An X-ray technician delivers test results to an Ati family waiting in a tricycle in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan, Philippines.

Helping friends, election season, travel plans

I got a message from the Ati chief’s daughter: mom needs a doctor. So I agreed to take her to a clinic the next morning in Caticlan, a port town to the pre-pandemic vacation hot spot Boracay Island in the Philippines.

The picture above shows X-rays given by a medical technician to the Ati family in a tricycle, which is a Philippine-style taxi.

It’s just another day in the life of a slow traveler — who’s not traveling.

Helping friends

Chief Ernesto (affectionately known in the tribe as “Uncle Ernie”) arrived at our rental apartment with his wife, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. They needed a doctor, too, apparently, for separate issues.

Thankfully, the issues were not too serious, and could be treated with medications. The doctor ordered X-rays for further checks.

I bought the medications at the pharmacy connected to the doctor’s office, and then we went to another clinic in Caticlan for the X-rays.

The pictures below are from the doctor’s office and outside the X-ray clinic.

As we waited for the X-rays to dry (literally on a rack outside), we chatted about the ongoing fishing initiative. We, along with our generous overseas sponsors, are improving the Ati fleet so they can catch more fish.

We and our donors have tried to contribute to tribe sustainability: a rebuilt henhouse, electricity and drinking water service to a village, gardens, fruit trees, etc. That money is gone after the last project for boats and nets to fish.

Payment for the doctor visits comes from our own pockets. For nearly 19 months (so far), we’ve used our unused travel dollars (and then some) to help friends as we wait out the pandemic in the Philippines.

Resilience tested

Well over a year ago, I wrote about the resilience of Filipinos. That still holds true. But I sense that people are nearing their limits.

Everyone here is struggling in this lopsided pandemic recovery — Ati and Filipino. The Philippines was a developing nation before the pandemic, and now, nearly 19 months after international tourists were banned, there is a sense of utter desperation.

In the last few weeks, we’ve personally helped pay for many various needs: five doctor visits (a sixth visit is pending), many medications and medical tests, two funerals, electric bills, a emergency dental visit, food, and more.

In the last (nearly) 19 months we’ve been here, add in major surgeries, major dental work, loan payments, and more.

We enjoy sharing and helping Ati and Filipino friends. But in the last couple of months, strangers and people we hardly know have asked us for help. That’s a drag on our souls because we simply cannot help everyone. Our budget only goes so far.

We don’t like handouts. We ourselves worked for decades in a stressful industry. We worked hard. And so we appreciate people who also do all they can to support themselves.

But we also realize the longer this pandemic goes on, the fewer options our friends have to support themselves.

Hopefully, the leadership in this developing nation gets a handle on the pandemic recovery soon.

Election season

Speaking of leadership, it’s officially election season in the Philippines. In the last several weeks, when I’ve had to go to town hall for a travel pass to the provincial capital Kalibo, I’ve seen voter registration. Elections are in May 2022.

As a developing nation, the Philippines has a violent past when it comes to elections. The government news agency says that has dramatically improved in the last decade. Some researchers disagree, and say the upcoming elections might be the most violent ever.

I hope it’s a peaceful election season. And traditionally, most of the violence has been on other islands – not this one.

None of our business

A new candidate for Malay mayor recently held a news conference at the Hangout Beach Resort. That is the property where our apartment rental is located.

For the record: we do not support any candidate in tribal, local, provincial, or national races. Philippine politics is none of our business.

And to be clear, that includes Ati office holders. The Ati hold their elections separately on a different schedule from our Filipino friends.

We do not support any political person or party. We do not take sides in Ati or Philippine political matters. Period. We simply have tried to help people who struggle in this pandemic – Negrito and Filipino alike.

We are only visitors here. We don’t own any land, we aren’t residents.

And one day, we will leave to continue our early-retired global wandering.

Travel Plans

Which brings me to our future travel plans.

We have more travel options now, with more becoming available soon as more countries relax rules for foreigners.

As I write this, I know fellow vagabonds who are traveling in Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco — and many more countries.

It costs more, it’s more complicated – but it’s possible.

It blows my mind Theo’s Mom Diane left nearly one year ago, as of this writing.

We’ve been here for nearly 19 months, as of this writing.

So: when will we finally leave — and where will we go?

Options, options…

Maybe we will leave in December, or maybe we’ll leave early next year. Or maybe later.

Maybe we will leave together, or maybe we will temporarily split up.

The original plan before the pandemic: one month together in Malaysia, I go ‘home’ for a few months, we meet in New Delhi for a year of travel in India.

Maybe our new plan will look similar to the old one. Or maybe it will be entirely different.

Whatever we decide to do, we’ll post updates as they happen.

As always, be thankful and generous (like our supporters), happy trails and more serenity.
Life is Now.

Thanks for reading, “Helping friends, election season, travel plans.”

You might also like Boracay posts:

New here?

Earth Vagabonds plan to slow travel the world again – on a budget – as we continue to enjoy early retirement. Read an introduction to our story on life choices and hard work to get to this point.

While on a pandemic travel pause, we hunkered down in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, and decided to help the indigenous Ati tribe – among others. Visit our page devoted to Ati projects.

We still run a Facebook group for retired budget travelers – and many, many members are out in the world traveling right now. Get inspired – get help – get information by joining our group.


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