Monthly Archives: May 2012

Revisiting Anawangin

Almost 4 years ago, my friend Jessica and I, along with her two older siblings, decided to go on a weekend trip to Anawangin Cove, Zambales. It was not part of the trips that we planned but we got excited to go there ASAP when we saw the pictures of this hidden treasure on the internet. So,after a few days preparation, we set off to discover the place. And it turned out to be a great weekend getaway.

Some time in April, some of my office mates saw a deal from CASHCASHPINOY.COM for a group package tour to Anawangin and I got invited. It had been four years since I last went there, so I said yes. There were about 30 of us who went to Anawangin that weekend.

This blog post is not about how to get there or what to do or see in Anawangin. The place has been quite famous for the past few years and it has earned a great number of blog posts. My post, on the other hand, is about how different Anawangin has become after 4 long years.

These are some of the shots that Jes and I took in Capones and Camara Islands and in Anawangin Cove when I first went there in 2008:

Pundaquit – the gateway to Anawangin, Camara and Capones Islands

On the boat heading to Camara Island

Camara Island during low tide

Tide’s down at Camara Island

Capones Island (without the white sand shoreline that it has now)

Huge rocks at Capones Island

Behold, Anawangin Cove!

The clean, clear waters (Photo by Jes)

No stores, no fences, no trash (Photo by Jes)

A few campers spending the night at Anawangin (Photo by Jes)

The river, pine trees and mountains of Anawangin (Photo by Jes)

Cooling down at noontime

So, what’s different about Anawangin today?

1. Campers. Lots of them. Especially on weekends.

Hundreds of people flock the place on weekends, especially during summer. Since it’s just a few hours away from Manila, it means its cheaper to go there. I think the group deals on the internet also contributed to this increasing influx of local tourists, thanks to online marketing and selling.

I’ve always thought Anawangin to be a recluse to those who want to retreat from the busy life in the city. There’s no phone signal. No electricity. No hotels. No comfort rooms. It’s just you, the sea, the pine trees and the river – the perfect place for a retreat.

I’m not sure if you could still do that there, unless you go there on weekdays.

2. Garbage. Plastic. Everywhere.

The moment I stepped out of the boat in Anawangin, I wanted to dip in the water. I remembered the clear blue waters from four years ago. Sadly, I got disappointed when I saw plastic trash, along with oil coming from boats, floating on the water. The water at the center of the cove was murky and dirty and filled with trash. We tried to swim, but we ended up doing a clean-up drive instead. The waters were cleaner and clearer at the sides of the cove.

The comfort and bath rooms could clearly not accommodate all the campers. The queues were long, and some campers were insensitive with it as if they’re using their bathrooms at home. Shampoo sachets were all over the ground. Good luck with caring for the environment. ūüė¶

On a lighter note, I love that Capones Island has “grown” a new white sandy shore where it was rocky before. It was there that I enjoyed swimming. The water was clear and there were corals and fish near the shore. I just hope that people and capitalism would not rob the place of its beauty.

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Float On

Anjel floating in one of the islands in Sorsogon

Anjel floating in one of the islands in Sorsogon

My mind is weary from the busy-ness of the city. But I always find solace in the gentle swells of the sea. All I want to do is float my tired body along the clear blue waters and drown the world’s noise. I love listening to the faint sound of the waves softly crashing on the shore. It keeps me calm and serene, and sort of detaches me from the world. Too bad, there’s no sea in my city to comfort me, and only recorded sounds of the sea keeps me company at night after the day’s work.

The Sea

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The midday sun was scorching hot that day. It bit my skin so hard I can still feel its sting everytime I close my eyes and recall it. My sunburned face constantly reminds me of the pain I tried to suppress. The knowledge that I let my one chance slip away keeps gnawing at me up to this day.

The sea gives and the sea takes away. Whatever it gives, hold it dearly in your heart. And when it takes, be ready to let go less the sea takes you with it until you find yourself lost in its deep blue waters.

Lessons from a Little Girl Named Jaja

My wristwatch told me it was 11:00pm. I had been at the Florida bus station since 9 in the evening, afraid I might miss the bus because of the terrible traffic along Quezon Avenue. My bus finally arrived so I climbed up and took my seat. It was the last seat on the extra bus that day. If it were not for that last seat, I would have waited until midnight or the next day  just so I could go home and be with my family for the Holy Week.

