If Humans Disappeared, They Would Take Over the Philippines


Not monkeys or dogs or jungle.  None of those.  None would have a chance to rule here.

Damn ‘em.  They are everywhere.  Leave something out either sweet, starchy, or protein, and the little suckers show up in hoards.

This morning, I had some cinnamon rolls for breakfast I’d bought in Guiuan as a treat.  I opened the bag, then got distracted by work around the house.  Preparations for our departure on Friday.  Came back 15 minutes later to several hundred working their way into my sack of goodies.  Grrrr!!  Nothing to do but shake them out and eat the rolls anyway.  It pissed me off so I went to cleaning the table.  Everything off, then shake the cover out in the road.

A bunch more line up on the wall waiting for me to push the table back.  They were rewarded with insect killer.  I followed the line outside and sprayed their hole into the ground.  Temporary relief.

I’ve used up a whole can of Baygon insecticide.  It works, but there are too many ants.  Only one thing that works around here.  It doesn’t kill them, but it keeps them at bay.  If you keep at it.  Ant chalk.


I’ve gotten a little lax, but you apply this chalk about every other day across a barrier and the ants won’t cross.  This is the table leg, freshly chalked this morning as I was a bit irate about my cinnamon rolls being sullied.  All four legs (one in the background) and the table pulled away from the wall and curtains.  No more ants on the table as I sit here writing.


Above the table, a second line of defense.  A visitor yesterday me asked, “Why are you hanging your food above the table?” 

One word reply, “Ants!”

“What good does that do?”

“Ant chalk.  See the circle on the wall around the string on the left side?  (I pointed.)  Do both sides and the ants stay out of any food in the bags.”   Her eyes lit up.

I’ll bet she does the same thing when she gets home.  If she can find the chalk.  I went to five different stores in Guiuan and was getting concerned it was no longer available, but Mercury Drug had it in stock.   I bought it during our first trip to Guiuan in December.  I’ll never be without it in the Philippines.

I can only think of one way to get rid of them, and that would have to come from the USA as it doesn’t seem to be available here.  Systemic ant killer.  We have some stuff that the ants drag back to the nest and it (supposedly) kills them there.  It’s on my list for the next trip and I’ll try it for sure.

There are three varieties of ants around our house. 

Teensy.  Not a lot of them and they are so small they are nearly invisible to a 60 year old person’s eyes.  A nuisance, but not too bad.  They can get into just about any container that does not snap or screw shut.  The other ants ignore them as they are too small to eat or be a threat.  No sting.

Tiny.  These are the pesty ones.  I think they have turned our house and it’s hollow block walls into one gigantic ant nest.  They stream out of any small hole in the floor, windows, or walls throughout the house when food is nearby.  I plugged several small gaps in our bathroom, but gave it up as fruitless.  A tile floor is impervious to their advances, lucky for us.  I can’t imagine how much grief they cause people that can’t afford a tile floor, meaning everyone else in the barrio.  The ants come in from the attic, down the outside of the house, and in through the windows as well.  We have two brooms with very fine bristles and those sweep them out efficiently.  We do it all day.  No sting, but they can bite enough to get your attention.

Small.  These are red ants and they come in only if there is something REALLY good.  Otherwise, they stay outside and mind their own business.  I don’t have too much problem with these and leave them alone unless they are coming inside.  If they show up, there will be thousands and insecticide is the only answer.  They bite and have a very painful sting.  That sting will itch and burn for an hour.   They leave a person alone unless you stop and stand on their nest.  You won’t be there for long!!  They also make long, dug out lines about 1/2 inch deep across the ground when they are working a plentiful food source.  Woe to anyone that lingers with their flip flopped foot in one of those paths.  Every now and then I see someone dancing around across the street.  There is a very well established colony there in the open area.  I know.  I’ve done the ant dance over there myself.

Large.  Out in the forest.  We never see them around our house.

There you have it.  Foreigners; if you’re thinking about moving to the Philippines or spending a lot of time here, you’d better be ready.  The ants are going nowhere.  It’s up to you to adapt to them.

One other annoying pest.  Pill bugs.  They hide in the rocks and gravel all around the house.  When we first got here, there would be dozens in the house every morning.  Now we are down to a few every morning.  Unless…we water the plants out the front door.  Hundreds will show up in no time.  They don’t like water.  I guess the reason we don’t normally get many now is that we are in an early dry season.  The pill bugs stay in the rocks and the rain doesn’t wash them out, sending them into our house looking for a new shelter.  The fine bristled broom gets a workout some mornings.

Since I’m on the subject of insect pests, I’ll keep going.  I’m repeating myself a bit, but this subject will now be in one place.

Mosquitoes.  Surprisingly, the mosquitoes are not too bad around here, at least this time of the year.  We had quite a few until we cleaned out our rain gutters and removed that breeding area.  They still show up, but I rarely need repellent.  Praxy gets attacked in the evenings while outside doing dishes.

