Certified to Rescue

Trip Start Feb 10, 2013
Trip End Sep 18, 2013

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ivys vine and dive resort

Flag of Philippines  , Mimaropa,
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The fourth island in Romblon Province, furthest south and closest to Boracay...only know for its beaches and diving. Let's have 6 nights there!

Setting sail from Magdiwang port, leaving Sibuyan behind us, we had a bit of a mission on our hands. We had to get from the north east of Romblon Province to the south west. The only way to do this was to reverse our entire tour of the island group... in one day. I guess the reasoning behind this was simply that after 10 days of touring Romblon, we wanted to hit a beach somewhere and relax and Carabao seemed the perfect option so this is why we essentially hit the first geographical island last. The ferry left Magdiwang at 10.30am and, via Romblon Town, arrived in San Augustin at 3pm. This was potentially quite late for jeepneys, however there was one waiting for us at the pier and despite there being no visible spaces on board, we clambered in and nestled ourselves between some friendly locals. Jeepney back to Looc which eventually arrived at around 5 and we had to spend a night here, no more ferrys to Carabao until the morning! Oh well. We wondered over to a guest house in the centre of the town that is suggested in the guide book and were welcomed by a very lovely and very American owner and her husband who brewed us fresh coffee (a real rarety in the Philippines) and showed us our lovely aircon room with a balcony. This was just what we needed and headed out for some early food and a good nights sleep...the jeepney tomorrow is at 7am!

6am brought us more brewed coffee, plentiful supply of bread, cheese and fruit and rather a lot of conversation for such an early time of day bur no worries, we knew within a few hours we would be on a quiet beach. So we mooched off to the jeepney station to get the jeepney around to Santa Fe on the south coast of Tablas, the only port that takes you on to Carabao however when we arrived at the station, the driver told us he wasn't leaving until 8...Philippino time strikes again! Nevertheless we eventually got moving, on to the boat at Santa Fe (along with some live pigs) and over the water to San Jose, the capitol of Carabao Island.

Carabao means waterbuffalo in Tagalog. No idea what that has tto do with the island as didn't see any but an interesting fact nonetheless! The only way to get around the island on public transport is by a "single". Yup, a motorbike. So upon arrival at the San Jose pier (the beach) a gentleman on the boat had rung ahead for us and organised two bikes to come and pick us up to take us to the other side of the island, with our backpacks....not sure how this is going to pan out but it's either this or walk across the whole island. Lucy's backpack was put in between the handlebars in front of her 'rider' and mine (pretty oversized luggage for the transport) was lashed to the side of the bike just behind my right leg and we were off. My driver was called Rees, a thoroughly nice chap who chatted with me about various things, including diving, where he lives and the fact that his sister works at the resort we were heading to. Little did I know I would be saving his life on more than one occasion this week..and as we headed over the narrow road to the western side of the island Rees and I chatted away until our arrival at the beautiful beach resort we had booked.

A very quiet beach, in a very quiet town, with very few guests, a private dive instructor and one of the loveliest and craziest hostesses we have ever met. This was in essence our resort, for a whole week! So let me recap and give you the details.

The beach faced directly into the sunset without a land mass in the way, and with very few people really using the beach at times it was like having our own sunset. To the south you could see Boracay island and at times the odd boat would turn up with daytrippers island hopping the area but soon after leave again and leave us to our peace and quiet. We were greeted by Kristine, a tiny Philippina with a huge smile and an even bigger personality who was Rees's sister. She showed us to our room and gave us the long list of things to do on the island and some house rules about the kitchen closing early etc. The manager then came out to greet us, a very helpful and friendly German fella who couldn' do enough to emphasize that if there was absolutely anything we wanted, that we should let him know and he would do his best to sort it! He than asked us about diving, to which my reply was, "actually, I am thinking about doing my Rescue Diver here, can I chat to the instructor?" He darted off to the dive shop (about 10yards away) and shouted up to the balcony in German..no reply. He came back over and continued to chat away to us until a blonde lady came to join us. Not a local for definite as she was around 5'6" and clearly European. She introduced herself as Nadja, an MSD instructor at the resort, and asked very quickly about me completing my course with her this week. Well anyways, I am rambling, but to cut a long story short within a couple of hours of our arrival at the resort, we were on the sun loungers, having met everyone that worked here, dive qualification booked in, every option explained to us about the islands attractions and believe it or not very relaxed! We were the only guests there. It felt like our own resort!

It is situated just next to a very small, sleepy and quiet town with a couple of sari-sari stores (just a shop in someones front room basically) a school and a little church. There were several pigs tied up and grazing, lots of roosters and a few people just lazing around in the heat. A great place to pick up some cheap water and Royal (fanta) to go with the Tanduay Rum (good tip) and to meet some locals including one baby who took a real shine to Lucy!

Right next to the exit of the resort there was one more resident which we did not meet until the second morning...another Philippine Macaque however this time there were no signs or pictures and I did feel a little sad for the animal. It had been chained to a piece of bamboo but this meant it had a lot of space to jump around in and looked like it was having fun, annoying the dog, shouting at people as they walked past and when they stopped, clambering on to them and eating bits out of their hair. We did find out that the monkey had been poorly mistreated by its previous lady owner and it was actually cared for here, again unable to really go back into the wild. It was a friendly monkey, apart from towards women...I see a trend occurring here, maybe Macaques are just very masculine and old fashioned?! Whatever the case, I would spend many an afternoon with the monkey as it groomed me and played tag and somehow felt a lost connection with the animal, perhaps separated at birth?

