Archive | July, 2011

Kicking it with the Giant Black Sea Bass

16 Jul

I’m sure I probably either published or have a journal entry about black sea bass but IDGAF, this one just happened this weekend.

I anxiously watched the chlorophyl models and the swell predictions over the last few days.  After what seemed like months of green charts I saw a field of blue around Catalina Island and called up my buddies.  Water temp was at least predicted to be 68 degrees.  “It’s on, get your shit together”.  Like  hitting a panic button, my buddies and I scrambled our gear together and hoped we didn’t forget anything, lest you get clowned on the boat and have to sit there while everyone else strings up fish.

Summertime is my absolute favorite freediving/spearfishing season.  The weather is usually warm, the water blue and the fish abundant.  We loaded up “C-level” and hitched it up to “the beast” my Tundra with the TRD tow package and hit the road.  It would be a quick 45 minutes until we stopped to launch the boat and load it up with ice and the hopes of several guys stringing up some yellowtail.

As we dropped the boat off in the harbor and got ready to take off I eased the throttle back and then BUMP, the mighty honda bf130 four stroke leaned out, sputtered and died.  WTF??? I had just changed out the fuel pump bulb and checked the wiring.  The bulb was completely deflated so I figured we had some sort of fuel blockage, maybe the filter, maybe the lines, maybe we weren’t going out after all…

After ten minutes of fiddling with the hoses and lines we turned off the fuel shut off switch and turned it on again and then hssssssssss heard the gas rapidly being pulled back into the primer bulb.  Somehow something had jammed up the switch but it was flowing free again so we fired it up and headed out to Catalina Island.  I’m making a mental note to change out that cut off switch this weekend dammit.

An hour or so later and we eased up to the first spot.  I metered the kelp line and my buddy dropped the hook and we quickly slid into our suits and dropped in the water.  The water was so warm I had to flush my suit out several times by pulling it away from my skin, the cool water was a welcome relief.  I made several drops and finally a  yellowtail showed up a little too close and I dropped 5/16″ of mori steel into his body and quickly dispatched him.  Fresh yellowtail sashimi coming up!  Unfortunately that would be the last yellowtail we’d bag today.  I did see several others at another spot including one that was probably over 40 pounds that made mine look like some scrawny piece of bait.

We pulled the anchor and headed out to spot after spot, there were tons of calicos available and many of them were too slow to take off and I bagged as many as I wanted.  It could have been easy limits but I still have some fish in the freezer from my previous trips.  If you haven’t had fresh calico bass (kelp bass) tacos or even grilled you don’t know what you are missing!  I was breaking in my new-to-me 55″ Darryl Wong carbon hybrid speargun and man was that thing accurate.  Super light weight with very little recoil and I stoned quite a few calico bass from a distance, it is going to be an amazing shore diving gun next season for white sea bass!

At one spot I made a drop checking the kelp line for some late season white seabass or maybe some yellowtail.  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a mottled colored fish and immediately had hopes that it would be a huge white seabass.  As I dropped closer down to the bottom I could clearly make out yet a different shaped body, mottled coloring with some black spots, and a very stout muscular body with a thick tail and a sloped head.  Black sea bass.

Black sea bass are not related to white seabass (note the seabass vs. sea bass spelling), white seabass are croakers.  Black sea bass look entirely different and are protected under law in California with stiff fines and possible jail time.  This one was small, maybe 80 pounds or so but I followed it along the kelp line.  As we both turned the corner I saw movement and then suddenly the whole floor began to move.

There were probably seven to nine BIG black sea bass around me, the biggest looked to be over 400 pounds and absolutely prehistoric.  I wasn’t afraid of them at all since they are not aggressive unless they are trying to eat my fish (I’ll tell you a story about that later) and these ones were no exception.  The brushed against each other, played follow the leader and just kicked it in the current.  They all had parasitic copepods on their snouts that made them look like unshaven whiskers of an old man.  I kicked my fiberglass fins as quickly as I could back to the boat and asked my buddy to throw me my underwater camera while I gave him my unloaded speargun.  Figuring they’d be gone when I got back there I made a drop and saw them swimming the same way as when I left them.

