The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (3)

In Which Stacey And Rhys Finally See The Tarsiers, Visit Nuts Huts, And Experience The Long Dark Night Of Rhys’ Soul.

Wednesday 14th July 2010.

Today involved another early morning trip, this time to Baclayon church on Bohol, which is the oldest coral stone church on the island. These days, I can’t be in a church without feeling sad. When I was a little girl growing up in South Africa, and actually went to church every week, it was just…ordinary. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t that much of a chore, it just…was. As much a part of day to day life as brushing my teeth or going to school.

I never go to church anymore. The last time I went to church was for my grandfather’s funeral. James Van Driel, my “Pa” was a wonderful grandfather and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. I especially think of him in churches not only because that was where I said goodbye to him, but because he was a fiercely religious man who had tremendous faith and, to put it mildly, enjoyed a good religious debate. And now I find myself wanting to go to churches, to sit and think of him, no matter how sad it makes me. And that’s what I did at Baclayon Church. I lit a candle, and I thought of him.


The pretty ceiling


After visiting the church, we headed for Loboc river to take a river cruise and check out the tarsiers. The tarsier is the world’s smallest monkey (or maybe monkey-like creature – I’m not 100% sure on the exact biology). If I’m honest, one of my main reasons for wanting to come to Bohol was to see a tarsier. And steal one, dress it in tiny clothes, forge a tiny passport for it, and raise it as my own. I mean, look at this picture!

Family portrait

It should be noted that every single time Rhys sees a picture of a tarsier, he quips: “That’s what you look like in the morning.”
Here’s the thing though. My friend Ryan, who is originally from the Philippines, told me that people shouldn’t touch the tarsiers, because they become so distressed at being unable to get the smell of this intimate encounter off their skin that they KILL THEMSELVES. Seriously. Why can’t they just cry in the shower like normal people?
I don’t know if that’ true. If it’s not, it’s a weird lie to tell me. Maybe he could sense that I was clearly a potential tarsier-smuggler.

After we saw the tarsiers and some lemurs and a monkey, we took a trip down the river, which was like a very miniature amazon adventure. Im not sure why the photos make it look like we’re superimposed onto a background but I assure you we were really there.

We disembarked from our banca (with typical gracefulness I nearly stomp a hole through the rickety mini-pier) and headed for the intriguingly named Nuts Huts, which is known for it’s delicious organic food menu and treehouse-like accommodations. My food (spring rolls and a bean salad) wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but my banana shake … oh my god. I don’t know what they put in it, but it’s probably an illegal addictive substance. It reminded me of being a kid and sneaking into the kitchen to eat condensed milk straight out of the can. Deliciousness. I also liked the fact that the restaurant included not only tables and chairs but hammocks and beds – because sometimes people (me) eat a lot and need to have a lie down afterwards.

View from the restaurant

Rather than taking a quick nap, we decided to experience the Nuts Huts herbal sauna. It seemed fairly simple: strip down and get into this tiny wooden shack. At first, it was fine – the shack was toasty warm and the aromatherapy steam smelt hmmm-mmm good. But then, after about a minute, we realised that the steam had in fact become smoke, and was choking us to death. We alerted the owners who shuffled down to the shack and made some adjustments. But, soon enough, we were being smoked out again. Choking, gasping for air, freezing in our swimming costumes and smelling like death-smoke, we decided to call it a day.

Back on Bohol, we attempted to buy tickets to Dumaguete, a town on the nearby island of Negros – unfortunately, because of the typhoon this week, Oceanjet simply don’t fancy operating FOR THE NEXT 20 DAYS. This was something of an inconvenience – at this point we were both feeling very ready to leave this island. It turns out that I am no good at slumming it. The washing-self-using-cold-water-from-a-bucket situation means that I am beginning to look like I just crawled out of the TV in that movie The Ring. The plumbing situation makes me uncomfortable…I cannot use a toilet that occasionally refuses to flush in a bathroom separated from the bedroom with little more than a raffia mat. My boyfriend’s in there, damnit!

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the sudden urgent need to evacuate our desert island paradise are the events of Tuesday night, or what I like to call The Long Dark Night of Rhys’ Soul.

The Long Dark Night of Rhys’ Soul

After the activities of Tuesday night, I was even more keen than usual to enjoy a child-like bedtime. Sleep cycles be damned! Rhys, bless his heart, tried to keep me conscious. He even brought out the big guns (not a euphemism) – he nicked the chess board from the bar and attempted to cajole me into a game. I manfully tried my best to kick his ass, but as I slept during all of his moves and about half of mine, I didn’t stand a chance. Eventually I faded into a deep, dreamless slumber, and that’s when things began to go wrong.

Now, ask Rhys how he feels about bugs when he’s roaming the great outdoors and he’ll tell you that he doesn’t mind them. But the moment a bug enters his home space, the man goes, for want of a better word, ‘mental’.

Enter the humble cockroach. Note, this was not the cute little critter that lives in the Twinkie in Wall-E. This was a monster, as long as my arm, as broad as my face, with a gun for a mouth. (I may be exaggerating slightly). Of course, I was passed out like a stoner in an opium den, and therefore blissfully unaware of our bug situation. Anyways, Rhys didn’t want to squish the little BUGger (see what I did there?) because apparently to do so releases all the eggs and will bring a plague of roaches down upon us all. He found a glass and began stalking it around the room. Eventually, he brought the glass down to trap the beast but it moved at the last second, splitting itself in half on the rim of the glass (and of course, releasing eggs! No!) Rather than dying, which would have been the polite thing to do, the newly mangled little bastard fell to the ground and scuttled off. He (Rhys) set about pillaging the room to find the roach and make sure it didn’t get in our bags. When I woke up (eventually) the next morning, it seemed like we’d been the victims of a burglary, or some very vigorous feng shui.

It’s definitely time to go.