The Philippines! Palawan, PART 6: In Search of Crocodiles

I managed to save only 3 photos from this trip, and only because I was able to upload them in my Facebook account years ago

I managed to keep only 3 photos from this trip, and only because I was able to upload them in my Facebook account years ago

It’s my second time to spend holy week in Palawan. The first time around, I had been riding all day in the general direction of the south and by afternoon had decided to call it a day and spend the rest of it in an inn by the main road.  I usually went for accommodations by or near a beach or ones that had some kind of peculiar charm, but considering the time of the day plus my general physical state, I couldn’t afford to be choosy.

And so I ended up reaching as far south as I had ever been in Palawan only to spend the rest of the day and evening in an unremarkable inn by the road with nothing to do. I went outside to see whether there were any small stores with a bench where I could loiter and perhaps chance upon anyone to talk to and indulge my fondness for local stories and anecdotes. But I could only see the long stretch of road and a sporadic line of middle-class houses lining it in either direction.

My room was in the attic and was the cheapest available. After unsuccessful attempts to get any sleep, I went down to the canteen and sat by a corner. One of the lady attendants was sobbing over a particularly violent scene in The Passion, which was playing on television.

I got into talking with the place’s visibly bored security guard who I asked for some information regarding this neck of Palawan. He said that before becoming a security guard, he used to work at Tumarbong River catching stuff in the night (I have forgotten what exactly). But then his sudden brush with death made him leave the river for good. “One evening”, he recounted animatedly, “I was hunting near Tumarbong Falls, when I noticed a creature just several feet away”.

I asked, “What did you see?”

“A big crocodile!”

That really caught my attention, “Really? How big?”

He held one hand at eye level like a salute and the other hand palm-up at knee level.

I said, “Oh, that long. A young crocodile”

“No, sir! This was how thick it was!”

I succeeded in suppressing a spontaneous laugh. I wasn’t sure whether he was joking. I said, with unintended skepticism “Really?”

 His reply was immediate and emphatic, “Of course, Sir! Why else would I be a security guard now??”

Much later, After gulping down a cup of instant noodles and a Gatorade at exactly midnight (I had been staring at both since 11pm), I went to sleep with my mind filled with giant sunbathing crocodiles. I did not have any access to the internet where I could check on the guard’s story, though I vaguely recalled news stories of crocodile attacks in a river somewhere in Palawan.  I was also aware that the rare and endangered Philippine Crocodile could be found in the wild in this province.

At sunrise, I went on the road holding a crudely drawn map courtesy of the security guard and missed the entry point to the river at least 3 times. It was thanks to the left-right-right-left directions of a boy I met near a small wooden house where I left my motorcycle that I eventually found myself lost in the forest for a couple of hours;  as clueless to the direction to the falls as I was to the way back where I came.

I decided at that point that I would have better luck at finding the river than the road, so I wandered some more, keeping my ears on the alert for the sound of flowing water.  Instead, what my ears picked up were the sound of leaves rustling and the agitated barking of a fast- approaching dog. I ran around in circles in frantic search for a stick to defend myself with, and ended up picking up a long, pathetic branch no thicker than my pinky with some leaves still hanging from it. Great. Maybe I could tickle or fan the dog to keep it from attacking me. The dog’s crazed barking was interrupted by a man’s authoritative shout from afar and they emerged up a slope seconds from each other. The white-brownish dog barked at me again fiercely, with raging animosity in its eyes. His master scolded him and its face instantly transformed into what bordered on angelic, with tongue hanging limply and wearing what seemed like a big smile. It was as if a switch had been flicked that made him pop out of demonic possession. He actually looked quite adorable. What a relief.

The old man had thinning hair that he wore long past his shoulders. He was very gaunt and was wearing jogging pants cut off at the knees. He was dripping wet. If I remember right he told me later on that he was in his mid-fifties though he looked much older than that.

Good morning, I’m looking for Tumarbong Falls, can you tell me where it is?”, I asked.

Tumarbong Falls is way over there”, he said, moving his hands behind him in a shooing motion to emphasize the distance.

“Can you show me?”

“Come, I’ll accompany you”, he said, as he bade me to walk down the river.

When we reached the water, I saw a half-naked, old woman, with 2 teenage girls bathing.  “We were all bathing together when our dog ran away to meet you”, He said.

