Karaoke and Cock Fights

captain alex

13 February 2011 | cebu yacht club, philipines

The typhoon never materialized as work continued on Bubbles and with the engine, toilet and stove all in pieces under repair and myself, Ben, Kirk and Shannon along with the the Philipina cousins Angel and Jane all staying aboard she was a full boat and quite the mess. A few days later Tree rejoined the boat for a three day reunion and with friendly boats in and out of the cebu yacht club as well as friends ashore like former CIA operative Scott F. Collins who hosted Midwest style barbecues complete with corn on the cob and entertainers like Forrest the balloon master who built us a motorcycle and monkey in a tree out of balloons there was never a dull moment.

We discovered the weeklong monsoon rain had seeped past the o ring at the diesel inlet and water in the fuel is what had caused the engine to stop and seized the injectors and so we began the process of pumping out the fuel and cleaning all the lines. Three days later with the injectors (now with new needles) back in and clean fuel provided she still wouldn’t fire and so the next step was to take off the injector pump which is no easy task. While starting that Jim from Fandango stopped by and suggested spraying wd40 in the air intake and when that didn’t cause her to fire he gave me the sad news that I probably had a blown head gasket. Pausing he finally suggested one last thing and doing no more than what I can describe as diesel engine CPR he pumped on the air intake with his palm while I cranked and miraculously she sprung to life with the familiar chug of an old diesel engine. We had celebrated the head (toilet) being fixed the night before but it was only a warm up to the party we had for the engine.

The Philipines is cheap by first world standards (piece of fried chicken is 20 cents, 45 minute cab ride 3 dollars, cold beer in a bar 60 cents, a dental filling I had done 8 dollars) and Philipino people are industrious but with few jobs and one of the most corrupt governments on earth (we had to bride the immigration officials just to get it) most live in poverty trying desparately to get out (we were warned by many a sailor to beware the young Phlipina women). Despite this they are very happy and we quickly made friends with many around us and a local restaurant owner named Elmer even threw us a karaoke party. While trying to fix the autopilot (been trouble shooting this one for months) I finally took off the hydraulic pump and on a Saturday at 7pm (try doing this anywhere else after dark on a Saturday) I was able to find a dirt floored lean to off a busy street with two guys rebuilding and rewinding electric motors. Upon my arrival they immediately stopped all current projects and tore into mine and after a short hour (the magnets were loose) and a charge of only 4 dollars (that is the over priced whiteman price) I was on my way. Another job was the bow pulpit’s stainless steel tubing which had cracked and needed welded again and what cost me 175 dollars in Panama and 95 in Fiji for the same job, three Philipinos working for 2 hours did a better job for a total bill of 16 dollars and smiled happily to get paid that amount.

Philipinos love America and everything about it and in my many trips running around town looking for fuel filters, the random tool, or the springmaker (found him in a dirt floor shack in the slums but he made the most precise springs you could want right on the spot) I encountered taxi drivers eager to show what they knew including one 53 year old who could recite every American state (and capital) in alphabetical order and another who when asking me what state I was from to my reply of Indiana asked if I was near French Lick (birthplace of Larry Bird and less than an hour from home). The music on the radio is mostly American pop (of course its all old by now in the states but brand new to me) and all the karaoke bars (believe me there are plenty) love to blare everything from tom jones to garth brooks and the malls are filled with personal karaoke machines for sale and the random passer by testing their own talent (which after years of being brought up on karaoke is pretty good).

I became good friends with a pretty local girl named Angel and with 90 percent of the Philipines being Catholic (largest Christian country in Asia) she was no exception. She was from a large rural farming family in the south and although her English was barely conversational the American influence showed in her sibling names with brothers named Junior, Arnold and Roy and sisters named Mildred, Daisy, Wilma and Nancy (not your typical asian names). On Sunday morning Angel took us to church in the old Spanish colonial cathedral of Santo Nino (oldest and most revered in all of the Philipines) with over 3,000 in attendance. During the sermon a group of 20+ Chinese tourists showed the novelty of such a ceremony to them by parading (lead by tour guide) up the altar flashing pictures along the way. After church we went to a venue of another popular Sunday pastime in the Philipines, the local cock fighting arena, and for a little more than a dollar each got ringside seats. Chaos erupted as each cock was brought into the ring with owner and the betting in the crowd began. Angel’s grandfather is known as the ‘cock whisperer’ in his part of the island and so she explained what it took to raise a champion cock. With blades tied to their ankles and neck feathers flared the lightning speed strikes of the cocks brought death almost always within seconds and each fight rarely lasted over a minute. The injured champion would be be rushed backstage after the fight to the cock surgeon where an operating table was set up to save the winner and protect the bloodline of the best fighters. The loser would be eaten : head , feet, heart and all.

I had two buddies flying in to join Bubbles in Cebu only one of which looks to make it but before we could take off there was last thing we had to do. Only a few minutes from the yacht club on Mactan island is the place where, in 1521, Ferdinand Magellan (credited with the world’s first circumnavigation even though he was bit shy but one of his vessels did make it) was killed by local chief Lapu Lapu (the city on the island still bears his name). There is a shrine marking the spot where the great explorer and navigator was felled by a spear to the head and poison arrow to the leg and even though Magellan is known even here as a great man the greater hero is Chief Lapu Lapu comemerated with a massive statue of the chief wielding a sword that dwarfs the monument to Magellan and placed just a few steps away. We paid our respects to them both and I prayed I would not fall victim to poison arrows before my circumnavigation was complete…

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