The girls were somewhat jittery as we boarded the first flight to Manila, via Sydney, as always, the fear of the unknown coming to the fore. Coupled with a clear lack of confidence in their mother for dealing with anything whatsoever- ‘I wish Daddy was here’ was a continuous echo 😜…. Arrival at Manila went smoothly thanks to the delightful Johannes, a German now settled in Manila, who collected us in person from the airport to take us to the condo we had rented from him for our brief stay, and looked after us incredibly well throughout. Just 20 mins from the airport in what looked like a leafy, very agreeable condo, with our kat chance at wifi for days, it served our purposes very well for our flight next day to Palawan.
One or two comments about PH safety left me slightly nervous, I must admit, as we got back to the airport the next day, delighting nevertheless in the Asian chaos of telephone and electricity lines, skyscrapers jostling for space amongst shanty towns, horribly polluting jeepneys, spectacularly hair raising driving: this is what we’d been waiting for after all! And while there are parts of Manila you wouldn’t want to touch with a barge pole, Johannes explained that it was a good deal safer than Mexico City or Johannesburg… is that reassuring? I suppose it is! Police and security checks at the airport abound, as do long check in lines, so as long as you keep your wits about you, and any six year old child on a short leash, it really was absolutely fine. Our Cebu Pacific flight only had a half hour delay, and goodness knows how many gate changes, but as soon as we were up in the air I could breathe easy….
One hour later and Puerto Princesa, one of those perfect two bit airports with nothing in them, welcomed us with the expressed taxi tours and tour guides gunning to make us part with inflated amounts of pesos, but Helen was there to meet us, along with two other volunteers, to take us in our slightly dilapidated van, along an enormous supermarket shop with 25 watermelons, packs of children’s games, 12 massive bottles of purified water, and who knows what else, piled over and under our backpacks, 2 hours south to Tigman, the village on the Aborlan coast that was to be home for the next two weeks.