Tuesday, March 29, 2005

BANTAYAN ISLAND ADVENTURES

March 24 - 27, 2005

warning: This is rather long... but with a point... I promise. Oh and Happy Easter!

Gypsies, by nature, must roam. To put down roots in one place is unheard of. So sometimes, even the most domesticated gypsy needs to heed the call of their itchy feet. And sometimes, this means having to wander without the rest of clan.

So it came to pass that just this Holy Week, my own Wandering Band took off on our own journeys. Paolo packed a board to explore the coast of Samar while Alex took his to Baler. Ana has been in Tokyo for a couple of weeks. Cat and her family headed to Camiguin. Zeny went home to the Caraga region. Even Millie – who has only been back in the country for two days – managed to take off for Daet. Tals stayed in the city... but she's been traveling nearly non-stop since her trip to Mexico that I think she's kind of hit her quota.

I took off for Bantayan Island, Cebu with my mom. Along for the ride were my mom’s good friend (my Tita Grace ) and her family.

(Fast facts: 1. My mom’s has family on the island and we used to go a lot when my brother and I were younger… especially for the Holy Week. 2. Bantayan has special dispensation from the Pope to serve meat during the week because most of the local fishermen are working on the religious floats. 3. The church at the center of Bantayan's largest municipality dates back to 1580)

And now back to our regular programming.

While I used to regularly visit my relatives there, it had been a while since the last family vacation. Actually, it had been a while since my last trip to the island, period. About four years to be exact with my friend Binky. So I’d not really seen what Holy Week was like on the island for at least seven years.

See, Holy Week is kind of a big thing on the island. Houses are thrown open for visitors. Locals pour into the streets every evening. Antique saints are dusted off and mounted on decorated floats. Processions are held every night leading up to the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Like I said, it’s kind of a big deal. Apparently, a much bigger deal than it used to be -- as tourists have found their way there. Loads. Of. Them.

And this is probably why we had so many “adventures” with local transportation.

Among them were:

- Apparently shipping lines do not adhere to their usual departure schedules during the Holy Week… which made us think we were late for the fast craft… which led to us buying tickets for the RoRo, quite possibly the slowest moving vessel known to man. Tortoises swim faster than a fully-loaded RoRo.

- We were going to go to Malapascua on Good Friday. We’d booked a seaworthy boat (large, twin-engined, etc) to take us there. And then, when it was decided that it might not be safe to travel on Good Friday so we moved the Malapascua trip to Saturday. And of course, because of the sudden influx of tourists our original boat was already booked. Long story short: we ended up taking a smallish pump-boat to the other island. What should have been a 90 minute crossing took us just under 3 hours. Yes, three whole hours.

- On our way back from Malapascua, we decided to go through the mainland and then from the mainland take the fast craft back to Bantayan. (Are you following that?) So we get to the mainland, take a van to the pier… and arrive just in time to see the fast craft pulling away. Lovely.

- We finally wrangled a ride on a boat that can supposedly seat 30 people. The deal? The boatman only gets paid if he makes the trip in 45 minutes. We get to the boat and see that what the man must have meant was that it could seat 30 undernourished children. Maybe 12 fully grown adults, tops. 30? I think not. But hey, he did get us back to Bantayan in just a bit over 45 minutes.

- Remember how I mentioned that the boats don’t run on schedule when it’s Holy Week? We didn’t figure that out until we were on our way home… thinking we would be on the 630am the now-mythical fast craft only to be told that it wasn’t even traveling that day. We landed berths on an express boat which finally left at 730am. To top it all off, we were traveling during the low tide. So just within sight of the harbor we were asked to transfer boats. In the middle of the ocean. Wild. With an H.

But see, despite all of this, I still had an excellent time. Highlights of which include:

- Meeting the Pacheco family who opened their rest home on the island to us.

- Notable as well in the "new people met" department: the Mayor, Travis & Marjorie (Oz-based tourists) and, obviously, Tita Grace's family.

- On the Pacheco property is a cave. Inside the cave is a small pool. The water is clean, clear and warm. We spent the morning swimming there, surfacing only long enough to dry off before lunch. When Tito Jun came to pick us up earlier that day, he told us his wife (Tita Susan) couldn’t join us as she was picking shells. Of course I assumed, he meant decorative shells. Little did any of know that he was alluding to fresh shellfish that she was planning to serve us for the aforementioned lunch. Along with this was fresh grilled tuna jaw, two kinds of pasta, and a dried fish soaked in vinegar locally known as buro.

- The trip to Malapascua may have been a small ordeal but the island itself was incredible. It was too late in the day to dive with the thresher sharks but we did manage to dive a wreck.

- Lunch on the island: Giant shrimp, steamed crab, tamarind soup and hot rice all washed down with a semi-cold San Mig Light.

- Going to the Easter vigil Saturday night. The church lights had been turned off. The only illumination came from candles held in the hands of the faithful, bathing the congregation in a rosy glow that bounced off the sloped ceilings. (Whew, long sentence!) The overall effect kind of took my breath away. It didn't hurt that this was centuries-old building ... history steeped into its very stones.

Bottom line? One thing I truly learned about myself during this trip is that the last few years of traveling have really taught me to just go with the flow… to roll with whatever is happening… to channel the energy that I could use towards griping or whining into looking at the positive side.

Worse things have happened to me on other trips -- like the time the bus broke down and we were stuck in the hot sun for 4 hours... or the ghetto bathroom I had to use where the lady in the cubicle beside me was taking a bath! And that one time I walked from the Vietnamese Village in Palawan all the way to Honday Bay looking for a ride back to Puerto Princessa.

So I allowed myself to feel put out for no more than ten seconds… to whinge if I must… and then let go. Because really, what use is it to let a bumpy boat ride ruin my enjoyment of the view from the Bantayan Marine Sanctuary? Or steal my stoke at going on my first wreck dive? Who benefits from that? I certainly don’t. The people I was traveling with wouldn’t have either. At best, you take it all as a learning experience. (Like I will never again go to Bantayan Island without an airtight transportation plan. Or maybe leave the next trip to a non-religious week.)

Besides, when it all comes down to it – I was on an island with (for the most part) beautiful weather… with good people… enjoying fresh seafood and spending time in the sun.

Some Photos:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Sugar Beach, Bantayan Island.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Zipping on the beach. Hook yourselves up with a pair through Planet Zips.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com Easter Vigil at the church.

More Bantayan Photos are a click away. So... um... click away.

How was your Holy Week?

2 Comments:

Blogger millie said...

love it!thanks for sharing the your crazy adventures with:o)

12:14 PM  
Anonymous annie said...

hello,

stumbled across your sight whilst googling images for sugar beach.

would you mind sharing contact details of resorts is sugar beach if you have them?

thanks a lot!

10:47 AM  

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