We’re not supposed to take vacation in the first 30 or last 30 days of our assignment, but I asked for and received permission to take my last day this past Monday, so that I could have a long weekend in Mindoro. It was great to see Mary, to be back at Stairway Foundation, to see the theatre that Mary designed, to be back on the beach, and to do all of that without feeling rushed!
I left Saturday morning with a stop for my new go-to travel food, the Goldilocks butter slice. They would never call it this in the United States! It’s pound cake. But few people know that pound cake is called that because it used to be made with a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, and a pound of eggs! Let’s not think about that too much; I’ll just say that I discovered the butter slice recently and it’s very tasty.
There was a lot of traffic on the way down there, and the ferry seemed to take a while, as did lunch on White Beach when I got there – the Universe knew that last time we had only one night there so it facilitated speedy travel, and it knew that I had two nights this time so everything seemed to take a little longer. But that’s okay! I walked over the hill and got to Stairway around 2:00 pm, put my things in the Yellow House, and had a detailed tour of the theatre from Mary. It’s quite a building, and both she and Stairway have reason to be proud. Then we went to the beach for a swim and for sunset – what a site she has!
For dinner, we went to a place called the Pie Shack. Run by a Brit, its wares are pretty authentic - taste sensations I hadn’t had in a while. We had cottage pie (and I learned that shepherd’s pie is made with lamb and cottage pie is the same thing, with beef) and apple crumble. The next morning was leisurely – a long walk on the beach, breakfast in Mary’s hut (homemade granola that someone had sent her - I remarked that my support team seemed spent after sending me things in Morocco; she said that her Macedonia support team was spent as well but that she had a whole new support team this time around!).
Then we walked to the waterfall. Same hike as back in August, but very different in the dry season! With the water so low, we hiked up the creekbed for much of it. When we got to the falls, there wasn’t enough water for swimming, but it was a nice place to sit and talk. We went through the Mangyan village on the way back and I bought more baskets; I had promised myself that I would return back in August. It turned out to be an emotional moment – something about the plight of indigenous peoples tugs at my heart, and maybe more so after visiting the Bajaus. Mary pointed out that the Mangyans here, though segregated, have a lot of support and a lot of visitors coming through and buying things, but I still needed to compose myself. I’m going to an Aeta village on Sunday – that should be enlightening too (though I hope not too emotional – I’m going with my supervisor and his family). We then had a relaxing beachfront dinner; no Milky Way but still stars in the sky and the sound of the surf.
On Monday, Mary had to work. I took a beach walk and had an American breakfast (also a taste sensation I hadn’t had in a while) at the hotel next door. Then I had a chance to talk to Lars, one of Stairway’s founders – in August I casually asked him if he needed marketing and he said yes and this was our first opportunity to speak. Upshot is that I may consult remotely when I get home while I am looking for the next thing; it could be very interesting.
And then I had a last – though I didn’t dwell on that aspect of it – long swim in Philippine waters. I borrowed Mary’s snorkel and mask and did my first snorkeling here (I could have done it much more and probably should have, but this opportunity was the only one literally handed to me) – there’s a whole new world under the sea! Farewell to Mary and to the people I’ve met at Stairway - including the boys, who have blossomed since I first saw them - and then the ferry and the bus and back to reality, refreshed and ready for what is turning out to be an even busier week than I thought it would be!