We proceeded to walk away from the group. “Did you see my wife?”, He asked.

I said, “Yes, I saw her”. I tried not to look behind me to avoid having to see the old woman’s breasts glistening in the sun again.

He added, “She’s the young girl to the right”

That made me turn to look behind suddenly, and a few yards from the old woman, I saw his young wife looking back at me.  She must have been 15 years old. She was quite pretty.

Pride was written all over the old man’s face when I turned to him again. I looked at his wife again. Then I looked ahead at nothing in particular while I tried to switch to a different topic in my head.

The Scream

The Scream

“A lot of land around here is for sale”, he said. “If you want to buy any, I can talk to the katutubo (indigenous people) who own it and arrange the sale.”

I said, “Yes, it would be nice to own a place by the river”

He said, “The main reason people buy property here is not to build a house. They buy property here because of the gold.”


“Isn’t that why you’re here?”, He asked

I said, “No.  I want to go to Tumarbong Falls and maybe see a giant crocodile”

“Who told you there were crocodiles there?”

I said, “A guy I met yesterday”

“That’s a myth.”


He said, “That was just a myth spread by Bruno to keep the locals away from Tumarbong Falls where a huge cache of gold was hidden.”

Oh. The plot thickens.

“Who’s Bruno?”

“He’s a Spaniard who had a map of the gold treasure left at the falls during Spanish times.”

I said, “The guy from the inn said he saw a giant crocodile here with his own eyes. I was thinking maybe I’d see some wild ones or ‘the’ crocodile itself.”

He said, “Maybe he was referring to a dummy they put there to keep the locals away”

I wanted so badly to vigorously scratch my head. But decided against it.

I said, “And the treasure is still there?”

“No, they’ve already taken it. They brought a boat here all the way from the mouth of the river and hauled it away”.

The dog had been stalking us running by the riverside above and sometimes at our level, disappearing and reappearing out of rocks and the woods to catch up. Sometimes he was compelled to wade into the water so he wouldn’t lose us. He kept a wide berth between us and himself like a Secret Service agent.

“But!”, He added , “If you can give me P50,000 to ‘rent’ a piece of land I know, I can pretend to work that land while actually looking for gold I know is stashed there. I’ll give you half once I find it.”

“What makes you sure there’s any gold there?”, I asked.

He replied, “It’s a secret my father told me. We have a map.”

I was beginning to think he had been watching way too many Hollywood movies on pirated DVDs (quite abundant and ubiquitous in the Philippines).

We rested for a while by the riverbank. The dog watched us from the other side, half-submerged in the clear water.

The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard

I asked, “Have any outsiders taken interest in the gold here?”

He said, “Oh, yes, Robin Padilla (a popular actor) himself had visited this place on account of the gold.”

The old man liked to talk. He said that he was originally from Pampangga, a province in Central Luzon, and that he and his father had moved here years ago and settled with the indigenous people in the area. We hiked the rest of the way and his stories revolved around land, gold and Spaniards. He was quite entertaining.

I eventually found myself standing in a very small clearing beside the river where Tumarbong Falls could be seen. It was not an especially remarkable waterfall. Looking around the area, the place we were standing on seemed to be the only spot on that side of the river where you can view it. The area was lush; And you’d have to swim across to get to the other side. The river seemed deep and inviting, but not having checked the place in the internet before coming, I chose the security guard’s story over the old man’s. I wanted to see a crocodile. I didn’t want to be inside one.

Nope, I didn’t see any crocodiles nor gold that day.  Just the oldest pair of naked breasts I’ve seen in all my life.

(To be continued)


The Philippines! Palawan, PART 5: The Iwahig River; The Attempt to Eat a Snake



For some reason, I would always feel as if I owned the place I am currently at, especially when there was no one else around. What does it matter who owned the title or rights to the property. I’m there. They’re not. So for the few hours that I spend in any magnificent place, it’s absolutely mine for as long as I’m there, even more so than the legal owners who aren’t even around at the moment to enjoy it.

The past two days, I have so far owned a couple of hectares of beach property and a piece of forest with a waterfall. And looking further back I have been the owner of several mountains, countless coves, caves, forests, islands, coral gardens, lakes, rivers and a few houses. If you think of it, no possession is permanent anyway. You will most certainly have to part even with your legal possessions one way or another. By virtue of what others would probably consider a delusion, I’m therefore one of the wealthiest people I know. Mere pieces of paper are no match against the deep-seated sense of ownership I would feel over a place. My feelings are my proof of ownership.

