I love surprises. For a country that was never high on my radar to visit, this small part of the Philippines has been a surprise package of wonderful.
The Bicol region is a laid-back provincial region with so much to offer. From volcanoes, whale sharks and fireflies to fields of rice, bananas and coconut palms, churches, beaches, street games with bottle tops and random religious street processions, there was something surprising about every day.
With national elections looming less than a week away, everywhere from Manila to the smallest village has been awash with posters of aspiring mayors, vice-mayors, councillors and congressmen. The build-up is reaching fever pitch and the atmosphere almost party-like when the official election jeepneys visit, handing out sweets to the children in the villages. After assuring Teddy De G. that he had my full support, I too got some sweets.
The Filipino people have been some of the most honest, polite, friendly and welcoming of anywhere I've been. There is no special treatment for tourists, no banana pancakes on any menu and a refreshing change to pay the same price as the locals. A smile has gone a long way here and always quickly returned. Note to self - if you tell a few people in a small town your name, word gets around quickly. After four days in one small town, I finally got used to hearing "Hello Miss Leanne" and "Good morning ma'am" as I walked past. Weird and disconcerting but also very amusing.
Almost as amusing as staying in a 'resort' where I was the only guest, with the delightful full-time staff and on-the-job trainees outnumbering me 18 to 1. Customer service was excellent and I was treated like a queen - but I would expect nothing less from a place where the manager is called Sunshine (I suspect not his given name).
Sitting in a jeepney this morning, humming to Kylie Minogue's "Locomotion" playing on the stereo, I smiled as I remembered this saying: "There are angels whose job it is to make sure we don't fall asleep and miss life".
My angels must be working overtime.