Security guards, guns, and human road blocks.

Our Donsol Resort Hotel
The hotel guard had a shotgun and dark pants tucked into his socks. He looked serious but it didn’t seem like a dangerous place. It was hard to tell since we had arrived at almost 2am in the morning. Driving to Donsol in the Philippines in a rental car had proved quite a challenge.

Phil had driven the whole way slowly and carefully. By the time it got dark, the traffic had thinned out but he still had to negotiate the odd pedestrian, dog, or slowly moving roadblock that turned out to be an unlit motorbike with a sidecar. Then we came across road works.

Not road works lit up with mobile street lights, two trucks with ten foot high neon signs, and a well lit up police car like we were used to in Australia, but a long dark hole taking up half of the road and bordered by a row of small rocks.

My husband drove carefully through the narrow space left on the road, praying no one would come the other way and almost ran into small children with torches and large begging cups with long handles.

Roadworks are tricky enough to negotiate in the light of day
We inched past with our windows up, trying to ignore them, unwilling to encourage them to approach cars.
The third time we drove through a town with road works and more children, we wondered if they were road works or road blocks. 

Then a man started running our way shouting passionately. We kept moving and spent the next ten minutes reassuring each other that he was not a police man. I could see us hunted down and locked up for the rest of our holiday if we were wrong. We had only been in the Philippines for a few days and had no idea what the rules were.

The trip had taken us much longer than expected. It was about eleven o’clock at night and we estimated that we still had about three hours to go. We considered stopping somewhere for the night, but we had no idea where. There were no obvious hotels and after being accosted by families in the villages, we had no idea if it was safe to even stop.

I called the hotel we had booked and they assured us they would have a security guard waiting for us. We decided to keep driving.

Two long hours later, as we drove into a small Filipino town, Phil felt a sudden loss of traction in the rental car. He pulled over under a single street light next to a small hall and got out to find we had a flat tyre.
He to get the spare tyre from the boot, while I got out and stared nervously around.

Just then, a large group of young people came out of the hall and began to walk towards us. I moved closer to Phil, but they all got into nearby cars and left. It looks like they had just finished a meeting as we arrived, so I relaxed.

Phil began the process of jacking up the car and I looked up to see two men on a motorbike drive past pointing and waving. The motorbike did a u-turn and pulled up next to the car.

The older of the two men was clearly drunk, but he insisted on trying to help as Phil struggled to work the cheap and badly designed jack which skittered and dropped the car several times. The older man continually offered useless suggestions and offered do it for us.
I stood aside holding the tyre iron firmly and trying to look tough as I kept an eye on the younger man who was checking the other side of the car. He looked to me as if he was planning to open the door and run off with anything worth having.

Despite inadequate tools, poor light, a barely functional spare tyre, and a very vocal and bossy audience, Phil finally replaced the tyre.

Then the fun began.

“You have some money mister?”

“No, we have no local money” we said only half lying.

“You have a bottle mister?”

“No, sorry, I don’t drink.”

“Just one bottle’”

Phil knew all along what was going on, but it only clicked for me then that the men had stopped to try to get something out of us.

We left as quickly as we could get away without being rude, and we left them empty-handed. They contributed nothing but distraction to the job, and we felt safer with our wallets tucked away in the car.

Another hour later, we rounded a tight uphill corner and came across three people asleep in our lane. Phil braked and changed lanes quickly as they didn’t seem inclined to move. It was the day of the dead and many people were sleeping at the cemetery but these guys were close to sleeping in one for good.

Our Hotel at Sunset
At last we arrived in Donsol, our destination, but I couldn’t find the hotel which looked so easy to find on the google map. It was almost two in the morning but we spotted a couple of young women out walking with a baby (yes, a baby at 2am) and asked them for help.

Ten minutes later, we pulled up to the gate and were met by the security guard with a rifle hanging from his belt. We fell out of the car exhausted and followed him through the dark compound to our room, wondering what was so dangerous that he needed a gun in a small town tourist resort.

The room was damp as if it had not been used for months, but I was impressed to see the welcoming sight of towels made into a swan on the bed. Then a large cockroach scuttled across the wall startled by the light. After a bit of cockroach bashing, we stumbled into a cool shower and a warm bed, and finally fell asleep, looking forward to a few days of swimming on the shores of an uninhabited island and floating down a river under dark trees festooned with fireflies.

But that is a story for my next post. See you here. 

1 comment:

  1. a very magnetic place to visit.....


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