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Published: July 14th 2008
Sibuyan We would later understand that it was quite a unique thing to see Mount Guiting Guiting’s 2058-meter (6751 feet) peak
. Clouds usually obliterate the view. But there was something special about that day. The waters were unusually choppy (2 - 3 meter / 6-9 feet swells), a flock of frolicking dolphins tracking the boat and then Guiting Guiting. A long concrete platform, which served as our dock, jutted out into the sea. No sooner had the boat pulled alongside it that scores of porters rushed aboard to bid for business. We inched down the stairwell and out into the brilliant sunshine of a Sibuyan midday.
With more than 700 plant species, 130 bird species and numerous rare mammals and reptiles, Sibuyan was nature-lovers’ paradise. We settled in quickly, at a beachfront hotel, and took off along the beach to explore. The beach itself was a long, curving expanse of golden brown sand now thoroughly littered with debris brought in by the huge waves. We walked along until we reached a spot where the Cantingas River flowed into the sea. Here, a group of energetic youngsters, eager to impress, somersaulted themselves off a sand heap and into the waters. We
spent the better part of an hour being thoroughly entertained by their antics as they struggled to outdo each other.
Rain laid waste to our lofty plans of conquering Guiting Guiting forcing us to beeline thru tiny, winding back roads and trails in search of adventure. We weren't disappointed. It's hard to beat the sight of golden grains of rice between green stalks and jade-colored rivers, the sounds of numerous birdcalls and generally undisturbed nature. Sibuyan ranks high in our list of best nature islands. Exploring aside, we turned our attention to finding a boat bound for Masbate. Everyone we asked had a different departure day and time but they all said that if anyone would know 'for sure'
, it would be Captain Villaganas. Tracking the captain was easy. We were directed thru a maze of streets in a delightful community of flimsy wooden houses with thatched roofs, past a few lazy dogs, energetic children and ultra-curious adults, before reaching Casa de la Villaganas. The captain wasn't home but Wilma, his wife, invited us in. Snacks and drinks appeared almost as quickly as the crowd of curious faces in the doorway and windows. Conversation was easy and wide-ranging. As
it turned out, the Villaganas' were Adventists (as is Vibert) and we accepted the invitation to church. Hours later, back at the hotel, we received a visit from Wilma and Grace. They asked if we had misplaced our camera and it was only then that we realized that our underwater camera, a small silver Olympus, had mysteriously vanished. Apparently, we had dropped it on the beach that morning while watching the youngsters play. Word of the major find had spread like wildfire throughout the community and half of its residents followed us to the home of the hero. A little boy, appropriately clad in a Superman t-shirt, had made the discovery. We rewarded his keen sense of sight and honesty and asked him to show us where he had found the camera. With half the village still following us, we headed back to the beach and identified the spot and there we snapped a few pictures forever digitizing the momentous occasion in history. Our underwater adventures would continue to be captured thanks to the kindness of a little Sibuyan boy
The next day was church. We met up with the family and walked a short distance to the sizeable
building. Service was great. We thanked God for his blessings of safe travels and adventures, kind folks and great food among other things. After church we learned that the boat was leaving early Sunday morning for Masbate. We hitched a ride back to the hotel and saddled up to catch the last jeepney to Cajidiocan - the ‘sail-off’ point for Masbate. Much to our horror, as we were walking out of the hotel, we caught a fleeting glimpse of the tail end the last jeepney. By the time we got to the road, the jeepney had disappeared around a bend. Flagging down the next tricycle, we ordered the driver to ‘catch that jeepney’
. The driver has apparently seen one-too-many high-speed chase scenes in those darn Hollywood movies. He opened the throttle and soon we were flying thru the streets of Magdiwang at break-neck speed honking all the way. Bobbing and weaving like Tom Cruise on a Ducati in Mission Impossible, the driver didn’t let up on the throttle. Lunch and body parts bounced around inside us as we connected again with the road after having been rendered air-borne coming off of a bridge. The road gave way to a slippery
mud track but the sight of the jeepney, far away in the distance, fuelled the driver. We hydroplaned over mud and banked steep and low around corners before pulling up inches behind the jeepney. (Safe travels! Who would ask for more?) The hour-long ride was pleasantly scenic (and soothing for frazzled nerves) sometimes along the coastline and sometimes among the trees and over crystal-clear streams and thru picturesque fishing villages and past fields of rice paddies.
Cajidiocan was sleepy in the afternoon sun. And so too was the coast guard officer. Quite groggily, he managed to tell us that the boat was now scheduled to travel on Wednesday (and this wasn’t even definite). We made the determination, then and there, to head back to Manila the way we had come. The next morning, aboard Montenegro Lines we mused about how when we had said we’d visit Romblon, Romblon again, we didn’t know it would be this soon. We changed to a larger Montenegro vessel in Port Romblon, again COB, but this time we managed to successfully negotiate for an available bunk. The vessel set sail, at about 3pm, bound for Batangas on Luzon and we were told that it
would arrive around 5am. And so, we stayed awake chatting until around 10 pm. Imagine, then, our surprise when the ship’s horn woke us to the realization that we had arrived in Batangas at 12:30 am.
Most of the locals had already scattered by the time we confirmed that this was the correct stop. Now, down in a dimly lit parking lot, we struggled with issues of ‘where to go’ and ‘what to do’. Finally, we settled on trying to head to our original destination, Legaspi in Southeast Luzon. One driver told Shanna that we’d have to make the 4-hour journey north to Manila and then take another bus back down south to Legaspi. We were in the south. That simply didn’t make any sense (especially since were irritable from lack of sleep). Another driver suggested we ride his bus to “Turbina” in the direction of Legaspi and then connect on another bus. This sounded plausible. The following is the remainder of that conversation. It would take us a few days to find the humor in that discussion. We simply weren’t in a jolly mood at that time. Vibert
: It’s now 1 am. How long to Turbina? Driver
Reach Turbina 2:30 am. Vibert
: Is there bus station in Turbina or place to stay? Driver
: No, you stay by small gas station. Vibert
: Is gas station open? Driver
: No. But you safe. Vibert
: What time is bus from Turbina to Legaspi. Driver
: You got watch? Vibert
: Yes (and shows his timepiece) Driver
: Ok. You wait at Turbina and when bus for Legaspi come, you look at watch and then
you know the time. SAY, WHAT??
Quite angry, we stomped out of his bus.
How did the story end? Well, a tricycle driver informed us that a bus in Legaspi’s direction departed Batangas at 5am. Then, he took us to the only hotel open at that time - a place of questionable commerce and where rooms were available by the hour - and we spread every piece of bed covering we had over the sheet and pillows and passed out from sheer exhaustion.
😊 The Family Villaganas
😊 The honest youngster and his family
😊 The tricycle driver in Sibuyan
😊 The tricycle driver in Batangas “You got watch? …”
It’s funny! NOW.
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