I don’t know how long I had been staring at what looked like a Begonia which had grown from a rock moistened by perpetual spray when I was dislodged from my reverie by a bird announcing itself with a wild call that sounded more like the howling of a monkey in heat.

It’s just as well. It was time to move on.

Back to the road.



I have grown used to the curious looks I get from other riders, which I’m sure are on account of the conspicuous armor over my legs, arms and hands, which look inordinately paranoid in provincial outskirts where a lot of riders don’t even bother to wear helmets, and where you would often see a family of four in a motorcycle (sometimes with one of them clutching a dog or a couple of chickens). I owe all of it to  my rather memorable introduction to the motorcycle years ago…

“These are the brakes. This is how you change gears, try it..”, The tricycle driver demonstrated. He owed me driving lessons. After all, this was all his idea. He hurriedly drove to this motorcycle rental before I could say anything; And I never said I knew how to drive a motorcycle.

“Ok, try driving a few blocks”, said the tricycle driver. My motorcycle lurched like a startled horse and I drove in circles in front of them in quick hiccups of uncertainty as I kept squeezing on the breaks to make sure they’re working and to keep my speed down. The tricycle driver and the attendant watched me with expressionless faces.

“Will you be able to manage to drive all the way to Sabang, Sir?”, asked the tricycle driver.

“Sure”,  I replied, with all the confidence I could manage to feign.

The following day, I returned the motorcycle badly broken and scratched; And although the damage were for the most part cosmetic, involving side mirrors  mudguards and paint, I still shelled out at least 1,000 pesos to compensate the owner. “Sir, ano nangyari sa inyo? Ok lang kayo?” I was glad that the attendant seemed genuinely more concerned with how I looked than how their motorcycle did. I had a severely bruised knee under my muddy jeans. My grotesquely skinned palm was hidden under a bloodied handkerchief tied around it, and I had abrasions and gashes over my arms. I had crashed in every possible way over the course of my trip. I crashed when my bike stalled uphill, causing my big bag to drag me sideways, making me hit the pavement with my right knee bearing most of the brunt of the fall. I picked myself up and performed a Jim Carrey-esque little dance on account of the pain before I walked the bike to the side of the road and give myself time to contemplate how utterly stupid I must have looked. In another instance I hit the front breaks while speeding over gravel, sending me and my bike sliding side by side over the road for a few meters on my arse and one hand, bloodying my right palm. Several kids who witnessed the whole thing, rushed to me and made an excited inventory of the damages incurred by my bike. “Hey, look, the side mirror is broken.” “Hey, look, the mudguard is broken”. “Hey, look, this footrest is bent”, and so on and so forth... “Ang galing!”, one of them exclaimed. In my mind, I was like,” Ano kaya magaling dun? Dagukan ko kayo isa isa dyan e.” 

I could more than hear their recounting of the spectacular accident while I picked minute rocks that have embedded themselves all over my bleeding palm.

These were just a couple of incidents among several, involving a couple of shallow ditches, and the need to remind myself in ensuring I’m already ON the motorcycle BEFORE starting and hitting the gas, if I don’t want to be dragged by the arms by a lurching bike without me on it and look like an absolute idiot in front of people (although they seemed to find it quite hilarious and entertaining). I decided against the initial impulse to take a bow before my delighted audience after picking my bike and myself off the ground at a food and souvenir area at Sabang.

And so I will endure a thousand stares and looks elicited by my outfit if it will keep my blood inside my body where it belongs, and save me a trip to the hospital or the morgue.


All mine

After riding over dirt roads gently winding through forests, I’m back on the main road. I noticed a tarpaulin sign offering ‘Firefly Watching’ and ‘Mangrove Tours’. I severely doubted if I would see a single firefly under the blazing sun, but I had always enjoyed riding on small boats , and I desperately needed distraction from my growing hunger.