I snapped pictures left and right knowing that I’d probably have to go thru tons before getting any good ones. I noticed that many of them had different markings, different black circles, old and new scars from hitting rocks or maybe each other, a different shaped snout or tail.  I was overwhelmed as they passed within a few feet of me and I could have easily reached out and petted them as they lumbered by.  Everytime I dropped close to them they’d tilt slightly to eyeball me with a giant moving eye as to say “so what are you going to do silly little man?”.  I stayed with them for probably thirty minutes, making drop after drop to about fifty feet and wishing I had a better breath hold.  It was absolutely amazing, everytime one or two of them passed me by I’d look above and see another and look below and see yet another one.  I thought it would be an isolated incident but it turns out I’d see yet another group of them at a different spot and I’ve probably seen a few on every single trip I’ve done in the last few weeks.  My guess is they are in some spawning aggregation of sorts.

We spent the day chasing yellowtail, taking a few fish, and exchanging good laughs.  We saw some gigantic bat rays rooting thru the mud and gracefully flapping their wings thru the water, skittish barracuda swam in huge schools and then disappeared with a flick of their tails, sea lions dive bombed us and blew bubbles in our faces.  All too soon it was 4:30 pm, time to fire up the hot water shower and clean up and enjoy the flat ride back home.  I was dreading fileting out all the fish we got because it was going to take quite a while dammit!

Along the way I spotted a huge spout of water shoot out of the ocean followed by a phooooohhh sound.  I slowed    C-level down a bit and we looked back.  A huge whale rolled its back up at us and disappeared.  “Whoa” we exclaimed.  We sat there in silence and watched it come up again and again, the bluish coloring and huge size could only mean that we were looking at a Blue Whale.  People pay a lot of money to go whale watching and we were sitting on a small boat just watching it blow by, what a great ending to a great day.  I backed away a bit because I was afraid the huge beast would come up under us and capsize the boat, it was that close!  We took pictures and shot some video and then fired up the engine and headed home.

People ask me why I spend so much time in the water and I have to just smile and lean back and think about all they are missing.  This place is my backyard, my food refrigerator and my playground all rolled up in one.  When I’m out of the water too long I get grumpy, ask any true freediver and they will tell you the same story…

At any rate here’s a video I put together of a couple of trips, if you watch carefully you’ll see one frame that has five individuals in it!

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Blue Water

12 Jul

From an older journal, probably around May about a year ago.

The no fish report

If you are looking of hearing an epic battle between a white seabass or a big fish, don’t bother. I didn’t get jack shit.

However if you are bored and want to kill some time, then read on brother.

When I stood on the edge of the cliff I couldn’t belive it. I shielded my eyes from the suns glare and saw blue water breaking in the waves and could clearly make out reef formations below the water. Holy shit the vis must be epic.

With just an hour or so of dive time I threw on my wetsuit and started the mad scramble down the side of the cliff to a secret spot that in reality is probably not so secret.  As I climbed down the cliff I ran into a family who asked me in broken English what I was going for. I simply smiled and shrugged, maybe yellowtail, maybe white seabass or some reef fish. I was just out to enjoy the day. With air temperatures hitting about eighty degrees and a strong santa ana wind blowing the last two days it was just going to be a relief getting into the water after a hard day at work.

I cautiously watched the waves and tried to figure out the rough timing. As I perched cautiously on top of the rocks I jammed on my fins and when the wave pushed the water forward I started kicking and hoped to hell I timed it right.

As I began to kick across the shallows I was greeted by a school of some small zebra perch. I watched their barred bodies slip thru the rocks as they dashed away. By the time I came to the outer kelp bed I knew I would probably not see any white seabass. The water had probably fifty feet of visibility, any fish would surely see me and scatter. Not that it mattered, what used to be a thick kelp bed was now reduced to a few scraggly stringers. Last year I had taken about six white seabass from shore dives from this same spot, the kelp was so thick it took me a long time to work my way through it. But it was almost all gone now, the storms we had during the winter had pretty much wiped out all the kelp on my little reef.

Still I quietly flooded my snorkel so there would be no bubbles and tucked my way and dove into the cool clear water. I followed the meager kelp stalks in hope there would be some blind, deaf, fat white seabass hiding below. But even though I found no giants I was greeted by an amazing sight. In the kelp the water was a bit hazy, tiny young of the year seniorita wrasses rose up from the kelp stocks to greet me. Curious half moon perch poked their heads out of the kelp and followed me around. I saw some gigantic Balta sized opaleye that must’ve been eight pounds look at me and then with a mad dash of their fins take off. The dumbest sand bass I’ve ever seen came up to me with wondering eyes, close enough that I could’ve taken them with a three prong. Big kelp bass skeptically watched me with green eyes before fleeing from the canopy into the reef. It was absolutely amazing, like someone had flipped a switch and suddenly winter was over.

