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Bob in Iligan

Living in...Daram Maybe

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Bob in Iligan
Posted (edited)

Hi folks.   I met my girl on the internet and she says she needs $1,500 for her sick caribao, so I am hoping to get advice.

Kidding.   I've been married ten years to a wonderful Filipina.   We built a house in Iligan City on Mindanao.  (I'm in construction.)  We stay up to 5 months at a time, every other year.   We have a couple of kids, born in the USA, easy to get dual citizenship for.   We reported the births, so the paperwork is going to be straightforward.  

As you may know, Marawi City is very close to Iligan City and golly, things heated up there a little with ISIS and all.  We were there from December to the middle of last month.   For years we have been poking around for a different place to settle, but it's been real tough to find the right place.  This most recent scuffle has really encouraged us to move.  

We're from rural Alaska.   There isn't anything that can come even remotely close to Alaska in terms of the pristine environment, the peace and solitude, the wilderness...  we live on the edge of tens of millions of acres with all the toys an Alaskan would want.    In trying to reproduce as best we can what we have here in Alaska it points to a number of different places.

We have been all over the place, and I started six years before I met her, exploring places like the Mountain and Kalinga provinces, Zambales, etc. on Luzon.   Negros Oriental/Occidental, Samar, Cebu, Leyte, Palawan, Mindanao - and have to admit this catch-22:   The more remote you go, the more aggravation with NPA and other gangsters.  Down south, it's worse with Abu Sayyef - they're the most murderous cut-throats in the Philippines.   When we were camping on an Island in Palawan they actually zipped up in a boat and kidnapped some tourists south of us.  So we wrote off Palawan.   We were there with our infant children when a patrol boat came by to inform us of the kidnapping so it was terrifying to my wife.

In Kalinga province I actually had a good experience with the NPA - I play guitar, was in a band for years as lead singer, and my origins were in gospel music.   So in my travels music has always been a way to connect with people.   Everyone has a guitar in a village with one or two strings missing.   I blundered into a village with what they called an NPA "Amazonia", a woman, tough as nails, who was the local commander.   I played music for her nephew's wedding, that's what was going on when I showed up, and did the dancing with them while they banged those pots they use in that region.   They told me they killed a foreigner, I forget what country he was from. But he claimed to be studying indigenous languages in the Cordillera region when what he was really doing was using a metal detector looking for buried gold the Japanese abandoned as the Americans closed in on them up there in WWII.  Apparently that lie was a capital offence to those NPA people (they morph in and out of the NPA and Cordillera People's Army the same way guys morph in and out of the MILF and BIFF on Mindanao).   So they disappeared him.  Bottom line, despite my good time with them - I don't want NPA running around with AK-47's collecting renegade taxes from me.  

In Northern Samar the NPA held me up at a makeshift checkpoint and robbed me.  Usually I am on a motorcycle but I had a multicab on that trip. They sent me back with my tail between my legs and I had not re-visited Samar until this last trip.  I am getting too old for this kind of excitement.  We don't want NPA, MILF, MNLF, Abu-Sayyef, or local gangsters and cops dealing shabu.  

The other thing is pollution.  It was disappointing to me when I traveled to what I thought would be more remote and therefore cleaner places...   that I was totally wrong.   Every village throws their garbage right down the ravine by their hut.  There's no wastewater treatment.  Pigs and chickens pooping about.   If you are the only person living on an island, great.   But as the local population increases, the pollution quickly becomes a problem.  

The ironies are strangely hilarious to me.   For years, people bragged about the white sand beaches of this or that place, like Boracay.   I have a lot of experience and knew they were swimming in shit there.   It's way too big.   For people that grew up in cities of millions that may seem an odd statement but with no sewage treatment you can't go over even a few hundred people in an enclave before the turds are overwhelming the immediate environment.  

So the top priorities are lack of violent thugs and cleanliness, and finally, reasonable time/distance to health care.   We already live where a heart attack is going to kill me or a really bad wound out back of the cabin in the woods - I'm going to die.  So I don't need to be in Manila next to a hospital.   But not a three day trip either.  

We don't need, and don't want "shopping".   We go six weeks without a town run.  You stock up in rural Alaska.  So being boating or driving distance from a place like Tacloban or Catbalogan, that's plenty good enough.   