I was told by the quide that they fought for the preservation of the mangrove forest that flanks this river

I was told by the guide that they fought hard for the preservation of the mangrove forest that flanks this river


I am told that this place is quire a hit with tourists in the evenings when the place is lit up by nothing but the stars and thousands of fireflies

My guide said this place is quite a hit with tourists in the evenings when the place is lit up by nothing but the stars and thousands of fireflies


Hah! Just as I had predicted. Not a single firelfly in sight

Mmmm, flowers. I wonder if they’re edible


snake pwn 11.22.11

What the park lacked in fireflies during daytime, it made up for with quite a number of these bright-colored snakes lazing over branches of mangrove trees

According to my local guide, these snakes are called Binturan. They ate small bats and lizard eggs. My stomach groaned at his passing reference to diet and nutrition.

I said, “It sure looks tasty. Can I eat it?”

(To be continued)

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 4: Be Good To Me, Friday

The caretaker was having Pancit Bihon (thin rice noodles) and sliced bread when I found him in a small dining room-cum-kitchen. I heard my stomach whimper. How much do I owe you? The caretaker looked unprepared for my question and glanced at the ceiling. Sir, 180 will do, looking uncertain as he turned to look at me in reply. I had just finished packing my things after a walk around the beach savouring the fresh morning air. The owners were arriving soon, I was told, and it was time to leave.

I had to wake up early to make further exploration of the place possible which was as deserted as I had found it when I arrived the previous afternoon. I sat by a rivulet of unearthly clear water draining into the beach as I watched the blue-gray morning seep into the hemisphere to the sound of hushed lapping of waves and birds trying to outdo one another for the title of Palawan Idol.

rivulet pwn 11.22.11

The road back was serene and practically devoid of any traffic, which made me wonder how the people here traveled to and from the city-hub. I would see the rare jeepney, and some tricycles, but they showed up quite far in between. I was grateful for my rented motorbike which I haggled down to P350 for 24 hours, without which my whimsical itinerary would in no way be possible.

A couple of years ago, I took a tricycle from the airport and asked its driver for directions to the Underground River, Palawan’s main attraction. He told me that since I only had 2 days to spend, I would not be able to make it since I had already missed the last jeep for the day. There’s a solution though, Sir. You can rent a motorbike for P500, His face lighting up, as he turned on the gas and roared his tricycle along the main road, spewing expanding white smoke that rendered the traffic behind us virtually invisible.  We stopped at a garage under big Acacia trees where more than a dozen motorcycles were prominently displayed in neat rows. I bent and stepped off the tricycle. I sat on a red Honda XRM. It looked to be the cheapest among the other bikes on display compared with a few Motocross bikes gleaming and standing proudly out in front. How many hours will P500 get me?

24 hours, Sir, and the gas is on you, Replied the teenager attending to us. The driver seemed quite pleased with himself. You should go for it, Sir. It’s the only way you can get to the Underground River, trust me. I nodded my head slowly in agreement. (I would later find out that he earned a cut from this arrangement).

I’ll take it.

I paid the driver who was now back seated on his tricycle. I threw in a generous tip. Thank you, sir! So, problem solved and everything okay, right?, he said proudly.

Actually, no. I said matter-of-factly as I turned away lugging my big, black backpack towards my bike.

His voice sounded genuinely concerned. Why sir, what’s the problem?

He scratched his head and smiled at my reply.

I said, I don’t know how to drive a motorbike.


I’m riding the very same motorbike this Good Friday as I drove past a sign that said ‘Salakot Water Falls’. I had ridden a few blocks past it before I decided to make a u-turn and check it out.


bridge2 pwn 11.22.11

This bridge doesn’t seem to see that many crossings


rush pwn 11.22.11

This place would be a hit and a great picnic venue if it were more accessible


vine pwn 11.22.11

Deserted but alive with weird birdsong


5 star 11.22.11 pwn

The resort-accommodation is not exactly 5-star, but the ventilation is unbeatable

(To be continued)

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 3: No People, No Hotels, No Food, Noooo Problem

rocky road pwn 11.21.11

The road changed from concrete, blinding white under the sun, to brown dirt, to gravel, to red earth flanked by dense forest. I needed to reach the western coast and still have enough daylight to enjoy the beach and watch the sun bid farewell to this side of the world.

After riding for hours and not seeing a soul except for the occasional rider or pedestrian giving me a curious look, it was delightful to finally see some houses and people. The road was paved again and I stopped by the first Sari sari store I’ve seen  for hours. Over its sparsely stocked wooden shelves were a few canned food and cheap liquor. A clear plastic bag of junk food and biscuits were hanging from the ceiling to tempt kids to part with their precious coins. There were a few sad-looking bananas wilting in the heat on the counter. Gasoline in big Coca cola bottles were prominently displayed on a rickety shelf propped by the side of the road in front.