When I glanced at my watch it was showing 62 degrees. I actually had to flood my suit several times since I was so warm. Wow, what a change from the 57 degree water that I had been freezing my ass off in a few days ago! I pushed to the outside of the kelp in hopes of seeing some yellowtail. There schools of barracuda, probably 50-75 individuals sunk away, I could make out clearly their yellowish tails as they flicked them in the blue water. Spanish mackeral randomly skitted thru the reef and around the kelp. I made several drops amoungst the bait and waited it out. But nothing came today. The water was so clear I saw several pinnicles I had never seen before, dropping down to them brought the mad thumping of male garabaldi as they tried to show the intruder who was the boss on this reef. Scallops quickly closed their shells to hide their orange flesh. And on the bottom I could even make out some curious lobster, now brave that the season was over.

I swam around my aquarium for that last full hour before the sun began to dip into the ocean. I made some half hearted drops into the sand patches looking for halibut, hoping that part of the floor would move enough that I could hand jab them with my slip tip. I saw huge sargo doing some kind of circular dance, maybe mating, maybe just playing. Had I brought my rabitech reef gun instead of my slip tip I would’ve brought home a few fish to fry. But today I just wanted to enjoy the moment. When I’m hunting white seabass a lot of times it’s cold, murky and miserable. But on days like this I’m just happy to be alive, it brings everything back to me, the real reason why I love freediving.

That hour shot by like it was a couple of minutes. I came back to the shore empty handed but happier than I’ve been in a long time. I watched the waves and prayed that I timed it right, someone out there must have been looking out for me because I simply walked out, as I turned around I saw a rare four foot wave pound the reef and was glad I went out when I did.

I gathered up my gear and made the long climb back up the steep, rocky hill. I had to stop several more times than I used to have to. I’m 42 now and it’s starting to show. I wondered how much longer I’d be able to climb down those steep cliffs and silently was glad I wasn’t lugging some huge seabass up that steep hill.

By the time I got to the top of the cliff I saw some older folks taking a stroll and said hello. It must’ve been strange to see that weird guy in the wetsuit carrying a speargun up a cliff. The last thing I did was turn around and for five minutes watch one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in a long time. I checked my watch and it was getting late. I still had to drive home and start packing for a vacation with my parents, my father turned 80 years old this week! I thought about that and if I’d be diving when I was that old and hoped that I was in as good shape as Bill I would be able to dive into my seventies at least.

You know the best part of all of today was? It was free, it was something people would have paid a lot of money to do on vacation. Take advantage of it guys, the water is clear and right now fairly warm. There are reef fish all over the place, the halibut are probably hiding in the sand patches and I’d bet yellowtail are going to start to show. If I wasn’t going on vacation I’d call my boss and beg for a few days off, you don’t get conditions like that that often…

The video below is the closest thing I have onhand that matched the conditions of that day.  This one was shot in november sometime in a spot that will be closed because it will become a marine protected area (MPA) in October.   That really sucks because it’s one of my favorite places to hunt locally 😦

Lunchtime Halibut

7 Jul

Every once in a blue moon I’ll be able to scarf down my lunch and then hit the ocean. I’m really lucky because I work pretty close to the ocean. I’d be even luckier if the water was ever clear, because usually it’s not at this particular location.  This particular part of the ocean is usually very very cold and murky 😦

With all the local halibut going off I figured there might be a chance to get one if I was really lucky so I grabbed all my gear and slid into my wetsuit to the delight of my coworkers who laughed their heads off at the camo suit. Bunch of heartless bastards!

I ignored their jeers and jumped into my car and drove to a nearby spot, I’d only have about a half hour in the water before I had to go back. As I hustled to the oceans edge I could already tell it was going to be murky. The cool water was a welcome blessing for my rapidly overheating body, even in my 5mm suit I was cooking so I kept flushing it as I kicked over to a reef. I made a drop and was disappointed to see that the vis was probably a whopping five feet. Ah well halibut like dirty water anyways.

In case you were wondering, it’s hard to find halibut.  Even though they are easy targets once you find them the trick is to find them at all and it took a long time before I developed the patience and eye to locate them.  Even then I’ve had them take off before I even got close enough for a shot.  If you are lucky you’ll see something that resembles this picture, you can clearly see the outline of the body and the shape of the head.

