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Back at the cottage she talks of future plans. Her first priority is to set up communications with the outside world. El Nido has no telephone. Its telegraph office is a small shack with an ancient ICOM Single Side Band (SSB) radio wired up to a Morse key. All telegrams are tapped out to Manila for onwards transmission. Few arrive at their destination. Other resort owners have their own SSB for communications, and many have a direct link to their offices in Manila.

She looks out across the water, "Sometimes I feel so remote . . . so lonely here . . . the only white woman in the area." She laughs. "They call me the Mad Madam of Malapacau, but I that's OK. I half expect it now."

She has other plans: build new bungalows, make a bigger vegetable garden ("I would like to be self sufficient"), improve the water supply, and install a drip irrigation system. "I originally wanted people to share what I was doing, and help out with running costs," she says as she pours a lemon grass tea. "But that's a pipe dream. Now I'm looking for people who want a working holiday in the Philippines."

She can't offer much - little more than bed and board, and a flexible working week of about 20 hours. "I'd like someone with mechanical skills," she says. "A young person looking for adventure, or perhaps an elderly couple looking for peace and quiet."

To the west, shafts of light flash through palm trees as the sun touches the rim of the limestone cliff. Shadows move slowly along the beach. It's time to leave and we say good bye. Lee Ann offers to kill a duck and make duck curry, but we decline - the ghosts of monitor lizards are too strong.

"Gizmo" heads north at 10 knots in a fresh westerly breeze. Astern, on the beach between the dog bone mountains, we can see Lee Ann waving.

Back at El Nido an English tourist stands outside the Mr. Austria Lodge. He is smoking a cigarette and wearing army fatigues and army boots. "It took me 30 hours to get here by boat from Manila," he says. "I've been here an hour and I've seen it all."

We wonder . . . should we tell him?

Allan Miller
7 June 2008

Copyright © 1995 Allan Miller

Article originally published in Fragrant Harbour, 1995

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