Updates from pandemic paradise in the Philippines

Hello readers! We are still here – in a tropical island nation while snow storms blast areas back home. We have several updates from pandemic paradise in the Philippines.

I saw how one in four American families don’t have enough food. How new fundraisers on GoFundMe are for heat and electric bills, rent, and more.

It seems to be a theme around the world — a widening gap between the haves and have nots.

Updates from pandemic paradise

Local businesses struggle

On mainland Malay, a short ferry ride from Boracay Island, there is a large beachfront lot for sale. It is indicative of the struggling local economy.

The property is associated with Diamond Water Sports, a water sport equipment rental company.

The lot happens to be in Motag – the neighborhood where we have rented an apartment since March 16, 2020. I pass it often.

Diamond also has land in Nabas, the next town to the southeast, filled with beached boats. That lot also is for sale.

Diamond has property on Boracay, too, but I didn’t see any for sale signs there.

The sales indicate another small business with Boracay ties unable to stay afloat any longer.

Garden veggies

Several local people have planted gardens so they can eat. With no tourists, and no work, and no income, anything that grows on your land or is caught in the sea is free.

One nearby garden had bok choy for sale this week. I bought four bunches over two days. Huge bunches at 10 pesos each. That’s about 20 cents.

After a few days of brisk sales, the bok choy rows have dwindled. The owners have seeds, and will plant something else next. And the next garden down the road will offer something for sale soon.

Related: Resourceful Filipinos plan for pandemic long haul

Boracay movie theater

A friend who lives on Boracay told me about the movie theater opening on the second floor of CityMall several weeks ago. I forgot about it. Until he told me he went last week and it was empty.

Suddenly the thought of seeing a movie sounded awesome! An escape from reality!

So I took Tedly on an adventure to see a movie in a pandemic setting. We were the only customers in the theater.

The flick was set in the end of the world. When the lights came up, it was back to the pandemic reality.

Showings are only Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays.

New eyeglasses

For the first time in nearly three years, I bought eyeglasses. My prescription needed to be stronger.

My last exam and and glasses was in 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Before that, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in 2016.

I went to Acebedo Optical in Gaisano Mall in Kalibo. I would recommend the place to anyone and everyone in this area who needs glasses – expat or local.

I didn’t get expensive, thin lenses this time. They are heavier than my older pairs, but I’ll deal. Peripheral vision is so-so: I got the cheapest progressives I could.

One bonus – these are my first transition lenses. My solar shields are cumbersome under face shields needed for public transportation. And I don’t need to change out of prescription sunglasses at the market or in a bus. Easy peasy.

Decent frame: partly titanium with nose pads, to keep them off my face to prevent fogging with masks and shields.

Total cost: 11,425 pesos, or $238.

If price had not been an issue, I would have gotten top-tier progressives with superb peripheral vision, thinner lenses that are lighter on my face in the tropical heat, and cool pink or blue transitions instead of the boring gray.

That all would have cost several hundred dollars more and I cannot see spending that when people are struggling everywhere.

Morning beach walks

On this morning’s beach walk, I counted two planes with tourists headed to Boracay, four cows grazing under coconut trees, six driftwood seats on the tide line, eight Ati women looking for mollusks under rocks.

On the way into town, I saw Ati people waiting to start work rice harvesting. They were working on my way back. They were working when I hung up wet towels I hand washed today. And they were still there cutting down rice plants when I took the towels in.

Theo is still working out the water pump issue, and he plans to get busy on that project soon.

The chickens are laying eggs. We buy eggs every week, along with other local customers, so at least some Ati have some income.

Related: Earth Vagabonds and overseas donors rebuild Ati henhouse destroyed by typhoon

In recent weeks, the weather has been extremely windy and occasionally rainy on the mainland. Amihan season lasted longer than normal this year.

It seems now, finally, we are coming into the best dry weather of the year. I plan to walk on Boracay more often – and also the mainland.

Warship leaves Boracay

I watched the warship leave its spot near Boracay Island a few days ago during a morning mainland beach walk in light drizzle and heavy wind. In fact, I was on a video call with my sister at the time it sailed away.

News reports finally talked about the Philippine navy building up its forces in the West Philippine Sea, which starts to get near an area claimed by China, Philippines, and other countries. But this warship was not mentioned by name.

I got a much closer look at it when we went to the movies on Boracay. It’s the lead patrol boat for the Philippine navy. It came from the U.S. Coast Guard, built in 1967.

COVID-19 update

The quick update on the virus is this: it’s here. There have been cases reported in Boracay, and the mainland, but it’s nothing like other areas of the world.

I take precautions. I follow the rules. That’s all there is to say about that. For now.

The vaccine issue is still being worked out. No official word on when it might appear here in the Western Visayas.

Future plans

We have just paid another $190 to the Bureau of Immigration. The cost covers two-month visa extensions again, and our ACR card renewals. We are now in our second year in the Philippines. (We arrived before the virus to island-hop, in November 2019.)

Today I noticed CNN updated its list on where Americans can travel. Mexico still is the easiest jump, in terms of tests, vaccines, quarantines. And we can stay there for six months at a time without worrying about another imminent border jump.

Guam is somewhat interesting — it’s an American territory. Only $250 to get there.

There are options. But, at least the next few months, we plan to stay in this area. After that? Stay tuned…….

Thanks for reading, “Updates from pandemic paradise in the Philippines.”

Visit Ellen’s Instagram @VagabondSpirit for more authentic slow travel photos and info.

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