In order to avoid the typhoon we headed out to the highly recommended island of Palawan. In my head and I swear I read it somewhere: "the Philippines is all connected through an extensive network of ferries". Oh it's connected alright, only a 28 hour ride or something like that from Manila to Palawan by ferry (likely freight ship actually) so we opted for a cheap domestic flight and flew there and stayed one night in Puerto Princesa before traveling to our end destination El Nido. Since it was Easter weekend, pretty well all restaurants were closed when we arrived with only fast food options open so we took a tricycle into town for a McDonalds run. Tricycles are the Philippines version of a tuk tuk-basically a rickety metal passenger cart welded on to the side of a motorcycle. We were in several that I was almost positive that cart was going to just bust right off leaving us bumping down the road ourselves but never did happen. One awesome thing about tricycles as compared to tuk tuks though, was that there didn't seem to be this super inflation on rates to get places (tricycles or just a general principle in Philippines? We'd soon find out the latter). The rate was the rate and the drivers just gave it to you straight which was SO awesome, especially coming off the tuk tuk rip job in the rest of Asia! Anyways, as we were going to McDonalds, out of a side street came this multi-km Easter procession of people walking down the street holding candles. It was really amazing that that many people came together to celebrate and I would have loved to take a picture but again, didn't feel it was appropriate.
Oh ya I forgot, we finally had something stolen...Haha it was our carabiners! We had our shoes clipped to the outside of our bag with them. When we took the shoes off to check our bags for the flight from Manila to Palawan, we just left them clipped to the outside of our bags sans shoes. And when we got to Palawan we were also sans carabiners. Nice huh? Oh well, if that ends up being the only loss of this trip we've done pretty well.
The next am we woke up at 3:45 am to catch the 5 am long bus ride to El Nido. Since it was so early the hotel offered to "call a tricycle" for us to take us to the bus station. Naturally we assumed this meant on the phone, but actually it meant that the hotel guy would go stand in the middle of the dark street in front of the hotel at 4:30 am and just wait for a trike to drive by that he would then flag in...haha we definitely could have done that. Coming off mainland SE Asia and our principle "never take minibuses", we aimed to take a big bus to El Nido. Plans changed when the trike driver dropped us off at a minibus stand and before we could even get out they had thrown our bags in the back of it telling us "the big bus is not running today because it's Easter". We were almost certain this was a blatant lie, but being one of the biggest holidays of the year in this Christian country, we weren't ready to call bluff on that so we just jumped in, us and some local people and went on our way. And in a bizarre and unexpected event, the bus actually left on time...we'd never experienced anything like it to date! Sure enough, it wouldn't be Asian transport without a kid puking behind us as per the norm (seriously this is the third time directly behind us...makes us wonder a bit if we're the common denominator here?). On the drive we saw the most utterly spectacular sunrise I've ever seen (though admittedly, as a sleep-in lover, I have not been awake for many sunrises in my lifetime). It was incredible--the sky shifted seamlessly.
Since the bus ride was 6 ish hours long we stopped at a little roadside stand for breakfast and coffee. I ordered two pancakes, though a little slower to order than the rest of the poeple because all of a sudden everyone was done and loading up in the van and my pancakes hadn't come yet. Oh my gosh I was so embarassed because all the locals were on the bus staring at me and waiting for this little white girl to get her stupid little pancakes before we could move again. Eventually one pancake came out and I begged Bridger to help me inhale it so it would disappear faster which we did while everyone good-humouredly laughed at us. And I wished that was the end of it but I still had to wait for my other pancake to get cooked and be delivered to me. Luckily they had packed pancake #2 in a to go container. Everyone was really cheerful about it but I still felt like a piggish tourist and hated being on the spot like that, never one to appreciate all eyes on me.
