As travelers we often have certain things we want to do when we visit places. Sometimes it’s just to make a tick on the “to-do” list. Other times, it’s because we really, really want to do those things. Swimming with the whale sharks at Donsol belongs to the latter category. I really, really wanted to do it. I was curious about what it would be like, ever since a friend back in Australia told me that there’s a place in the Philippines where you are almost guaranteed the chance.
Good Friday in the town of Infanta may have very well been the most absurd experience I’ve ever had in all of my travels. Just when I thought I was starting to understand how things “work” here, I was proven otherwise. The documentary photographer part in me was saying “Chill dude, you’ve seen ‘unusual’ rituals before”. But the regular person kept screaming, “This is some craaazy shit!” As the titles suggests, there was indeed blood involved. Just felt obliged to warn you all.
It was as cheesy, loud and quirky as one might expect an “Idol” talent show in a Filipino province to be. There was fist pounding, “reaching for the stars” and all kinds of gestures which were probably learned from Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey concerts. The judges, it appeared were looking for the loudest and most passionate act and so the girl who sang loudest and broke into tears during her performance won.
I’ve spent the last three weeks in the small town of San Joaquin on Panay island in the Philippines. Due to my “activities” - the constant waking up in the morning and the fact that swimming in the middle of the sea, while going out with the fishermen can be rather physically demanding (for someone who’s not in the best shape) I’ve been too fatigued to write anything substantial during this time.
I’m in a small town called San Joaquin. I’ve come here after a few twists of fate led me to get in contact with an American volunteer working in “Coastal Resource Management” in the area. As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I have a bit of an obsession for things fish and fishermen related. I guess it’s because I love eating fish and admire the men who brave the unforgiving seas to make a living catching that fish. I admire them even more now that I have gone out to sea with them.
I knew about Ati-Atihan festival much before I came to the Philippines, I saw images of it numerous times, they always fascinated me. When I realized that I was in the country at the time that the festival would be held, in its’ original location Kalibo, I decided to try my best to make it to Kalibo to shoot this colorful and dramatic event.
Alona Beach is the kind of place that I usually cringe just thinking about. It’s full of resorts, cheesy bars, overpriced soulless food and annoying vendors. Nevertheless, I decided to come here, mostly because I was traveling with a friend who had been getting tired of not having internet or any foreigners around, but I also wanted to give it an honest try, since the last time I was in a place remotely similar (or I thought it was similar) to Alona Beach was in Goa, India and I actually had one of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations of my life.
I was riding back (on a rented motorcycle) to the city of Dumaguette from my little paradise on the beach and noticed a large building with a sign “Dumaguette Cockpit”. From the inside of the building I could hear a rowdy crowd, I came up to the entrance to make sure that this was indeed what I thought it was. I was assured by the ticket-selling lady that this was the place where cockfights took place and that the fights would continue from morning till midnight everyday for the next few days.
The other day we went to a livestock market in the village of Malatapai. I heard that this market is the second biggest of its kind in all of the Philippines, naturally this made me very curious. What can I say about it? It was...something, really something.
Those who know me even a little, know how frustrating and irritating I find Christmas to be. Not only Christmas, but the whole period that leads up to it. I’ve blogged before that my work as a Santa Claus photographer (seeing the ugly side of Christmas) back in my university days might have had something to do with it, as did undoubtedly the fact that I spent my childhood days in communist USSR, where Christmas was purely a religious thing and religion was frowned upon.
I’ve left the cool Cordillera mountains for the warmth of the plains and a rather amazing city (more like town) by the name of Vigan. Vigan is supposed to have the highest amount of preserved colonial buildings anywhere in the Philippines and I have to say that these old Spanish/Mexican/Chinese/Filipino “relics” make the town very atmospheric indeed...
Almost two weeks into my journey I am still feeling excited and fascinated, but there’s also a whole lot of frustration. These are probably the usual initial feelings that arise any time I visit somewhere new.
Things have been a little unusual from the first day since I arrived in Manila. I didn’t know what to expect from this city, but I certainly didn’t imagine that it would be so incredibly, almost futuristically developed...