Trip to Bohol, Day 2

As you can tell by the delay in this next installment of our Bohol trip story, I’m a bit busy lately. I’m already starting to forget the details about the trip! I now have no choice but to abridge the story a little (which I’m sure some of you actually prefer). With that, I continue my narration.

The next day, we woke up, had breakfast at the glorious beach and decided to cancel our scheduled tour for the day. Instead, we wanted to give the island of Balicasag a look since a lot of people at Alona beach seemed to recommend it. Supposedly, it’s a great place for scuba divers and snorkling enthusiasts. Mind you, Raquel and I were neither but if we want to give snorkling a try, it might as well be in a beautiful spot such as the waters the surrounded Balicasag.

It didn’t take us long to find somebody with a boat to ferry us across the sea to the island. There were numerous locals with boats on that beach. The guy we went with, a security guard/life guard at one of the many resorts there, told us that the fare was P1,000. Not bad since it was also the same discounted offer of our hotel’s grounds keeper from yesterday. The deal was that the boat would take us to Balicasag and wait for us there until we wished to head on back to Alona beach.

We returned to our hotel, got our swimming gear and walked back to the beach. Before we were able to get back to the spot where we talked to the guard, a couple of locals approached us. They were both 20ish, well-tanned from over-exposure to the sun and wore very worn-out clothes and flipflops.

When the two told us that they were going to take us to Balicasag on their boat, I informed them that we already hired someone to take us there. They then claimed that they were the ones we actually hired. I didn’t believe them at first but after explaining that the guard was their friend, that he had asked them to meet us halfway, and that he told them what we looked like, I conceded that they were telling the truth.

The two led us to their boat — a small fishing outrigger canoe (bangka) retrofitted with makeshift seats for passengers. There were life jackets on the boat but we weren’t asked to wear them. Besides, the styrofoam blocks of the jackets that likely made its wearer float were not at all sewn in the jackets. After seeing the state of the boat and its lack of usable life jackets, I started to worry.

The one with the woven hat pushed the boat away from the shore and jumped on board. The pilot, who seemed to be younger than hat guy, pulled the cord of the motor to start the engine. VROOOOM!

We were both surprised by the amount of noise the engine generated. We didn’t pay much attention to it at the beginning though. It was still bearable anyway.

The boat sped off to the small island over the horizon. The shallow green waters suddenly turned deep blue as we got farther away from the beach. Our boat was racing across the choppy sea in that beautiful serene cloudy day.

I couldn’t supress my smile. I was thoroughly enjoying every moment of that boat ride. I love the feeling of blowing wind on my face, as well as the light spray of water on my skin as the boat plowed through the waves.

However, my smile began to falter after what must be 15 minutes on the boat. The beach behind us has receded from our view while we didn’t seem to have gotten any closer to Balicasag island ahead of us. It didn’t help any that the waves started to grow bigger with every passing minute.

I thought to myself, it would be very bad if something were to happen to the boat and we get stuck there in the middle of the ocean. Then, it happened! The motor stopped.

Raquel and I both looked at the pilot behind us for an explanation. He seemed just as baffled. Hat guy strode across from the front of the boat to the rear to talk to the pilot in their native tongue. After a brief discussion amongst themselves, hat guy turned to us and said: “Sir! Yung propeler, durog! (Sir! the propeller, it’s destroyed!)”

He held out what looked like a small spare propeller in one hand and a rust encrusted wrench in the other. He told us that he just needed to fix it. Just? He removed his hat then jumped into the water while the pilot looked on.

Clang! Clang! Clang! You could hear hat guy banging away underwater as he supposedly fixes the broken propeller. Great. The waves were growing stronger and we were stuck halfway between the beach and the island with no life jackets. If hat guy couldn’t fix the motor, we didn’t even have oars to paddle our way back to the beach. I looked around and decided that if we ever capsize, Raquel and I could always jump for one of the bamboo outriggers of the boat. It would be a long swim but at least we would be afloat.

After what seemed like an eternity, hat guy emerged from the water and boarded the boat again. The pilot gave the motor cord a pull and we were back in business. We were back on course toward Balicasag.

Another 15 minutes or so passed and the sea around us turned green again as we entered more shallow waters. I could now definitely see the trees on the island more clearly and I even saw a water tower. We were definitely almost there. Just as well. We were starting to find the noise of the motor unbearable.

We saw another boat just floating a few meters away from the island shore with people scuba-diving around it. The water was no longer choppy and it was crystal clear. I thought it was perfect for diving, definitely.

