A Filipino Fiesta – Tao Expeditions (Day 1)
We had left Coron sometime mid-morning and by early afternoon, I had already begun to lose track of time. It was just time spent assimilating to boat and island life – lounging and soaking up the scenery, snorkeling through coral reefs, chillin’ on white sand beaches, eating and drinking entirely too much, and getting to know everyone else on board. In total, there were nine local Filipino crew members and 23 guests on board the Balatik; friends from America, Dubai, England, Greece, the Philippines, and France, brothers from Australia, and couples from Switzerland, India, Spain, Germany, and Australia. Plus Amo, the 4-month-old Jack Russell “Pirate Dog.”
Tao Expeditions introduces a new concept of tourism by bringing adventurous travelers to experience the remoteness of the Linipacan group between Coron and El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. They balance their expeditions with adventure and a rustic kind of luxury, while their voyages have no set itinerary with only a vague route planned. And despite the ‘briefing’ we all went through the night before, which consisted mainly of rum and brief introductions, we still didn’t know what we were really in for other than being told that for the first night, we would be staying at a base camp where the villagers were celebrating their annual fiesta.
When Spanish missionaries entered the Philippines during the mid-1500s, they found that a fiesta, with its celebrations and processions, was a convenient tool to help teach Filipinos the Roman Catholic faith. Still being a predominantly Roman Catholic country (one of two in Asia), fiestas are still held to celebrate events in the life of Jesus and Mary, and to honor saints who lived long ago. Always colorful, and accompanied by music, feasting, and religious ritual, the annual fiesta is a very important day to each village.
As we unloaded at Buluang Base Camp on Culion Island in the early evening, the island basketball game was starting up, the locals having already finished up their ceremonies and processions for the day. On top of the subtle cheers from the game, the village just had a festive atmosphere, particularly the jam-packed pool (and karaoke) hall with young men hanging through windows to watch the game in progress. As the sun set and basketball ended, the court turned in to a colorful dance floor and the endless ‘whomp whomp’ of down-right horrible, pounding techno started banging. Most of the time, it was more reminiscent of a middle school dance with the girls on one side and the guys on the other, all awkwardly looking at each other.
But from going from lounging on a boat sailing in between tropical islands all day to ripping shots of brandy at a Filipino fiesta with our guides and some locals in a small village, it was all a hell of an introduction to what Tao offers…