However more thank likely it will look like this, but even more likely  you won’t see them at all until it’s too late. I’ve seen them where you could just barely make out their eyes and you can see how this one below has changed it’s coloration to match the sand. Unbelievable!!

I kept making drops and exploring more and more and then as my eyes adjusted I saw the outline of a mouth followed by fins and a tail. Halibut! The swirling sand and surge made it hard to gauge the size and as I sat there like a dummy I started running out of air, my lungs were burning so I headed up to the top. The question now was…was it legal? I looked at the markings on my rabitech 120 and saw that it was well over legal, the problem is with the shitty vis I’d have to shoot the fish with my thumb as I reared the gun back. As I crept closer the fish saw me and BOOM exploded out of the sand. I figured as much and dejectly headed back up to the surface. As I cursed myself a fool I made another drop to see if I could see where it went and as I neared the bottom, BOOM another one blew up about an inch where the first one was and threw sand up into my face.

No one more deserved the noob of the year award more than I did at that moment. I calmed myself down and kept hunting, the problem was the vis was getting worse and finally I saw another mouth and shape of a nice halibut. This one was a tad bigger than the first one and I didn’t want to take a chance on spooking it so I backed off a bit and then shot it square in the body. As I kicked back up to the surface I thought the fish was going to go nuts and wrap me up but I lucked out and had hurt it pretty badly. I pulled the line back up and it spiraled towards me and then I dispatched it and started kicking back towards shore. People at the beach ran up to me to see what I had got and to share tales of “one time I went fishing and…”  I politely listened until there was a break in their voices and then excused myself to head back to work.  I threw all my gear in my car and plopped my wet body into my seat.

As I made my way back to work I was again welcomed with the jeers of my coworkers. With a smile I lifted out the 28″ halibut out of my container and like a judge with a gavel in a courtroom I silenced the bastards as I dropped the fish onto the floor with a hearty THUNK and headed in for a quick shower.  No victory was ever sweeter…

My favorite halibut recipe is one from acapulco restaurant but I haven’t figured it out yet. I knew I wanted a white cream sauce, my wife loves fresh fish so I kept a few pieces and used a white seabass sauce recipe that I got from my friends and did my normal tweeks on it.  I rarely use a recipe straight out of a book.  I fileted and skinned the halibut and coated the filets with the sauce and got a pan really hot and cooked it with a saucepan cover over it to poach it a bit, then finished it uncovered until the sauce browned and became crispy. We served it with some brown rice and steamed veggies, it was absolutely delicious, and I halibut isn’t one of my absolute favorites so that’s saying something.

Excuse the poor pictures, all I had was my iphone to shoot pix, the hali actually had a brown glaze to it, yuuuuuumm.

In case you were wondering, the halibut sauce I used, this one came off a spear site I visit often called spearboard.com, I believe it was posted by Dave Ploessel or John Haffner.  My buddies have been using my version and love it.

1 cup Mayonaise

1/3 cup soy sause

1 TBSP Siracha (rooster) sauce

1 TBSP oyster sauce

2 TBSP olive oil

1 lime (juice)

1/2 TBS sesame oil

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

You take the fish and coat the filets with this sauce, if you can let it marinate overnight.

Get a pan hot and immediately throw the filets in there, sauce and all. Let it cook then flip

it and add a saucepan lid to help it steam a bit.  When fish is done it will flake easily with a fork.

I’m not the greatest halibut hunter and I still consider myself in the learning phase.  Here’s a pix of my biggest so far, I got it a few years ago and it went 24 pounds, sometime I’ll have to dig up that story.

Check out how fat it was!  We ate that fish for weeks!

And yes I plan on going out again at lunch very soon! I just re-rigged my normal halibut gun.  It’s a rabitech stealth 90 cm railgun, perfect for working close range in the stirred up water.  I also added a rabitech slip tube tip, I’m hoping to get some more fresh halibut very soon…

My Honeymoon Part 1: Oaks Travel Tips for the Philippines

4 Jul

Travel Tips in the Philippines

Originally this started out as a description about the islands but the travel advice got so long that I split it into two blogs, you’ll have to read about the islands later you loser.  You don’t like it? IDGAF :).

