Party By Day, Party By Night


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, January 08, 2005 was originally posted on January 14, 2005.

DAY 448:  During the third week of January, the streets of Kalibo on Panay Island come alive for the Ati-Atihan Festival, which celebrates the black natives of the Philippines, the Negritos, for their resilience in protecting and hiding the statue of baby Jesus from the imperialist aggressors — at least that’s how my Philippine-raised Tita Josie explained it to me.  However, according to my American-published Let’s Go guidebook, the Catholic Church had altered the original meaning of the festival for its own gain; originally a pagan event that had nothing to do with statues of Jesus, Ati-Atihan celebrated the sale of Panay Island from the black tribespeople of Borneo.

Either way, Ati-Atihan is “the archipelago’s largest festival,” a “Filipino Mardi-Gras,” where people paint themselves in black soot, dress up in colorful costumes, get blitzed on alcohol, and dance around in the streets, sometimes not necessarily in that order.

IT WAS NEITHER THE THIRD WEEK of January, nor was I in Kalibo on Panay Island just yet.  I was still in Boracay which, in the spirit of the upcoming Ati-Atihan, started the partying early — a week earlier, and at eight in the morning no less. 

It was just a little after seven when I woke up with the sun in the silk sleeping bag I had bought in Hanoi, Vietnam, with my Tita Josie on the other side of the big queen-size we shared in the loft, big enough to hold three.  Tito Mike was nowhere to be seen down below in the twin-size.

“Let’s have breakfast at English Bakery,” Tita Josie suggested.  She raved about the beef tapa at the popular beachfront eatery.

“Okay,” I said, even though Tito Mike had suggested the breakfast buffet at Le Soleil the night before.  I didn’t know where he went though, so I figured breakfast was fair game to any suggestion.

Tita Josie stepped out for a while when Tito Mike stepped in to pick up his plane tickets to get confirmed for his upcoming flight in two days.  It was Sunday, and he had awaken early to go to church.  “I’ll just confirm my flight and we’ll have breakfast at Le Soleil.  I’ll just meet you there, okay?”

“Oh, I think Josie was thinking of going to another place.”


“You have your phone?” I asked.  I figured we’d figure something out and relay via SMS. 

“Yeah, I have it.”  He left and then shortly after, Tita Josie came in, as if on cue.  I told her that Tito Mike was just going to confirm a flight at Asian Spirit and that he was set on Le Soleil for breakfast.

Caught in the middle of another case of miscommunication? I thought.  What is this, an episode of Three’s Company?  (Tito Mike, the sensible one with black hair would be the Janet character; Tita Josie, the wilder one would be Chrissy; and I would be Jack, since some people mistake me for being gay.)

Tita Josie and I walked down the main strip in hopes to catch Tito Mike at the airline office — it was a lot farther south than we thought.  We tried texting him and calling him, but no avail.  “He doesn’t have his phone,” Tita Josie said.  “There’s no answer.”

“No, he has it.  I asked him.”

She dialed again, and suddenly, within earshot, I heard the familiar monochime ringtone of Disney’s “Beauty and The Beast” song; Tito Mike and his cell phone were right in front of us.  He was busy browsing through some Boracay real estate postings.  “Oh, there you are.  We were calling you,” I said.

Coincidentally, we were all right near English Bakery, breakfast choice of Tita Josie, and we walked in to see how it was.  Inside was already a formidable amount of clientele.  One glance at the menu and I thought it was okay — nothing too heavy — Tita Josie was already ordering her favorite beef tapa breakfast set.  “What should we do?” Tito Mike asked me, putting me on the spot.  “It’s up to you.”

“Well, we’re here already, let’s just eat here,” I said.  He glanced at the menu but didn’t seem satisfied, probably because he already had his heart set on Le Soleil since as early as the night before.  “This is too light for me.  I think we should have brunch at Le Soleil so you don’t have to have lunch.”

“I don’t want to eat too heavy because I’m diving later,” I said.  Meanwhile, Tita Josie was asking for my order.