Well the purpose of this place was to relax and that is what we did on the first day. Chatting to Kristine about her family and her 5 year old twin boys, Bombom and Bumbum (I think that's how it's spelt) and finding her personality so friendly and fun. A very lazy morning and afternoon on the sun loungers on a deserted beach, the occasional swim and snorkel to cool off, a few rums and it was evening time already! The bar/restaurant faced directly west and without a land mass to interrupt it, the sun set along a blue horizon, the odd passing boat creating it's ghostly siluette between us and the ball of light getting redder and redder. It seemed to go from bright sunshine to dark so quickly, in minutes in fact, and we were sat thinking about how incredible it is to watch the sun setting so vividly across the ocean. A wonderful dinner of traditional Philippine food, cooked incredibly well by Kristine and her fellow chef and we hit the sack. I think tomorrow we will repeat the process, only with another joining us...

A lovely breakfast of garlicky eggs and a morning spent lazing in the sun, being filled in on Kristine's life story and her taking photos of us to put on facebook! During the afternoon a lone figure appeared in front of us on the beach, bathed in sunlight and carrying the largest rucksack I have ever seen, Ed had managed to make it across from Boracay and just appeared in front of us....then it was definitely rum o'clock! It was so lovely to see Ed relaxed and calm, chatting away and playing pool into the late (well not too late) hours. More wonderful food and Kristine's crazy company and we were off to bed, me ready for my Rescue training in the morning, the other two simply ready to do more sweet F.A.

So, the following day, while Lucy and Ed continued the tradition of doing very little in the sunshine, I headed in to the dive centre to begin my Rescue Diver course. It's really split into two qualifications: The actual diver emergency practical element and then the EFR. First things first, EFR. My first day was spent sitting with Nadja on the veranda of the dive centre being coached and taught all the necessary skills to equip me to deal with any emergency where I can assist an injured, unconscious or non-breathing person. It was a little horrific at times, being told things like "and if the main artery in the leg is severed, one technique you can use to stem the bleeding is to simply jam your fist into the wound"...nice. A very informative day with practice, theory and more practice administering Basic Life Support to Lucy (the dummy was actually not available) and a young child who was a friend of Nadjas and staying at the resort. I was pleased with my first day, feeling I could at least do something useful in an emergency and I was excited about the following day of putting this into practice in diving scenarios.

I won't talk in too much detail about each skill and scenario as I may as well include the manual, but suffice to say it was exhausting. Pushing, pulling a diver is tiring...but when you do it most of the day, in full gear, then get out of the water, more theory, then gear up again and do more physical excursion of dragging a person out of the water, after de-gearing them in the water, while towing them 25 metres to the beach and administering BLS (CPR)...I was shattered, aching and tired but even more excited about the remaining aspects of the course...the underwater rescue scenarios...

Lucy, Ed and I sat down to dinner that evening where we were joined by a Philippino gentleman named Jerry who was down from Manila checking on some property is brother-in-law owned on the island. He was very interested in our lives and where we came from and how we felt about his country and as the evening dwindled away, we certainly felt that we were a little more educated about certain aspects of the Philippines, including the political system, his brother-in-laws property and his music tastes! Unfortunately, we were all a bit tired and Ed was making his move back to Boracay the following morning on the 6am boat (a time we would definitely not be seeing!) to join his friends in their partying a little longer. We made a plan to catch him for lunch in a day or two and bid farewell and good night and sidled off to bed, shattered, full and very very relaxed!

As expected, day 3 of the Rescue Diver was a killer. An early breakfast with the lovely Kristine chattering away with us, telling us stories this time of how she used to bunk school and go off to pick coconuts with her friends instead! Rees, Kristines brother, had joined us as the diver who would be in trouble, panicking or simply unconscious and he, Nadja and I ran through the scenarios, kitted up and hit the water. A very long day of ascending, descending, towing, finding, losing, finding again, panicking, more towing, BLS, carrying, administering Oxygen and bandaging fake wounds and my Rescue course was complete....and I was finished! Every muscle ached, my head was swimming and my ears full of water, I washed all the gear with Nadja, sorted everything out and then just slumped in a chair, so pleased with everything I had learned over the last few days. I feel that now, when I am in the water, I am able to monitor and take into account the actions of other divers, and if necessary help out to ensure the safety of not just myself, but other divers with me. A very useful course. One of the most rewarding, enjoyable and absolutely knackering! Next step, Divemaster :-)

Well as you may have guessed, the following few days encountered very little difference in terms of activities. Breakfast, sun, swimming, rum, stunning sunset and dinner. More and more Kristine became a real friend, keen to know all about our lives and interested to tell us about hers. She was a great hostess, if a little daft at times, but nonetheless so welcoming and friendly and as we rounded off our stay on this island, we had huge smiles on our faces knowing what a wonderful time we had spent here and obtaining a new friend in Kristine...

Well now we head further south into the Visayas...sweetest mangoes in the world anyone?

Ari Na Ko

Da Perkins
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