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Full Circle

Day 101: Zamboanga

Zamboanga, Philippines 
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Rio Hondo, the Muslim village in Zamboanga.
Michael Palin - Full CircleBasil is puzzled by his horoscope in the Zamboanga Times. 'Be grandiloquent', it says. Basil says he would if he knew what it meant. Better news on the shipping pages, where there is confirmation of a ferry service across to Borneo run by an outfit called Aleson Lines.

On our way to the shipping office to check on the existence of the Borneo ferry we pass rich street life - psychic dentists on the street corners offering to remove teeth for fifty pesos a time, and businesses whose names you couldn't invent, such as The Golden Buddha Investigating Agency and The Transient Electrical Corporation.

Aleson Shipping Line is located out on Veteran's Avenue in the grounds of a rusting old rice mill. To get to the head office you must cross a courtyard and step over a slumbering dog.

Feliciano N Tan, who's known to all as Nonoy, is an engaging, self-deprecating middle-aged man with smooth olive skin and a head of flourishing curly hair. His mother, aunt, sons and daughters all live and work here.

The problem is that Nonoy has had an engine fire on the ferry that usually does the journey and it will not be repaired for another two weeks. He has another ship, the Danica Joy, named after his daughter, which is smaller and slower but which will be leaving tomorrow or the next day, or certainly the day after that.

One thing we need not worry about are pirates.

'No pirates,' he assures me categorically, 'ever boarded a ferry on the Sulu Sea.'

I'm quite happy with this until he adds: 'They couldn't have done. We have security.'

'Armed men?' I ask.

'Well,' he chuckles, 'not exactly armed but...' His voice trails off.

There is no option. We buy the tickets. For sometime... soon.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 101
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Zamboanga
  • Book page no: 144

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