|It's Martin's last night, and as he's been here for over four months it should be a good one. There is only one set of speakers on the island big enough for a disco, and normally they're at a place just down the beach from the dive shop, but tonight they're having the disco at a basketball court just off the beach behind the Hippocampus bar. We get warmed up by quickly ploughing through a bottle of Tanduay and another of gin as we sit on the veranda of Paolo's hut in Cocabana and feeling suitably fuzzy, which is the bare minimum needed to get through a Filipino disco, we head off towards the music, the disco coming into view as we shakily slalom our way between the palm trees. The basketball court has no sides and the flat cement surface makes for a perfect dance floor, with the lights on a stand in the middle, sending out beams of green, red and yellow over what looks like the entire population of Malapascua. We soon find the boat crew and start on the two cool-boxes of beer as we take in the scene. The dance floor is mobbed, especially when the current favourite song comes on. Everyone here loves this song (everyone that is except us), with even three year kids singing the chorus of 'I love nobody, nobody but you'. I spot one Filipino-Western couple I've seen before, both in their forties and always in matching T-shirts, giving it some. And then there's a pause before the next song and the floor clears like someone's just dropped one while the DJ talks about something or other, lays down another poppy disco number and everyone surges on to the floor again. Ladyboys (baiot in Tagalog) hang around in small groups, including one who looks around nine years old and who gravitate towards us every time we go for a boogie. I have to admit, seeing someone so young mincing about in makeup and trying to catch your eye quite disturbing, but it's a good night, everyone has had a laugh and come 2am we all shuffle off into the darkness, back to our huts.
The next day, it's one very hungover Kinnie that walks up the half foot-wide gangplank to the banca that will take me back to Maya. The crossing is rough due to a typhoon off Japan, which has sent some strong winds to buffet the Pacific Rim and I'm relieved to get back onto dry land again. After a bus and then a tricycle ride, I get to the port of Hagnaya to board the ferry to the island of Bantayan. This is the first RoRo I've been on this trip and it is a smooth crossing to Santa Fe, my arm draped over the side as I watch yet another sand haloed island get closer and closer. Getting off at Santa Fe, it's just constant hassle as one tout after another tries to get me in to their tricycle. I walk towards the town with two or three of them slowly pedaling alongside like a miasma of flies, refusing to take no for an answer and constantly badgering me with 'Hey my friend, where you going?', and other questions. I take a turn towards the beach to get my bearings, which also has the benefit of shaking off my unwanted friends and where I realise that I've burnt my arms, fooled by the overcast sky into thinking I didn't need to put any cream on. When I get back onto the road, after a bit more walking, I find a very nice nipa cottage at Islander Cottages for 350 pesos a night. It's nice when resisting all the hassle pays off, and it's even nicer to put my daypack down and have a shower after being on the move for nearly four hours.
Take a leisurely walk after and have some pork and chicken skewers by way of a snack, but don't eat too much despite being famished as I want to save my appetite for the all-you-can-buffet later on at D'Jungle, run by the same guy who runs the cottages I'm staying in. It was worth it, dozens of delicious dishes that made me wish I could just stay hungry, so good did it all look and taste. The talk that night is about a big ferry that went down in the early hours of the morning, though fortunately most of the 1000 plus passengers and crew managed to get off in time. I sit at the bar afterwards, speaking to an older German traveller who'd narrowly avoided being on an Indonesian ferry that sank with all hands, my stomach feeling like I've swallowed a bowling ball after all the food, with the free iced tea just rolling down the sides. He asks Robert what happens to all the food that gets left over, which on a quiet night like this in the off season must be lots, and Robert cheerfully explains that nothing is wasted as the staff get to take the leftovers home.