In an even more shocking sequence of events, this bus not only left on time but arrived an hour ahead of schedule. Are we even in SE Asia anymore?! Was so nice because we still had the whole day to jump on a motorbike and explore El Nido. Well actually it was a slow start. We ordered a bike through our hotel (Sidenote: I always use the term "hotel" on this trip. Interpret that loosely...be assured, this really just means a private room kind of place but not a hotel as you might picture, still very basic accommodation) so hadn't seen it until the hotel guy went to pick it up and drove it back to the hotel for us. And it's a good thing that they didn't take our passports as collateral (again, something that is always done in other parts of SE Asia) because this bike was shit. A little tiny scooter with a jammy key, tiny tires, an uncontrollable rev unit and a seat that would not open for us, even in spite of the guy showing Bridger how to open it about 7000 times. Once the "lesson" is finished the guy gives us our helmets and as he's passing mine over, he casually says to me "sorry it's broken, it doesn't do up", more FYI than apology. Haha clearly he doesn't know who he's dealing with here. Now, I flatly refuse to take this helmet and tell him that I don't take the bike without a working helmet (luckily we hadn't paid yet, otherwise, I'd just be SOL). Bridger of course, offers to just switch helmets with me to not make a scene but I also flatly refuse this because a head injury for him does me no better than a head injury for myself! Worse actually. So I just staunchly (and likely a little irately by this point) repeated my "lecture" to Bridger that broken bones and injured bodies suck but they'll heal but a head injury won't. Well, once the possibility of losing the business was on the table, you'd be surprised how fast hotel boy came back with a working helmet for me! And we were on our way, finally puttering down the road in this shitty little scooter. We stopped for a bagel until we found out that a bagel cost like 10 bucks each (El Nido is freaking expensive by the way) so already being too far in to walk out, we split a burger. Luckily so because I'm quite certain the burger was not cooked. I expressed my concern to Bridger and he assured me that "beef doesn't need to be cooked much to be safe" so we finished it. Only after it was done did he tell me pretty well that that was a disgusting uncooked burger. I spent the next 24 hours waiting for the inevitable onset of food poisoning.
We decided to head to a beach about an hour away called Nacpan beach. The first half of the road there was paved and fine and the last half was atrocious. It wasn't even a road but more a pebbly, rocky, rooty dirt path through the trees. Haha everyone was blowing by us on their dirtbikes or otherwise motorbikes with big tires where we were creeping along at about 3.5 km/hr with our little head sized tires just waiting for one of them to blow. But Bridger is a good driver and somehow he got us into the beach. We had a nice swim and then sat on the beach when this big group of kids came up to us and started the "what's your name" "where you from?" gig that inevitabley preceeds a request for "donations". But these kids put in more effort than the average because they spontaneoulsy broke out into a Tagalog song and only after, politely said "you give me tip for song?". We laughed and said we would sing them a song instead and then we were even. They weren't thrilled about this, but hung out for awhile longer, talking and laughing with us and burying Bridger in sand.
They also pointed to an island and said that Manny Pacquiao came from there, a claim we took with a grain of salt until the lady at our hotel later confirmed that in fact he did have some association with that island, though it still wasn't clear if he came from there or just bought that island. Haha clearly these kiddos weren't total hustlers yet (a testament to how removed Philippines is from the rest of the SE Asia track)...they gave money getting a go and when it didn't work, they just shrugged their shoulders and hung around and played for awhile like kids do.
On the way back we drove up to a hill and watched the most exceptional sunset there ever was, again with amazing colors. Philippines was quickly taking the prize for the most beautiful sun in the world. I can't get enough of sunsets so Bridger patiently, and then impatiently waited while I took 100 pictures and then directed him to take pictures of me and the sunsest and then corrected him 100 times and made him try again 100 more times. As always, good for our relationship ;)
We went to a little place with live music for dinner and then walked back to our hotel in the dark...a bit scary because, who knows where they were in the day, but the street was blocked by a small pack of stray dogs that, though not aggressive, came much too close for our rabies fearing ways.
Now Philippines has a new breed of toilet. The Philippiens toilet is kind of like a hybrid between a western toilet and a squatty potty. Basically imagine the bowl of a western toilet and then take away the toilet seat and you've got a Filipino toilet. Now these are actually even harder to use than their traditional squatty potty counterparts because you still have to squat but now instead of doing the lazy all the way down squat, you have to do a muscley half squat-thighs burning kind of movement with your feet awkwardly planted on each side. Or you could do like me and (still taking a full leg of my pants/underwear out) just stand straight legged, foot on each side, over top of the toilet and just hope the pee angle drops nicely into the bowl instead of terribly awry. Most of the time it worked. Did I mention how much easier it is to be a man in SE Asia?!? Anyways, in El Nido we took a big step down from our posh Manila accomodation because we checked into one, if not the, cheapest hotel in El Nido that had not only a shared public bathroom but one of these half toilet toilets. So even in our own "home" we still had to manage to do our stuff in this glorious unit. But it had a fantastic balcony overlooking the sea with a great view and even greater sea breeze in scorching hot El Nido.