There were two kids barely in their teens sitting on the bench sharing Tanduay Rhum from a glass. I asked, Where can I find a place to stay around here? They told me to ride further down the road till I hit the beach and I’ll find a resort there offering cottages.

I did find the place they were referring to, but the guy who I found there told me it did used to be open to guests but was now private property. Indeed, the sign by the side of the road had seen better days. The place seemed too remote for tourists to venture to over long stretches of dirt road. He said he was the caretaker of the property and the owners were not around.

May I spend the night here?

I’m sorry sir, we don’t accept guests anymore and the owners and the whole clan will be arriving tomorrow to spend Good Friday here.

My shoulders dropped. I could hear the churning waters and smell the briny sea from where we were and I was irresistibly drawn to it. What’s the nearest alternative that you can recommend? My body felt like it was still vibrating from riding over gravel and dirt. I had to get enough rest to prepare myself for fasting the next day. Sir I think there are places you can check at Apurawan, around 30 kilometers from here. I thought to myself, 30 kilometers of riding to a place he ‘thinks’ there is a place I can spend the night? I said, there’s no longer enough daylight to ride that far. Please let me spend the night here and I’ll leave before the owners arrive.

I’m sorry sir, I can’t do that.

I just need the security of your gates. I’ll sleep on the dirt.

Sir, we don’t have any food to offer you here.

Exellent. “I won’t need any”.

Let me show you to your room, Sir.

I let out the biggest smile I’ve worn in a while.

I quickly changed into fresh clothes while he cleared my room of stacked tables, chairs, and various knick knacks. He was sweeping the floor when I left to do my usual pre-dusk walk along the beach.

And so I walked.


I see trees of green...

I see trees of green…  Do you?


Worm Art

Worm Art


fallen tree 11.21.11

rock pwn 11.21.11

When shadows are longer than the casters are tall, It’s time for a walk




moss pwn 11.21.11
moon pwn 11.21.11


sunset pwn 11.21.11

Feels and smells better than it looks



shore pwn 11.21.11


Gone swimming

Gone swimming

To be continued

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 2: Nay

palawan 4.21.11

The Penal farm was a big place and I didn’t know where to start looking for him. All I had to go by was his full name. I asked no less than 10 people around the farm, including employees and other prisoners.  I chanced upon a gated structure where prisoners were actually behind bars. Several prisoners were let out to talk to me but they were more interested in selling me trinkets, charms, and belts made of snake bones. One particularly pushy inmate kept telling me that his belt can cure back pain. With glaring eyes, like he’d just had way too much coffee, he seemed quite upset that I wasn’t interested in his merchandise. I couldn’t wait to leave.

I asked around a bit more but  failed to find my friend. Maybe he’d been released already.  I took out the prints, 5 in all, and studied them for a while. They were nice shots. I was sure he’d have been quite happy to get these photos. If ever he puts up a Facebook account, I’ve got him covered in the profile pic department.

I rested for a while under a tree wondering where I would ride to next. I studied my map and thought of riding as far as the available daylight permitted. And so I rode.


And rode.

pwn 3.21.11

And rode.

pwn forest 3.21.11

I also thought a great deal.

Under the steady blast of sunshine and explosion of life around me, my thoughts venture to the dark corners of my mind, as if the glaring contrast between them can offer some kind of protection. With the intoxicating aroma of grass, forest, wild flowers and earth filling my lungs, my mind inexplicably go back to the sterile, dreary smell of hospitals, where my mother spent the last 2 months of her life.

I’m trying to understand why some people have to go through the unspeakable suffering of infirmity. I also try to come to terms with the experience of having been by both parents’ bedside and having seen them off when they left this world. I wonder whether parents, who by such time are usually already unconscious, have any need for such companionship.

Around the last week of my mother’s life, she wondered aloud whether she still had a chance of getting better.  She was only half her weight by that time, and was so weak, she could barely lift her hands. She trembled whenever she did. Looking away from me she said to herself, may pag-asa pa kaya ako?. The fear, despair and loneliness in her voice shattered my heart, the same way my heart broke every single day that I saw her health decline.