I was glad to be seated at the second row. Most of the time, I travel alone when I go home to the province. I wondered who my seat mate would be that night and I prayed it wouldn’t be a guy who might turn out to be a maniac. That’s when I met her.

“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“Jaja,” she replied.
“Hi, Chacha!” I happily welcomed her.
“It’s not Chacha. It’s Jaja,” she blurted out.
“Oh, sorry. Hi there, Jaja!” I repeated my greeting. And that started our interesting conversation.

Jaja is 6. In fact, she told me it was her birthday that day.¬†“Happy birthday!” I greeted her. “Thank you po,” she shyly replied.

She was with her Tita Bing and her girl friend, and just like me, they were bound for Laoag for the Holy Week.

“Naku! Lagot ka diyan kay Jaja, sobrang daldal niyan,” her aunt warned me of Jaja’s talkativeness. I told her I didn’t mind although when I travel, I usually don’t talk to my seatmates. My iPod and books are my constant travel companions. That night, I turned off the iPod and closed my book and decided to talk to Jaja. It turned out to be one of my best encounters with God.

Jaja was really talkative, just as her tita warned. She kept telling me stories about her toys, her playmates, her relatives. In between, she asked me numerous questions like where I was going and what I was going to do when I got home. Sometimes, I didn’t know how to answer her questions so I just smiled and nodded to her.

Out of nowhere, I asked her if she was going to miss her mom during her vacation. Nonchalantly, she told me her mom was already gone. Jaja said she was named after her mother – Juanita Antonia – because she died after giving birth to her. I was speechless for an entire minute. I didn’t know what to say and I stupidly stammered, “Do you know how she looked like?” She told me her father used to show her her mom’s picture which he kept in his wallet. I asked Jaja if she’s going to miss her dad. Her reply shocked me to my core. “Patay na po si Papa. Naaksidente po siya ¬†sa motor,” she announced, as if her father’s death did not bother her…but I know it did and she was hiding her sadness in the way she smiled. She became silent for a while. At that moment, all I wanted was to be in my room and release the tears that had been threatening to fall from my eyes. I gathered up the courage to comfort her, “Okay lang yun, andiyan naman si Tita Bing mo. Siya na lang magiging mama at papa mo.” It was a stupid statement, and she told me, “Hindi ko naman po siya mama.” I never dared to reply back. Then, there was that awkward silence again.

Her Tita Bing saved me when she told Jaja to sleep since it was almost 1am. I seconded her. I told Jaja we’d better sleep because everyone at the bus was already asleep except for the two of us. Her tita handed her her teddy bear. Jaja told me she couldn’t sleep without it. I asked her if she ever prayed at night. She told me she didn’t. I told her we we’re going to pray before we slept, and that she only needed to repeat after me. I closed my eyes and travelled back to my childhood, recalling back the prayer that I prayed every night then.

Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Jaja stammered the words after me, but she was smiling when I opened my eyes. After that, we said our good nights.

The bus had become icy cold, and I asked Jaja if she felt cold since she was only wearing her favorite pink jumper dress. She said she was, and asked her tita for her jacket. However, they found out that Jaja’s jacket was left behind. She gave Jaja a large t-shirt instead. I knew that this would not keep her warm. I, myself, was already shivering. She kept stirring in her seat. She was holding her teddy bear like I would hug my mom when i was cold. So I decided to share my sarong with her, hoping it would make her feel warm and more comfortable. “Thank you po,” she said with eyes half-closed.

I smiled at her but I quickly turned to look out the window into the dark, cloudy night. I cried. I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I cried for a while. I couldn’t sleep. The entire conversation with Jaja slowly sank¬†in. I remembered my mom and dad. I realized how lucky I was that I still have my parents with me… that they are still alive, though getting older. I felt really blessed knowing that I had a mother and father who took care of me as I was growing up, who saw to my needs, and who were there during all the birthdays and milestones in my life.

I used to feel so afraid just thinking about my mom and dad and other loved ones passing away. I could not even try to imagine my life without them. I always prayed to God not to take them away from me too soon. That night, I suddenly felt a coward compared to 6-year old Jaja beside me.

Jaja is a brave and strong girl. Young as she is, she has already experienced far greater trials that I had in my entire 28 years of existence. Before I finally convinced myself to sleep, I prayed for that little girl sleeping soundly beside me. I prayed that she would grow up healthy and strong. I prayed that God will give her good people who will guide her well. I prayed that she will understand all the things that happened in her life as part of God’s wonderful plan for her. I prayed hard for the best for Jaja.

