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Full Circle

Day 96: Samal Island to General Santos City

Michael Palin - Full CircleAt Sirawan the Carlos P Garcia Highway becomes the Carlos P Garcia Dirt Road which tilts and sways us through a lush tropical sprawl of coconut and banana plantations. This is fishing and copra country and the poorest part of the Philippines. Another jeepney rattles by, going north. There must be forty people aboard, including three on the bonnet.

Stop for lunch at a small waterfront restaurant called Dolly's Seafoods. It's a bizarre place. Sounds of Roger Whittaker singing 'Danny Boy' fill the dining room and young girls are employed to walk round the tables keeping flies at bay with fluffy white nylon switches. Fresh squid, shrimp and tuna and the indulgent attentions of the owner, Dolly Hale, a jolly Filipino (not that I've met a Filipino who isn't jolly) married to an Oklahoman.

On through the maize fields of the T'boli people - an egg box landscape of little hills and valleys. On the outskirts of General Santos City we pass 'The Immaculate Conception Funeral Parlour'.

Evening. The dockside at General Santos is hot, fierce and manic. As departure time nears, the last containers are rushed aboard our ferry by a fleet of fork-lift trucks, their harsh horns blaring. The stink of hot fuel and human sweat mingles with the reek of cow dung from cattle crates bound, I'm told, for Japan and Korea from Darwin, Australia.

We pull out past a freighter from Manila - the Lorcon Luzon. The crew are playing basketball on deck beside a wall of open-sided barred containers from which rise the high-pitched squeals of pigs, bound for the lechon restaurants of the capital. They add another infernal element to this baleful place.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 96
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: General Santos City
  • Book page no: 138

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