Sleeping on the floor of a hut on an uninhabited island was a new thing, and we did it in El Nido.
Earlier that night, our group of five tourists and three boatmen dined on an assortment of grilled and fried things; our only source of light was a piece of cloth stuffed inside a bottle of Coke filled with gas. There was a guitar, and the guys who were steering our boat earlier were now belting out Freddie Aguilar songs over copious amounts of rum coke. One of them was marrying the love of his life soon and seemed jittery about it; the other one kept poking fun at him. Our guide also told eerie tales from the islands (“May araw talaga na mangunguha ang dagat“), and one of my friends got help finding her way to the bathroom from somebody who looked like one of our other friends.. who happened to have been somewhere else at that time. We stayed long enough to see the moonrise, until the sky went completely dark and we decided it was time to retire to our hut. That was Owen’s birthday salubong, the end of the only sunny day we would have in El Nido.
And we didn’t have a single photo to show for it.
So it probably did not happen, depending on your life’s beliefs. After all, this was fabled El Nido, where anything from the mundane to the magical to the eerie can happen.
So how is El Nido, that fabled place north of Palawan, when it decides to rain?
First, it doesn’t, and you are hopeful.
After all, you did sit through the eternity that it took to reach this place. You’ve read all there is to read online about it. Everyone wants to be here. Everyone who’s been here wants to return. A lucky few who visited have never left. So yeah, you’re damn optimistic and you can blame everyone but yourself for it. Continue reading “Drenched tales from El Nido”→
We had one reason for visiting the town: to see the sardine run. At the end of two dives—one at Pescador Island and one at the reefs just off Panagsama Beach—we were left awestruck. It was, by far, one of the best dives we’ve ever had. It’s right up there with seeing such trophy creatures as the thresher shark in Malapascua, and lots and lots of sea turtles in Apo Island.
We would be spending three weeks in Cebu, yes, so we knew we would be visiting the town eventually. We just did not plan on doing it that soon.
We were inside a bus approaching Cebu City, having just come from a week-long stay in ATM-less thresher-shark-filled Malapascua Island. We only had P20 left in our pockets, which could carry us only as far as the nearest mall to replenish our funds. It was nearing dark, we had already been traveling for more than five hours, and we had psyched ourselves to collapse into sleep as soon as we arrived—which, until that moment, was supposed to be less than an hour away.
Apparently, that did not happen.
Somewhere along Mandaue before the bus could even reach the terminal, we decided that, yes, we would be going to Moalboal that same day. This meant another three hours on the road. But what the heck! We wanted to see the sardine run!
The water was crystal clear, the visibility wickedly great. And right in front, below, to the right and left, and finally, behind, are the world’s biggest fish. Four, five, six—it was useless to even count. And they didn’t look like they were going anywhere else.
We had a lot of reservations before finally taking the plunge—literally—to Monad Shoal in Malapascua, northern Cebu to see its thresher sharks.
This tiny island barangay is the only place in the entire world where sightings of this shark species are regular and gratification for those who make the trip is thus fairly guaranteed. But our lack of diving experience—and confidence in taking that plunge to Monad Shoal—was something we still had to deal with. The biggest creature we’ve seen in the few dives we’ve done before this was a meter-long sea turtle in Apo Island. That was definitely a far cry from a shark encounter. Once it had become clear though that we were allowed to dive if we really wanted to, we decided to give it a go. Continue reading “Diving with thresher sharks in Malapascua, Cebu”→
“Ma’am, sir,” our Butanding Interaction Officer, Manong Henry, addressed us slowly, choosing his words carefully,”Gaya ho ng sabi namin kanina, wala pong kasiguruhan na makakakita tayo ng butanding ngayon. [Just as we had told you earlier, we cannot guarantee seeing whalesharks today]”
It was nearly lunch time. The sun was boring down on us, a group of nine on a boat bobbing off the coast of Donsol in Sorsogon. The ocean breeze was making me sleepy, and, even as our last meal was nearly four hours ago, I wasn’t feeling hungry at all. Or maybe I was, but the hunger wasn’t nearly as bad as how my heart had felt that moment, hearing the words come out of our guide’s mouth.
Sea turtles have always fascinated me, and their elusiveness in all our trips underwater made us want to see them even more. This is why we decided that, for this year’s first trip, we would have to just go and see them where they are known to be abundant.
We’ve been here in Apo Island since yesterday, and there has been no shortage of amazing sights since. But this one—taken this afternoon during our second dive at Rock’s Point—has got to be THE BEST of them all.
Our dive master Jed spotted this enormous sea turtle sitting on soft coral at a depth of about 10 meters, keeping the three of us busy for the next five minutes. We’ve done two dives today and saw a total of six turtles in all, plus three more yesterday when we were snorkeling. Forgive us for gushing too much but Apo Island is just SO AMAZING!
Btw this is a screenshot from a video taken with the equally amazing GoPro Hero 3. Loving this powerhouse so far! So glad we got it just in time for our year’s first dive. :)
Here’s a rough cut of our two dives at Chapel’s Point & West Rock Point:
Today we went back to school. Our classroom was about 20 feet deep, our tools heavy and bulky and very complicated. Screw this, pull that, inflate this, release that. Right now, our muscles are aching from all the finning and kneeling we had to do. Our minds are reeling from all the jargon and the exercises we had to master. But we are thrilled more than anything.