Today reveille was at 530am. No better word to describe it as we rise before the sun comes up from our bunk beds, silently brush our teeth, get dressed, and stuff our gear into our bags, hoping to be in the vans and on the road by 7am.
Unfortunately the drivers were on a slightly different schedule. We end up leaving around 740am narrowly missing the brunt of Manila traffic. I hop in the van with all the bags and boxes like a good Supply Marine, and Joe and the rest of the crew clown car it in the other vehicle, the two of us communicating via small but high powered radios that we brought because cell coverage is spotty at best, nonexistent at worst in most of the places we would be going. For this initial leg we just use it to coordinate stops along the drive and point out various places we would like to eat. I suggested we snatch two goats we saw walking along one of the side roads “to go” but apparently that sort of thing is NOT appreciated. hmph.
Because of our late start and purchasing more supplies along the way, we miss our 12 o’clock ferry to Abra de Ilog. This affords us time to go into the coastal town of Batangas where the ferry terminal is in order to get copies made of our patient assessment forms. We stumble upon an internet cafe with some students who should be in school at the moment but were too busy pwning noobz in various online multiplayer games all over the world.
Back Alley Warcraft
These are the guys that make you rage quit, my fellow gamers. Kids in a small hidden cafe in the Philippines. True story.
Finally we board the ferry and make our way to Abra de Ilog. A small and relatively poor coastal town, we immediately notice the difference in economic status from the approach. It was like moving back in time 50 years and down a few rungs on the relative wealth ladder. The stench of diesel fumes mixed in with the smell of farm animals, sunken faces in tattered clothing, walking down a narrow street whose sidewalks cover over sewage drains. It became obvious that we stuck out like sore thumbs, especially Adam and I. It also became obvious that we were going to have our work cut out for us.
After narrowly avoiding eating fried chicken guts with the rest of the crew, (who decided that of all places to recreate an Anthony Bourdain adventure, Abra would be it) we all head off on the final leg of today’s trip, arriving an hour later in Mamburao. Although it was only 25 miles away, parts of the one lane highway were in disrepair, and the tiny overloaded wheels of our vans had to inch along some broken and muddy sections, slowing us to a crawl.
We roll in to Joe’s parents place later that night, exhausted but content, eat a large and amazing dinner, and the 4 medics among us stick around to sort out our supplies and load outs for the 3 separate towns. 2-3 hours later we crawl into our beds after cold showers and a change of clothes. Tomorrow will be our first mission, outside the town of Palauan.