The boat we were able to commission was small one. It was a dingy, about 3 meters in length, but surprisingly capacious. It was painted fresh of cream white, and glistened under sunlight. Although its interiors, which mostly consisted of thick bamboos, were stained with rust, scratches, cigarette butt marks, and a whole lot of memory. It ran on an old Toyota motor that made nervous coughs every now and then. I was told that it regularly does that but has not once failed, but that didn’t help settle my already growing anxiety.
I’m not much for travelling; in fact I hardly travel at all. I put much too high a value on my sedentary lifestyle and would outright reject offers of long roads and foreign soil than lose sleep.
But it was summer and I had just earned a degree in Journalism. I figured perhaps I do deserve this and should stop being so gay about it.
The weather had been immaculately agreeable. The sun was warm, not hot, and the wind was gentle, not pressing. I watched in benign distress and gazed as the water turn from bottle green to a deep unsettling blue. From the east the horizon was washed with hues of blue and bright yellow. Distracted by the scenery, I had not noticed we were already nearing our first destination.
The Anaoangin Cove is a recluse island spot sandwiched between a small, craggy hill and the open sea. Around a decade ago, it used to be all trees and marshland. But after efforts to transform the forest wonderland into a hit tourist spot, it’s now demarcated in two parts: a warm sandy beach cove and a grim Moorish lagoon.
From the wooden beach houses, one can cross a corrugated makeshift bridge that leads directly to the main camping ground, which was enclosed by sentinels of foliage, pine trees, and the ubiquitous cugon grass. Here it was stark, shady, and had a romantic gloom, where one can explore the area and even walk through the shallow, murky bog where the occasional catfish, tadpole, and other fresh water critters can be seen. If one listened closely enough, one can hear the gentle roar of a more reclusive waterfall.
After lunch and an unhealthy dip in the warm water, we then went back to the boat and proceeded to our next stop.
The Capones Islands is a cluster of three islands located a little far off from Pundaquit, the mainland. From Pundaquit, it takes about a good 15-20 minutes to get to Capones by boat. According to locals, the three used to be one big island until in recent centuries the ground beneath began to deteriorate and separated into three islets. The farthest one had an abandoned parola (lighthouse) which was erected sometime during the American period. Now it stands alone at the peak, rusted but sturdy.
From afar, the nearer islets look like a figure of woman facedown. This peculiar formation inspired a lot of urban legends among the local community, tales of old wives recount about a mermaid called Maria Caramot (scratching Maria) who annually takes locals and tourists to an early grave. Of course, I did not tell this to my equally neurotic friends until we reached shore.
By the time we got to the farthest of the islands, it was already high tide. From the boat you could see the corals below. The light made it look shallow when it was already about 10-15 ft. deep. We were cautioned by the divers to take extra care when swimming, lest we slip. We wouldn’t want that.
The water was nice and the waves merciful. After our obligatory “tourist” photo-ops I had the chance to rest myself near the foamy banks. A great sheet of cumulonimbus had already collected in the sky, with strings of god rays peering in between, and the rest of the world was around me. For a moment, I felt the earth move, and realised what a speck I am in this big blue dot.
An uncle of mine just passed the day before. It amazed me to think that while a family is bereft with grief, the rest of the world continues. But I guess, like what the Japanese say, ‘shikata ga nai’, it can’t be helped. In the end, the world goes on. I found myself thanking whatever gods maybe for that moment.
The water was clear, the wind becoming a healthy breeze, and there was a slight drizzle. As the boat sped back to Pundaquit, I watched as the figures from afar become bigger, and the land nearer. For the first time in a long time, it felt as if the world was opening its doors to me. And it felt nice.