2001 Journal Archive

July, 2001: Panglao Island, Philippines

We completed the sale of our home in Woodland, California on the 30th of June. We then took two weeks to complete the arrangements for our trip to the Philippines and arrived here on the 17th of July. Our trip was rather long and tiring, but uneventful. After two flights, a taxi ride, and a ferry trip, we were met at the pier in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, by our boatbuilder, Andy Smith. He drove us to Alona Beach, Panglao Island, where we were met by Hans Grabner & Merla, friends from a previous visit to the island. We are staying in a cottage belonging to Hans. Merla had stocked the refrigerator with cold water, beer, and sodas, which were a welcome treat in the tropical heat and humidity.

On the trip to Alona, we stopped at Mo-Mo Beach to get our first exciting look at our new boat, Razzle Dazzle. She looks great, but it will be many months before she will be ready to be our home on the water.

It is oppressively hot here — and quite humid. The actual temperatures are not too high (80° - 90°F.), but that doesn't matter; it is simply too hot. We have air conditioning available to us, but have chosen not to use it. We are letting our bodies acclimatize to the heat. Hans recently added a swimming pool, which has been very refreshing.

On the 22nd of July, we went with Merla and her two children, Melanie and Patrick, to the Sandugo Festival in Tagbilaran City. The skies were overcast much of the day, and there was an impressive thunderstorm shortly after we got back to our cottage. There was heavy rain and a lot of very dramatic lightning. The power was out temporarily several times. All in all, it was a pleasant change, as it cooled things down a bit.

Neal Sandidge is an American friend who has a Tiki 38, "Tippicanoe", built here in the Philippines. In fact, Neal introduced us to Andy, and is in many ways responsible for our choosing to have our boat built here as well. Neal also owns a Tiki 21. He, Jamie, and Andy took the Tiki 21 out for a sail on the 29th of July. Unfortunately, the outboard motor refused to work, and after several hours of unsuccesful effort they borrowed an outboard from Hans. The winds were very light, and quickly died away to nothing. Hans' outboard was acting up as well, so the trip was a short one. We plan to try again soon.

— top of the page —

August, 2001: Panglao Island, Philippines

We have now been here for over a month, and have developed something of a routine. We generally get up early, before sunrise, and take a walk before the sun begins to heat everything up. We walk a short distance to Alona Beach and then walk along the beach and back to our cottage, about a half hour altogether. About once a week, we stop at the internet café near the beach and check for e-mail. We also stop at the swiss bakery which is just across the street from our cottage to buy fresh (hot) bread for the day.

After our walk, we have breakfast. Usually bread, or hot cereal, with fruit. Once in a while we have eggs and bread with fruit. Always fruit. The bananas are quite good, and the mangoes are absolutely magnificent! We have been told that the Panglao mangoes are considered the best in the Philippines. We certainly enjoy them a great deal.

Either before or after breakfast we shower and prepare for the day. On most days, Jim goes off to Mo-Mo with our boatbuilder, Andy Smith, to organize the work on the boat. Jim is planning for the location of electrical equipment and designing storage for our things. The boat is small and efficient storage is a must. Jamie has been reading about navigation, weather, etc. to help her prepare for life aboard once the boat is finished. We often take a nap in the afternoon, during the hottest time of the day. An afternoon dip in the pool helps us to keep cool, and swimming laps provides some good exercise.

On their way back from Mo-Mo, Jim and Andy stop at the Panglao Market for fresh fruits and vegetables, usually every other day.

About once a week, we go into Tagbilaran to visit the bank and to shop at one of the large department stores in town. Some of the products available are familiar US brands, often produced in the Philippines under contract, but much is new and different. The packaging is not familiar, and many items are available in amazingly small quantities. Jim thinks that many people are too poor to buy larger quantities and purchase just enough for the next day or two. The supermarkets are quite crowded and always very busy. Jamie finds shopping there to be rather stressful. The prices are generally quite reasonable, and we are actually spending less than we anticipated.

Andy has been kind enough to do all of the driving. He takes Jim to Mo-Mo each day, and takes both of us into Tagbilaran when we need to go there. This has been a great relief for us, as the traffic in the city is quite crowded. People don't follow the same traffic rules here as we are used to; everyone seems to be pushing and shoving to be first at intersections, there is much honking of horns, and left turns are quite harrowing. All in all, we are happy that we don't have to drive ourselves.

