Thursday, 21 February 2013

Big city visit and more about clearing into Philippines

After Bohol and after Sheralee left, we're sailed north to Cebu City. It's quite a big city (800,000 inhabitants) and there is even a marina here! First marina since NZ, albeit it's really small (maybe 15 boats only) and there's no room for any visiting yachts. A couple other boats that we know from Palau are also anchored outside the marine, so it has been nice to catch up and hang out with them. The anchorage by the marina is actually just outside a shanty town. Add dirty smelly water and lots of big ferries driving past, it makes it a pretty unpleasant anchorage, but, the big city with the attractions that comes with that make up for it. We have now already been here six days, but that is about our max dose and we're ready to move on again.
The most important thing we had to get sorted was clearing properly into the country. They (as in various officials) were all a bit unhappy to learn that we had actually gotten some paperwork done by customs and immigration in Surigao, because that wasn't supposed to happen until we had seen quarantine, and there was no quarantine officer there, he had recently died! Anyway, luckily we didn't get into trouble for that, seeing it wasn't our fault. The good thing was that after having seen the quarantine officer at the yacht club and paying the only (as far as we can understand) legitimate fee of 2500 pesos, app NZ$ 70, we went to the customs office instead of having the customs officer coming to see us as is normal. This was good because we had heard from the other cruisers that the officer demanded US dollars, up to $70 for 'fees'. Very corrupt. Most ended up paying less $ and some pesos, but it didn't sounded like a pleasant officer.
We visited Hyde Sails, a big UK sail loft with production here in Cebu City. It was interesting and Phil got some industry gossip. Most interesting for me was to learn the minimum wage here is 349 pesos a day, about NZ$ 10. And their work week is 48 hours!
It did take almost two hours at the customs office getting all the paper work done (including half an hour wait for the right officer), but they were all really nice and even had a TV in their office and the other people there were keen to chat with us. The TV is surely not good for work morale, but they didn't seem to be doing any work anyway. We did end up paying 345 pesos which did seem legitimate enough, hard to say, but thankfully were not outrageous demands of US dollars.
At one of the malls we have been hanging out at, there was this super yummy youghurt ice cream place (OK, I know, I gotta try and cut back, but at least youghurt ice cream gotta be slightly healthier, right...). Anyways, they girls were super nice and chatty and asked us to come back after we had watched our movie, and we ended up chatting with the boss lady (in pink) and got more free ice cream, all while the whole mall was closing down. Also, the girl on the far right would like to let you all know she's single.
Next visit was immigration. We had heard that it was supposed to be free (21 days visa only, extension cost money), but that both the two officers in charge of yacht immigration try to charge 2500 pesos for the privilege. Again, the other cruisers had claimed not to have that much money with them, only just for taxi and a bit extra, and did get away with paying significantly less, so we had prepared for an argument. When they saw us, we immediately heard them repeat yachtie yachtie and some philipino and we saw dollar signs in their eyes, although admittedly we were suspicious from the start...

It quickly became clear there was no legitimate 2500 pesos fee, although they kept repeating something about coming to our yacht to clear us in (to which we argued, but we came here!) and we even signed a paper (unfortunately didn't get to keep it) that said something about that we hadn't fed the officer any meals or given him accommodation, which proves at least there are some measures taken to fight the corruption. In the end they guy kept saying, it's up to you, it's up to you, meaning, it was up to us how much we wanted to pay him! Of course we choose to pay nothing, although they certainly didnt' look happy when we left. We do realise that a lot of things in Asia (and many other places) is done with baksheesh (tips/bribe), but this was just so obviously wrong and corrupt and we did not want to support it.We did go back a few days later and got our extension without a problem, although that at least is a standardised process that other tourists also go through and the fees were clearly printed on a poster.

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