Some quick advice and notes about travel to the Philippines.  Any small bills in american currency you brought as tip money is useless here as they use the philippine peso, so you’ll want to cash in at least 400$ at a time and keep at least 200$ on you (8674$ in pesos at current rate of about 43pesos/dollar) with a lot of 20 peso bills handy (maybe 200 pesos worth in 20 peso bills).  Like in mexico, the peso exchange rate varies from town to town and hotel to hotel (most hotels will change currency for you but you will get better rates at banks/money exchange places in town).  I’m not sure about Manila, but every single place we went to in the PI was safe, I was at ease all the time.

(Yah brother, I’m a baller in the Philippines!  This is only about 300$ us so don’t get excited.  The money there is really pretty and colorful, unlike our ugly money in the US.)

When I exited the airport and we began traveling through town there is a distinct correlation between the way the philippines looks and the way mexico looks, I’d say it’s like a cross between baja and china.  The only difference is that although both are third world countries, the people in the Philippines have a certain amount of pride.  They are not what you’d exactly call poor, although they make about 8$/day on the average but you don’t see a lot of them trying to hustle you for cash, rob you, or even beg for money.  I only tipped the bell guys about a buck when they moved our bags and they were really happy with that, and the few times when I was somewhere and didn’t tip they didn’t stand around waiting for a tip like in other third world countries I’ve been to.  Everyone here is polite and refers to you as sir/mam, and there is a strict no littering policy in a lot of small towns with an enforced fine.  It was amazing to go thru some obviously fairly poor towns and not see a speck of trash on the ground, I sure wish someone would start fining assholes in southern California for the same offenses!

 

(Note the lack of trash on the ground or in the gutter.  If they just work on smog laws it would be pretty clean.  The stores look like shantys because they don’t have earthquakes or cold weather so they don’t need as sturdy structures).

I didn’t take any pictures but besides a lot of tourists of either korean, japanese, chinese or filipino decent I saw a lot of older white guys with 18 year old girlfriends.  I thought that was pretty cool at first but I under closer scrutiny, I also saw a lot of native girls down there that were actually guys!  Keep this in mind if you visit places (like when we were in Boracay) where I was surpised that there were a lot of chicks roaming around looking for dates.  I’m sure it was even more a surprise to the dudes who dated them later on because not all of them were chicks!!!  Well I guess they were kinda like chicks in the fact that they looked like chicks with adams apples.  Luckily I’m no heavy drinker like a lot of you guys out there, don’t say I didn’t warn you when you go partying in the PI and get your surprise later!!!

There are a few things that bummed me out though, one is the lack of western toilets in the rural areas.  I was going to take a pix of some of the restrooms but I figured it would bum you out even more and make you not want to visit here!  The nicer bathrooms in the airport have toilets with toilet paper and lids.

(This is one of the advanced bathrooms, note the current style toilet water reservoir on top.  Please don’t judge the yellow water, you don’t waste water in the PI.  See that trash can?  I’ll explain that later in case you don’t know).

Most people in third world countries do not flush toilet paper down the toilet so you’ll see trash cans nearby.  A dead clue even in southern California that you are in a shitty area (no pun intended) is if you see a trash can right next to the toilet. That’s how you know Santa Ana is a ghetto, if you walk into a taco bell and use their third world looking toilets you’ll see a trash can because the people who live around there don’t know any better because that’s how it is in their native country.  (Before you claim I am racist, I never said they were from Mexico which is what you probably thought.  I was going to say they were from uhhh Alaska ;).  You think I’m being racist? Go to a nice area of Laguna Hills and tell me you see the same thing in their public restrooms!  Anyways I digress, if you go to a rural bathroom in the Philippines you’ll see what resembles an old toilet bowl with no seat/lid/toilet paper/water reservoir.  It’s basically a bowl only with a barrel of water nearby with a big one gallon tupperware container in there.  Without being too graphic you are supposed to do your business and use the community tupperware to wash your dookage down the toilet.  I have no idea what you are supposed to wipe with unless you are supposed to douche with that community water which is why I NEVER, EVER, EVER used the toilet anywhere except where I knew it was a western toilet.  Which also reminds me, I only eat things that I have a feeling won’t make me violently ill in third world countries.  That means skipping out on eating a lot of things that are suspect in origin.  Better plan now than be hunched over that rural toilet later brother!
My world wide “oak’s test” is to first flush a toilet when I’m there, this goes for anywhere I’m at, airport, restaurant, friends house etc.  If I gauge the flow to be strong enough to take paper down I’ll use it.  Nothing will bum you out more than making a dookie in a toilet and then finding out you can’t flush it and there’s some hot chick out knocking on the door behind you.  Enough said. Anyways I pretty much only used the toilet in our resorts and even then I used “oaks test”.  There aren’t a lot of public restrooms laid out so a lot of times I’d see guys taking a leak right on the side of the road in public, so much so that they put up signs that say “no pissing here”.

