6th February 2006
Pretty attention grabbing headline, huh? When you're planning a trip to Negros with a bunch of your volunteer buddies, this is not the sort of thing you want to see.
I've typed up the full article and it can be found here.
I saw a lady reading this during the Dingayang festival and asked if I could have it 'cause I was just a tad curious to see what the article was about. The RPA is a splinter group from the NPA. Both desire a communist style government in the Philippines and are prepared to use violent means. I assume they have some sort of ideological difference, as it was an NPA operative that carried out the assassination on the RPA commander.
The volunteers that were killed were local Filipino volunteers. They were probably helping out the local captain with some simple security stuff. Breaking up drunken fights, security watch, crowd control at big events. That sort of thing. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It sounds a bit odd, but since it was Filipino volunteers that were killed, I wasn't overly concerned about going to Negros. I would of been much more concerned if western volunteers were being targeted.
I mentioned the assassinations to the Mayor during a meeting, wondering if he had anything useful to add. He was quite concerned as he puts a lot of effort into ensuring the safety of volunteers. He made a few phone calls and organized a police escort for us on Negros. It wasn't what I really expected or wanted, but we decided to agree to the police escort.
The Mayor had given my cellphone number to the police commander of Negros, and the commander was to call me to arrange a place to meet and so on.
The phone call never came.
I'm sure the Mayor will get annoyed by this and will shout at a few people.
Anyway, we decided to head off for another island adventure .
The ferries here are quite interesting. All of them are Japanese rejects. You can usually spot a Japanese logo or two on the sides of the ferries. The Japanese sells the ferries they deem un-seaworthy to the Philippines. This says two things to me.
Firstly, I think the Japanese are far too anally-retentive about their safety standards. The slight wearing of the ball bearing or two does make the boat/car/airplane unsafe. It's just wasteful.
Secondly, it shows the Filipinos to be the polar opposite of the Japanese. The boats/cars/tricycles that they buy might start off safe, but soon fall into disrepair and become unsafe. Some of the Jeepneys that I have ridden in have had rust holes in their floors. There are obviously some economy factors coming into play. Maybe Japan could give the Philippines a squillion dollars and their safety standards could meet somewhere in the middle.
We also saw some giant bats flying around. I asked a local how big they were, and he stretched out his arms as far as he could and said, "This big". Very cool.
We spent the last evening in the hot pools. Everyone joined in initially, but it ended up only being me and three other guys. We talked about all sorts of stuff:
Deep and meaningful conversations in idyllic spots are always good value.
This, however, did not stop me teaching the other volunteers how to play Pusoy. I explained to them that what we were doing was technically illegal, but nobody seemed to mind/care very much.
Everybody really got into it, which was cool. Playing a very Filipino game was half the fun. The usual jokes were made about the amount of money we were betting. "You owe me 25 centavos Lachlan. You better pay up or it's your kneecaps." 25 centavos is worth 0.63 New Zealand cents...
I was the dealer on the first night we played. Nobody won or lost very much. On the second night Eric was the dealer. He cleaned up big time. The final tally went something like this:
*Warning. Geeky math up ahead. If you'd prefer to skip to the bit when I plunge into the Pool of Death, click here*
Poor old Lachlan tried that old gambling trick based on the Fibonacci series of numbers. The theory goes that your adjust the amount of your next bet so that any winnings you get will offset any loses you have had up to that point.
So, in a game of even odds like Pusoy, if you've lost one peso, then your next bet would be two pesos. If you lose again, then it would be three. If you kept on losing your bets would go like this: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 ... * If you won at any point, your losses would be offset and you'd be back to all square.
This method is only guaranteed to work if you have an infinite supply of money. Lachlan did not, and he eventually lost all his loose change to Eric.
Hiking in the Mountains of Negros
The guide's name was Bal. He was a cool guy. During the walk he found some vines that he wove into bracelets. He usually sells them for fifty pesos (NZ$ 1.35) each during the busy tourist times, but gave us some for free.
Dumangas is a very flat place. Much like Christchurch in New Zealand. Negros is almost the complete opposite. Lots of mountains and hills and even an odd volcano or two. This all made for quite a difficult walk.
I preferred the up parts myself. I could just put my head down and grind my way up. Down was much harder, particularly after the rain we had. You had to be very careful where your foot landed so you wouldn't slip. There was also some very cool river crossings.
We also passed through many small farming communities. It was very interesting to see the very basic living conditions of these people. Most of them hid from us, but I did manage to get a picture of some of local kids.
* Look kids! It's the Fibonacci Series!
** Well, not really...
2005 and 2006 Malcolm Trevena.