We arrived on Tablas Island on Saturday and after checking into a lodge, walked into town to find an ATM to replenish our funds. The two banks in town would not accept our VISA card. There were no hotels or restaurants there either where you could pay anything by VISA! This was a first for us, as up to now, any ATM seemed to accept our VISA card.
Plan number two! - cash the US dollars that we had been carrying around. So off we set to a money lender to find out that they only accepted $100 notes and the largest one we had was $50. They suggested that a man where the ferry tickets were sold might give us some pesos for dollars, so off we plodded. Thankfully yes, he did exchange some, enough to get us by for the next while. Phew!
We contacted our next WOOFing job and took a bus to a small town where we were met and taken to an even smaller village. Here we were taken to the "White House", a concrete 3 storied 4 bedroom house, slightly run down, but with electricity, toilet and shower where we stayed for the week. When we later surveyed the houses in the little village, we realised that we were ensconced in a "palace" with a tiled floor downstairs and wooden floor upstairs, running water, gas cooker and a fridge - despite having to share it with a frog, LARGE spider, geckos, nesting starlings in the roof and numerous cockroaches!
We had about a 100 meter walk through a coconut plantation to reach a stunning beach, a bay stretching one way with absolutely no people, the other direction just a few local fishing boats pulled up on the sand.
And horrors! We discovered we would have to cook for ourselves! Not a restaurant to be found in the village! We took ourselves off down the road to the nearby local sari-sari stores where we could buy basics. Definitely rice! Eggs, buns (sometimes), coffee, beans, okra, squash, egg plant, small onions, tomatoes, soya sauce, local peanut butter, biscuits, sweet potatoes, sometimes bananas. We would spend about 250 pesos a day ($8) buying these items, but as you can imagine our vegetarian meals were very basic, but filling! At least this meant our pesos should last until we reached an ATM on the next island! After a couple of days we also discovered one of the stores had Red Horse beer for 25 pesos (less than $1) so we indulged in a bottle each evening without breaking the budget!
The WOOFing part was different again. The organic farm was a large pili nut farm up in the mountains from where we were staying in Agpudlus. (We had to Google 'pili' nuts to see what they were!). We were here over Easter and had some holiday days when nobody worked so it was quite a cushy week. We were taken by truck up a tortuous road to the pili nut farm for a day to have a look around the development. A really nice octagonal house has been built on top of the hills and the workers were busy landscaping the gardens, digging a fish pond and building a bamboo storage shed.
The oldest pili nut trees were only about 4 years old and just beginning to bear nuts. More land is still being cleared as the company is seeking more investors to buy into the project.
Back in Agpudlus, we spent some days helping at the nursery where pili nut seedlings, as well as other trees, are grown in polythene bags. Here Noni had to walk 100 metres downhill to a creek where she filled her watering can, and back up again to where the plants were. No such luxury as a pump or water tank nearby. People work extremely hard here - all for 250 pesos per day (about $8). She had four sons, all at school, while her husband worked in Manila.
So on our days off, we had time to explore the village and get acquainted with the locals, swim at the waterfall, watch rice being harvested, then threshed, then put out to dry on tarpaulins on the road before being bagged, admire babies (one was only a week old), watch a boat being built, painted and finally launched, watch the fishing boats return with their catches and answer lots of questions from the curious children and villagers!
Since the start of our travels, we have "mellowed" with regards to riding motorbikes. Originally, we reluctantly rode on the back and insisted on wearing helmets. Now in the village, we both jump on the back of the same bike to be transported somewhere without thinking of helmets! When in Rome........ The most children we have seen here on one motorbike is seven, driven by a very young driver! You are supposed to be 16 before you can drive a motorbike and get your licence.
We have one night back at Odiongon before another 5 am ferry ride takes us to Caticlan on Panay Island, where we do a short hop to Boracay Island, a popular tourist destination. Hopefully, WIFI to be able to update our photos.
Just a week there before we fly to Canada!