Newsflash: Our contacts in the Asia-Pacific region have just received vital information as to backpacking badger's most recent whereabouts: Our last confirmed sighting was in 'Tropical Island Paradise', where she appears to be communing with an unprecedented number and variety of aquatic species.
So life in the Philippines is good (although not entirely without its ups and downs - see below) - and it's certainly a country which has pleasantly surprised me with its beauty and its amazingly friendly, funny and warm-hearted inhabitants who fully embrace quirks and eccentricities...
- Bizarre names are all the rage here: the electoral campaign is in full swing and the plethora of ridiculous names runs from Bong Bong, Roman Man Man, Ulysses - and my personal favourite: Ponce
- Jeepneys. Take an old, battered jeep. Lengthen it so it's 10 metres long, add benches, a huge ghettoblaster, a sprinkling of religious iconography, some graffiti-style murals, some tragic 80s music (preferably Careless Whisper by George Michael - or was it Wham?) and finish off by cramming hundreds of people inside... Hey Presto! It's the Philippines' quirkiest form of public transport - the beloved Jeepney.
- Whoever said Catholicism is for lightweights? Religious fervour is taken to extremes here on Good Friday: Some poor soul is literally nailed to a cross and left to hang there in the blazing heat for a good few hours while hordes and hordes of Filipinos follow the morbid procession
- There's no escaping it. The Philippines appears to be the Karaoke capital of the world, and boy do they take it seriously - with Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and (bizarrely) Bon Jovi as the perennial favourites to warble, scream and pose-like-it's-going-out-of-fashion to. There is apparently no such thing as shame here.
It's been all about the water action here. And this water really does take some beating: An intimidatingly vast expanse of infinite deep indigo blue which abruptly softens as it nears land to become pure, translucent and impossibly crystal clear azure. Words really can't do it justice...
I enjoyed a long and particularly meaningful chat with a whaleshark, the world's largest fish - a beautiful, gentle, graceful and completely amazing creature - on a recent snorkelling trip in Donsol, and he was kind enough to bring 8 of his mates along for the ride... lucky, lucky me.
On the downside, I've been robbed (I'm fine - but sadly have a lighter wallet...), had computer failure, bag failure, ferry failure (don't worry - it didn't sink - infact it never actually left...), have made up countless husbands (rich and handsome - ofcourse) to ward off any over-friendly male Filipinos and I've been partially deafened by karaoke singers murdering songs which were pretty damn terrible in the first place...
However, it's not all bad as I sit here marvelling at Mother Nature's ingenuity in the beautiful Bacuit archipelago in Northern Palawan, and will indulge in more marvelling before heading over to Borneo, where a huge jungle and more amazing underwater action awaits!