“I could take you to Port Barton.”
Apo’s characteristic accent made it sound like Fort Parton, like a lisp that instead affects Ps, Fs, and Bs. For native Tagalog speakers these letters seem to be randomly interchangeable, in a way that makes it clear they can’t hear any difference.
There is one main road on Camiguin Island. It’s 64 km long and runs a complete circle around the island; inside the loop of the road are four volcanoes, each ringed by the road like a black ribbon hung around the neck of a fiery god. However, despite its vulcan core, Camiguin is a quiet place. Most of its residents live off the land or the ocean and lead simple lives that change little from day to day. Its people go about their lives in a slow, deliberate way that begs imitation and admiration.
We’ll be featuring a new interview every two weeks from people who have as much to say about food as we do, and we are certain it’s going to be a very interesting series! To give you a taste of things to come, we’ve interviewed ourselves first. We’ll kick off the rest of the series in two weeks with a fresh interview from someone new, so stay tuned!
I’ve done a lot of things on our trip that a few years ago I never imagined I would do. The Tony of five years ago never dared to dream that he would travel through Japan, or ride a motorcycle through the wilds of the Philippines, or walk the Great Wall of China. In the last eight months I’ve given myself the chance to do things that once seemed impossible, or at least impossibly grand, but one thing in particular has had an unexpectedly profound effect on my life: scuba.
Every year Bacalod throws a four day bender that centers around dance troupes from the various barangays (neighborhoods) competing for prizes and prestige. Born of desperate times when Bacolod was on the verge of ruin, MassKara was meant to be a way of laughing in the face of despair and rising up despite having nothing to stand on. Really, its existence is remarkable and typifies the spirit of the Philippines we had so quickly come to love, so it seemed like the perfect festival for us to be a part of. Celebration, spectacle, and food in the Philippines. The costumes are elaborate, the floats are ornate and the party is amazing.
We had been in Dumaguete for three days and were looking for something to do outside the city. The noise and the heat was getting to us and we were itching for a good day trip. I had read that there were a couple of really great waterfalls not even 15 kilometers from the city and that they could both easily be done in a day. We decided to rent a motorbike through our hostel and have an adventure.
We landed in Manila just after four in the morning. After a restless flight from Shanghai, stuffed into overcrowded and under-cushioned seats, the adrenaline of our “escape” from China had worn off and we were in a fog. Bleary-eyed and fatigued, we shambled off the plane and down the jet bridge towards customs. Walking down the brightly lit concourse, the only sounds were the echo of our footsteps and the occasional murmur of the other passengers from our flight. Manila Ninoy was deserted and we felt a little odd wandering through cavernous arrival halls on our own.
It isn’t often that a place or an event has the power to change you. Most of the time change seems gradual, the sum of a set of experiences that just kind of creeps up on you, until one day you realize the person you were is just that: the person you were. But. Sometimes something is so singular that you can feel yourself changing, feel your understanding growing. Maybe this thing changes a lot of people, or maybe only a few. For us, the rice terraces of Dazhai was such a place.
Sometimes when you go to a place there’s a story about a mishap or a dislike or something wacky that happened, and sometimes there just isn’t. Sometimes everything works out just the way you want, expectations are met and you get to go home and feel like you did what you set out to do, saw what needed seeing and that’s just about right. It doesn’t necessarily make for the most hilarious or exciting story, but sometimes it’s really nice to be able to look back and simply think, “yeah, that was really great, just like I thought it would be” and not have to add an asterisk, caveat or rationalization.
Following our escape from Beijing by the skin of our teeth, we set off for a city called Datong, home to two more of China’s wonders: a series of caves filled with 1600-year-old Buddhist carvings known as the Yungang Grottoes, and a Hanging Monastery. Given our experiences so far, we were skeptical about how good either of these things would be, especially given that our guidebook pulled no punches and described Datong as “charmless”.
Sometimes wanting something is better than getting it. Steph once told me that there are times when she enjoys anticipating something as much or more than actually doing it. At the time, I fundamentally didn’t understand how that could be possible—I’ve always been the type of person who lives for the moment, I am the grasshopper to her ant.
After we visited the Forbidden City, I understood.
As our time in Hong Kong drew to a close, we were reluctant to leave behind our gluttonous paradise, but we were also excited to dive headfirst into the great red unknown that is China. We had secured our visas, booked a 24-hour sleeper train direct from Hong Kong to Beijing and purchased a small mountain of snacks and fruit for the ride, and felt as ready as we could.
‘Tis the season for many things, one of them being a break from chronology! While we won’t actually be covering Singapore for a while yet here on 20YH, Singapore is in fact where we find ourselves this year for Christmas. We have the good fortune of crashing with a friend from Steph’s grad school days, so although there is no snow here, and we can’t be with our families, this is by far the best scenario we could have dreamed.
After wandering around Hong Kong willy-nilly for several days, Steph and I decided it was time for a little change of scenery. We had read that Stanley was a worthy diversion from the city, with a market and a beach-front promenade, and we knew that the mini bus station outside the door to our hostel went there, so we decided that was provenance enough and jumped on a bus one morning. Armed with a woefully inadequate map and little to no information about where we were going, we were off on an adventure!
Visiting Hong Kong is a sensory experience. We have (and will again) waxed peotic about the food in Hong Kong, but walking the streets goes beyond just the restaurants. There is a cacophony of smells, sights and sounds that surrounds you as you make your way down the crowded sidewalks. Few cities offer the almost unimaginable range of experiences that simply stepping out your door in Hong Kong can provide. We spent our first day in a bit of a daze, unused to the buzz of this new city and shaking off the placid, orderly calm of Japan, but we were quickly immersed in all that Hong Kong has to offer.