Rhum and Coke. Romblon to Port Bombonon (Negros). (29February to 04April).

Sally leaving Romblon after potholing on motorbike!!!

It can be a bit difficult to buy beer in the Philippines, that is beer to take on the boat. Cans, the container of choice for most seafaring types (glass and all in a moving boat), can be hard to find and usually expensive. Bottles on the other hand are a lot easier to locate and whilst not in the class of the cheap cartons of beer in Langkawi or Labuan, is relatively inexpensive; relative to Australia especially! The procedure is to initially buy a plastic crate containing the beer and in the process pay a deposit for both the crate and the glass bottles containing whichever variety of beer one is keen to drink. Of course this is much more environmentally sound than the other system of no deposit and an observation any visitor to the Philippines would make (especially after Indonesia and Malaysia) is the noticeable absence of hectares of rubbish floating in the water and washed up on the beaches. However and before one gets too excited about environmental revelations one also needs to consider the state of the reefs here given the tendency for the locals to blow up their reef(s) or use cyanide, both in the interest of effective fishing; but on the beer.

They love their chooks here, well fighting chooks!

Wilson and the butterfly man.

When seeking out more beer one must locate a shop dealing in that particular brew, or a beer truck, or maybe pay somebody on a motorcycle to seek out the beer shop for you. The price usually comes in for the beer transaction, incorporating the change over on the crate and bottles, somewhere around 400-500 Philippino pesos; say $10-$13 Aus dollars. If however one simply buys a beer off the shelf at the supermarket it will cost anywhere up to about 65 Pesos per beer (remember you are here paying for the can or bottle also). Still seems cheap except that whilst buying the beer off the shelf at the supermarket you usually notice that those large bottles (yep, 750 ml) of local rum (Rhum) sell for about the same price as a single can of beer; stunning really!

Port Bombodon.

Wednesday night buffet!

Tagbilaran.

We are happily ensconced in Port Bombonon sharing a very secure, typhoon resistant anchorage with about 20 other boats, some that will probably never move again. Bombonon is on Negros and about 50 km south of Dumaguete, the largest city in these parts. Quiet here with the choice of eating on-board or ashore really any night one likes at the locals places and on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights a buffet can be procured after a short dinghy ride to the little, rickety, bamboo piers favoured hereabouts. The Gadfly has been here for two weeks after a 390 mile island hop from Romblon, passing through Sibuyan, Masbati, Malapascua, Cebu (Port Carmen and bus into Cebu), Bohol, Siquihor and finally Negros. After Romblon the move was direct and in an expeditious manner through to Port Carmen as Sally was trying to make a flight headed to Manila and on to somewhere in Malaysia for a month or two of boat minding. Wilson (apparently named after Woodrow!!) from the US joined at Port Carmen and there was also the matter of the autohelm part being shipped to Cebu (and of course the problem of dealing with Phi customs, as long as you have some money!). Sibuyan and Masbati were really just overnight stops in open roadsteads off the reef followed by an early (0230) departure from Masbati for Malapascua. This passage was around 65 miles so an early start then find an anchorage before dark was the go. The best option appeared to be a little island called Malapascua that we thought would be a rocky outcrop but turned out to be one of the bigger dive, tourist operations in the Philippines! We spent a couple of nights on Malapascua checking out the sights and apparently the attraction here is diving with the ‘Thresher sharks’, followed very closely by the bars although apparently you can also get a close look at the ‘Threshers’ in the market!

Port Carmen is around 40km north of Cebu and you have the choice of riding the ‘Ceres’ liner buses into town or getting in the local Jeepneys to watch the touts trying to lure potential bus riders into their clearly superior transportation. The crew changeover went swimmingly, Sally was off to other adventures, Wilson arrived fully equipped with her Banjo, while customs extracted ‘duty’ from Trevor of greater dollar value than the autohelm part actually sent from Australia; we had been warned. After  Carmen it was a south-east day hop with wind and current assist to inside the ‘Danajon Bank’ and a very dubious anchorage just inside the NE corner of Lapinin Island off the NE corner of Bohol. There is a definitive shortage of good anchorages on the east and south of Bohol so next day was a longish run around to a little bay on the south at Loay where we arrived actually after the sun had gone down but with just enough light to not run over the fishing nets strung in multiples across the entrance. That night one of the fishermen came over to say hello and tell us how not to run aground to the west when leaving, rather nice of him and all. He had his two school age children with him and after we gave them some food treats and him a beer he offered (we declined) to give us some of his evening catch, that is one of the two small fish he had to show for an evening fishing; they really do it hard here!!!

Tagbilaran is the capital of Bohol and we arrived just in time to celebrate Amanda’s birthday as Thyme was about with their two Swedes (Robin and Pontis) doing some snorkelling and sightseeing before the Swedes headed for Cebu then Japan; interesting night out with Robin doing Tagalog songs and impersonating (trying anyway) Tom Jones at ‘Sexbomb’. Bohol is also the place to visit the local ‘Tarsier’ population, Tarsiers being the smallest of the primates, they  are haplorrhine primates of the family Tarsiidae, which is itself the lone extant family within the infraorder Tarsiiformes. Although the group was once more widespread, all the species living today are found in the islands of Southeast Asia.

Stuff about Tarsiers! (From Wiki).