My god it is hot in the Philippines. So hot actually that pretty well all business close "for lunch" between 12 to 4 (i.e. the hottest parts of the day) and sometimes just never reopen so it seemed. A slower pace of life anyways! Since we came to Philippines for beaches and diving (with so many islands, you'd think we'd find an abundance of both right?!), we decided to sign up for a rather expensive but exciting sounding two day dive trip with a really reputable company based on the PADI site and all tripadvisor reviews. The trip included 3 day dives, a night dive (you go underwater once it gets dark outside/underwater and use flashlights for light), overnight camping on an uninhabited island and then 3 more dives the next day. I was a little leery based on my historical pattern of "once I do something more frequently I stop liking it" (i.e. turning on tennis after Bridger convinced me to buy an unlimited membership to a fancy tennis club in Edmonton!) but with a short time in Philippines we wanted to maximize our diving and get really comfortable. Haha...famous last words.
Now I'm going to tell a really long scuba diving story...
We were paired up with two awesome brothers in our dive group with the weirdest local divemaster in the world. I'm not even sure he knew how to speak or smile because he didn't do the latter for the full 2 days and only a little of the former. So already a little on edge with this lump of a human but after several amazing dives in Thailand We were feeling pretty comfortable with our dive skills. We did our first dive and I had a bit of a rocky time with my equipment. My mask was a bit leaky so had to tighten it pretty tight for it not to leak, no big deal. I had to clear it a few times during the dive but then things seemed to even out and it was not great but tolerable for the rest of the dive. My weights were a different story. Because I had only dove in warm water with a thin shorty wetsuit prior, I didn't know what my weight should be with a thick full length suit so I asked divemaster to estimate for me which he did. Turns out I was underweighted because I could barely descend at the start of the dive and on ascent, I struggled to stay under for the 10 feet close to the surface. Thank goodness for the descent/ascent line because holding on to it was the only way I could stay under for my safety stop, though I was flopping all over crashing into people pretty well upside down the whole time. Our divemaster, through the duration of the dive, lived up to his premature but accurate label as a lump. When our group started to descend, I was having trouble with my mask and one of the brothers was having trouble with something else so we were both on the surface with the divemaster and he just let the other two keep going down so they were on the bottom, hopefully not being swept away while we were all still on top. So much for sticking together. He barely turned around, showed us anything or asked us where our air supply was at. Whatever, all things that weren't huge problems, just a little lame.
My second dive, though my weights got sorted out, totally sucked. This time my mask was totally a mess. It was so leaky that the dive was not at all enjoyable because I spent the whole time thrashing around pretty well blinded/burned either by salty sea water in my mask or my own boogers that, by this time had launched themselves out of my nostrils into my goggle space because I had to blow to clear it so frequently. In order for the mask not to leak underwater, it had to be tight, however, somehow it slid to a weird position and suction glued to my head in a way that my entire forehead was suction pressed up against the glass and rimming. The other divers actually said that it looked painful because they could see my forehead pressed hard into the plastic on the front of my mask for the entire dive! I spent most of the dive physically holding my mask to my face but trying to adjust it to avoid the dyson vac-suction it had on my face but not pull it completely away to break the seal so half the ocean would come flooding in! Somewhere right in the middle of a mask blinding episode we were to swim through a narrow little crevice. Unlike my divemaster in Koh Lanta who was amazing and turned around and made sure everyone was ok and comfortable to swim through a gaping wide cave, this dive master just cruised right on through and didn't even turn around to make sure we were comfortable and still coming/making it through, the dickhead. Luckily, in spite of my limited vision, I made it through and again, under normal circumstances would have really enjoyed it. Once we surfaced and I took off my mask, two things happened: a) it felt like I had a solid bruise between my eyes/around the bridge of my nose and b) I actually had some sort of a vision impairment and I couldn't see properly- it was like my entire face was in perma-scrunch, all skin in the wrong places, like stretching my eyes out or something. Luckily in about half an hour this passed but not before I, the hypochondriac, was certain that I had given myself permanent eye nerve damage or something.
