! One of these guys showed us some sort of official ID and said he worked for one of the resorts on the beach front so we went with him as it seemed fairly safe bet. Luckily it was, and Chito (you will hear a little more about him later!) took us to a lovely little resort sat on a quiet cosy little white beach owned by a lovely lady named Gizelle. Such a difference from Boracay and yet so close we smiled and settled in to our room, feeling a lot more relaxed than we did on Boracay!
We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach, with a beautiful view across the bay which included a huge passenger ferry that had obviously run aground on the reef and just been left there to rust. In any other place it would have been an eyesore however in this country it just seemed to fit in. The owner did come and find us during the afternoon to ask us what we would like for dinner and upon asking what she had available her reply was simple, "chicken or fish". Ah, steamed vegetables and rice for Lucy then! Although having said that, the food was really tasty and with no other guests it felt like we were staying in someones house and being catered for personally. The following day came some more relaxing and a cheeky snorkel amongst the mangroves at one end of the beach which produced absolutely stunning and eerie under water scenes with the sunlight bursting through the roots. There is a marine sanctuary nearby that is set up to stop dynamite fishing and to try and revive the reef system however we were just too comfortable on the beach in the peace and quiet to get around to visiting it
! Another night of well cooked food and we moved on the next day much more relaxed and refreshed than when we arrived!
We were due to be getting the 9 o'clock jeepney to San Augustin on the North East coast of Tablas the next morning so we had arranged for Chito to pick us up at 8 as you just cant gauruntee that the jeepney wont just leave early because the driver is bored! However 8.30 came and went and Chito eventually turned up to get us to the Jeepney on time...which actually ended up leaving late anyway! Philippino time... Oh well, at least we didnt miss it. A lovely little stop in Looc but there is so much to see in Romblon we just wanted to get moving so a 2 hour jeepney ride around some beautiful coastal roads brought us to San Augustin, a small port town with lovely friendly people and a sleepy atmosphere.
There were two reasons to stop here...one, it was the only port you can get to Romblon Island from, and two, it was close to Calatrava, an even smaller town that the guide book suggested you can go from to get to the Hidden Enchanted Sea, a great sounding spot to visit on our travels. In the evening of our arrival we went to an internet cafe to try and check e-mails (although internet was poor it proved a bit of a hassle) and I got chatting to a very nice gentleman called Rey who was showing me pictures of his house and telling me about his family
. What a lovely chap. We said our goodbyes and went on our way to a little roadside food joint that served cheese sandwiches and noodles, where we also got chatting to a lovely lady named Lucy-Clare, who also told us about her family and offered to give us a native built brush as a gift! Slightly random...but we went to bed feeling so welcome in this lovely little town. Little did we know of the craziness that awaited us the following day....
We (well I) really wanted to get to the Hidden Enchanted Sea so we had a not so early morning and a leisurely bus ride round the coast to Caltrava...well the bus was blaring rave music and broke down at one point but it was pleasant enough! We arrived in another sleepy fishing town from where the guidebook advises you can hire a small bangka to take you to the hidden sea. We wondered down to the port and asked a group of locals about this hidden sea which bred very blank looks on their faces. There were no signs about it and these guys either didn't understand us or didn't know anything about it. Hmmmmm....they asked the port manager...nothing. Are we in the right place? There is only one Calatrava on this island. We gave up at the port and ambled down the seafront to a small cafe where the lady owner and her two guests also had the same blank looks on their faces when asked about it. Oh no, maybe it really isn't here! I tried to describe it to them as the book described it. "It's a small sea, that is not attached to the main sea and is hidden
. You can't see it", I said to them. A bit of back and forth and them speaking in Tagalog and still nothing until one of them said a phrase I half recognised...Rey had told me what it was called in Tagalog the previous evening but I was only half paying attention! "Yes, that!" I said then all three said the same thing...."oooh, tinagong dagat?" Yes that's the one! Tinagong Dagat. "ah ok, yes it's over there". What? They knew about it all along, tinagong dagat translates literally as "Hidden Sea"!!!!! Oh my gosh, what a bunch of jokers! By this point the port manager had come over again and when I said in my broken Tagalog something along the lines of tinagong dagat, he said, "oh, the hidden sea?" WHAT?! are you f*#%ing joking?! Yes, the hidden sea. "oh, we have a poster for that in my office...." and he proceeded to take me to his office round the corner, in which had a big poster with beautiful pictures and in big lettering the two words "Hidden Sea". Right, now we all know what the hell we are talking about, can someone please take us there?! The cafe owner said her husband would take us for what we thought to be a fair price and she called her husband from the back. Through he came with a hammer in his hand (I'm guessing he was doing some carpentry) and was told by his wife to get the boat ready to take us across the bay to the hidden sea...he jumped down to the beach and began emptying what was basically a canoe...great, glad I brought a dry bag! 10 minutes later we were sat in this canoe with this poor guy who looked about 90 and off across the bay...being absolutely drenched as the waves came tumbling over the side of the boat and continued to do so for the following half an hours journey to Tinagong Dagat
. Despite all this craziness and the drenching boat ride, we arrived at a small rocky cove with some steps that led over to the beautiful little lagoon full of sea water. It is called enchanted by some because they believe it to be frequented by spirits and when the main sea is at low tide, the hidden sea is at high tide and vice versa...very interesting and very beautiful for a spot of lunch and some relaxing before the boat ride back. This turned out to not be too bad in the end as we were going with the waves so hardly any drenching involved and arrived back at the beach with a lovely day spent at Tinagong Dagat....this however was only the start of our craziness that seemed to ensue.
