Editor's note: This is fifth and final part in a series of dispatches from the Philippines.
After meeting with Marybeth in Lanuza, our crew headed back to Butuan City, where we split up â€“ Paul to Manila on his way back to the UK, and Fel, Lito and myself to Cebu. Fel, a pride program manager for Rare, was nice enough to stick around in Cebu with me for a day and take me to the wet and dried fish markets in the old part of the city, where we could see the flip side of overfishing in the Philippines.
Cebu, the oldest city in the country, is the site where Ferdinand Magellan landed in 1521. He converted a few hundred native people to Catholicism before being killed in a battle a few weeks later, but his legacy endures: the Philippines is quite possibly the most Catholic place Iâ€™ve ever been, and Iâ€™ve been to Rome. Every office building includes images of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and religion is woven into even the fashions of the young Filipinos, like the rhinestone cross earrings I saw on a young woman on our jeepney ride to the market.
The central market in Cebu encompasses several blocks of ramshackle stalls containing everything from bursting funeral flower arrangements to cages full of fighting roosters. Hereâ€™s where you can buy one of the Philippinesâ€™ famous street food delicacies: balut, or a fertilized duck egg hardboiled and eaten at three weeksâ€™ gestation, feathers and all. (I didnâ€™t have one. I earned my stripes the previous day by tasting several varietals of durian, a fruit so foul-smelling itâ€™s often banned from taxis and public buildings. â€śSmells like hell and tastes like heavenâ€ť is what they say, and while the smell was pretty revolting, the fruit itself wasnâ€™t half-bad. Our van smelled like roadkill for the next two hours, though, so the value of this experience was questionable.)