On the 28th, Merla invited us to lunch to celebrate the local Fiesta of Saint Augustine. The food was wonderful, a mixture of both Philippine and European dishes. We had a good time visiting with people; the kids played in the swimming pool; we had too much to eat, and then went to our cottage to take a nap. Altogether a very enjoyable day.

— top of the page —

September, 2001: Panglao Island, Philippines

September has been unusually hot. It is more normal for things to start cooling off as the NE monsoon sets in at this time of the year. We have also been told that the rainy season was not really well established this summer. All this may mean that we are in the beginnings of another El Niño event. I hope not.

We are making slow but steady progress on the boat. The main cabin is almost ready for painting, after which Jim can start work on the electrical system. He plans to start in the main cabin first because much of the wiring is concentrated there. Our last shipment from the US has been delayed, which may cause some delay. We still hope to be sailing by December.

We had a frightening experience at the beginning of the month that required a 4:00 a.m. trip to the Emergency Room and 2 days in the Ramiro Community Hospital in Tagbilaran City. Everything turned out fine, however, and gave us a chance to experience the medical system here in a rural area of the Philippines. (Jamie has worked all her life as an RN and Jim worked for many years at the University of California Medical Center in Sacramento, so we are very familiar with state-of-the-art medicine in the US. It was interesting to compare.)

The ER was small (2 beds) and in a building which is showing its age. The equipment is dated, and some things are improvised. The staff, however, was quite good. The doctor was thorough, asked the right questions, and explained what he was doing. He ordered labwork and X-rays (both departments were staffed at 4 am). The attending physician, Dr. Ramiro himself, ordered an ultrasound the next day. Both doctors were personable and willing to answer questions, and determined the correct diagnosis and treatment quickly. We were impressed. The hospital routine was somewhat different from the US. For example, family members routinely stay at the hospital, sleeping on benches provided for that purpose.

The Ramiro Hospital is privately owned, and more expensive than the government hospital. Our final bill (including physicians fees, 2 days room and board, labwork, X-ray & ultrasound, and medications) came to $102. The bill was computed manually, and was ready in about an hour. We withdrew the money from our bank account, and paid cash.

The hospital is expanding. The patient rooms are in a new wing, and more construction was underway during our time there. Dr. Ramiro told us they are installing a computerized accounting system in a few weeks. I hope it does as well as there current manual system.

Whenever we are in Tagbilaran, we like to have lunch at René's Swiss Gourmet Shop & Restaurant. They make great coffee (which they grind themselves), and serve tasty and innovative European food. The staff are friendly and helpful. They even made up a coffee to go, something that isn't normally done here, so Jamie could have coffee at the hospital.

While in Tagbilaran, we often travel on the tricycle taxis. We were frightened of them at first, but are beginning to relax and get used to them. As they say, "when in Rome, ... "

— top of the page —

October, 2001: Panglao Island, Philippines

The rainy season has finally started, and only about 4 months late. We have been having heavy rains every few days for most of October, and the temperatures have moderated. We are much more comfortable now.

We were approached earlier this month by the local Barangay Captain soliciting a contribution to the building fund for the new barangay hall. We got together with Neal and Andy and contributed about $100.

Our neighbors are Germans, Kurt and Andrea. Kurt owns Atlantis Dive Center (and the Safety Stop Bar) and Andrea is the lead diving instructor. Jim has been helping Andrea translate the Dive Center's website into English. It is a big job and will probably take them a couple of weeks. As a result we are eating for free at the Safety Stop Bar, and are going for diving lessons with Andrea.

The diving here is among the best in the world. Although some of the coral reefs here have been damaged by illegal fishing with dynamite and cyanide, most of them are still in great condition. Although few American divers come here, Panglao has been quite popular with European divers until recently. Fear of the Abu Sayaf has kept people away the last couple of years, even though there has never been any trouble around here. The current situation is likely to reduce tourism even more. This is actually a great time to come here, as the local resorts have reduced their prices dramatically.

We have begun socializing more as we meet more people. We are now trading lunch and dinner invitations with a variety of ex-pats from around the world. Most are European men with Filipina wives. So far, our circle of friends include Dutch, Austrians, Swiss, Germans, Americans, and a Brit. We are having a good time, but would like to move onto the boat and start traveling. Everything seems to take longer than expected. Still, we're having fun and don't have to go to work — ever. So life is good.

— top of the page —

November, 2001: Panglao Island, Philippines

The month of November has been quite busy for us. On the 5th, we went to Balicasag Island to go diving. We both had a great time. That night, we enjoyed a marvelous thunder and lightning show that seemed to go on for ever. Lightning was striking within about ¼ mile of us.