“I’ll just go out for coffee,” Tito Mike said.  ” I won’t see you for dinner tonight.  I’ll just leave the two of you for the day, okay?”  He went off, leaving me with an all-you-can-feel buffet of guilt behind.  I felt bad, but given the circumstances — me wanting to eat light on account of my upcoming dive — I felt even worse since he had been graciously playing host for me since my touchdown in Manila, paying for everything during our time together thus far:  the flights, the accommodation, the food.  Really, I couldn’t thank him enough.  Guilty in paradise.  Alas, such is life in Boracay with the Relatives Factor.

THE STREET PARADE THAT HAD AMASSED down the main drag of Boracay only got bigger, longer, and louder as the morning progressed.  By nine, the revelers in black soot, body paint, and costume (picture above) were marching and dancing by English Bakery to the infectious rhythm of the samba-like drum and xylophone bands that accompanied them.  Not since the impromptu street parades of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janiero had I seen such spontaneous inebriated energy.  The procession was section in groups comprised of men and women, young and old, each group representing a business on the island with matching t-shirts or costumes.  From what I was seeing, many people in the parade were already pretty drunk by that time in the morning, guzzling bottles of SMB and doing shots of Filipino Tanduay Rhum, while some were keeping the Christian theme intact.

Simply standing on the sidelines by the English Bakery, becoming a part of the party was inevitable.  A girl poked paint on my nose, while another guy smeared green paint on my right cheek.  Another group of black soot-covered paraders came by, and one guy endowed me with two big ashy hand prints on both sides of my face.  Going back up to the upper deck of the restaurant after only about ten minutes, patrons smiled at how easy it was to get colorful just by going downstairs for a bit.

“DO YOU KNOW HOW TO RIDE A MOTORBIKE?” Tita Josie asked me after the morning parade had dissipated on the main drag. 

“Yeah, I rode one in Vietnam.”

With only a short amount of time between breakfast and my afternoon dive, I followed up on the idea to go to Puka Beach on the north coast of Boracay that we toyed with the day before, not with a two-wheeler powered by my own muscle, but by the combustion of gasoline.  Tita Josie hired us a motorbike and I sat at the helm and tried to get back into the game of mastering a bike — but for some reason, I had forgotten certain things (i.e. keeping the bike from crashing into a nearby vendor table) and we wisely hired a driver.

Twenty minutes on the back of the bike later, we were at the entrance of Puka Beach, where people smiled at the paint on my face; the party hadn’t made its way up north just yet.  Puka Beach was a quieter, much more secluded beach — perfect for those looking for seclusion from the madness of White Beach — comprised of sand eroded from puka shells, which jewelry vendors searched for to make necklaces and bracelets.  Tita Josie bought some from the one vendor we found and bought me a sharks tooth necklace to replace the fake caiman one I made in the Pantanal of Brazil that broke off my neck after a good nine month run. 

We walked up and down Puka Beach and then head back to the road, where we were enticed by a friendly old man to patronize his little restaurant on a side road.  He sang a song for us so we obliged him by buying a couple of coconuts to drink — two huge coconuts I might add, that bloated my stomach more than I wanted it for the dive that came next.

“HEY THERE,” I said to the dive instructor back at the Aquarius dive shop.

“Hello,” Margo greeted me with a smile.  She noticed the paint and soot still all over my face, and then lifted her shirt up to show me her mid-riff; someone had tagged her with finger marks of black soot in the parade that morning.  “You’re here early.”

“Yeah, I’m just visiting.”

“We can go early.  [I think the tides come in a two.]”  She checked the tidal report and confirmed.  The swells near the Laurel site were too strong though, so we decided to go to the Crocodile Island site, in a calmer harbor that was a part of the same reef structure anyway.

“So are there salt crocodiles there?” I asked.  I had read that salt crocodiles were a big danger in the area.

“No, the island is just shaped like a crocodile, [but you never know.]”