The next jeepney was not until 5 so we decided to wait in the shade with some very friendly ladies. Not 10 minutes had passed when a van pulled up and who was it? None other than Rey, the gentleman I had met the previous evening! I'll take to back to San Augustin he said, just jump in...ok, when in Rome! The two guys sat in the front were evicted to the back to sit on top of oil drums...these were actualy 30 litre drums of diesel! Rey had been around the whole island with his sons collecting cheap diesel to sell on for a profit. Oh great, we are sitting on a huge bomb, oh well, when in Rome! Rey told us we had to just drop off the gas at his house before we could head back to San Augustin, so 20 minutes later we dropped of the van at his father in laws house and he invited us to his for some food and a coffee
. Now I know what you are thinking: oh my gosh, I hope you said no! Well actually after doing some reading before we came here, it is very common for Philippinos to invite you to their house for food simply because they want to be friends with you and welcome you...so we said yes :-)
His house was a half built 3 storey spanish style house that was still pretty much a building site. It was set in front of large rice fields with a stunning view and two fountains in the front, one of which was rather large and blue! The top two floors were only just completed and despite the building site, there were pictures of his family, of which he was very proud, and a karaoke machine in the lounge! Not much else, but a karaoke machine obviously a necessity! Through to the huge kitchen we were introduced to a few of his family, his daughter and sons, his cousin and her son and his father in law. We sat down at the kitchen table and drank coca cola and chatted away and he told us a story of one of his sons getting arrested and charged for 'wearing a helmet without a motorbike'! He asked if we were hungry. A little..."I have a traditional Philippino dish for you to try, I love it and I want you to try it". Sounds great, I love traditional Philippino food..."It is rice soup with garlic and ginger.....and cows eyeballs". WHAT?!!!!!!!! The look on Lucy's face was simply genius! Well I don't want to be rude and when in Rome
! So yes, I did eat cows eyeballs and it wasn't actually too bad. Just tasted like chicken. Some more coke and chatting and his son appeared with a giant jackfruit...I mean huge, this thing weighed excess of 6-7 kilos and tasted lovely. "You like it? Oh you must take some home with you then!" Oh god! More stories and chatting and a showing of his dogs puppies that were a few days old and very cute and we eventually got around to karaoke....sat in his living room, taking it in turns to sing songs really was an incredibly interesting experience! He did ask us if we wanted to stay for dinner but we had to pack as we had another early start the next day so we politely declined but asked if we could take a few pictures...then it went mad, his entire family wanted pictures of Lucy for Facebook, of us in various different arrangements of people and in various locations around the house...a tour of the house then followed and a string bag with half the jackfruit placed in my hand and we were ready to get back to our hotel. "oh, you can take my motorbike....I'll pick it up in the morning"! This day is just bizarre....Rey (actually now known as ReyBan by his own request!) was so incredibly hospitable he was actually just going to give us his motorbike to get home on! Luckily I have never ridden a bike so politely declined explaining my ineptitude with two wheeled motors and he just said, "no problem, my son and I will take you on his then!" Yes that is right people, Lucy Perkins actually rode on the back of a 14 year old's motorbike! I was loaded on to the back of ReyBan's, with jackfruit in hand and off we went back to San Augustin after one of the most bizarre yet hospitable afternoons of our lives, along a beautiful coastal road. Arriving back at our hotel we proceeded to chat a little more and he gave us a business proposal to start a beach resort on the island near Calatrava!! Maybe one day....
Sat in our room we were so bemused and intregued by the day we hardly had much to say to each other, other than: "what the hell just happened?!" I'm glad Lucy-Clare never arrived with that brush, that would have just been too much craziness!
A really bizarre, crazy, interesting and completely bonkers day left us tired but very amused and very excited for what was to come next in this wonderful and interesting group of islands known as Romblon. Next stop, Romblon Town, Romblon Island, Romblon....or more easily know by everyone as...Romblon Romblon Romblon!
Getting out of Boracay early morning, we had a short boat journey to contend with which ended up being a bit of an epic 3 hour journey on a small bangka. We wanted to get to Looc on the island of Tablas which is north of Boracay in the province of Romblon. Romblon is four islands grouped together; Tablas, Romblon Island, Sibuyan and Carabao. Carabao is a small white sand beach surrounded island a stones throw away from Boracay so we had decided to save this until last and spend 6 nights there to really relax which meant getting to Tablas first. The boat seemed ok and as it isn't very far from Boracay to Tablas we didnt think anything of it, however we were both sat next to women with children and not on normal seats but on planks of wood about 3 feet long. Not much space, and after 20 mins we were sat right on the end of our respective planks, one cheek on, one cheek off while the children were being breast fed next to us....for 2 and a half hours! It was not comfortable to say the least and capped off by the poor girl sat right at the front being sea sick...all we could do was think off our destination in Looc and the beach we would spend a couple of nights on and eventually we pulled up next to the pier in Looc and got out of the boat...stretched...then were surrounded by several helpful Philippino gemtlemen trying to get our business for their tricycles