I mention them because we just came from there, and it led me to this forum.  Because that stretch between Catbalogan and Tacloban by boat really thrilled us.   Daram Island in particlular.  No NPA or other alphabet-soup terrorists.  The villages are small enough to where they can't overwhelm the sea with pollution.  It's still crowded by our standards, everywhere is in the Philippines, but the lack of roads - boat access only - really cuts down on traffic congestion and associated pollution.   The typhoon risk is pretty reasonable - it is protected by the main island of Samar, so it catches typhoons coming from the East after they have slowed down a bit.   All the shacks still get wiped out but a good concrete and steel structure up off the surge line is going to do okay.  

Cebu is the closest hub city.  We like Cebu City in terms of its modernity.   Lack of ignorance to the outside world.  You don't hear "hey Joe" every four seconds in Cebu.   There's flights from Catbalogan or Tacloban to Cebu.   Good health care and hospitals there.  Shopping centers and just about all the goods & services of the first world.  I can see why you would live there!  A city person.   

We have a working plan, but are here to see if there are going to be useful suggestions/comments.   There's bound to be someone from, say, Tacloban here or someone who knows of a similar kind of island group set-up like this within striking distance of Cebu City. 

We are going to buy a boat.  It's going to be about $2,000, or 100,000 pesos.  We can sleep on a boat for that kind of money - we sleep in tents in the wilderness on rough ground so a boat is going to be five-star camping.  We plan to travel around Daram Island, visiting villages as we go and inquiring about land.  We already saw lots of examples and noted something that affected our strategy.

People in those villages, all they can think about is moving to a city and having running water, propane stove, cafes and stores, etc.   Jobs.  You can see where a whole extended family has moved out of the village, a cluster of plots with broken-down remains of houses an extended family used to live in.  Someone got the dream job in a city and eventually the whole family moved out.  They owe back-taxes to the Barangay for 20 years, but it isn't much money and incredibly there's no interest on the debt.  You offer to pay the taxes and buy the lots. 

There are also little islands or tiny landings where there's no houses at all.   We saw half an island for a price I don't believe, but we did not talk to the seller directly.   This was just a fact-finding mission.  An island with no people means electricity production.   No biggie, I work remote construction and produce my own electricity but it really complicates things.  So to pursue the above line of thinking, you can go to the property records people in the city of Daram and find out who abandoned the properties you found, and who owns any little cove or island you find as a prospect.

So we would stay on this boat for a matter of months.   Until we find the right place.  The construction logistics in this region call for harvesting sand, gravel, and stones out in the bay in front of your land.   You have to pay the Barangay per cubic meter, but it is cheapest thing to do - pay villagers to dive in the shallows for it, by the bucket load.  Rather than shipping from Tacloban. 

Water and electricity are already mostly solved living on the edge of a village.   They're going to have a well, and the fact there is a well means you have a water table you can access yourself if you need to punch one.  I can make hollow block on-site if the materials are there, you just use a mechanical shaker that produces three at a time, easy to transport the shaker by boat.  So then you are just boating the cement in.  Boating plywood, milled lumber, plumbing and electrical, etc.too.   We sized the boat specifically for the need to transport all that.  We talked to a boat builder too, but it is better to buy a used one and swap out the motor if it is a high-time engine.  

I would like to dredge with a small screen plant, but they tell me you can't do that.  Not a big ocean dredge like the Chinese making islands, but just a little suction dredge with a five horse 4-cycle engine.  

I don't want to buy a place already built, unless they are giving it away, and that isn't going to happen.  You look through advertisements online, and you just aren't going to find villagers know how to use the internet to list this kind of property.   You have to go in person.  We want to do the Barangay property records research ourselves but use a property lawyer to look over anything before my wife obtains title.  

This is the first time in a decade we've felt like we are closing in on a solution to our problem.   It wasn't what I expected.   I see now that the boat-only transport, (lack of roads) - that has done the isolation job for us.   It has kept the villages small enough to not overwhelm the environment with pollution. 

