In my fifty years of existence, I have had the opportunity to visit different places here and abroad. I have gone to different parts of the Philippines. I have gone up, down and sideways. From up north to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte where radio stations from China can be picked up more than the stations in Manila, to down south in Mindanao like Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Davao. I have seen the Mountain Terraces in Benguet and the wonderful Mayon Volcano and its perfect cone. I have travelled by car, boat, ship, plane and train. I have visited other countries like Canada, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
And yet my journeys never seemed to be complete only because I have not yet seen the two most important spots in the country - Boracay and Palawan. I will have to agree that it is quite ironic for someone to visit other countries when one has not yet seen the best the country has to offer. Well, I am glad this sad fact changed this year. When my nephew, Nes Rina, from England came over to marry his fiancée, Lala, he decided to do a beach wedding in Boracay. He invited me and my family to witness the occasion. With free accommodation and food, who was I to refuse, right? We have not seen each other for a very very long time.
On April 4, 2010, unmindful of the stresses in school, it being summer and the school year about to close, I, together with my wife and children joined my relatives in Boracay for a holiday of fun and merrymaking. With my wife and children having gone there a couple of times, I was the first-timer, the aanga-anga in the group, which was not bad for I was the one who truly enjoyed the island the most. Everything was fresh and new to me - the wonderful sight of the retiring sun giving that orangey glow as it rests and hides in the horizon, the sound of the calm turquoise sea, the smell of the breeze blended with the aroma of glorious food wafting in the air, my newly acquired henna tattoo and all that festive mood of music and games all contributing to my delight.
The beach wedding was awesome. The flower girl, the English ward of my nephew's fiancee, was angelic in her white gown. The bride, in her expensive gown looked astonishingly beautiful. The ceremony, set with the setting sun that provided a soft, gentle light on our glowing smiles, was very solemn and yet drew a crowd of curious westerners on the beachfront of Station 1. By the time the couple exchanged I do's, a thirty minute firework display lit the dark night. We had one heck of a party thereafter with a group of local boys playing different kinds of drums providing latino music. We danced and drank the night away. What a way to spend a vacation in that wonderful island.
With Boracay done, the next thing to do was to go to Palawan. The opportunity came last Saturday, November 20. Nitz’ childhood friend, Leslie, who now resides in Calgary, Alberta in Canada, with whom we stayed for two days when we went there after our tour of Banff and Lake Louise, arrived on November 13 with her German-Canadian husband, Gregor. Their itinerary included a trip to Cebu, Bohol and Boracay with Nitz and our daughter Kim. As it is the school’s Foundation Week, I could not go with them. However, the next leg of the journey was a three day stay in Palawan. This time, I had no excuse not to go. So it did not take me a lot of convincing (like as if I needed it) to go with them on this trip. Luckily, Nitz and Leslie were able to get tickets for me that Friday night when I finally decided I wanted to come. The following day, we were on the plane headed for Puerto Princesa.
On arrival, our ride was there waiting for us to take us to the hotel. We had dinner and got ready for the tour the following day. The first trip was a two hour drive to the Underground River – a navigable subterranean river that stretches to 8.2 kilometers of brackish water making it the longest underground river until the discovery of the one found in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. We were greeted by monkeys and a monitor lizard wandering around. Then, we walked inwards to where the site was for two minutes and the mouth of the cave appeared. We took our gears and rode the boat. Oared competently by a lone boatman who serves as a tour guide at the same time, the 45 minute trip was as relaxing as it was enjoyable. One is treated to an awesome display of nature-crafted stalactite and stalagmite formations whose arrangement is not lost to the very imaginative natives. It opens up to a huge cavern they call the cathedral with a huge candle-like figure welcoming you as you enter. To your right you’ll find images of the Holy Family and other icons. Farther downstream, you get to what they call as the market as you’ll find huge figures of cacao, corn, mushrooms, etc. Then it opens up again with an even bigger cavern with a surprising height of 65 meters. As is the nature of these caves, the place is replete with fauna, specifically, bats and other creatures. No, we did not see a snake althought the boatman said there are a few. Truly awesome!
What makes the ride really significant is the humor of the boatman. I couldn’t stop laughing at our boatman who had to speak in English the whole time because Gregor would not understand a thing if he did not. During the last part of the trip, he asked Gregor, who was the one responsible for the light, to direct his light on a piece of stone. He said, “In front of you, you will find an image of Jesus Christ just like the one in the Shroud of Turin. See his face? His nose is bleeding...just like me,” then he says in Tagalog to me, “sir hirap na hirap na ko. Talagang nose bleed na!” (Sir, I’m really having a hard time speaking in English that my nose is already bleeding!). Then, he also pointed at a structure that looked like the back of a nude lady. “She even has a name... Sharon.” We asked, “Sharon? Why Sharon?” Then he said “Stone. Sharon Stone.” He also showed us the water mark during high tide which could be as high as a meter. Then he said, “Even then, the river is still navigable during high tide. So you can come here no matter what time of day. Except 12 noon.” Wondering, we asked, “Why?” “It’s our lunch break, sir.” He also teased the ones just entering. The first boat had about 5 Germans. He said, “Gutten aben. (“Good evening” as it is so dark inside one can only travel with the aid of the flash light that ran on a car battery) I hope you make it.” Then, to the eight Filipino teen-agers, “Hi, enjoy! There were also eight of us when we started.”
Next on the agenda was go to the Mitra ranch, Baker’s Hill and the loom weavers. I tried my hand on the loom and it was really quite an experience. Knowing that these people would work up to a month just to finish a piece and for, I guess, a mere pittance, I felt sad for them. And yet, their glorious smiles never hinted at being sad. Truly remarkable.
The following day, we went to Honda bay to ride a boat and go island hopping. No, we did not really go swimming but did something better. We went snorkelling to watch and feed the different variety of fish that abundantly lived in the corals happy and unfazed by the swimmers who brought food with them. We had lunch, then proceeded to another island and see other breeds of fish swimming. Too sad, we had to leave for the airport and just like that, everything that transpired turned into just wonderful memories we will treasure forever. Palawan, I shall return.
Jack of all trade, master of none.
First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.