The other thing that really bummed me out was all the stray dogs in the PI.  Instead of writing Philippines every time I’ll just call it the PI because I’m getting lazy of typing this long ass essay.  As you may or may not know, even though I slay a lot of fish, I care about a lot of animals.  Especially dogs since I always have had one and currently have two.  Nothing bummed me out more than seeing starving dogs come by when we were eating in town at little places, it absolutely broke my heart and I tried to feed them as much as I could.  The dogs in the PI walk sideways kind of just like the ones in Mexico and I’m not sure exactly why.  Most of the dogs are really skittish of people and wouldn’t want you to pet them, although once they saw I was no threat they’d often sit and want to be petted and then push their heads against my leg, I wanted to take all of them home when that happened.  Some of the locals would frown but IDGAF I fed the dogs anyways.

You do not want to drive in the PI.  If you can, I’d highly recommend going through a tour company and arranging rides from the airport to your hotel etc.  This is because the traffic in the PI is CRAZY. You think LA traffic is bad?  Think again brother, even in the small towns it would take us a half hour to go five miles sometimes.  Passing on the right or the left going head on in traffic or dodging pedestrians/bikes/dogs is the norm.

(Check out the bitchin trike doing the perpetual wheelie.  The trike is a major form of transport in the cities).

Many many times I though my sphincter would crack from being held so tight as we barreled at light speed towards another car. The weird thing is that I never ever saw an accident, it seems like the PI folks are way more aware of what is going on than many of the dumb drivers back home.  The other reason you want to arrange transportation ahead of time is because you don’t want to end up packed in a jeepney.  A jeepney is this gigant ass jeep that fits like twenty people and if it is packed you will have to hang on OUTSIDE the jeepney too.

You also can take these tricycles in town, they are like 250 cc motorcycles that they have fashioned some wheelchair looking cart next to it.

I mentioned before it’s hot and I’m not kidding, it was HOT and HUMID at least in June.  Plan on drinking a lot of water, I bought this water bottle that had a built in carbon filter in it in the states and would dump any purified water in restaurants thru it.  It doesn’t gurantee you won’t get any germs and I would not use it on any water that is suspect but it seemed to work out well and it kept me from having to buy a shitload of water.  There are a lot of different bugs that drove me crazy here, and the number one was mosquitos.  These mosquitos here are different, they are very fast and fly very erratically so they are hard to slap at.  Those things chewed us up at a lot of places because I would only use the bug spray when I absolutely had to because it grosses me out to be sweaty with cancer bug be gone dripping all over me.  I came back with about a million bites on my legs, arms and back.  There are also things called “nic nic” which are no see ums in the mangrove areas.   No see ums are these tiny flying insects that you can hardly see and bite like a MOTHER FUGGER, it feels like fire almost.  The last annoyance are the little houseflies that are EVERYWHERE outside. If you are eating outside get used to having the little bastards land on your food, your legs, ears, etc.  I often wished I had my little bug zapper that I have at home to teach those bastards a lesson.

(You are going to want to stock up on this stuff if you are prone to getting bit by bugs)

Food wise, PI food is a bit different than any kind of food I can think of. It’s fairly asian but consists of a lot of fried foods and a lot of stews. My mom will be the first to tell you that I hate stews of any type, I’ve never liked any stew I’ve tried so I starved myself a lot if there wasn’t any other types of food available.

(Some kind of stew and then two very interesting fish dishes.  I say interesting because I didn’t try any of this stuff.  Mainly because of the whole toilet thing I was talking about earlier).

The fried foods are okay but fairly greasy and the chicken is different tasting because most of it is free range chicken so its really lean and sometimes gamey because they walk around backyards and eat bugs.  I prefer fat chickens that are fed hormones and kept in cages so they can’t move around and get fatter and jucier.

(Very lean fried chicken.  It takes getting used to.)