Again, three types.  Most mosquitoes show up around daybreak, a few sometimes at sunset.  Vary rare during the daylight hours.

Teensy grey.  These are hard to spot and even harder to keep away from you.  They stay low near the floor.  Insect repellent is about the only hope for defense other than a fan (see below).  They leave a small welt.  When they attack, they can show up in large bunches and leave little red spots all over your lower legs.  Rarely bite above the knee.

Medium grey.  Easy to spot.  Any exposed skin is vulnerable.  They leave a nasty, itchy welt.  Most common.

Large black with white leg spots.  They look like something that could carry malaria or Dengue, but both diseases are considered low risk in this area.  Very easy to spot.  Any exposed skin is vulnerable.  Another skeeter that leaves large, itchy welts.  These show up in big bunches, but many times they just hang around and don’t bite.  Weird.  They like to get into our suitcases and closet and hide in our clothes.  Cleaning or packing produces a small cloud of them that gradually filters out the windows.

Defenses against mosquitoes. 

Repellants.  I’m sold on skin repellants containing Picaridin.  Works well here.  Deet is also very effective.  There are other types we use and they work pretty good.  Burning mosquito coils and there is another type of fumigant that uses patches and plugs into a wall outlet.  Both clear a room in minutes.

Insecticides.  Ineffective in my opinion.  Effect lasts for minutes only.

Netting.  Only way to go around here at night.  If the power goes out, I get too hot and tend to sweat off my repellant. 

Oscillating fan.  Works excellent on all three types of moquitoes.  Oscillating only, though.  If the fan is left in one position, the bugs can figure out a way around it.   Takes care of needing mosquito netting unless…the power goes out. 

Flies.  Enough to go around.  No more need be said.

We are starting to prepare for our Friday exit.  First up this morning was our rain barrels.

The rain has pretty much ceased, so we took them out and cleaned them this morning.  Tomorrow evening they will end up in the house.  They will be here when we return.

Praxy washed up one last bunch of clothes.  When these dry, we have enough to get us all the way to Pomeroy with a comfortable leeway.

Yesterday, I went to town and set up a reservation from Guiuan to Tacloban with Duptours van company.  Come to find out this morning the jeepney changed his schedule unexpectedly.  Sigh.  We might miss our reservations.  Oh well.  Seems to happen all the time here.  That’s what I get for making plans!

But planning is what I do.  From Tacloban to Ormoc on Duptours.  Then a fast catamaran to Cebu.  From the ferry terminal, it’s a short cab ride to the Apple Tree Suites.

We’ve decided to stay in downtown Cebu rather than Mactan for the final three nights.  More to do around there.  We want to visit the new SM mall, now the largest mall in Asia.  It will also give me a chance to see Martin, Lyndon, and Jean again.  We have some final purchases to make before we leave.  More shopping opportunities in Cebu.  Traffic is light in the evening, so getting to the airport is no problem.  We can leave Apple Tree around 9 or so and have plenty of time to make the 1:00am departure to Seoul.

1/20 or so.  Forgot the date.


We are in Cebu.  A grueling trip and I haven’t really felt much about writing for 24 hours.  Next time you whine to yourself about traffic and travel times in the US, think about this.

The driver of the jeepney Khen Khen agreed to pick us up at 5am on the 22nd.  So we planned for that.  Then, he changed it to 4am.  OK, changed to that.  It meant us getting up at 2:30am to get the house ready for our departure.

So, we…Piled all our dirty bedding and such on the floor for our friend Maravic to wash and put away.  Gathered all the leftover food out and told her she could have it all.  Put all our good stuff in the new cabinet and locked it up.  Put all the other stuff in the room and locked it up.  Flushed the toilet and cleaned the bathroom.  Got our luggage ready.  Rush rush rush, ready at 3:50am. 

And the heavens opened up.  Sheets and torrents of rain pounding down.  In five minutes the puddle across the street was full and water streamed across into our area.  Lucky for us the ditch held.  Mud everywhere.  As suddenly as it showed up, it ended.  20 minutes of heavy rain, then stars.  So, we…

…Waited.  4:15am  Jeepney, nope wrong one.  4:30am.  Another jeep, nope wrong one.  445am.  Ah, there’s Khen Khen.  OH CRAP.  STUFFED TO THE TOP WITH PEOPLE!  Room on top for our luggage and nothing else.  Oh man, what the hell?  But wait!  The driver set the passenger seat aside for us, except for one little tiny boy.  Plenty of room, so we got the catbird seat and a ride into Salcedo.

Once there almost everyone got off.  It was welfare day.  Families with children get 350 pesos per month for each child and we happened to choose that day.  So THAT’S why it was so crowded.  Only six of us made the trip to Guiuan. 