I was feeling pretty ready for the 3rd dive now that my weights were in order and I had switched out my mask to another beautiful, comfortable one. Though, fully geared up I realized that something was wrong with the strap because you could tighten it but it wouldn't latch so when I went to put it on, the strap loosened again. I told the divemaster who tightened it and said it's good (sure fucktard, like I didn't try that). Then he proceeds to get in the water with the other 3 and leave me on the boat with a mask that is not working! Then he just waited in the water with the group waiting for me to get in which obviously I couldn't do yet because I continued to have a mask that didn't work. Eventually somebody else on the boat came over and fixed the strap so I could get in and join the group. Now my weights...after the dive Bridger and I usually put our weights in the same place but when we went back to get them, there was only one weight belt there. When we told the divemaster without even so much as looking, he was like "ya ya ya that's yours". Once I got down, it was very obvious that they weren't my weights because I sank like a rock and had to kick hard to stay off the bottom. I ended up doing the whole dive with quite a bit of air in my BCD (basically your underwater lifejacket that fills up/empties of air) just to not get hung up on the bottom. Also, halfway through this dive I realized that the rubber mouthpiece on my regulator (the breathing hose/part that goes in your mouth) was almost bitten off and rattled around with every breath, threatening to fall off in my mouth and hang out loose there for the rest of the dive or worse, jump on down my throat when I inhale. Fun! Now I couldn't bite down on the mouthpiece for fear of the plastic breaking off so I spent the rest of this dive physically holding the regulator in my mouth with my hand to keep it in place. One amazing thing on that dive though was that a super cute but biggest clown fish I'd ever seen came swimming right up to my face. And then he attacked me, trying to dart and peck at my head haha. I had to swat the thing out of my hair and swim away quickly!
At this point, I had had 3 very unrelaxing, unenjoyable dives because I was constantly fighting with my equipment. This is combination with the shitty divemeaster and an absolutely terrible night dive I had in Thailand in 2006 (multiple equipment failures not to me but others, sending us down to the wrong dive site, swimming in pitch blackness and giant swells to the right dive site, my flashlight and several others crapping out) I decided that I just wasn't comfortable or confident anymore and I was not going to do the night dive with the others. But I found out that because it was a certification dive, the divemaster for that dive was actually going to be a foreign trained instructor instead of the divemaster we had all day. So at the last mninute I kicked my own ass and decided not be ruled by fear and decided just to bite the bullet and do the night dive after all. But my regulator was still broken so I told the instructor that I would need a new one for this dive. No problem, he just pulled the broken mouthpiece off my regulator, wrenched the mouthpiece off a snorkel and put it on my regulator and we went down. I was pretty excited because finally my mask, weights and regulator were worked out, we had solid flashlights and I was actually having my first really great dive of the day and feeling really calm given that we were 30 feet underwater in the pitch darkness! Shortlived. All of a sudden, I'm not even fucking kidding, 30 odd feet underwater in the dark, the plastic mouthpiece came completely disconnected from the regulator hose leaving the mouthpiece in my mouth connected to nothing but open water and the black hose somewhere in the black water. Luckily I had the presence of mind not to suck in a gulp of water and went for my alternate (extra) regulator strapped to the other side of me. But looking down with goggles, in the dark, trying to maneuver a flashlight strapped to my wrist in an almost panicked state wasn't working so well so I basically clawed at Bridger who luckily wasn't far away to get his attention. He had coincidentally just gotten stung by a jellyfish or something so he thought that's what had happened to me. Luckily he quickly realized that my mouth was empty and as I was on my absolute last air before needing to inhale, pulled my alternate free and stuck it in my mouth. We breathed together like that for awhile underwater until I had gotten my breath and sanity back enough to move and then slowly went to the surface as I no longer had a backup regulator. (Sidenote for dive practice education: I should also mention that in diving, ballooning to the surface in an emergency is last resort because of the injuries you can get from it, so first course of action is always to recover breathing either your own equipment or your buddies equipment if at all possible-- popping as fast as you can to the surface is a last resort which is why I was bothering to fumble for my alternate). Of course, it was just us and the darkness, quiet and night sky at the surface (under different cirucmstances it would have been extraordinarily peaceful and beautiful) shining our light downward to signal the others that we were at the surface. It didn't take long before the instructor realized we were at the top and came up. He was visibly shaken and pretty sympathetic to what happened, especially because it was him who had just switched the mouthpiece immediately before the dive. After this we swam back to the boat, dive aborted. In all honesty, even though it was pretty scary, I felt like we handled it pretty well considering the circumstances and the instructor confirmed that yes in fact we did do exactly what we were supposed to do.
