Friday, January 13, 2012


So Christmas is on the horizon and we decide it is time for an adventure.  We choose the Philippines for a number of reasons, one of them being that it has such a large catholic population and it is, well, Christmas time.  Borocay is the well-known tourist destination with beautiful white sand beaches and will be the destination for many of our peers at SAS.  Looking for something a bit different we discover the island of Mindoro and the town of Puerta Galera.  Deciding that we want an even more exotic adventure, we spend a few days coming over the more than 7000 islands that make up this interesting country - well, I don't think we actually looked at 7000, but we spent a heck of a lot of time.  Anyhow we found this small Island called Camiguin.  It has 8 volcanos and a rich history with Spanish settlements dating back to the 1500's.  It is about 5 miles by 10 miles and has a very small little neighbor - white island - which is barely an island at high tide.  Everything we read about the people on this island is welcoming and inviting.  We find a small cottage for rent - about 50 bucks and night including breakfast and book it.  We buy plane tickets for the four of us and one for Auntie Jenn who will be joining us for Christmas.  We tell the Lauwes about it and they get on board.  Woo Hoo!  We will fly into Manila then catch an early morning flight to Cagayan de Oro in Mindanau,  the large southern main Island of the Philippines.  Then we catch a shuttle to the port and a 2 hour boat ride to Camiguin.
The people of Camiguin continue their idyllic and simple
 existence sheltered and unfazed by the virulent pressures of
today’s accelerated lifestyles.
     Then, as we start poking around, we read about Mindanao.  Now although Camiguin, is very safe and calm, Mindanao has had some issues in the past.  Some very scary issues.  Mindanao has a bad reputation.  Mindanao is on the US travel advisory listed as "Essential Travel Only" for the north and "Do not Travel" for the southern regions.  Same for the New Zealand, Austrailian, Canadian, and British sites. There is some serious political and religeous conflict in the area.  Eric Lauwen expressed severe reservations about going there at Thanksgiving dinner #2.  Jim Hesse expressed VERY strong reservations about going there during thanksgiving dinner #3.  We're listeing.  Mirjam (who marvelled at our adventurous bicycle trip in the fall) comes over a few days later and explains that they are not interested in this type of adventure for Christmas and have changed their plans to a different Island.
Camiguin is believed to be one of the Philippines’
most beautiful island, a virtual paradise,
as the island allows visitors to experience a
glimpse of untouched beauty in its entirety. 
   We go to the big SAS formal dinner party and discuss our plans with our more experinced colleages.  A few couple with whom were talking explain that they've travelled all over the world and often you don't need to listen to these advisories.  Then we run into John Veitch who has kids and has travelled quite a bit in the Philippines.  Using a mild expletive for emphasis, John directly told us we were NOT going to Mindanao.  I coached with John this fall, I know him very well, We take his advice.
      We change our plans, having to bail on our flight from Manila to Cagayan de Oro, and plan to go to Puerta Galera for the Holidays.  Christmas will be explained in a further post.  However, the impactual part of this story is that the day before we were to leave Shanghai for Manila, there was a severe Typhoon in the Southern Philippines creating a massive flash flood in Cagayan de Oro. The city was underwater, a large tragedy.  The death count is well over 1000.  We felt very thankful to John Vietch.
  Now we still have these plane tickets to fly from Manila to somewhere in the philipppines and need to use them sometime in the next year.   Like the Philippines and want to get back.  This was a somewhat costly mistake, but the thought of avoiding tragedy is of course often priceless.

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