When I got home that day, I rushed to hug my mom and dad, silently thanking God that I still have them with me.

Donsol Getaway Day 2: My Encounter with the Gentle Giant

After the lovely night with the fireflies of Ogod River during our Day 1 in Donsol, my travel buddies and I were all so excited to see the famous Butandings (Whale Sharks) of Donsol, Sorsogon. I was pretty hyped up because this day marked the fulfillment of one of my travel goals Рswim with a Butanding.

We got up early since the staff at the Donsol Tourist Center told us to be there at 7am so we can join the first batch of boats heading out to sea. We arrived earlier than that but when we got there, the place was teeming with tourists – mostly foreigners – all waiting for that chance to get a glimpse of the Butandings (dubbed as the Gentle Giants). According to the locals, a lot of these foreigners keep coming back for days just to swim with these giant but gentle sharks. Good thing we already registered the day before so we didn’t have to go through the orientation anymore. When our BIO (Butanding Information Officer) arrived, we got our gears ready. Life jacket – check! Snorkeling gear – check! Flippers – check!

Boat used for Butanding interactions

Kuya Egong, our BIO, told us as we headed out to the Donsol bay that there’s a 50/50 chance of seeing and interacting with a Butanding. I know that when we heard him say that, we all prayed in our hearts that we would. I silently prayed to be given that special opportunity to see and swim with an awesome creation. Finally, Kuya Egong briefed us on what we needed to do once the Spotter signaled the presence of a Butanding.

It took a while for the SPOTTER to spot a Butanding. By that time, there were already a lot of boats filled with excited tourists. We had to race from one place to another just to get close to a Butanding. But when we got really close, they would dive deeper into the sea. I prayed, “Lord, just give us one chance to see your precious Butanding.” My prayers were immediately answered as our Spotter finally called the attention of the BIO.

Mr. Spotter

“Ready, set, jump!” shouted the BIO. The small area in between the boats was crowded with swimmers. I jumped and looked down in search of the Butanding. Lo and behold, before me was the biggest fish I have ever seen live making its way across the Donsol sea, its mouth wide open ready to take in its food. Sadly, it was my first time to use flippers and the one I rented was so big that I had a hard time catching up with the Butanding. Even so, I was happy that I was finally able to swim with a whale shark.

When we got back to the boat, I silently hoped for another chance to see another Butanding. And yes, my wish was granted! I got to swim with these sea creatures for two more times. During the 2nd time, I still tried to wear those huge flippers hoping I’d be better at it this time around. However, it only slowed me down. I watched as the Butanding swam past me, while I continued to struggle with the flippers. I didn’t even see where my friends were anymore. All I saw in front of me was a tangle of legs and bubbles. All of a sudden, an angel in yellow and black diving suit came to my rescue. He must have noticed that I was struggling so he grabbed my arm and pulled me forward. When I realized what was happening, I looked down and saw that the Butanding was right in front of us. The guy kept pulling me forward and guiding me where the Butanding was. That was the best 1 minute of my Donsol trip. Whoever he was, I never got the chance to thank him, but I’m pretty sure I will always remember him whenever I see a Butanding.

The BIO

Though tired, I was very grateful to God for allowing us to see and swim with the¬†Butanding. Other tourists seemed to not ¬†get tired as they went back into the water again and again just to see a whale shark. Once was enough for me. It was a bonus that I got to see it thrice. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of it but it is enough that it will forever be etched in my memory.

The sunset that day was exceptionally beautiful – one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. Again, I was reminded of the great love God has not just for me but for His entire creation. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful life and world you’ve given me.

Tips before you go swimming with the butandings in Donsol:

1. Make sure it’s the season for whale sharks in the area.

2. Don’t use flippers if you’re not used to it. Or better yet, practice first.

3. Check that your snorkeling gear is in great condition. Make sure it doesn’t have leaks or anything, especially if you’re just renting one from the resort or tourist center.

4. If you’re not a good swimmer or if you don’t know how to swim at all, stay close to the BIO or ask him to hold you.

5. Always be ready once you’re on the boat. When the BIO says JUMP, don’t hesitate and just jump!

6. Don’t be too greedy. Let others have their chance, especially if there are a lot of tourists wanting to see the Butandings, too.

7. Please, please, please follow the guidelines and code of conduct when swimming with the Butanding..

There you go! If you’re planning on heading to Donsol or any other place with Butanding sightings, I hope you will have a great time interacting with them. Have fun!

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