No offense to the villagers, we're talking about sixth grade educations on average and language Wari with bad Tagalog.   The kids are like packs of wild Indians if you don't put your foot down, lol.   They have so little exposure to foreigners and so little going on in the village that there will be relentless gawking and unintentional harassment in the beginning.   They mock out of curiosity and the thrill of English practice, not malice.   

If you have comments/suggestuins, questions, or another strategic area to suggest in the region of Cebu, we have open minds.   I am about to leave for a remote construction site with no cell phone, internet, running water, etc. but will be back off and on.   Now that I am a member I can check in now and then.   Thank you for your time.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Bob in Iligan
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savarity

Sorry, I can't help you, but that was a very interesting read, thanks.

Sent from my SM-G925V using Tapatalk

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Dafey

Hi Bob, Welcome to the forum!

I'm interested in the boat. Do you have a builder lined up?

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Bob in Iligan
8 minutes ago, Dafey said:

Hi Bob, Welcome to the forum!

I'm interested in the boat. Do you have a builder lined up?

Thank you, Savarity.   I love the Philippines, but more so our family there, and we're gonna move ourselves to safer quarters.  We talk to the Muslim refugees from Marawi and they'll tell you quite sincerely that when ISIS took over they didn't want to behead people personally or anything like that, but they approved of them taking charge.   It was the national government rooting them out that caused the total destruction of the city.   

Well thank you Dafay .   I am staying home a little longer, recovering from the flu and the wife says don't start working out there yet.   I'll be alone.   I have boats here, I commercial fished and did what we call river taxi operator here.   I am retired from that but still have the boat. It's a 24 foot Wooldridge with a 225 hp Johnson. So boats and me, we're real good friends.

I did meet two builders actually, one on Daram and one in Catbalogan.  I spent some time watching how they build them, and talked to quite a few people about it.   My first thought is not to build one, but rather to buy one already built.   The boats there are long and narrow of course, with outriggers.  Four cycle motors with a prop.   I think at first I want a roof over the deck but not enclosed, like they do for a cover over cargo in a passenger/cargo set-up.  Then convert after I am done building.  Ease of loading construction material is more important in the beginning.

So I don't have a contract with a builder.  Rather, I  took quotes from them, and they gave the same quote.  Two thousand will buy a new boat.   But two thousand will buy a used boat with the motor, so at the moment I am inclined to just buy the used boat and motor, should the motor check out.  

 

 

 

                                                                    .  

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Dafey

How big is the Banca you're looking at? I'm also interested in the local sailboats. Fell in love with the Paraws in Boracay but they make a special one with gaf rigged sails in Mindanao.

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Bob in Iligan
8 minutes ago, Dafey said:

How big is the Banca you're looking at? I'm also interested in the local sailboats. Fell in love with the Paraws in Boracay but they make a special one with gaf rigged sails in Mindanao.

I was paying a guy to run us around in what I estimate to be about as long as mine - 24 foot maybe.  We could roll our motorcycle up the gangplank no problem.   He's a master builder, and uses it for the same thing I would use it for.  He had twin 16 hp engines that he could run individually or at the same time.  

Forgive me, I never asked how long it was exactly though.   Not sure how they count it either, because my useful deck is front to back, real wide - and theirs are so narrow.   We were standing with the builders looking at the boat I wanted replicated when I asked for quotes.

In any village, there is a boat yard.  There's going to be skeletons of every imaginable size from old whales down to the kids' dug-outs.   Someone will be working on boats. 

We have a little one, not even sure exactly the length, on Mindanao.  No engine, just paddles.   Two people can lifti it and walk in/out of the sea.  4.500 pesos to have it built.   We net fish out in the bay.   An occasional crab.  But it's a toy compared to a working boat like we were using around Daram.

Gosh, I don't know a think about sailboats.   

There's a real "heartwarming" story out of Daram, a local girl named Evelyn and a British guy who had been living in Hong Kong.   But they met in Angeles City.  An underage bar girl.  When she turned 17 they got married in Hong Kong, and interestingly the Philippine court refused to acknowledge the marriage in the end.   Based on her age at marriage.  You have to get permission from the court in the Philippines, I guess.   Hong Kong is a little more lax.

Well, this sweet thing had her security guard boyfriend murder the husband.   And it was the Daram family in the end that turned her in.  Without the relatives testifying, she my have gotten away with it.  

