Philippine Island Times Adventures of an American expat in the Philippines

October 19, 2008

Paradise Eaten

Filed under: siquijor — Donald @ 7:40 am

Coral Cay Beach

Siquijor is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Only thirty years ago there were basically no paved roads or septic systems and no electricity. All of those things are more-or-less in place now, but much of the natural beauty of the island remains. The beaches are white, and thanks to the surrounding islands and reef, the sea on the west coast where I come to enjoy sunsets is usually very still. Everything seems hushed here. Siquijodnons speak softly. At this time of year it rains almost every night, but the days are usually sunny with a warm, clear light that reminds me a little bit of Taos, New Mexico. Moonlight on the beach is otherworldly. It is no mystery why people think this island is full of magic.

I spent most of last Wednesday on a motorcycle scouting out places to live. It was fun but tiring, so I settled in for a couple of beers at the resort in the evening. The guy next to me was also tired, having spent the last month marching through the mountains with a geologist from Manila. He is chief financial officer of a mining company that is in the process of making claims on tens of thousands of hectares of land. They plan to take from it gold, copper, and manganese.

Siquijor is said to be south of the typhoon belt, but one passed unusually close this year. It accompanied a high tide, resulting in a storm surge that damaged much of the coast. The beach is still littered with rotting vegetation some months later. During heavy rains, the water from the mountains runs brown with soil. Last Sunday a strong rain caused the downhill side of two new bridges to collapse and filled the market with three feet of water. No one I have talked with remembers such a thing happening before.

That night I saw the rain coming to Siquijor from a restaurant perch on the neighboring island of Negros. Seated at the next table was a well-dressed older gentleman with an upper-class Filipina companion. When he overheard me talking with the waiter about my favorite place, he took an interest and I told him what I knew. Then he told me what he knew. He had never been to Siquijor, so nothing about that, but he had been in and out of the Philippines for many years, beginning in the time of martial law under Marcos. Always he was head of one investment bank or another, most notably Citigroup Asia. We talked finance. He told me about shooting down Michael Milken when Milken tried to sell his company junk bonds, before the scandal broke and Milken went to prison. He told me about his testimony before Congress regarding the savings and loan crisis, and about how in recent years big boys on Wall Street gamed the system to make bundles of risky mortgages seem riskless, setting off the current crisis. From his descriptions it seemed that in every case disaster was foreseeable and could have been prevented by appropriate regulation and oversight. Instead, the government failed to protect the citizenry, allowing the richest of the rich to walk away with billions and to leave taxpayers with the bill.

Coral Cay Ref

As we looked out over the sea to Siquijor I asked him if things would get any worse this time around. His reply? “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

The next day the S&P was up 11%.


  1. Hey Don,

    Can you tone down the descriptions of all that beauty? Makes it all too enviable. Easy to imagine you sitting under one of those coconut palms reading Heidegger.

    Cheers mate, Nick

    Comment by Nick — October 20, 2008 @ 7:27 am

  2. Yo, mate.

    I may be on the verge of settling in on Siquijor for good; cognitive dissonance will only make the descriptions of beauty more gushing. Allow me to refer you to the Philippine Daily Inquirer site ( for the usual regimine of shame and degradation.



    Comment by Donald — October 20, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  3. Don, I do not need to look beyond my own shores (nay, my own home) for evidence of shame and degradation.

    Looking at the island on the map it looks rather tiny. Boat access only, I assume? Vik’s dad was Visayan, not too far away from your little paradise.

    Have been wondering all day what Newton might have discovered if bonked on the head by a tropical coconut rather than a temperate apple. The law of levity?

    Cheers mate, Nick

    Comment by Nick — October 21, 2008 @ 6:55 am

  4. Don! I just found your blog again and took some time to catch up on your travels. Thank you for allowing us such insights into your exotic wanderings. Find that place to settle so that we can all descend upon you, like it or not. By the way, are the witches of Siquijor the child-eating type, or is it safe bring the little ones with us?

    Comment by Mary Thornquist — October 28, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  5. Mein Doktor Ernst:

    You must post more often–Thorny and I worry about you. America is turning into a banana republic–you did not need to leave to find what you are looking for.


    Comment by scott — October 30, 2008 @ 11:37 am

  6. Really enjoyed this blog post. Cool.

    Comment by Josephine Cowan — February 19, 2012 @ 10:27 am

  7. I have grown more than a little weary of this dtabee. We are only a few years removed from when you never got an update to a smartphone. You ran the OS that came installed on your device for the full 2-year contract. Are we entitled to updates on our smartphones? I do not know, I can only say that I do not think it is promised. The morass of the relationship between Google, the manufacturers, and the carriers is well-known, well-publicized, and not new. If someone wants to avoid the potential risk of their device not getting an update, they should not buy an Android device. They should buy an iPhone or a Windows Phone. People who choose to buy an Android device should realize they are accepting one of two risks: that their phone will not get an update, and in the event that occurs, that they are willing to accept the further risk of installing a custom ROM. That is not a tech-snob statement; I do not install custom ROMs on my smartphones. But I accept the fact that there is a risk that my phone will not be updated, and that if it is not, that I am stuck with it for 2 years, or I can pay the full price to upgrade off-contract before my two years is up. For that matter, there is no guarantee that a Windows Phone will see an update in a 2 year cycle either, although all devices with few exceptions, have been supported to-date. These are the models. Google is not going to go to a Windows Phone model. That model already exists and is offered on the market. I for one do not need to see the same model offered on Android. Whether or not my device is supported drives whether I buy the next generation of that device, buy any other Android devices from that manufacturer, or even remain on the same carrier. But it does not cause me to demand a change in the technology and business model that has built the adoption rate of Android devices as it stands today.

    Comment by Cathrerina — November 17, 2014 @ 2:48 am

  8. Yep, you made it, by any measure worth taikng. Also, to follow your logic ( there would be fewer novels out there, I reasoned, and therefore less competition ), the time could really be ripe for opening a video store. Happy birthday.

    Comment by Hellen — March 6, 2015 @ 7:57 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress