Sabang Harbor

Sabang Harbor, Mindoro Island, Philippines.

Contributed by Ken Robison

Across the world, another reminder that what we think important is not universally important.

At a resort island in the Philippines several weeks ago, my plan was to have breakfast and watch the World Series. Game Four, Game Five, I can’t remember a month later.

(It was the next day from where you were here in Pacific time. When you watched the Series at night, I was watching the following morning.)

The televisions at the Big Apple in Sabang, Mindoro Island, were showing other sports, like rugby, soccer and auto racing. So I ask the server if I can watch the World Series on the television above my table.

World Series? The woman looks at me as if I’m speaking Swahili. “You have to talk to my manager,” she says.

So I head for the booth, ask for the manager and an affable 50ish Australian guy comes out. I repeat my request. He grins and says, “Oh, you mean stupid baseball?”

“Yes,” I smile back, “I’d like to watch stupid baseball?”

That’s why we travel. To experience the cultures of the world, and what they like —and don’t like. In a few instances of World Series watching on the island of Mindoro, hardly anyone dropped by to watch. A couple of Brits actually looked at the screen for a minute or two and a couple of Yanks asked the score before heading for their beach outing.

After all, this was the Philippines. Americans didn’t travel 15 hours to sit and watch stupid baseball, right? Dodgers? We don’t need no stinking Dodgers!

Yes, Mindoro and Selma are different in more ways than simply terrain — ocean/jungle v. farmland.

In Selma, we get around town mostly in cars and pickup trucks. In Mindoro, everyone rides Jeepneys, motorbikes and tricycles.

(A Jeepney is an elongated, tricked-up Jeep with two long benches inside. A tricycle is a motorbike with a sidecar and a roof; it was our main transportation option.)

In Selma, our weather hazards are extreme heat and fog. In Mindoro, we experienced four days of wind and rain —including a stage-one typhoon.

In Selma, a cheap motel room might cost you $60. In Sabang, closer to $20.

But there are similarities as well. In Selma, ATM machines spit out $20 bills. In the Philippines, ATMs spit out $1,000 peso bills — at 50 pesos to a dollar, that bill is worth $20 U.S.

And there were no burritos to be found in Sabang, but you could easily find a plate of pork and rice.

Mindoro is not easy to get to. Once you reach Manila’s airport, you’ll need a cab ride to the bus terminal, a two-hour bus ride to the port and 90-minute ferry to the island.

Sabang’s harbor is gorgeous, with hills rising above town and water so clear it draws divers from all over the world. That was a motivation for us and we took several snorkeling boat outings during our two weeks there.

Eventually, we left the beach scene and headed up the mountain to a B&B in the jungle. We had a stunning view of the ocean and we could see every rainstorm coming off the coast toward us.

Our landlord’s grandsons operated tricycles, so we were never without transportation. Other friends and family members operated boats — mostly the small outriggers the Filipinos call bankas — that took us to the reefs.

I played golf at a dreamy 9-hole jungle course at the top of the island at 2,000-feet elevation. It was my first experience with a caddy, which worked out fine because I hit seven balls into the jungle and Michael found four of them. Based on that, I figure I finished minus-3.

Two weeks on the island, including typhoons, tricycles and stupid baseball, actually allowed us to rest up from the non-stop pace of Bev Cho’s China tour. After the tightly-scheduled trip through China, the jungle-and-ocean experience made the freewheeling Philippines feel like the Wild West.

Still, four weeks is a bit beyond my comfort level and I was ever so ready when we showed up at the Manila airport to begin the long trip back home. We even defied the laws of time, flying for 12 hours and arriving in San Francisco earlier than we had left Taipei.

It took just 45 minutes to get to Fresno from SFO. With geckos, monkeys, coral reefs and mango milkshakes swimming in my brain, I finally was able to lie down in my own bed in Selma.

No typhoons, no tricycles, no jeepneys. No pesos, just dollars. No more stupid baseball. Just my house, my yard, my TV, my books, my paddles and golf clubs.

And memories of another place that reminded me, Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.

Ken Robison, a longtime resident of Selma, is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, photographer and columnist. Selma Stories runs most Wednesdays in The Enterprise Recorder. He can be reached at selmacolumnist@gmail.com.

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