Not sure if there's a lesson there, lol.   We like those kinds of shows.  And if you know Daram, you know why this girl said when she was a child that she was going to be a bargirl when she grew up.   So she could marry a rich foreigner.   Well, she got her wish.   But he's dead and she's doing life without parole.   

 

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Headshot

Welcome to LinC Forums, Bob. That was a great intro post. I might be wrong, but I don't think there is an island in the Philippines where you can be certain there won't be any "alphabet soup groups" mucking about causing mischief. The NPA seems to have some presence wherever there isn't much build-up (as in almost all rural areas).

I like your idea of living on a boat, but the local bancas just seem too unstable for that (plus they simply don't have enough room on them for living space). Have you thought about have two bancas built into a catamaran for better stability? The Polynesians basically did that for their oceanic cruises. With the addition of outriggers on either side of the cat, it would seem like it would create a very stable craft. Then again, the area where you have decided on gets quite a bit of typhoon activity. Have you thought about what you would do in the event of an oncoming storm?

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Joe Sixpack

Nice post.  You have definitely put some thought into all this, but I think you are under-estimating the extent to which you will be affected by typhoons and NPA.  Both of them will find you, anywhere in Samar.  

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Bob in Iligan
13 minutes ago, Headshot said:

Welcome to LinC Forums, Bob. That was a great intro post. I might be wrong, but I don't think there is an island in the Philippines where you can be certain there won't be any "alphabet soup groups" mucking about causing mischief. The NPA seems to have some presence wherever there isn't much build-up (as in almost all rural areas).

I like your idea of living on a boat, but the local bancas just seem too unstable for that (plus they simply don't have enough room on them for living space). Have you thought about have two bancas built into a catamaran for better stability? The Polynesians basically did that for their oceanic cruises. With the addition of outriggers on either side of the cat, it would seem like it would create a very stable craft. Then again, the area where you have decided on gets quite a bit of typhoon activity. Have you thought about what you would do in the event of an oncoming storm?

Yes, Headshot and thank you for your kindness.

You're right, my own experience over a couple decades now confirms it.   I think my current plight is a little different from the norm, in terms of how much safer I would be just about anywhere else than here, lol.   

 I've been watching these wars on Mindanao, from MNLF in Zamboanga, to the Mamasapano Clash with the BIFF and MILF, or hey how about the nifty Mayor Ampatuan, I think he personally mowed down about 50 people by machine gun.   He brought excavators and dozers to bury the people with.   Call it Zany, call it fun - but I am calling it quits.   When Abu Sayyef hit town rolling heads, and they did just that - you have to do the brave thing and run, lol.   

I am thinking that strategically I understand how weak a smaller island like Daram is for the NPA or whomever, compared to "mainland" Samar.   There's no interior jungle to conceal  themselves and move undetected.   Too small, and it is interesting that a lot of the islands are grassland tops around there.   They seem to use fire to keep it that way.  

Nevertheless you are right.   Where the NPA exists is in the end not a place, but in the minds of the people.  In those rural areas where it is so desperately poor, they don't understand Marx.   They just know that if you pick up a gun that you can take food from someone else.   You do have outside groups, mainly Islamic but also communist, that are sending money or people to areas like Sulu.   The Cordilleras seem to have settled down more than the South, but it is an example of historic outside commie influence.   They took on the military to stop the Chico River Dam.  

This takeover in Marawi city - that was organized and paid for out of ISIS in Syria.   They traced it through Malaysia.   They funded Abu Sayyef to infiltrate the mainland for the first time, and team up with the Maute Clan, they're extremist MILF break-away around Lake Lanao.  Now these locals were absolutely cool with ISIS hooking up with the Maute - they were respected business people, and ranking mosque preachers who trained at overseas Islamic Universities you know - not backwoods crazies.   

Steve Kindy was executed in Iligan City, he was working for an orphanage taking in both christian and muslim victims of the wars.   But he was easy to assassinate in the Moro district because the assassin melted into a crowd of sympathetic Wahhabi Muslims.   Nothing against muslims.   But we have a safety protocol we go through where we live and I don't want to keep living that way.  I consider them more dangerous than NPA.  