I was uneasy about the weather, so I asked the driver to bring our luggage inside.  Everyone gave me a tolerant look as they got it down.  But no sooner than we got out of Salcedo, my caution was vindicated.  Another torrential downpour, they had to stop and bring some other stuff down into the cabin.  HA!  They got wet with the other stuff, not ours.  It was raining SO hard, that I had to close the plastic flap on my door to keep dry while the jeep was in motion.

The trip into Guiuan was uneventful.  Price 100 pesos.  Until we got to Duptours a5 6:05am.  My reservation had disappeared.  Grrr.  But not to worry.  Plenty of room on the 6:30 van and with us two and two seats for baggage, it was a full van.  No reason to wait around so they loaded it up and took off a 6:12am.  We hardly had time to hit the restroom.  Price $640 pesos, $160 per seat.

After the usual long, bumpy, 3 hour ride, we were in Tacloban.  We got off and I bought space on the next trip to Ormoc.  OK, that one was now full.  They called boarding and I hauled our suitcases to the van, all the time trying to find Praxy.  She had taken off to the restroom and I wasn’t sure if she’d heard the call or knew it was leaving right away.  Egad.  Stress and confusion.  She found the van, though, then couldn’t find me.  Obviously it all worked out in the end, Ken and Praxy playing the roll of the Keystone Cops.  We weren’t in Tacloban 10 minutes and we were heading to Ormoc.  Price $480 pesos, 120 per seat.

We didn’t even get a chance for a bottle of water.  Or any food.  Or coffee.  Come to think of it, I never got any coffee that whole day.  Nothing but two pee breaks, one in Guiuan and one in Tacloban.  Guess I should be glad for those p breaks.

The drivers have to stop and check in a couple of times each trip.  The second stop had people selling food.  We asked one of them for two “tubigs” (waters) and one of them complied.  We were thankful so we bought cookies and candies from the vendors and finally got a bit of breakfast.

From there on, the trip goes over a small mountain range to Ormoc.  That road is rougher than a stucco bathtub.  Mexican permanente (road washboards) is easier on a body.  We were pounded like crazy as we were in the second row from the back of the van.  Misery.  At least we didn’t have to pee.  2 hours and 40 minutes from Tacloban to Ormoc.  Time was about 11:40am.  The van driver was nice enough to drop us right at the ferry terminal.

Into the terminal building and I bought us two seats on the Supercat from Ormoc to Cebu.  That left at 1:45pm.  Price $1,550 pesos.  Luggage included in the fare.

Whew, finally a break!  The food in the terminal looked rather…err….bleak, so I got the idea of heading for a Chow King restaurant for chicken and a halo halo.  Praxy was never one to turn down an offered halo halo.  Off on a tricycle, 20 pesos each way.  No problem, except the place was crowded.  1/2 hour wait for food, but it showed in plenty of time for us to catch another tricycle back to the terminal.

The ferry left a little late, about 2:05pm.  We were exhausted.  Praxy caught some sleep, but I had to suffer through wakefulness for 2 1/2 hours.  Nice voyage normally.  A pesty, noisy kid was behind me, kicking my seat and screaming into my ear.  Mama didn’t seem to really care to stop him.  Next time I’m going to splurge the extra 300 pesos each for business class.   No families go up to the second deck.

Into Cebu and the usual thing.  Drag your luggage three blocks out to the main road and hail a cab.  Doesn’t do any good trying to get one near the terminal.  A driver approached us and offered to take us to the Apple Tree for 200 pesos, unmetered.  Too expensive, but we were nearing the end of our energy.  OK, done.  Loaded up and off we went.

Apple Tree Suites? Full.  Across the street?  Full.  Down the block?  Full.  In the mall?  Full.  What the heck?  Sinalog was the previous weekend.  What’s going on?  National Eucharistic convention.  Oh.  Who are they?  Turned out, Catholic bishops from all over the country happened to settle in that area for a conference.

Lucky us.  In Cebu and no room in our preferred site.

So we headed to Ayala mall and stumbled upon a motel called “The Maxwell House”.  Nope, the building is not painted blue or good to the last drop.  Rooms were a bit more than I wanted to pay, but I did it.  Two nights and we will move close to the airport on Sunday for our 1:00am Monday flight to Seoul.  Time, 6:10pm and we were in our room.  Subtracting the little be of rest in Tacloban, 11 hours of riding or struggling with logistics.  Price? $3070 pesos or $64 USD. 

Not a trip for the faint of heart, but certainly doable.  It went pretty much as I planned it.  Always bear in mind, readers.  It takes a lot of extra planning, time, and hard work to travel around the Philippines quickly.  Even the airplanes have hidden hassles.

I’m ending this here and will pick it up later.  Ready for a bit of dinner.

5:40pm  1/23/2015  Cebu City, Philippines

About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
This entry was posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez. Bookmark the permalink.

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