I remembered how she would merely stare at her favorite food and just manage a spoonful’s worth. I would take away her practically untouched meal  and sneak out of sight where I would stagger through waves of pain and sorrow before I return to her bedside and hope the swelling in my eyes have gone down enough to go unnoticed.

During the most recent times that I had seen her healthy, I was fond of asking her out to eat with my aunt and uncle who lived nearby. My brother and his wife would at times be around as well. I did not talk much at such meals, content at basking in her obvious joy and contentment at being surrounded by family over lunch or dinner. She would talk and laugh throughout, and I would feed off her happiness and would drive home with a smug smile on my face that I wore till I slept.

She was exceedingly proud of her children. I would often catch her over-zealously talking about our praises and achievements to customers in our small Sari sari store. One time, I overheard her telling a neighbor to let us know if ever they needed medical advice because her youngest son was a doctor. I reminded her afterwards that I was merely in ‘premed’ and was not a doctor yet. I was taking up Nursing then, and years later would eventually decide against continuing to Medicine. (‘Nay, Nursing pa lang pinag-aaralan ko, ‘wag nyo naman sabihin sa mga kapitbahay na doktor ako). She reacted by laughing with that hearty, infectious laugh that was distinctively hers.

Throughout the two months that she was sick, I wondered when I would hear that peculiar laugh again. It was frightening to allow in too much hope considering what she was up against. And I eventually paid the price for overindulging in optimism.

I had only a couple of hours of light left of riding and had to consider where I was going to spend the night. I check my map for the most likely place I’d find one. I check my watch, squeeze on the gas, and speed off west, where the sun was slowly heading.

At 70 kilometers per hour, tears run sideways.

(To be continued)

The Philippines! Palawan, PART 1: The Prisoner by the Road


Holy Thursday, 2011, on a motorbike. The road in front of me stretched into the horizon. The wind roared like steady thunder in my ears. The air was warm and thick. Like riding through soothing balm. I can’t get enough of the smell of the air. I keep breathing in lungfuls of the countryside potpourri, trying to make sense out of the pleasant commotion it stirred inside me. Strange and familiar at the same time, it reeked of the ancient and primeval. The mingling sense of recognition and novelty fought one another in a stalemate.  Like bumping into a long lost friend I’ve never met before. Like going back to memories that are not my own.

My destination is the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan to make good on a promise.

The previous year while riding south on the roads of Palawan, soaking in the scenery and the local wildlife (The occasional monitor lizard or bayawak crossing  the road, a flattened snake roadkill  in the shape of an ‘S’, a couple of squirrels darting into hiding, big birds gliding high up in the air), I saw a guy standing by the road with a juvenile python hanging over his neck. I drive past him, but after a couple of blocks I made a u-turn to take a closer look at his pet. The sun was mercilessly beating down on me anyway and he was standing under the welcoming shade of a giant Acacia tree.

He seemed delighted to have someone to talk to and was quite eager to tell me about his pet. It was only half its size when he found it and he fed and grew it to its present size. Nope, it doesn’t bite. It sheds it’s skin after a while, etc.  He said that he was one of the many prisoners in the farm who were free to roam about and attend to farming and other kinds of agricultural work. He was in charge of taking care of itik (wild ducks). I didn’t have to say much to him. He carried the conversion all by himself and talked and talked like it was his first time to do so in ages, while the python over his shoulders watched us with its sleepy indifferent eyes. He said he ended up in prison for hacking a trespasser to death in Quezon Province. That it was deadly boring in the farm and that he longed to be free to go home someday.

I asked him if I could take a photo of his pet python and he was quite delighted to see the resulting image in my digicam’s display. He requested me to take a photo of him together with the python and I haven’t seen anybody as happy as he was upon seeing a few simple instant photographs. He wondered aloud if I could send him prints, and I said sure.  Perhaps in gratitude for breaking the dreadful monotony of his days, he offered to catch me a ‘sqealer’ when I came back. I asked, what’s a squealer? He replied that they were quick-footed, reddish mice with long puffy tails. (Oh. Squirrels.)

Before leaving , I gave him some cash for graciously photographing me with his python. He lit up and flashed an all-teeth, ear-to-ear smile. He said he was going to use it to buy the nicest pair of footwear there is: Islander brand flip-flops. 

A year later, I’m back on the same road carrying photo prints of my homicidal friend with his cold-blooded pal.

(To be continued)