Soon, we saw the Balicasag Island Diving Resort, the only resort on the small island. It was so small that we were able to circumnavigate the island’s beach on foot in a matter of minutes.

We finally got off the boat after “docking” near the reef-like beach of the island. Hat guy told us to do what we wanted to do in the island. Him and the pilot would just wait for us to come back. Apparently, there is also a small village on the island and they are friends with the locals there. They were just going to hang out there with their buddies to play pool, have a siesta, have a drinking session or whatever it was they do there.

Before we went snorkling, Raquel wanted to explore the island first. So, we walked beyond the resort grounds and found ourselves in a small village right there on the small island. There were nipa huts, a small wooden stall that served as a sari-sari store, pigs in pig pens, goats tied up to a short stake on the ground, etc. I actually loved every bit of it. It reminded me of other small towns along Manila’s outskirts that I’ve been to and loved when I was younger.

However, I felt uncomfortable being a stranger there at first. Who knew what the locals were thinking as we strode through their village. Were we trespassing? Were we welcome there? Would they solicit money from us because we were tourists? Surprisingly (at least for me), the people there were actually very nice. The children greeted us cheerfully in English, some of the older ones just smile and the rest didn’t mind us being there at all.

When we got back to the resort, we hired some snorkling gear and an instructor. He instructed us to breathe with our mouths through the pipe would remain exposed above water while we were swimming and not with our noses. I already knew this beforehand yet still found it very difficult to follow that instruction. It was tough trying to override my instict to breathe through my nose.

After teaching us the basics at the resort, we started walking toward the beach. As we neared the beach, I kept looking for the boat we would board. I was surprised when the instructor continued on walking past the coral-laden beach and in to the shallow waters. There would be no boat. We would do our snorkling right then and there. Raquel who doesn’t swim much to begin with was closely supported by the instructor while I was left to my own devices for the most part.

I thought that snorkling would be a wonderful experience. To be able to see what was underwater like I was above ground would have been spectacular. I only then realised that without my glasses on, my view of the ocean floor wasn’t as clear as I had envisioned. I also found myself fighting the somewhat strong currents that day. Even though I was swimming with all my might, I was only moving slowly in the direction I wished. After a few minutes of struggling against the waves, I started to feeling exhausted and my muscles began to ache. I had to stop. I just stood on one of the underwater boulders and dipped my head underwater to look at the small fishes around me.

Meanwhile, Raquel was guided by the instructor to the place he called “the wall.” It must be where the border between the shallow corals and the deep ocean floor. Raquel soon returned because she was also having a tough time snorkling. We eventually decided to give up snorkling and just return to dry land. We figured that we still got our money’s worth.

After having lunch at the resort and taking a few minutes’ rest, we felt it was time to leave the island. Just as well. While on the boat, as we left Balicasag behind us, the sky grew dark. Clouds began to gather, the wind blew stronger and the water grew rougher. Our boat was literally skipping across the waves as we sped off toward Alona beach which seemed to be very far away still. I looked back and I could still see that Balicasag island was still quite big in my field of view. That meant we hadn’t gone far yet and we were still a long way from the beach.

The weather was worsening by the minute. It started to rain as well. While we were being drenched and rocked about in that wild water ride, I tried hard to forget the incident we had earlier concerning the boat’s propeller. I was just happy that the propeller broke off earlier when the sea was calmer as opposed to that moment in time. I just told myself that it was unlikely to break again because it had just been fixed.

As if the weather and the state of our boat weren’t enough to make me nervous, another boat much like ours was speeding through the waters from our right and apparently, in an intercept course. There were six men on the boat and they were all wearing makeshift hoods (extra t-shirts wrapped around their heads and covering their faces). I hoped to God they weren’t what I thought they were: pirates.

Just when I thought the other boat was about to block our path, they continued straight on their original heading. Whew. They weren’t pirates after all. Probably just fishermen fleeing from the worsening weather. They probably had hoods on to keep their heads dry from the rain.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the water began to calm down and the sky partially cleared. Soon, the water was shallow once again and we could clearly see the beach ahead of us. I was so happy when we got back to the beach that I almost kissed the ground. We paid the boat guys and left the beach partially deaf from the terrible noise made by the boat’s motor during the trip back.

I thought it was enough excitement for one day. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the calm and controlled water environment of the hotel’s swimming pool. It was a wonderful way to end a very stressful day.

Published in: on March 1, 2007 at 10:10 pm  Comments (4)