At this point I think I was still doing pretty well and was pretty calm and managed given the gravity of what just happened. Most people don't experience a massive equipment failure like that in their entire diving lives but of course it happens to me 8 dives in. Anyways, we get on the boat and I was quickly aware that in a very short time everyone in the company would know about this. Good old pissface divemeaster was on the boat and actually had the nerve, after his dive shops equipment totally failed, to tell me that a) That's why I have my alternate (I know you prick, I used it) b) I could have just breathed through my regulator anyways without my mouthpiece (thanks jackass but that regulator was floating somewhere and I chose to go after the regulator that I knew was a sure bet) and c) you know they teach you how to breathe from a free flowing regulator (one that spontaneously starts flowing with air freely) in your open water course (I know assface, believe it or not I was there in my own open water course and regardless, that wasn't even the problem) implying that I'm untrained and should know better what I'm doing. I wanted to rip the throat out of him. If I hadn't been in such a fragile state at that point I would have. Bridger still laughs and quotes me in his interpretation of my voice on this, but as we were walking just the two of us back to he beach he asked me how I was. At that point, with nobody around and the total numbness shock of what had just happened starting to wear off, my response was a very high pitch, next to tears "well I'm not doing very well right now". In hindsight it was my own fault because I should have just listened to my gut which was heavily telling me not to do the night dive given the day I'd had. But I didn't and I wore out my luck. The next day, however, I did listen to my gut and chose not to do my remaining scheduled 3 dives with this company, a decision I felt completely happy with.
Camping overnight on the island was really awesome and a welcome change of pace to the day, if not totally charmingly uncomfortable! We slept in a blistering hot tent on a one inch sleeping pad on the hard, uneven ground under a blanket which was actually, I'm quite certain a table cloth haha. But I can sleep anywhere so of course, I managed the sleeping portion far better than Bridger. Our tents were pitched directly on the beach so at night before we went to bed the group of us (me, Bridger, the brothers, another solo traveler from our dive boat and the dive instructor) ate supper and chatted on the sandy beach on an island under the huge starry, full moon sky. There was one other group of maybe 10 camping on the island as well so it wasn't as remote as it could have been but amazing nonetheless. No toilet though so there was definitely the obligatory pee in the bushes moments by all. I was, once again, the only girl in our group (it seems so common that I am the only girl in a ton of experiences we do...where are the women at here?!?) who had to trudge off far deeper into the woods than any man ever cared to think about.
The next day I just sat on the boat, sun tanned and read all day while Bridger did his reminaing 3 dives. I also developed a new found hobby (i.e. obsession) with inspecting regulators and mouthpieces. Sure enough, guess what I found out in my solo-on-the-boat investigations--that all regulators have a zip tie wrapped around the rubber mouthpiece further sealing it to the regulator hose. Obviously mine wouldn't have had this as it had just been changed minutes before I used it. Funny thing...you'd think a dive instructor would know this was common practice and think twice about the switcheroo? Anyways, I kind of dreaded getting off the boat as I knew I was going to have to deal with discussing the incident and the divemaster with someone so I spent more time than I wanted to organizing my thoughts and thinking about what I wanted to say.
Pretty well as soon as we arrived back at the shop the owner pulled me outside to get my version of events which was relieving because that meant I didn't have to bring it up myself to get my refund for the dives I didn't do. She was very gracious and apologetic and immediately discounted everything which was appreciated. But what ticked me off was that, without saying it directly, it sounds like (though I'll never really exactly know) the coloring of the report back from the boat indicated that the direction of events was such that I panicked on the dive which created the emergency in the first place. This I heavily, heavily resented given that it was the first dive that was going well and I was perfectly calm. I expressed this to the owner and also my disappointment with the shitty divemaster for all of the reasons I mentioned and then I ran away as soon as possible as I did not want to be around for the post conversation between her and the divemaster!
We left the shop and trudged back to the shitty no toilet seat accomomdation that we had verbally reserved before we left on our trip. Sure enough they had given our room away. But the lady said in broken English, there was a couple who had already reserved the big room with two double beds but they weren't here yet so we could share it with them if we wanted. What?! Am I to understand that somebody has already booked this room as a private room, but who cares, they will show up and involvuntarily have us in the room too, no problem? Weird! So we left in a huff back to square one trying to find cheap accommodation in an expensive town on a hot day after a stressful dive experience.
