Hot Springs, Tamarinds and Tricycles

3 Apr

Tricycle in Boac town square, Marinduque, the Philippines

A tricycle. Can carry eight people plus luggage, if you're Pilipino.

So here we are in the Philippines, on the little island of Marinduque to the south of Luzon, experiencing the Pilipino Easter in all its crazy pagan-Catholic magic. Flagellants, crucifixions and, erm, an Easter Sunday beauty contest? Only in the Philippines…

And, best of all, Z has his grandparents along too!

We bumped into Granny and Grandpa a little ahead of time, while we were choosing doughnuts in Lucena port, ahead of our ferry to the island. And Z’s face when he saw my father was a picture.

Not so much ecstasy, or a desperate leap into his arms (which part of me had feared), but a relaxed, calm, “pleased-to-see-you” look followed by a babble of anecdotes.

Since Z was a baby, he and my father have been extremely close: from pretty much as soon as Z could walk he spent one day a week with his grandfather. When they left the city, their house became a second home for Z. And they’ve Skyped almost every single week since we left.

So, while I was looking forward to seeing both of my parents, I was also scared that Z would face a rushed reminder of all the places, faces and loved ones we’ve left behind for this trip into the void, that homesickness would overtake him, that the bubble we’ve created here would burst, leaving him longing for the people he has left behind.

So far, at least, that hasn’t happened. Instead, we’re having a low-key but lovely time. And, oddly, I’m valuing the me-time rather less than I’d anticipated.

Marinduque is home to the Moriones festival, an Easter celebration with all the colour of Purim in Israel, Halloween in the US, or Tet in Vietnam. We took Thursday out of the madness to relax Pilipino style at the Malpog hot springs. As rapids are in Cambodia, so are hot springs in the Philippines: the nation’s answer to a public swimming bath.

Before we even got there, Z was in transport heaven. Apart from the tricycles, scooters with sidecars which can, and do, transport everything from livestock to extended families, complete with baggage, around the island, the Philippines’ primary method of short-medium distance transportation is the jeepney: low-slung, long-beamed vehicles once part of US Army transportation, with names as colourful as their bodywork.

Jeepney, Marinduque, Philippines.

Your technicoloured dream vehicle...

The hot springs at Malpog flow invisibly into five small pools, each with a protective canopy, set amid tropical flowers and rockeries, and surrounded by basic cabanas on scrubby grass.

Entire families camp out for the day, with cool-boxes and cooking pots, in all the rich and tolerant diversity of the Philippines: a tall, skinny trans guy in partial makeup with his older, chubby boyfriend, his sisters, parents and their kids, four generations of family down from Manila for the holidays, children running free as kids do here, and curvy teenage girls casting eyes at angular teenage boys.

A guy named Francis, hired as a civil engineer to expand the springs, took me, Z and my mother under his wing.

He took us out across the dry rice paddies to where the geothermal waters cut a path through the rock at 80 degrees or more, leaving a deep green trail of copper sulphate in their wake. In the wet season, weirdly, the water flows hotter, not colder, due to the rate with which it bubbles up from the lava that simmers not far below the surface all the way around the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Francis helped Z harvest sweet, sour and sour-sweet tamarinds, which grow semi-native on tall trees amid the paddy fields, by shaking the branches with a bamboo pole four or five times his height.

Then he picked pomelos, green papaya and young coconuts from the trees and gave them to us.

We mooched back along a road lined with the PhotoShopped faces of aspirants for the upcoming elections, past baby goats, banana plantations, jackfruit trees and elderly gentlemen reclining in tall tree houses. A lovely, small island day.

Thanks to Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday.

4 Responses to “Hot Springs, Tamarinds and Tricycles”

  1. Ad April 3, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Hello, ah… Mummy?

    I’ve bumbled onto your blog while doing a bit of research into things Cambodian, when I got directed to one of your stories. I read a few more and now I’m signed up- it’s a lovely adventure you two are on… I’m just wishing you well.

    Cheers,
    Ad (from Australia)

    • MummyT April 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

      Thank you for your best wishes, and best wishes back atcha from the Philippines I agree, it’s a fairly crappy web handle: should have put much more thought into it… Glad to hear you like the journey…

  2. jessiev April 5, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    found you from delicious baby – and love this post! what a great journey you’re on.

    • MummyT April 7, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

      Why, thankyou! I’ve emailed you, and look forward to talking more…

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