Blessing or Buwisit
I'm not sure if because I was in the middle of reading 'Eat, Pray, Love' that gave me some zen look to it, but I didn't freak out and confronted the counter that I booked my tickets months ago. I just let it go, and instead took delight in the fact that I could choose to go to the Davao tourney (which I didn't), or to the Dumaguete tourney in August, or to Boracay in November when my good friend Zoey visits.
However, the experience left me weak for some reason, unable to move forward or think. They offered to give me free hotel, food and transfer for the night, which would've been the most practical and convenient choice. But I was sure I was gonna get depressed if I get stuck in a room in Manila, alone. So instead, I asked friends who live nearby to let me crash in their place and hang out. Karen Ferrer was generous enough to host me for the night.
We went to beer pong with a bunch of ultimate players and had a lot of fun. The next day I dragged my heavy bags to the airport, checked in without a hitch, and flew to Busuanga.
Off We Go
I met with my roomie Jonjon 'LA' Villareal, stowed our bags at the boarding house in Coron town, rented motorbikes, loaded our backpacks, and took off. Our destination: 35kms, Maricaban Bay.
The landscape was pretty, especially at sunset. Vicky's Place, where we stayed, was facing picturesque islands. It would've been nice to kayak and explore. We had a pleasant dinner of grilled fish just caught that morning, and buttery veggies. We opened our first bottle of wine and congratulated ourselves for arriving scathe-free.
Diving for Dugong
The next morning, a boat picked us up and brought us to Club Paradise, where we had a briefing. We were going dugong watching. We saw huge bats flying overhead; a lot of them were hanging on branches, sleeping, exposed to the sun. We went to a reef an hour away, geared up and dove twice. We saw a turtle feeding on sea grass, and 10 cuttle fish laying eggs on a reef. Just as the sun was setting, we spotted a couple of dugongs from the boat, but when we swam after them, we couldn't find them.
Marooned at Maricaban
At sunrise the following morning, we were supposed to leave for Calauit, but our bikes wouldn't start. The good thing about travelling in your own country is that you'll never have trouble asking for help and you'll never run out of people willing to help you. A total of six mechanics tried to fix our bikes, one after the other. They just walked over and asked what's wrong and lend their hand. It was amazing. That's probably why i was calm throughout, while LA was literally sweating buckets while he used his mechanical skills and kick-starting our bikes to life. He got his bike running, but mine wouldn't, even after they dismantled the carburator, exchanged the batteries, even the spark plugs. As a last resort, we asked the bike owner, Mang Boyet, to go over and fix it. I just snorkelled in front of the resort while we waited, and LA had to take a nap because he was wasted from playing mechanic. Mang Boyet arrived in an hour and fixed the bike in 30 minutes.
I think it was God's way of allowing unfortunate things to happen to us for our own good that our bikes broke at the resort, and that Mang Boyet had to go through all the trouble of coming over and fix them. If we encountered problems later (which we did), it would've been impossible to find help on the road where there are no houses, and there was no cellphone signal to call Mang Boyet. Moreover, after fixing our bike, he decided to escort us to Calauit, just in case we had trouble with the bikes again. Which was great, because the road got much steeper, and much rutted. He taught us how to gun the engine when going uphill, to not hesitate and just press on the gas so the bikes wouldn't stall. He helped me with my bike when I couldn't manage the trail and the bike fell (fortunately i was going so slow that i always had time to plant my feet). He kept our spirits high with his light demeanor, and laughed when i struggled to keep my bike upright but the 500-pound thing was just too heavy for me and the bike would fall on the ground. He said that any foreigner would've just let it crash, but not me. He was our personal angel, guide and cheerleader. As a result, LA just had one minor scrape, when we went up our first steep hill, and his knee banged up against the side mirror. Not a scratch on me.
We arrived in Calauit at 3pm, the perfect time to see the animals, when the sun was getting low, and the giraffes and the zebras got out from the shade. My fatigue dissipated when i fed the eager giraffes, touched a deer's antlers, and marvelled at the graceful stripes of the zebras. I wanted to stuff the small turtle in my bag and bring it home as a pet. It was worth all the trouble.
We biked again and arrived just before dark at Ocamocam resort. It was a secret paradise, with manicured lawn, nice cottages and a white beach. We ate chewy dried pusit and fresh fish for dinner. We finished all the wine while we hung out at the beach, staring at the stars.
The next day, we hired a small boat and went to Black Island. The island had a mountain made of limestone, and it had a big cave with a natural pool you could swim in. The sand was powdery white, and the reef in front was home to baraccuda, clams, moorish idols (si William Defoe in 'Finding Nemo') and other small fishes.
We went back to the resort at lunchtime and shared what was the biggest crab I've ever eaten, it covered the entire plate. A boy sold us this 1.5-kilo crab that morning for only P120!
LA and i were dog-tired but gave each other a high five, by doing that difficult but absolutely awesome adventure.