The next morning it rained like we have never seen before. The rain came down in torrents. The temperature plummeted to 75°F, and it kept raining steadily for days. A tropical disturbance named 27W (weathermen are such romantics) had formed in the Philippine Sea, to the east of the Philippines. As it moved almost straight west, it passed about 100 miles north of us, becoming a tropical storm in the process. It then strengthened as it entered the South China Sea, eventually becoming a category 4 typhoon (hurricane). Now named LingLing, the typhoon made a landfall in central Viet Nam about 6 days after its first impact on us.

Although only a tropical storm when it passed through the Philippines, LingLing caused at least 300 deaths on the island of Camiguin, about 100 miles SE of us. Most of the deaths were caused by lahars, floods of volcanic ash and rain water that can sweep away whole towns in minutes. The ash deposits were left from a volcanic eruption on Camiguin many years ago. There were no deaths reported in Bohol.

This was the first time in many years that this kind of storm has been seen here in Bohol. People who have lived here ten years had never seen so much rain. A filipina friend of ours said that the last time she had seen a storm like this was in the 1970's. The winds were strong here, although nothing close to typhoon strength, and raised great waves upon the beach. Even at low tide, the waves washed up over the sea walls, or what was left of them. Some small boats at anchor offshore were destroyed by the waves.

This has been a great change from our normal weather. We have generally had clear blue skies with huge, billowy cumulus clouds rising up from the surrounding seas. These will sometimes drift over us, deliverying short, intense periods of heavy rain followed quickly by clear skies and sunshine. It has seldom rained for more than an hour or two at a time. About the middle of November, the Philippine weather service announced that the northeast monsoon had begun. This means that the prevailing winds come out of the northeast, bringing cooler temperatures and a much reduced risk of typhoons.

One of the reasons that we chose to have our boat built here in Bohol is that it has a history of being nearly typhoon free. It was very unusual for any typhoon to come this close. They almost always curve north and hit the islands of Leyte and Luzon instead. All things considered, we would never want to see a full-blown typhoon up close.

We got out of bed to watch the Leonid meteor shower at 1:00 a.m. on the 19th. The sky was mostly overcast, with just a patch of clear sky directly overhead, centered on the constellation Orion. As we could only see about 20% of the sky, we must have missed much of the show, but what we saw was amazing. There were many very large light trails that remained visible for several seconds, and many more of the thinner ones that disappeared immediately. In addition, we had occasional lightning flashes in the surrounding clouds. It was well worth the loss of an hour's sleep.

We invited some friends to our cottage for Thanksgiving on the 22nd. All together, we made dinner for 10 people (German, Dutch, British, Austrian, American, and Filipino). We had to borrow the use of Hans and Merla's oven, and used Kurt and Andrea's kitchen as well as ours to prepare everything. We had turkey, 2 kinds of stuffing, creamed onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots with a butter and dill sauce, tomato and cucumber salad, fresh bread and butter, and beer. It was a very ambitious meal, and we were lucky that everything turned out well. We had a good time, everyone went home full, and we had enough leftovers to last several days.

On the 23rd, we started our Open Water Diver class, 4 ½ days of videos, lectures, tests, and four open water dives to depths of 12 and 18 meters. It was great fun, and we got a certificate which will allow us to dive anywhere we go in the world.

And finally, we have made great progress on the boat this month. The boatyard finished up all its other projects, and everyone has been working on Razzle Dazzle. The main cabin is now being painted with 3 coats of primer and 2 finish coats, with much sanding and filling between coats. Jim should be able to begin the wiring in the main cabin about the first of December.

— top of the page —

December, 2001: Panglao Island, Philippines

<< Merry Christmas >>

The month of December has been fairly uneventful. Jim took the ferry into Cebu to buy some stainless steel fasteners for the boat, and has been quite busy installing the electrical system in the main cabin. It will take months to finish all of the wiring.

We have been invited out for two Christmas parties. Neal and Vicki had a great dinner at Vicki's cliff house above the beach in Dauis, a beautiful location. Hans and Merla are serving an Indian dinner on the 24th. Hans recently went to an Indian temple in Cebu to buy spices for all the dishes he will be preparing. We are expecting great food.

This month's article explains the origins of our boat name, Razzle Dazzle. It was actually prepared a couple of months ago, but Jim has been too busy with the boat to get out and take pictures for anything else.

— top of the page —