“Get your shoes on. We’re going now,” I say to my travel buddy as a power outage plunges our room into darkness. After a flight from Manila to Palawan and a nauseatingly fast 5 hour drive from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, Palawan, we had finally arrived at our guest house.
Feet sinking into sand in order to reach the guest house’s front door was a positive sign; holes in the bathroom wall and a strong odor that even my allergy-damaged nose could smell were not.
When the lights went out on our side of the island that Travel + Leisure magazine had made a top island destination twice, my friend and I ran for our shoes and purses like the leads in a Scream remake (Drew Barrymore was my girl growing up!).
Once back at the street, I flagged down a motorized tricycle. And from there, our two-hour adventure began. Thankful for the good fortune of meeting Jordan, the trike driver, we rumbled around for two hours trying to find other accommodation. Twenty minute walks along the beach under skies lacerated with stars ended with a suggestion to stay in a cabin behind where the hotel support staff slept. Nevermind the fact that a man was already sleeping there. He nodded his head by way of greeting when we walked up. “He’s a gay, but he’s OK,” a hotel worker said.
Ummm…I really don’t know how to respond to this. Thanks?
As we approached the two hour mark, we’d seen places with cold showers, places that only accepted cash, places that claimed they had no bookings until January without even so much as touching their books (Note: the Philippines is the only country I’ve visited where I’ve seen people still do all of their business by old-school ledgers. Nary a computer is in sight). A Kenyan and French couple bought us beer. We marched past couples lounging in the dark of night on the beach. The list went on and on and on.
After the last lady at Gemstones met us with a smile that was as fake as acrylic nails, I turned to my friend and said flat out and right in front of the woman and a white couple, “I think people are lying.” This hotel, in particular, took up two sides of the main street yet they didn’t have one room until January?
“I agree,” she said.
As we walked back to Jordan’s trike, I couldn’t help but feel if we were two white women at night finding other accommodation would not have been a problem. Did they think we were prostitutes? We were modestly dressed and hadn’t been drinking. We spoke fluent English and looked people in the eye. We needed the Filipino version of the Negro Motorist Green Book. When thinking that along with American culture getting exported American racism gets exported too, I sighed and clambered back in the trike.
Keeping in mind that a place one person adores another person despises (and the class disparity), we asked Jordan of a hotel that he would highly recommend.
Hips pressed into rusting metal, we were motoring into town when we passed Mansion Buenavista.
“Stop!” we both called out.
Backlit with white light, rich vegetation swaying against white walls and dark brown beams, this place shone out to me the way the inn must’ve shown out to Mary and Joseph when traveling with baby Jesus (an important saint in the Philippines I learned).
Thirty minutes of back and forth with the armed (and super friendly) security guard and a head worker, and my friend and I were deposited in a clean, nicely decorated room. The room was only guaranteed for the night, so we continued to look up places for the remainder of our stay.
My travel buddy discovered that the same exact hotel–The Bayview–that told us it didn’t have any openings was advertising a room online.
Check. Racism proved. This was the same exact reason why I didn’t want to put my photo on AirBnB when I first joined. Hell, I didn’t put a photo until it became mandatory. My “foreign” last name was dead give away enough.
“Should we book it?” she asked.
After some hesitation, I nodded. We would need to do some confronting in the morning. But for right now, after midnight, we would need to get some sleep.