Soon three tanks were prepped up for loading on the Southern Cross: one for Margo, one for me, and one for Divemaster Christian who was tagged along to take some photos.  It was only twenty minutes to the Crocodile Island, twenty minutes of conversation and sunbathing at the port deck, and then we suited and geared up — it was a no-brainer this time around.  Soon we were underwater. 

The visibility was four times better than the day before, perhaps 80 ft., good enough to see everything with: the the lionfish, the big spotted potato cod I spotted, and the small school of batfish — one strayed away from the group to check out Margo and then seemingly tell the others that we were friendly.  In the shallow area, there were expansive coral fields reminiscent of the ones I’d seen off the coast of Zanzibar, but still fantastic.  It’s good to be a scuba diver, I thought.

“What are you doing tonight?” I asked Margo back at the dive shop. 

“I have to go help my friend find a place to stay,” she said.  “I can’t take you out tonight [on a night dive].”

“Okay,” I said.  “I’m gonna go wash this off now.”  The black soot on my face was still present, even after an hour under the sea.  It was a reminder that the night wouldn’t be a total loss, for the Ati-Atihan festivities would continue after the sunset.

TITO MIKE HAD RUN INTO FRIENDS from Manila — on the vacation circuit in the Philippines, all flights lead to Boracay — which I assume he met for dinner, after seeing that his Daily Prayers for Busy People book was left alone on the top of the table in the suite.  It was just me and Tita Josie that night, who — to further explain the great divide between my two polar opposing relatives from opposite ends of my family tree — only had the intention that night to get completely trashed on alcohol and, as she put it, “get some puet” (“get some ass”).  I don’t think Chrissy from Three’s Company ever put it like that — if she did, she might not have been replaced by Cindy or Terri.

We made our way to the Pier One Beachcomber beach bar, “The Regal Beagle” if you will, for a dinner of seafood, crispy pata, and our first of many rounds of SMB Strong Ice (6.3% alc./vol).  “Three of these and you’ll be drunk already,” she warned me.  The beer loosened any sort of uncomfortable silence as first rounds lead up to fifths, after of which we head over to the main plaza in town for the tail end of the nighttime Ati-Atihan showoff of all the teams on the island.

Each team took to the center court with their own drummers and xylophone players filling the area with island samba rhythms as all the drunken dancers moshed all around, often forming conga lines.  After the last team, the plaza was open to anyone and everyone for a Sunday night happy hard house rave, also with many spontaneous conga lines.

“They do this every Sunday,” Tita Josie told me.


The events of the night were fuzzy after that.  I know there was dancing and moshing and more alcohol because when we stumbled onto our usual coffee cafe on White Beach, I remember the conversation:

Tita Josie:  You want some coffee?
Me:  Yeah.  Some Irish coffee!

If there was a bathtub in the suite instead of just a stand-in shower, I might have ended up passed out in it, just like Jack Tripper did in the Three’s Company pilot.  Mr. Roper would still probably think I was gay.


Next entry: Let’s Go Fly A Kite

Previous entry: Advanced Novice

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Comments for “Party By Day, Party By Night”

  • What ever happened to Joyce DeWitt (Janet) anyway?  Last I heard, she was mentioned in an episode of “Pinky and the Brain.”  Anyone remember that one?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  04:53 AM

  • Cant wait to be there .........

    keep enjoying for us!!!!!


    Posted by Pablito  on  01/14  at  05:49 AM

  • The boat looks wicked cool… so pretty there - I’ll have to get there at some point…

    I’ll ask a friend about Joyce DeWitt - he’s a superfan of 3’s company. He even has a Regal Beagle t-shirt!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  09:23 PM

  • aaah….what a party!...reminds me of good times, good times…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/14  at  10:54 PM

  • Hey Erik,

    I heard that in that episode Joyce DeWitt got control of the world instead of the mice.  Go Janet.  Also, she was in some Nick at Nite special… don’t ask me how I know THAT.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/15  at  03:13 PM

  • “an all you can feel buffet of guilt”


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/17  at  03:11 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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