We had planned on taking a week off work to roam places across the Visayas region both by land and sea, envisioning a final stop at Bohol after a short visit in Kalanggaman sandbar, but instead found ourselves unexpectedly stuck for a fortnight in Bounty Island, now known as Malapascua.
We had our prior inter-island commitments cancelled, including a dive at the Monad Shoal, where thresher sharks and manta rays are regularly sighted. We were way off target, a week over our budget, and woke hungry.
The sound of the pounding of the shore instantly flooded our ears, the wind blowing past the light green curtains- blowing it hard as if caped behind an invisible super hero. Below the hotel an orderly had trouble lighting a match to start a fire. The second staff watched him closely, amused. I stood on our porch in my nightgown and heard a long whistle.
On the settee was a bird lying on one side, stiff, with lifeless eyes glaring. The gale must have collided her against the window, killing it in an instant, even with the typhoon exiting the archipelago. The whistle. It reminded me of Bruce Lee’s shrill.
We were running very low on cash. Prior to Malapascua, we traveled to Bantayan Island first and stayed at the Beach Placid. We were the only guests there, so its charm was accentuated in our isolation. Outside our shack was a hammock. Straight ahead is a perfect panoramic view of the ocean, where there was practically no one around, save for a few staffs.
The past days we’ve dined in the cheapest diners in Malapascua island, got tipsy on the shore, and sometimes skipped meals. There was no way of drawing cash anywhere, except yonder the rough seas, but the cost guard had called off all trips to and fro for days now.
We lolled along the white beach in the morning. My knees were a bit sore from the climb to the grand lighthouse atop the mounds, across the thick, thorny brush. But the sand was so fine it encouraged us to walk onward and take in the view.
I love how the locals have balanced their business with the environment. We walked past some bars with colored bin bag chairs by the foreshore, ordered drinks at the Ocean Vida & Dive Resort that sold them at half the price during Happy Hour. It’s only one of two establishments there that accepted our cards, and so we practically sat there each day we were there for food and drinks.
We were now getting used to our sunburns. A dog had befriended us, and we sat by the shore, staring at the mainland, thirsty. The sun shone brightly.
“It’s a beautiful day to be alive,” Mark said. “The fun at the outset, now, the inconvenience, the longing, the sun teasing up above, and for some reason this dog keeps following us. Life is strange, I swear.”
With our pockets practically empty we revisited Angelina’s Pizzeria Restorante Italiano, the same restaurant we had dined in for the past couple of days, and charged our favorite seafood pasta. It’s settled at the back of the island, by the alcove, safe and beautiful under the shade.
Are you ready to face the storm today? I asked.
“You mean the monsoon? Typhoon is past us now.” Mark replied.
“The current is just as strong today. It’s making me nervous. You know I can’t swim. I heard the Coast Guard has approved our trip, but I wish we could stay one more night. Let the weather mellow.”
“But we don’t have the money to pay for our hotel. I’d gladly box anyone for money, if I could. The weather has teased me enough to make me want to hit something so hard.”
“There you go again about life and boxing. OK we’re going.”
Embarking on the big pump-boat to Maya we only had enough with us to pay for our trip back to the mainland, and for our fare down to the metropolis. No sooner than we left the beautiful island of Malapascua did the boat started to pitch from side to side, fighting the brewing current.
On the trip with us were Korean tourists, grouped together at the back, ensured with life jackets ‘cause they must have paid the tour guides extra. It made me sick to the stomach, and poor as a local tourist can be.
The waves were coming in stronger, crashing at odd angles. My senses were heightened, that I could hear every creaking sound the wooden boat made, and my legs were stretched against a middle fixture, as if trying to keep it from breaking down. Mark was smiling like the devil, telling me to relax, but the Koreans were panicking too, shrieking every time we nosedived.
It was the longest 30-minute trip of my life. The rain came, and the heavens thundered each time we crashed against the undulating sea, so it was hard to tell between the rain and the seawater that soused us. My arms were feeling tired now, holding on to whatever I could hold on to. We were all wet, sea sick, scared, and Mark was laughing like the devil.
I thought I was going to die that day that I never felt so alive.
Bantayan Island shore.
Along Beach Placid Resort. Bantayan Island, Cebu City Philippines