Island hopping and the Mafia

IMG_0295We were not used to not setting an early alarm and thus slept until 09 or so, rather late since we would try to get to either Sabang or do some island hopping. After scouting some prices it seems like the banca operators or a group of them had joined forces and founded a nice cartel with ridiculously high prices. It would e.g. cost twice as much as our flight from Cebu to Puerto Princessa to get to Sabang (approximately 2 hours by banca).

This information gathering also took some time so when we decided we would go island hopping time was already approaching noon. Bah. At least our hotel could call a slightly cheaper banca operator which would charge only 15€ for browsing the nearby islands. After renting some snorkeling equipment we waited. And waited. Philippine time seems to move slightly slower but finally we were told our boatman had arrived.

As we walked along the shore with a boy from the hotel we realized that the other banca operators were little enthusiastic about him leading us past them. First it was questions, than name calling and as we got to the boat full scale shouting in his face. Followed by a not light bitch slap. The 16 year or so old boy seemed to had enough and hit back with a fist. It would not be a fair fight which our boatman also realized and grabbed a beer bottle and threatened the aggressive banca operator with. This is when Mirsada said we might back off since there were more banca operators walking and jogging our way.

Things could probably have turned out pretty bad but everybody seemed to calm down although it was clear that one does not allow tourists to use non-cartel bancas. I felt a strange mixture of adrenaline, contempt and hope. Our boatman explained that these guys were way too greedy for their own good and pointed out that starting fights in front of foreigners and ripping them off this bad was plain stupid. At least one man dared to stand up against the cartel, which is noteworthy even if it’s only for profit.

The first stop on our little tour of the day was snorkeling at Double Island, very nice. We saw many colorful fishes, some beautiful as well as some impressively ugly. Thereafter we headed off to a place called Exotic island which was a very scenic small beach. Despite the somewhat cloudy weather and earlier encounter with the local mafia it felt like a nice vacation again. We concluded the island hopping by having dinner at a place called Blue Cove, very nice.
IMG_0305We got back shortly after nightfall and pondered what to do for the following day. We had chatted some with other guests and decided we would leave for Sabang, hopefully sharing a banca. It was time to leave this place, it just felt wrong putting money in some of these guys pockets.