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Sunday, July 22, 2012

To be [kidnapped] or not to be [kidnapped]

“If you travel by bus in the Zamboanga peninsula, you may not get kidnapped, but if you keep doing it, eventually you will.” 
 “The only reason I am alive today is because my family fled Zamboanga when I was young.” 
 “It is too dangerous for you, do not go there…” 
 “You don’t like your life then?” 


 I do like my life, I like it quite a very lot, but there’s only one ferry that runs between Borneo and the Philippines, and that ferry leaves from Zamboanga.

I’ve spent hours trying to find a ferry schedule for the crossing, and the internet and travel forums all list different companies… not only are there no schedules or contact details or even [in most cases] websites, but none of them seem to exist anymore. The only things that kept popping up were travel warnings and news on the most recent kidnappings and bombings. When I finally got through to the Zambo tourism board I was transferred and transferred again and then: “I am sorry to inform you mum (all woman are called ‘mum’, which is their way of saying ma’am) that ferry services have been suspended” - “For how long?” - “Until at least August mum, probably even September maybe” – “Is there any other way to cross to Malaysia? Fishing boats or private boats??” “Please wait mum” So I waited and waited and waited and then “Hello mum if you are still being there then you can be trying this number…” Transfer. Transfer. Transfer. “Ok mum, call +63 2 ……..” And then I finally had success.

S/V Damaica Joy
The economy class beds
Because there is NO other info on the net; if you’re planning to do the trip yourself, Aleson Ferries have two trips weekly – Monday and Thursday – Passport stamping at 8am (but in reality more like 11:30 or 1pm), departure 2 pm (Although the ticket says 12 and if there are a lot of illegals about, you'll only leave after 6pm and have to be locked into a room that closely resembles a prison). The trip takes 23 hours and costs between 3100 (for a open air bunk, or 3200 for aircon) and 3500 depending on your class preferences (Call 0063 (062) 992 5507 and speak to Mae) and for a change it’s more expensive (4700 and up) if you are local…


So last night, after an epic day of white water rafting in Cagayan Da Oro, I headed to the bus station and endured more “But mum it is so very dangerous for you,” “I will pray for you mum”, “Are you sure mum?” and I will admit being a little scared when strangers were asking “and what is your currency in Africa? The Euro?” “You travel alone?” “Will you be meeting anyone there?” “Mum, do you carry a weapon?” And it was even more scary when people asked if I spoke Basilica and then proceeded to talk about me on countless cellphones spotted across the bus. But, once again, when it is your time to go, it is your time to go.



And fortunately that 14 hour bus ride was not my time to exit the planet and the back ally hotel (L'mirage Pension House – P300 for a single, just up the road from Hermosa) that took me in was less than a third of the price of the others and they’ve assured me I’d be fine and welcomed me into their family, but they still make me wear a turban and pretend like I’m from Pakistan and they walk with me in the middle of them and it’s like I have my own personalized body guards for the first time in my life.

Only once did I have a gun pointed at me, right at my forehead, and my heart stopped for a while until the man smiled and said "it's just plastic mum."

 I’m proud to remain unkiddnapped as of yet (hoorah!!) and tomorrow (after an evening karaoke session) I set sail for Borneo (I think) and well, if all
goes according to plan, I’ll be converting to vegetarianism by the end of the week which is exactly why I’m ending this blog here and going to join my temporary family for Sunday roast chicken.

Just 5 of the family of 35 that I stayed with
I'd like to add that I did make it out alive but it was really hard to leave, I've never met so many lovely people (who have been the closest thing to family since, well, actual family, and the city is truly amazing - full of smiling people and churches and a "musically gyrating dancing fountain" and it's DEFINITELY worth a visit!


I've just arrived in Borneo, and this time I was NOT to be kidnapped and I seriously doubt you would have been either...

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