I really like lumpia (fried PI eggrolls) and pancit (PI noodles) and ate a lot of that and there is also a lot of grilled or bbqed seafood and if you know me you know I love seafood!  One place we found had grilled oysters, I had never had them before but man were they good!   Another thing to remember is that the portions are usually smaller as well (this is pretty standard in a lot of other countries, people in the US overeat a lot which is why you see so many giants at the hometown buffet near you), they eat about half of what we eat in the states so I’d order double orders at any chain restaurants we visited.  You can find the normal McDonalds in some towns but the smaller ones have a chicken chain called “Jolly Bee” that is okay I guess. One of my favorites when I could find  it is Shakeys pizza, I got a craving for that once a week.  Other than that I’d suggest going to buffets if they are in your price range. Which leads me to another point, food and most of the stuff in the PI is really cheap.  I got a haircut with shampoo in one town for the equivalent of .81 cents!  Shit at that rate I’d get my haircut ever two weeks in the states if I could!

One day we decided to go zip lining with lea’s family.  Because I knew we’d be in a tropical climate I left my shoes at home but you can’t zip line with slippers!  Rather than miss out I went to the department store and picked up a pair of shoes.  If I didn’t say it before, I’m a giant in the PI but not in the US.  I’m 5’11” and towered over most of the locals there.  This made it tough to find shoes because they have tons of 6-7’s but 10.5 is hard to find!!   I finally found a pair, I don’t even know wtf they were called but they were made of pleather (fake leather) and had some resemblance to Nike running shoes.  I think I spent a whopping 8$ on those beauties.

(Check out my new PI shoes, I called them “Wike’s, due to the double swoosh.  These are probably doubly better than Nike’s since they have two swooshes instead of one.  My guess is they are obviously the “Wair Jordan” type.  Don’t clown me, otherwise I’ll wrap them up and you’ll get them for your next bday or xmas gift).

Most of the buffet places were about 350 pesos, and most of the meals at fast food places were about 60-120 pesos.  If you went to any higher end westernized restaurant then it would be about 500 pesos per person.  What I quickly found out was PI people are good at doing anything with noodles. So their pancit, chowmein, italian food, spaghetti etc rocks.  Their burgers absolutely sucked, it was very apparent that no one here has rocked a In and Out burger because their burger was mushy, unflavored, and lacked any good sauce on it. You want to make a million dollars? Open up a nice burger chain in the PI!

(You see this one a lot, sometimes it was a whole pig.  Note the fly on the snout of the pig, get used to this because you are going to have some on your food at some point in time.  If you are grossed out I might point out that in the US you have roaches, mice, etc on your food at some point in time during transport or preparation.  I’m not even counting the guy who probably spit on your food in the fast food restaurant you were at in the US because he was pissed about working for “the man”)

A last word about airports and boats.  One of the bummers about traveling to one of the thousands of islands in the PI is that the only major airport is in Manila.  From there you take smaller jets or turbo prop planes to the different smaller islands.  That means when you fly to another small island you have to board your plane and go back to Manila and then take another small plane to the next island (i.e. you are looking at two plane flights per island).  It’s not bad, the flights are an hour or less between islands.  However to board the planes you will have to go thru two to three metal detectors and xrays.  There is also two lines at each of these detectors, one that says Male and the other says Female. That’s because they frisk you as you go through, its a great way to make sure things are safe but it’s a little weird having random guys feeling me up each time.

The other thing is that there are a lot of smaller boats that you take between the islands sometimes.  Most of their boats are like gigantic outrigger canoes with stabilizers built out of bamboo on the sides.  You have to walk up a rickety ramp to get onto the boat, sometimes it’s a bit challenging but we always made it on with no problems.

I hope this didn’t scare you away from taking any trips to the PI. If it did then you’ll want to read my upcoming blog on what we actually did there because it will take all your fears away.  The people in the PI are very friendly and super duper polite, the most polite people I’ve met in my life.  The islands are absolutely beautiful with white sand beaches and crystal clear water.  Most everything there is fairly inexpensive and sometimes outrageously cheap.  The food takes some getting used to but there were some things I still miss today, Like buko shakes (fresh young coconut shakes).  I hated coconut before but man those shakes were killer, its like a slush with juices, ice cream, a bit of mango all mixed up!

(One of my favorites from the PI.  Fresh buko shake.  Note the bottom picture with the icy goodness mixed up!)

I’ll try my best to work on a island blog on what we did on each island and the beautiful things we saw. I also have to upload a bunch of videos of the freediving I did there.  Don’t be impressed, most of the depths were very very shallow, under 30 feet!