The big thing that everyone does in El Nido is take boat tours out to see the surrounding scenery. We were of mixed minds about what we saw going down in El Nido these days. Admittedly the sites and scenery are spectacular. But here's an indication of how over-developed and package-tourism oriented this area has become--the tours are called Tour A, B, C, D sold all the same all over town and you choose depending on which group of islands/lagoons/beaches/coves etc. you want to see. I expect that anybody who visited this area when it was an "off the beaten track" destination would be devastated to see what it has become, unfortunately. Since we only had one day we decided to do Tour A/C combined and headed out for the day. Offshore El Nido is a very unique place with deep blue or turquoise clear water surrounded by these amazing karst cliffs that are a deep gray color and super sharp at the top in alot of places. The whole scene looks like exactly where you would envision dragons and witches to live and it's really quite incredible looking.
The tour passed through this brilliant turquoise lagoon and several little beaches/coves that were hidden behind towering rocks.
More than once we had to swim through a little opening in the rocks to see the amazingness unfold inside which was really quite incredible...makes you wonder how many insane places exist but have just not yet been discovered?!
So the environment itself was beyond phenomenal, however, there were just so many freaking people in one tiny little spot that you were really so far removed from nature and the experience itself started to feel really manufactured which I doubt was the original intention to attracting tourists to such spectacular places. There were times when we were in these tiny little bays with, I'd imagine, very little movement of water in and out so it actually started to feel a little gross because the water was no doubt, full of disgusting pieces of the 3000 odd people who pass through the exact same places every day. Now I do understand that obviously lots of people want to see nice places (we are there so cant be mad at others for being there too!) so I am not complainıng that I dont have the place to myself but it would just be great to see the government put some sort of restrictions on the number of people who can visit per day/days each site can be visited and hopefully stop this unbridled explosion of visitors such that perhaps these sites can recover and restore themselves to the fresh, natural places I'm sure they once were so we can preserve the experiences for all future travelers.
To be honest, I'm not sure that either of us really loved El Nido proper (which may explain the rather grey feel of this update, sorry). I think we were expecting a slow pace, chilled out beach town in a remote location. What we got was a loud, crowded, concrete, expensive, polluted non-swimmable beach town completely taken over by travel agents (the ruination of travel and the reason why we weren't so fond of Thailand and loved Laos and Cambodia) selling tours for everything that would actually allow you to get out of this bland little town into the spectacular scenery surrounding. After our dive trip we spent a few days just lounging, staying out of the sun and taking it easy, wandering and eating. The Philippines is definitely not known for their cuisine (think all day same food buffets and everything in the shape of a hotdog), though I'm told that Filipinos don't understand why the world thinks this. Well I'll tell you why-when I order a veggie stirfry I expect a crunchy saucy delight but instead I get some vegetables fried in butter slapped on my plate. Now not everything was this bad and we actually did have some pretty tasty, though boney, food along the way but seriously this one was one of the worst meals I had on the trip so far.
Also I have to tell you about the roosters. Oh my god the roosters! Now all foreign countries have roosters but the sport of cockfighting still thrives in the Philippines every Sunday so as you can imagine the roosters are off the hook here! There are entire farms of roosters everywhere outside the main cities, even in the tiniest of villages, each kept in their own little cage or tethered to their own little teepee in the yard. And whoever created the myth that roosters crow when the sun comes up in the morning has clearly never been to a developing country because roosters don't give a shit what time it is, they freaking crow all.day.long. And sure they consistently crow in the morning but not when the sun rises, unless the sun truly does rise somewhere around 4:30 am because that's about when they start. And in El Nido, every rooster over the mountains and through the valleys within what must be a 100 mile radius starts like, communicating with eachother because one will go and then it's answered by a rooster from goodness knows what mountain in the distance and then it goes on like this for about an hour. And you don't sleep! Oh the roosters! I am also of mixed mind about attending a cockfighting event while in the Philippines. On one hand I do think it is a gory, from my western perspective, senseless event and not sure that I can stomach it anyways. On the other hand, people in the Philippines are so passionate about their roosters and this tradition that it is hard not to want to participate in some way while visiting. I suppose we'll leave it to fate...