About a week before I was scheduled to catch my flight out here to the Philippines I came across an article (with photo) stating that the Guinness World Record people had just verified the capture of the largest crocodile on record.. here in the Philippines. Now, up until the moment I came across that article all my mental images of swimming here involved crystal clear waters with some bright, tropical fish to observe and not a care in the world as I floated around the warm waters sipping on a coconut drink, complete with mini-umbrella, that some beautiful Filipina kept refreshing for me as I basked in the sunshine. (I have a very active imagination, as you can tell.)
Well, it’s been mostly storms since I got here so.. no trips to the beach yet. Although I am thankful for the break in the heat, these cool breezes are nothing less than a God-send of joy. But.. nobody said anything about giant crocodiles.
Right away I started Googling everything I could about crocodiles, where they live and what (or who) they eat. Saw some vicious video, geez.. crocodiles are one cranky animal with zero sense of humor. Suddenly my mental image of bobbing lazily in the beach involved being surrounded on all sides by beady eyed dinosaurs of the water looking for a quick meal. Like my ex-wife used to tell me, “If the Martians ever land here, you know they’re going to eat the big ones first.” At 230 pounds I’d be a floating buffet.
Ignorance is not always bliss. In this case my fears were set aside only when I came to learn that crocodiles do not normally frequent the sunny beaches I plan to do my relaxation at. They prefer the salt-water swamps, inland near the provinces like Agusan, where the one I read about was caught. I felt a sigh of relief. That was until I started thinking about piranhas. Did some more Googling. Nope, don’t have to worry about those unless I’m in Venezuela. Man-eating sharks? The three hot-spots for human-shark encounters turned out to be Florida, Australia and Northern California. Another sigh of relief. I hear you have to keep an eye out for sharp coral, ‘rock fish’ which are poisonous so it’s best to wear fins or water-sandals. And the smaller sharks they do have around here are usually at 20 feet.. much further than I usually venture so.. another sigh of relief.
That only leaves one other concern of mine.. rip-tides. I’ve seen the Google-Earth ocean floor images off the coast-line along the beachs of Mactan. It’s largely a long, shallow extension of shallow water from the beach and then.. a sudden drop down into the Deep Blue Abyss. I’ve been caught in a riptide once before in Southern California. It was one of those few moments in my life I surely thought I was going to die that day. Fortunately a life-guard showed up just as I made it back to reaching bottom and I made it back to shore, exhausted but shaken to the core. I haven’t gotten much information on the rip-tides (or if they even have them here) but I keep imagining that deep, cliff-like drop-off of island underwater and can’t help but think the ocean is hungry to draw something into it.. including me. Staying in the shallow water is the plan until I get more info on this.
So, for the most part my fears have been assuaged. I arrived in Mactan and walked out of the airport feeling much better about the situation. That was until I got settled into my studio and discovered a variety of ‘critters’ that had taken up residence ahead of me. The first one to really freak me out was the Giant Spider (see my video below) I encountered returning home on my 5th day or so. I managed to get some video before setting about terminating him. Fortunately I did not have the video camera running to record the screaming, cursing and hysteria involved in trying to kill that insanely fast and wicked creature. It turned out there was no screen on the bathroom window and any creature that cared to could just crawl right in. I got the handyman to fix that priority one.
But now that meant a variety of creatures was now trapped in the studio with me. I knew something was there, hiding. So I went to the grocery store and got some cans of Baygon Insect Killer. I sprayed all the inside floorboards, window-sills, door-sills , under the bed, cabinets and bathroom walls. After a while, that stuff started smelling kinda good. That’s when I knew it was time to get out of the studio for the day so it could air-out. I took a cab to Cebu and spent the day exploring SM Mall and catching a movie.
I returned home and it was nothing short of a holocaust of insects. They say roaches can survive nuclear radiation. Well, whatever is in that Baygon spray had them hating life big-time. They were insanely big too. Not a small one in the lot. Each one as big as your thumb and writhing in agony. I used some paper as a scoop and put them all in the toilet. Several flushes later.. no more roaches. Until the next day. For about three days they kept staggering out begging for death. That was too good for them. They were giving me the heebie-jeebies and deserved to be banished to the septic tank. Within 5 days, no more bugs. It’s been almost 2 weeks and.. nothing. I guess word got out that entering my studio meant a sure-fire death sentence. I can rest in peace again. But I still have a green Baygon can at the ready for touch-up perimeter sprays every week.
The only creature I had hoped to have hanging around my domicile which I have sadly not seen is a monkey. I’ve loved monkeys all my life. Each day I’d look longingly at the trees that shade my front porch.. hoping to see a small monkey I could feed bananas, or lumpia, or whatever else he was in the mood to eat. I mentioned to my girlfriend that it’s been weeks and I still haven’t seen a monkey in my front yard. She crushed all my expectations by simply saying, “There aren’t any monkeys on Mactan. What were you thinking?”
I don’t know.. maybe not thousands of monkeys but, just one monkey to hang out and chat with over breakfast maybe.
Well, no monkeys for now.. but no crocodiles either. I’ve still got some wonderful weather, friendly people, good food and plenty of time to enjoy it all. Life is good and I can’t ask for much more than that. Except maybe more time with either my girlfriend.. or my own monkey. Preferably both.
Henry Velez is a recent (2012) addition to the Philippines and brings with him a fresh set of eyes as well as a talent for bringing his first-hand observations clearly to the reader. Motivated by both a life-long passion for writing, as well as for a Filipina he met in the US, Henry dove right in and made the move to the Philippines 'sight unseen'. He currently maintains three blogs, one which is devoted to his adventures here, and is currently working on a fictional novel set in the Philippines. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures!