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This past weekend we travelled north of Iloilo to visit the other parts of the island of Panay.  On Friday after we finished our duty on Medical ICU, the five of us along with eight St. Paul students, and four clinical instructors hopped into a van and we drove, and drove and drove!  We ended up in Roxas, which is about a four hour drive north of Iloilo city. It was a nice drive, winding through the roads of the country side, seeing the mountains and rice patties is a beautiful change from the prairies of Saskatchewan, although there were times the wide expanse of our homeland would be welcome. There is little break between town and city, there is a large numbers of houses that are right off the road from the busy highway. The drivers drive along at break neck speeds, sometimes in the wrong lane; quite unsettling at times. We really appreciate the traffic laws and enforcement that we would find at home in Canada. Arriving safely at our destination called Espacio Verde (meaning green space in Spanish), we were treated to soup, oysters, kabobs, rice, and chicken, and one of the best desserts we’ve ever tasted. But, like many of the foods here, the names are hard to remember! It was authentic Filipino and therefore delicious, but even more so because we were so hungry! Espacio Verde is a water-park that has open areas for bumper boating, water-sliding, and a large entertainment area that we assumed does functions such as weddings. It was a beautiful little oasis that was welcomed following our long drive.

After dinner we had a Filipino-style tour of the city of Roxas. We enjoyed the pace of it, very laid back compared to the larger cities we have been in. After our tour, it was a short 20 minute drive to the house of Hannah Morales. She is a fourth year nursing student at St. Paul and had us all stay at her house for Friday evening. Her home was beautiful, and, like all Filipino people, her family was very welcoming. We were shown our quarters and took them gladly, as we were informed that we were to be up at 4:30 am the following morning to attend a fish harvest. 4:30am seemed like a lot to ask for when we had had such a busy week. But being gracious guests, we got up in the wee hours of the morning and hopped in the back of a big truck that took us to the edge of a big pond; we didn’t know about it at the time though as it was still dark out. We walked for about a kilometer through the mud and grass and arrived at a house that was perched on the side of a damn. The men were harvesting the fish that funnelled through the open damn. The men then caught the fish in a net and used a human chain to sort the fish with their counterparts. The type of fish that were caught included milk fish, crabs, and prawns. It was a very cool process to watch and we were very lucky to see it happen, as this harvest only happens once every four months! As the sun was rising, we watched the men harvest and pick through the muddy water for the fish. It was absolutely beautiful and after the harvest we were treated to the fresh fish, prawns and crab that were caught, bananas, mango, papaya, and roast pig! It was a great start to the day.

After this, we got into the van again and drove the three hours to Caticlan, the port city that is the gateway to the famed Boracay . Just about everyone that we have met has asked us if we have visited Boracay , and if not, asked us when we will be going there. After the 15 minute boat ride, we realized why. The island of Boracay  is a seven kilometer stretch of white sand beach surrounded with clear ocean water, and breathtaking. The island is very touristy and commercialized, but it very understandable why people come here: to bask in the sunshine on one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Us Canadians were able to soak up some sun and appreciated the opportunity to relax and take in the surroundings. We made friends with Australians, Koreans, and enhanced the bonds of friendship that we have formed with our Philippine students.

The weekend was very tiring but worth every minute due to the opportunities we were given. We appreciated all the work the students and clinical instructors put in to taking the time to plan the excursion.  On Sunday we felt hesitant to leave the island oasis, but glad we were given the opportunity to visit the places we did.  Between the work we do for duty, the research, journaling, and blogging, it leaves little time for rest, so when we are given the chance to unwind we enjoy ourselves very much.

Brooke and Leah enjoying the food at the resort where we had supper on Friday night. Brooke, Leah, Sharaya, Lerissa, and Elaine at Honie’s house in Roxas

Supper out with the students on Saturday night.  We wanted an “American” supper so we had burgers and fries. The fishery in RoxasThe sunset at the fishery.  This area is normally covered with water, but is drained when they open the dam in order to catch the fish.  Boracay beach sunset