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THE TROUBLE WITH RUBY

Top floor, room 2, Trafalgar Cottage, White Beach, Boracay, Philippines

storm 28 °C

"Any news?"I asked the host of the White Beach guest house on the island idyll of Boracay. I was enquiring about the status of the impending super Typhoon Ruby. Joelle showed me on his computer screen. An ominous grey mass was filling the screen and heading for this tiny 7 km strip of vulnerable paradise. Oh shit!

Having gorged on a 2 week cultural buffet of temples, monasteries etc in Burma I felt it was time to loosen the belt, disengage the mind and just chill out on a beach. I had left Yangon, flown to Kuala Lumpur airport, arriving just before midnight. After one night in a Japanese style 'pod' ( a novelty - bit like one of those corpse drawers you see in a movie morgue) I was off to possibly the most popular destination in the Philippines. So it appeared a logical destination. Weather not to extreme. The storms will be in hibernation until the summer. That is what I thought anyway.
Apart from the storms I kind of knew what to expect from Boracay, one of 7000 plus islands in the Philippines. I knew it would be very touristy, I knew that it is a hedonistic paradise for many Asians and Europeans. If you expect much more you may be in for a disappointment. Despite some seedy undercurrents, it is rendered a safe place (and pretty litter free) to be due to a heavy police and security presence. There is an endless stretch of eating and drinking establishments for them to patrol with many open 24 hours.

Despite the popularity it is fortunatley not as noisy or as full throttle as Ibiza and you are more likely to hear Bob Marley telling his woman not to cry rather than high energy hip hop frankly trying to make me cry. OK it is touristy and on every square cm there seems to be someone trying to sell me something. "OK I believe you. the sun glasses are genuine Gucci and the necklace is made from genuine pearls, Father Christmas exists and the moon is made from cheese".

Many of the venders are ladyboys. There are so many of them that I was considering opening a gender realignment clinic on the beach. I will call it the first cut is the deepest. It takes all sorts but for me Boracay was just the tonic, just a place to relax, to swim, to drink, to read and surrender to it's charms. White beach was on a classic sweeping curve of white powdery sand, palm trees swaying in the breeze. At sunset as the fishing boats come in the sea is illuminated in a brilliant crimson red. Amidst this great beauty, my days were easily filled by reading, drinking, eating, chatting to the eclectic characters that I met. These folk ranged from 20 something Polish backpackers to 70 year old Dutch divorcees looking for someone to justify their Viagra purchase.

At £6.50 a night the accommodation was perhaps the cheapest on the island but was a lovely, clean, comfortable guest house with a communal area where I could share a drink with a multinational group of tourists including Phillipinos. In the sterile luxury of the resorts you would not be exposed to such a sociable mix. I made a drinking companion in Herve (from Switzerland). He introduced me a bar run be a German so corpulent that he made Jabba the hut look like Karen Carpenter.

I sure felt that I was on top of the world looking down on creation. But the almighty’s eye was clearly off the ball when the sky started to get greyer, the sea choppier as news of the typhoon arrived. Fish supplies in the restaurants were running out. Coconuts were being removed from palm trees. A trip to the bar on a windy evening was tinged with danger. The atmosphere was changing like the first act of a disaster movie,. You knew something was about to happen. All the subplots were being unwound. The waitress turns out she had changed her identity to escape from her abusive husband. The curmudgeonly old women loosing her pathetic poodle to a fallen branch from a palm tree.

Like a big movie anticlimax however the storm was downgraded to a level 2. So fortunately nothing like the typhoon that hit the country the previous year at about the same time of year. Enough damage however to result in flight delays. Hence an extra 2 days on the island. I can think of worse places to be stranded. Nevertheless when the ferries and planes were ready to depart I felt that it was time to depart from this spiritual comfy armchair of a place. Time to depart on the road to Iloilo. Any city pronounced ee low ee low deserves my patronage.

Posted by gavinbose 13:55 Archived in Philippines

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