Tarsiers are small animals with enormous eyes; each eyeball is approximately 16 mm in diameter and is as large as its entire brain. Tarsiers also have very long hind limbs. In fact, their feet have extremely elongated tarsus bones, from which the animals get their name. The head and body range from 10 to 15 cm in length, but the hind limbs are about twice this long (including the feet), and they also have a slender tail from 20 to 25 cm long. Their fingers are also elongated, with the third finger being about the same length as the upper arm. Most of the digits have nails, but the second and third toes of the hind feet bear claws instead, which are used for grooming. Tarsiers have very soft, velvety fur, which is generally buff, beige, or ochre in color. Unlike many nocturnal vertebrates, tarsiers lack a light-reflecting area (tapetum lucidum) of the eye and have a fovea.

The tarsier’s brain is different from other primates in terms of the arrangement of the connections between the two eyes and the lateral geniculate nucleus, which is the main region of the thalamus that receives visual information. The sequence of cellular layers receiving information from the ipsilateral (same side of the head) and contralateral (opposite side of the head) eyes in the lateral geniculate nucleus distinguishes tarsiers from lemurs, lorises, and monkeys, which are all similar in this respect. Some neuroscientists suggested that “this apparent difference distinguishes tarsiers from all other primates, reinforcing the view that they arose in an early, independent line of primate evolution.” Tarsiers are the only extant entirely carnivorous primates: they are primarily insectivorous, and catch insects by jumping at them. They are also known to prey on birds, snakes, lizards, and bats. As they jump from tree to tree, tarsiers can even catch birds in motion.

All tarsier species are nocturnal in their habits, but like many nocturnal organisms, some individuals may show more or less activity during the daytime. Gestation takes about six months, and tarsiers give birth to single offspring. Young tarsiers are born furred, and with open eyes, and are able to climb within a day of birth. They reach sexual maturity by the end of their second year. Sociality and mating system varies, with tarsiers from Sulawesi living in small family groups, while Philippine and western tarsiers are reported to sleep and forage alone.

Tarsiers tend to be extremely shy animals and have never formed successful breeding colonies in captivity. This may be partly due to their special feeding requirements. However, a sanctuary near the town of Corella, on the Philippine island of Bohol, is having some success restoring tarsier populations. The Philippines Tarsier Foundation (PTFI) has developed a large, semiwild enclosure known as the Tarsier Research and Development Center. Carlito Pizarras, also known as the “Tarsier man” founded this sanctuary where visitors can watch tarsiers up close in the wild (naturally without touching them). The trees in the sanctuary are populated with nocturnal insects that make up the tarsier’s diet.

The 2008-described Siau Island tarsier is regarded as Critically Endangered and was listed among The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates by Conservation International and the IUCN/SCC Primate Specialist Group in 2008. The Malaysian government protects tarsiers by listing them in the Totally Protected Animals of Sarawak, the Malaysian state in Borneo where they are commonly found. As the Tarsiers are nocturnal they are pretty much asleep or nearly so when you visit. The attendants at the sanctuary spend all day making sure that tourists don’t poke the animals, use flash photography, shake their tree or try to handle them. The attendants are also not sure how secure the population of Tarsiers is on Bohol and indicated that nobody knows how many there are in the wild!

After our Tarsier trip and visit to the ‘Chocolate hills another excursion on Bohol is to spend the day checking some of the local caves followed by an 8 km walk up a river gorge (actually mostly in the river) to a waterfall. With the Thymers we sallied forth on Jeepney and after our spelunking exercise (and avoiding the annoyed bats) we clumped upriver and did the bombing thing off the rocks.

Chocolate Hills. Apparently they go brown in the dry season.

River pictures from the Thyme.

Thyme, hull down.

From Tagbilaran to the south of Siquijor and San Juan is 45 miles and an open anchorage, off the reef sheltered by the island from the prevailing north-easterlies. We anchored here with Thyme almost on top (well about 400 metres away) of a steel shipwreck in about 5 metres of water. Some of the locals here have a dive barge and are happily attempting to remove said wreck in pieces, raising sections of about a tonne at a time and selling it for scrap. They were more than happy to have us watch and let us use their hookah (surface supply air) which was really just a compressor (no filters) with little, long, plastic tubes you stick in your mouth, positive pressure here so sort of breathe with your mouth open letting the air keep water out! The barge is equipped with lifting tackle and ‘Broco’ (cutting-burning gear), so after burning off a wreck piece they lift it up under their barge then float/drag it ashore and haul it to the scrap man; 17 pesos/kilo! Siquijor is also renowned for its ‘healers’ so we went to visit the local faith healers to see if one of them could help us out (probably not enough faith here really). Afterwards we were dragged by one the locals into his developing butterfly sanctuary, ah well spread the love around and all, he was very happy to have some visitors and it didn’t cost much.

That wreck getting smaller. Thyme pictures.

The Gadfly, full rig.

So after a short, day hop from Siquijor the boat is residing in Bombonon with Trevor catching up on a multitude of boat repairs before Gini arrives for a month away from her studies on Tasmanian Devils and Quolls, in funnily enough, Tasmania. Thyme is here planning to leave early tomorrow (04April) headed west, while Daryl on Metana, here also, has headed to Aus for three weeks before he also departs for more wasterly longitudes. We should be away on the weekend but it’s holy week here (Easter) and buying food or beer might slow us down a day or two. Maybe we should buy Rhum? At the beach bar on Malapascua after getting clarification on prices we definitely decided Rhum was the go. It did require confirmation but a beer was 75P, a single Rhum and Coke was 60P, a double was 50P and a triple was 40P; Coca Cola is more expensive than the rum you see!

Rhum and Coke. You have to love the pricing.

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