I’ve just returned from a dive trip in the tiny coastal town of Moalboal in the Philippines, and a worrying question keeps crossing my mind — have I become too accustomed to city life? Am I becoming a dreaded city girl? Have I turned into one of those people who needs to have a lot of space, a lot of variety, a lot of choices in my daily life? Places to go, things to do, people to see, all the time? I’ve always considered myself an island girl, someone who is quite happy to sit in the sand with a book and a drink. So how is it possible that I found myself bored in Moalboal? Me, bored in a beautiful tropical destination where the sky is always blue and the beers are always US$1? How could it be?
But really, Moalboal is one of the most remote places I’ve ever been. The town was just small. Small and very quiet. Did I mention it was small? When I say small, I mean that by the third day, you know the entire area, have eaten in almost every restaurant, and all the T-shirt vendors know you by name. It started to feel a bit repetitive, walking the same little sandy street past the same people three times a day. And in all fairness, all the locals in the town did say that they had never seen the town so dead — there simply weren’t enough tourists around.
Thankfully, the diving kept us quite busy. Seiji was getting his PADI Open Water, and while he was doing all his theory, I was off on a banca (that’s a Filipino boat) with a group of some very quiet and serious Germans getting ready to descend 30 metres to get up close and personal with a very stubborn frogfish. The diving was amazing, as the entire coast is surrounded by a shallow reef that falls off into a deep abyss. Sharks, nudibranches, schools of sardines, parrotfish, and many many turtles kept us company on our dives. And nothing was quite as satisfying as coming up from a dive, and having an ice cold Negra beer while watching the sunset.
Quo Vadis was a great dive shop with a beautiful waterfront view, and our divemaster Dodo was always full of jokes and cool as a cucumber. Every morning we woke up at 7:00, walked to a nearby restaurant, The Last Filling Station, for breakfast, and were descending to 30 metres by 9:00. After an hour, back up again, lunch time, midday nap, and then an afternoon dive again. Come back up, drink a cold beer, go out for dinner, have a few more drinks, and then do it all over again tomorrow. What a difficult life we live.
We did also go into Moalboal town one day to get out of Panagsama Beach and away from the dive shops to see how the locals really live. Boy did we get some funny stares — I am pretty sure they don’t get a Japanese guy and a white girl walking through their little market every day. The fishermen were selling their catch, little shops were selling protein boosters for roosters since cock fighting is very popular, and more than a few places had karaoke going on, with some very very poor singing. Quite entertaining!
One night we had a great time at a local bar and ended up chatting with all kind of people, including the gorgeous Stella, who had to show us her estrogen pills to prove she was a real live ladyboy, and Dominic, the trilingual 15-year-old son of one of the German dive shop owners whose mom was local Filipina. Stella seemed pretty content to lime with us that night, as there were no… ahem… customers in town. Who knows how many San Migeuls were drank, but it was more than enough to give us a wicked hangover the next day.
In addition, the next night we ended up making friends with those same serious Germans staying in the dive shop, who surprised us by speaking English (they hadn’t said a word in English to anyone for days). They actually turned out to be very, very funny – ‘Listen listen, ve are not gay, ya! He is my cousin! I don’t like the men ya! Ve are fucking German!’ – so maybe it is true that Germans may seem serious on the surface, but just need a few drinks in them to get the party started.
I managed to do nine dives on this trip, which is great because I’m really trying to get more experience and become a better diver. And now that Seiji is certified, I’m sure we will be doing a lot more diving together in the near future.