Off to the private island of Paguliran

Trip Start Nov 05, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Philippines  , Sorsogon,
Friday, April 9, 2010

I knew that the Philippines consists of about 7,000 islands. A concept that's hard to grasp for me because it's like thinking of Arizona broken in 7,000 islands. Land area of half of these islands is about 1 square mile. So there are lots of these little islands around and are unpopulated. Well no wonder it's easy for some average families to own one - another concept that is just out there for an American like me who has come to think that to "own" an island, one has to have as much money as Bill Gates. Well not here. My Philippine adventure takes me to one of these islands 45 minutes away from where I live. This piece of land has been in my friend's family for 2 generations and they've been leasing it from the government for 8000 pesos a year!! (~$174 PER YEAR!). Yeah - I know - I can get several ones for myself. I did see a sale ad for one of the nearby islands, white sand, already planted with 4000 coconut trees that produces copra (local commodity) and a 15 min. boat ride away: 40 hectares being sold for Php 150 per sq. meter (~$13,000 for 1 acre).

Anyhoo I digress. Started the day at 6 am getting ready to cook and pack for our island excursion. Went with 5 other friends. Took a 30 min. van ride and another 15 min. motorboat ride to the island.

Typical way of going on an a day trip here is to cook all these yummy homecooked food and take it with you - pots and pans and all.We brought some to grill there as well. In the boat, being able to see through the clear water where I could spot some coral reefs, I felt excited like a little kid.The sea turned 3 different shades of bluish green going there. I was hoping to see some flying fish around me but no.

We went exploring the empty beach for seashells and the beach was filled with them. Some are huge and just beautiful. The island is so pristine because only 5 staff live there who man the fish pond they've developed there. Otherwise because it's private property - for most of the year no one really goes there.

The only thing is there's no fresh water. The staff had to go back to the mainland to fetch us water to rinse in. Or they go deep into the woods to get water from a well.

We spent the afternoon eating and talking and laughing. And decided that we wanted to take the boat far from the beach so we can go snorkeling. Well - when we got to the semi-deep part, the anchor broke and we lost it. The wind started to take us fast into the middle of the sea where the water was already deep bluegreen. Someone threw the plug that keeps the water from getting into the boat thinking it wasn't something important. So one of us had to start pouring water back into the ocean using a small bucket. Back when the water was still shallow one of my friends who has a bad arm decided to jump into the water. When the wind took our boat into the deep he panicked because his good arm was getting tired. And because he's kinda heavy he couldn't easily climbed into the boat so us 4 girls didn't know what to do until the boatman decided to pull him into the boat. Seeing the scrawny boatman struggling to pull my heavy friend in, I decided to help and grabbed my friend's shorts (therefore pulling his full weight) and pulled what felt like a baby whale in. Panic and adrenalin make you do wondrous things.

Our other friend was snorkeling away on the other side of the boat having no clue what was going on until he realized he couldn't see any more coral reefs because the water has turned deep blue. He decided to climb back in. At this time ignoramuses that we were about boating - we were all panicking thinking that we'd end up in the middle of the ocean never to be found again. Not ever realizing that we could see our beach nearby and even if we were blown far enough away we'd hit the nearby islands that we could see the beaches of. But when one's panicking one doesn't think of the obvious - one just panics away. It's just more dramatic that's why or we've just seen way too many movies.

Because the boat was slowly filling in with water, we thought the engine was getting wet that's why the boatman couldn't get it started. Each time he pulled the manual starter chord and it died, our breathing got heavier and the panic in our faces was more noticeable and scary thoughts in our heads got more imaginative. My common sense was trying to tell me that because I could see the shore of our beach and I could see my friend's brother standing on it waiting for us, I thought that we would be OK. But because panic and fear are contagious my common sense went overboard too.

Finally the engine started and we sped away back to shore where we all jumped out of that boat like it was the Titanic. There in knee-deep water we contented ourselves snorkeling around. Having a beach with turquoise water and white sand as far as your eyes can see all to yourself and your friends is only something I dreamed of while staring at some calendar or screensaver back in my working days. I still pinch myself.

Around 4 pm we headed back to the mainland of reality. One would think that our scary adventures were done with being late in the day and all. Not so. On our way back, we almost ran into another motorboat. You'd think with a place as huge as the ocean and nothing to hide your view of where the rest of the boats are, how can boats still run into each other? Well it happens. I dunno - next thing you know in front of us headed straight our way was another motorboat which upon seeing us also headed straight to them turned off their engine and by the time we met, our bamboo outriggers were on top of each other. My nautical instinct made me lean on one side of the boat away from the other boat thinking that my insignificant weight and effort would prevent us from colliding. And I did this screaming until I saw we were passed each other. The outriggers were just literally an inch away from each other - some parts touched but we didn't collide. Maybe my leaning over did help. I'd like to think so.

So that one scary adventure was over. Next, as we were nearing the pier, we see a ferry boat cutting across our way still a good distance away. But having just come out of one near-collision and our wits having not fully recovered, we all fully believed that we were going to run into the ferry. We started screaming at the boatmen to stop our engine as we see the ferry coming closer to us. Of course they knew better since this was their job but at this time we were all irrational passengers. They kept reassuring us that the ferry would pass before we even get close to them. And miraculously (to us) it did. Whew!

By the time we all sat down in the van, we were all too pooped from all that excitement and everyone fell asleep.
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