I had picked up produce in town, but the mountain soup was a nice, chlorophyll-heavy addition.
After dinner we discussed our options for securing more pie. The proprietress advised against our walking along the road on our own at any time of the day or night, even though it was less than a mile to the pie shack. We continued to think it was important to respect the locals’ judgment about safety, so we agreed to stay inside the guesthouse compound, but dammit, we really wanted some of that pie!
After some back and forth it was decided that our cook would pick up a pie for us in the morning. Once that was decided we spent some time visiting with the proprietress, and enjoying the mild night air, before turning in for the night.
The mayor had agreed to meet with our brother the next morning, to discuss his concerns about leaving and try to convince him that going back to the States, at least for the time being, would be his best course of action. So, we knew that the next day, which would be Wednesday, we would learn whether we would be returning to the States on our own on Thursday, or traveling with our brother.
Another thread that we were navigating at this time was getting additional cash. At some point the day before, when we were planning the trip to Illigan City for money we realized it was going to be impossible to get as much as we needed in one go from the ATM. At the same time, I was nervous about increasing our exposure to prying eyes on the road to Illigan City by going back and forth repeatedly. Maybe it would have been fine, but you never know who might be watching, especially since we would be passing the turnoff for Marawi, and going to Illigan City to use the ATM.
Fortunately there was a solution. While I was still back in the States preparing for the trip, one couple, who are very close friends, insisted they track our progress and act as my US liaison. The idea was that I would check in with them on a pre-arranged schedule, and if I missed a check in, they would immediately contact the embassy and do anything they could to help. I will be forever grateful for their concern and assistance, though I’m happy to say that they never had to call the embassy.
So, I didn’t need to be rescued, but I did need a cash infusion. They agreed that it was best for us to stay at the guesthouse and off the roads as much as possible, so they agreed to wire us a small pile of money that we would pick up in Manila (we had enough to get by for the rest of our time in the village, but things Manila were going to be more expensive). While everything else was going on, we were texting back and forth to figure out how much I needed, when they would wire it, etc. The biggest chore was figuring out to use Western Union, since none of us had much experience, except Stateside brother, who was able to advise and keep that aspect of things moving forward.
So, on Wednesday we got up and had pie – actual buko pie this time, then we heard from the mayor. He let us know that our brother had decided to return to the States with us. Stateside brother then texted Philippines brother to make a plan for the day, knowing that Philippines brother wanted to make the rounds and say goodbye to his friends before leaving.
There was then a flurry of activity as I made sure the money was coming from my friends, and we contacted the mayor’s office again to ask to be driven around later in the day and to arrange our Cagayan d’Oro driver to take us back to the airport in the morning.
We also needed to book three tickets from Cagayan d’Oro and figure out how we were all getting from Manila back to the States, using my flight benefits for Stateside brother and me, and regular tickets for Philippines brother. That alone was a logistical challenge because I didn’t want to buy non-refundable tickets for the one brother unless I was close to certain that the other brother and I would make the flight, but I also didn’t want to buy refundable tickets unless absolutely necessary because the cost was prohibitive.
But, at least we knew that we needed to purchase tickets for all three of us from Cagayan d’Oro to Manila, so I did that, then bought a refundable for Philippines brother to exit Manila. The flight loads out of Manila were high and unpredictable, so I didn’t want to risk a non-refundable for that leg. I figured we would buy the other legs as we went, as we were able to gauge flight loads closer to the actual departure time.
At some point during the flurry of logistical and planning activity I went down to swim again, but by the time I got there, the tide had gone out. The swimming enclosure was empty, and the water was a few feet out from the guesthouse structure, creating a painfully rocky beach. I waded in, but quickly discovered that the water was not even knee deep (and, as mentioned, painfully rocky), so I had to settle for floating around on my back for a while. This was not without its charms and proved to be quite relaxing.
Tune in next week to travel with me around a small coastal Philippines village, as my brother says goodbye to the community who have been his friends for the past several years.