Because I have lived through a number of encounters with NPA and I am certain were Abu Sayyef to get their clutches on me it would be too grisly to contemplate.   Better to fight to the death on the spot, because it will do nothing but get worse in their hands.   

 

On boats - yes, outriggers on both sides.   My goodness, I sleep in my supercub.   Look it up.   It's a tiny, tiny bush plane.   You have to put the tail up on a big rock to make it level because they're tail-draggers.   

I put a lot of hours in boats down there, about six hours in the ideal boat.   So yes I know my family of four can sleep on the size we have in mind, no problem.   The most serious issues are piloting and hull leaking, these boats aren't completely waterproof.   You have to do continuous maintenance and repair on them.  Be smart about how you overnight, given the tides.   

Nobody has depth finders, lol.   Well that's a standard I am not sinking to.  Channels are marked, there's traffic to show you the way, but hazards are a fact.   

 

Typhoon, yeah.   We already live on the ocean.   We built both a sea wall and a break-water.   The wind, that's not so much the problem as the surge.  That's why I said above the surge line.   Those islands west of Samar - they have the island of Samar to drag the storm from category 5 down to something reasonable like 4, har.   

Honestly, the typhoons keep out the crowds the same way fifty below zero does in Alaska.   It's a price you pay, being exposed to them, but it isn't the front line, the worst Philippines can muster.   

 

 

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Bob in Iligan
1 hour ago, Joe Sixpack said:

Nice post.  You have definitely put some thought into all this, but I think you are under-estimating the extent to which you will be affected by typhoons and NPA.  Both of them will find you, anywhere in Samar.  

Oh, the typhoons are a fascinating construction problem.   I'm eager for it.   There are two general solutions, the first being the Filipino one: minimize the loss by building a cardboard house and having no possessions.   

Once you embark upon typhoon-resistant construction, you first let the terrain do as much free protecting as you can with site selection.   There's going to be disaster relief maps/data out of Daram City that are going to tell me where the worst of it has been in the past.   So will the people in each village.   So within that area you know, there are protected coves, natural breakwaters, island barriers, etc.   

We know where the typhoons come from.   They don't run backwards.   When you are looking at the geographic lay-out of who survived best, it makes sense why the terrain protected them.   A couple of months should give you a pretty good selection among safer spots.  So that's why we're buying the boat, to do a professional job site surveying.   

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Flakes

Cebu It park doesnt have too much Abu Sayaf around maybe a good option to consider.

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mikewright

Hi Bob, welcome.

It looks like you have put a lot of thought into this. I hope it works out well for you.

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Bob in Iligan
10 minutes ago, Flakes said:

Cebu It park doesnt have too much Abu Sayaf around maybe a good option to consider.

I looked.   Hey, that looks just the same as it does out my cabin window here.  Hilarious.

I'd have to go over a thousand miles to find a building as tall as what you got in Cebu city.   No offense, but that's about the right distance, lol.  

For a city, yeah - Cebu has a LOT going for it.   We've had to go there a bunch for immigration related stuff. 

Last time I was there I took Magellan's cross out of the Church chapel.  We replaced it with a replica, nobody's said a thing yet.  You can tell we got the original because it still has Magellan's blood stains from the Lapu-Lapu hacking his arm off.   Keep that on the down low, but we're offering that at $500,000.  It's plastic, pretty light, so we'll pick up the shipping.  Stamped 1512.

 

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Oz Jon
Posted (edited)

Hi Bob,

A pleasure to read your stuff and follow your reasoning. Thanks.

Have you thought about the Camotes Islands as a prospective place to settle?

They are relatively remote, civilised, terrorist-free (as far as I'm aware) and sparsely populated, but their proximity to Cebu City (with all its big-city facilities) and daily ferries to Danao (small city) are handy features.

Best wishes in your search.

ps. I am/was a sailor, sailed to Camotes several times. There are safe areas there (or at nearby Carmen) to ride out a Typhoon on a boat, if you needed to.

Edited by Oz Jon
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Dafey
32 minutes ago, Oz Jon said:

Have you thought about the Camotes Islands as a prospective place to settle?

Good choice...Camotes is a couple hours ferry from Cebu City but some lovely islands with open spaces.

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