El Nido Series

An Unusual Treatment at La Banane

Wednesday, February 06, 2013Ryan Mach

I prefer staying at hostels when I go out of town alone because I don't really feel comfortable sleeping inside the hotel room without any living company. My previous solo escapades forced me to spend a night or two inside a room all by myself. First was during my solo trip in Legazpi and the second was when I went solo in Boracay. Both stays were possibly the loneliest experiences I've had so far. While I enjoy every peace and quiet I get from spending some alone time inside a silent space, the absence of noise can be painfully deafening and an unpleasant reminder that going solo does have its drawbacks.

Staying in a hostel is an adventure in itself because you get to mingle with its occupants, especially if you're staying in a dorm. My 2-day stay at La Banane, a relatively new hostel in El Nido that's already making a buzz among travelers, was quite an experience, not necessarily the great kind. The people I met, the staff I interacted with and the hostel per se were all part of such adventure, making my El Nido sojourn highly memorable.

I was able to mingle with the hostel guests all right, but I also had an unusual experience, which I'm calling an adventure, with one of the hostel staffs. It started with an inquisitive greeting ("Yes?" instead of "How may I help you?") when he saw me standing near the gate of La Banane. He was sitting on the steps in front of the reception area. At first I thought he was a she, because he wore a dress (and a revealing one at that). His deep and husky voice soon told me he wasn't a woman. Right from the get-go, I could sense his indifference toward me.

[Door facing the beach]

I didn't quite understand why he would try to push me away by deliberately telling me that the room I reserved the day before my arrival in El Nido was no longer available. He strongly suggested that I should check out a different inn, a run-down and cheap one not far from La Banane. It turned out that he wasn't telling the truth about the dorm room being occupied as I got a bed after talking to the receptionist.

I don't know his name but I remember how he'd look at me every time I'd see him inside La Banane - the look of contempt, almost belittling and condescending, was always apparent on his face.
He was probably not used to seeing a Filipino backpacker at the hostel. The fact that I was the only Pinoy occupant that weekend seemed to have solidified his belief that their hostel should only cater to foreign tourists, hence the cold treatment. He would greet newcomers and introduced himself to other guests, but never to me. He scowled and mumbled as he changed my bed sheet, while occasionally looking daggers at me. He scowled more when I asked for my locker key. Normally, I would easily get livid with such treatment and would call the attention of the manager, but that moment, I simply kept my cool and thanked him after he was done making my bed. So yes, despite his rudeness to me, I was still nice to her. I would nod at him when we met at the common room. I even took a photo of him and told him that he's got an exotic beauty.

On my last night at the hostel, I was invited by two German lads to join a group of Dutch guys having a late-night drinking session at the front yard. More guests came and joined afterwards. I saw him lurking at the door. He probably got curious when he saw me, a lone Filipino guy, talking to foreign guests, laughing and just having a good time. At one point, he even approached us and stood there for a moment and left without a word after a few minutes later.

He was the first person I interacted with at the hostel and he was also the last one I saw before I left. He was sleeping on a bench near the door. It was 530 in the morning, he was deep in slumber - he woke when I creaked the door open. I apologized for the noise I created. He merely grunted and went back to sleep.

I consider this unusual interaction an adventure because it was like being in a battlefield of different sort of emotions - anger, pity, confusion and what-not. Despite the condescending treatment, I never did once flare up, sign that perhaps I've grown more mature. I'm proud to say that it's a battle I've successfully won.

It is true what they say that we'll have a better understanding of ourselves and others when we leave the comfort of our homes and experience the world firsthand. Solo travel is indeed a big departure from the usual routine and becomes an opportunity for learning, having fun and seeing things in a brand-new perspective. I'm pretty sure I'll meet someone like him again in the near future but I won't be worried because I simply know what to do.

I think I do.

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