A Trip to Tabaco    

A loaded jeepney in Tabaco
Rowshan and I got up early to see the sunrise on Mt. Mayon. The sky was pink behind the mountain. On the hill we admired the sun rising over the water and the clouds beginning to be caught on the mountain. Rowshan delivered his photos to the people he'd taken photos of the previous day. One guy walking through the market was wearing a cut open rubber ball as a hat. Later he was swimming in the filthy river, picking up trash and throwing it around to the amuseument of everyone on the bridge. "He is crazy," Rowshan said. A girl replied, "No, he is not crazy. He just wants to swim." The village between the market and beyond the Embarcadero wall is actually built on the river and soggy mud flats. We took a wrong turn and found we were walking over wooden planks on the water.


Cat patiently waits

Buildings built on the river
Having a bit of time we decided to go to the town of Tabaco. Tabaco has nothing to do with tobacco. Legend has it the name came from a misunderstanding by the Spanish. A Spanish ship arrived in the port and asked the name of the town. A man, the father of a woman who was a healer, prophetess and much loved by the town, thought they had come for his daughter and yelled out, "Tabak Ko! Tabak Ko!" which means, "My knife! My Knife!" The Spanish thought that was the name of the town. The brochure about Tabaco City calls it the "Padyak capital of the Philippines." Before we even noticed this, Rowshan commented on the number of bike powered tricycles. "Everyone here must work as a tricycle driver," he said. There were designated "parada" almost every couple blocks where they waited for passengers.

One of Tabaco's numerous bike cabs
The town had a fresh breeze blowing from the water and was cleaner than Legazpi-- with a city plaza with souvenir stands, a small port, and the standard combination of malls and markets. The dominant feature was the St. John the Baptist Parish Church which had been built in 1864 from lava rocks. The stones had been mortored with a combination of hay, molasses and egg yolk. I think, however, since that time they'd replaced it with concrete. It was an open block shaped building with stained glass windows and high ceilings and a bell tower next to it. Since it was Sunday and they had back to back masses, we didn't really look around inside.

Carrying ice to a boat at the port

Cathedral in Tabaco
We went back to Legazpi to meet Kelleen (my sister, for those of you who don't know) at the airport. Her plane arrived on time and we crammed into a tricycle back to town. In the afternoon we went to Albay to the festival to see the coconut extraction competition. There were various teams with wooden/bamboo/metal coconut husking seats. They were called up and each captain introduced his/her team. This turned out to be a long process. We wandered off and saw people playing a gambling game where they chose colors and put money on them on a board. Then they pulled a string releasing colored blocks. If their color combos came up, they would win money.

Tamia and Kelleen at the airport

Coconut tools
Back at the stage, the game had started but it had nothing to do with coconuts. The moderators were explaining rules for a game called "rumble" in English and Bicol. There seemed to be a lot of confusion and the explanation took a long time. All the teams had to throw their shoes in a pile and stand in a line. Then at the whistle they had to retrieve them, put them on and the first with them all on in a neat line won.

Getting ready to rumble

The mad rush
The whistle was blown and chaos ensued as everyone rushed to the pile. We saw shoes being hurled out of the pile and someone grabbed shoes from someone else. The orange team was declared the winner with the "moderator's decision is final". There was some argument and the decision was changed. Then they announced another game. We decided that we couldn't handle another drawn out explanation of rules so we went off to get fried bananas. There was a line and the bananas were cooking. The cook overloaded the pot so it took longer. Eventually we got our bananas. I objected when after waiting 1/2 hour he handed us one from an earlier batch so we got 3 fresh ones instead.

Hurry up with those bananas
We headed back to the stage joking about the scene of blood and carnage that would greet us from the rough games. As we approached we thought our jokes had materialized when we saw police dogs and heard sirens. But they turned out to be part of the procession and marching band competition.

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