Farewell to Malapascua

Copyright Michael Bencik 2013

Copyright Michael Bencik 2013

For a small island, you would never believe how many amazing things were going on here. We were only here for a very short two weeks, but we did and experienced so much. First and foremost the diving is spectacular. The only place in the world where you are pretty much guaranteed to see a thresher shark. What is a thresher shark, well imagine your standard jaws, enlarge the eyes 4 times, shrink the mouth a bit, and then add a whip like tail that curls in the waters like a pendant in the wind. That my friends, is a thresher shark. But there is so much more too: from the tiniest little sea horses, to the deadly stone fish, inquisitive octopus, squid, cuddle fish, and more. Though the coral is not the best in the world, mainly due to the harmful effects of dynamite fishing, what is left is beautiful. Each dive was an amazing, vivid, immersive experience. I dove with Evolution because the reviews were the best, and in the end, I found them completely professional and safe.

The island itself is also spectacular for exploring, and not so large to be out of reach. After all, its only 1 kilometer by 2 kilometers. There are some hills on the Northern half of the island, so you can get some attitude too. On the island is a town, with the school, church, medical clinic, and anything else you might need. Most of the buildings in town are made out of concrete. There are no cars on the island, so don’t expect anything like that. You want a cab you hail a scooter. Then not far from the town is the village, this is where the majority of the people live. Just think of it as the suburbs. Houses here vary from large 4 bedroom houses to little wood shacks with dirt floors. I love walking through the village and hanging out with all the locals. They would play basketball on a net hooked up to a palm tree. There is another small village at the other end of the island.

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Malapascua. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

I already mentioned the festival, but even when that was over there were exciting things to see and do. We decided to rent a scooter and head to the other end of the island, where there is a little resort. If you like being isolated, this is the spot for you. There is no electricity, so no ice, mango smoothies, or cold beer. But it is beautiful, with the highest point of the island and a small inlet with a nice beach. The diving out here is really good too.

We ended up chatting with some men about Obama and life in the states. They shared their beers with us, and invited us to come back. Their kids were shy and quiet. Very few tourist come out to this end of the island. The village had some cinderblock houses, but most of it is made out of the weaved palm fronds. To get there though you go through some beautiful rural farms. It’s worth the walk.

There are a plethora of restaurants on the island, but he best really is the local shops. Here you will get anything from stir-fry’s, fresh fish, and grilled meats. They are also the cheapest around. It is near impossible for me to pass this section of town and not get something delicious.

Crazy things happen on the island too. One day we were walking back from lunch and there was a huge crown in front of our bungalow. A woman was on her way to the mainland to give birth when the baby decided it was time. She was surrounded by everyone, laying on the sand, in the typical birthing positions. Typical I guess from someone who had never seen anything like it. I really was not sure about the protocol when it comes to something like this. Do you take pictures, or not. DO you even want to. I was back and forth and decided not to intrude on her privacy. Last thing I needed was an army of locals out to kick my ass for intruding. I came back ten minutes later and the kids were telling me all about the birth. They were the best little reporters around. Apparently the husband did not even show up because he was drunk, a bit of an asshole according to my young friends. But then they went into detail how the baby was turned the wrong way, and so one of the ladies helped get the baby straightened out and delivered. It was amazing, and the kids knew so much. They asked me if I was going to do a cartoon about it, and why was I not taking pictures. What are your thoughts on something like this? Watch or leave?

Cock Fight, Malapascua. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

Cock Fight, Malapascua. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

In the Philippines, cock fighting rules. I am not a fan of this sport, I feel it to be a bit cruel to the chickens. But I felt I should check it out just for the sake. I had made a cartoon about trying to see a cockfight at the beginning of the trip, and felt it would be a good ending to see one now that the trip was almost over. Now cock fights don’t really bring in the most savory characters, so it’s important to be careful. I flagged a scooter down, and asked for them to take me to the fight. It was only on this day, so I did not want to miss it. We went all the way to the other end of the island, where Yvonne and I had hiked to earlier. In the middle of the village was a small square completely surrounded my men screaming and shouting. My scooter driver escorted me around because he feared for my safety, and also to explain everything to me.

The roosters have long, razor sharp knifes attached to the back of their claws. The males are highly territorial, and will go at each other like crazy. The men treat these birds like they are the most precious jewels in the world, better than their wives. They feed, clean, and treat them for illnesses. They even give them tick baths as we learned when washing Lobo. All this work for what amounts to about a minute or two of fighting. They throw the roosters at each other, and their instincts take over. I am not even sure it last a minute. One of the fights the rooster managed to get into the crowd, and everyone was diving out of the way, trying not to get cut by the knife. I thought this was hilarious, to see the people who fight the birds so terrified of those same birds. Irony, I think so. In the fights I saw, both roosters usually ended up dead.

So what’s the point you ask? I suppose you could say these roosters are living a better life than normal chickens, and they die doing what comes natural to them. So perhaps it is more humane than dropping them in boiling water like factory farms. Two fights were more than enough for me, and I got the hell out of there.

This was our last night here, and we were looking forward to eating local food and relaxing. Yvonne was just getting over the flu. We wandered around town, hitting our local favorite spots, eating a bit here and there. Then as we were passing the small store, the owner started talking to us. She asked us to join her husband and her sing karaoke. There were about five of us westerners there, and we went in her house, which was dominated by her big TV and entertainment stand. Out here this would be the prize possession. We all squeezed in on the couches while she dropped a pile of liquor in the center of the room. Well, you know I need to be good and drunk to sing, and she made sure we were. By the end of the night we were belting out pop songs among the best of them. She did not want us to leave, but it was already around midnight. We had the best time singing with them though.

 

As we walked out I bumped into my guide of the cock fight, and he was heading to the disco. Did we want to come? Huh, well, late night drunken decisions always go a little crazy, so we hopped on the back and zoomed back to the other end of the island, with a full moon lighting the way. We pulled into the village and the basket ball court had been converted to a late night disco. There was a wall of speakers 15 feet high, and it was blasting all sorts of pop music. Lights were strung across the court and everyone was dancing and mingling. There were tons of people out there enjoying this night. The party was just getting started, but we had to leave early in the morning. So we had one drink then headed home. What an amazing last night. The island never let us down.

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Disco! Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

 

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Gorgeous Paradise. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

Our young friends hooked us up in the end too, getting a boat to pick us up on our beach to take us to our bus. We did not even have to pay anything. They were so awesome.

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Farewell to the island, many tears shed. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

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Farewell to the island, many tears shed. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

It was here in Malapascua, more than anywhere else on our trip that we really got to know, love, and hang out with the locals. We were invited into their homes, dined with them, and sang with them. It was not the island, as beautiful as it was that we loved here, but the people.

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Our gardian angels. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

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The hardest thing to leave on the island, our Beautiful Lobo. Copyright Michael Bencik 2014

 

2 responses to “Farewell to Malapascua

  1. Good writing! It was so descriptive I felt like I was there. I understand the idea behind art to add to the writing. I’m slowly doing the same thing section hiking the Appalachian Trail. It really is the people in a place that makes the magic in it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks so much for checking it out, and the nice words. I love to travel, its been a passion for ever. Art was never an option, I knew that what ever I did it would be part of it. So I love mixing the two.

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