Friday, April 1, 2011
THE CERES BUS arrived two-and-a-half hours later in Daanbantayan, Cebu for a trip that normally take four hours. By God, the bus flied. It is still 3:30 AM and still too early for the 6:00 AM boat that would take us to Guintarucan Island, just a speck drawn on the map of the Philippines.
Today is October 23, 2010 and I am with Boy Toledo, Boy Olmedo, Jecris Dayondon, Ben Lao and Kim, all members of the Cebu Mountaineering Society and guest Randell Savior. Coming also with us is Taddy Rosos, Boy T's wife's nephew, who will act as our man Friday in our immersion into the island's unseen and unheard of attractions which will enthrall our senses for the rest of the weekend!
Guintarucan Island is part of Santa Fe Municipality in Bantayan Island. Residents of Guintarucan source their supplies from the mainland but they process all government documents in Santa Fe. Aside from the bigger Bantayan Island, other neighboring islands are Jibitnil, Malapascua, Gato and other small islets. Its highest point is a hill in Hagdan at about fifty-two meters above sea level.
The island has three barangays – Langub, Hagdan and Bitoon – and a circumferential road constructed thru the countryside assistance fund of Congressman Benhur Salimbangon which benefited greatly the island residents. Main livelihood is fishing and seaweed farming for those who lived along the shores while inland, the populace eke out a living farming maize, cassava and other indigenous vegetable produce.
There are no surface fresh-water and people rely on rain and deep-water wells for their drinking and domestic needs. A power plant operated by the Cebu Electric Cooperative supply electric current to the residents from six in the evening to twelve midnight. There are three public schools and a private kindergarten school run by the Seventh Day Adventists.
The motorized outrigger boat took just under an hour to reach Guintarucan's white beachline and we regroup at the Rosos ancestral home located in Dapdap where we boil water for coffee and cook our breakfast. A typical balmy tropic island weather is yanked from the sky and this comes only right after a passing of a big typhoon and, in case you would want to know, this tempest is called “Juan” - a signal 4!!!
After breakfast, we prepared for our first activity – a caving exploration. Destination is Barangay Langub. We depart at nine. We walked for an hour and reach the cave high up on the hills. It is natural karst formation camouflaged by old fig trees. A molted skin from a snake greeted us on the cave entrance and that provide us a sign to be extra careful inside.
Droppings from several generations of cave bats have mixed with loam and water where a considerable population of cockroach thrive. Immediately, I backtrack for fear of getting tetanus on my blistered skin found between big toe and second toe. I am just wearing a pair of rubber slippers.
The bats were very numerous and they were now disturbed by the lights and flew wildly around our faces and that gave me an idea how to catch them for food. I will catch them the primitive way just like my ancestors did. Boy T went along with me and we stayed on the cave opening while the rest went on to the innermost chambers.
Then I hear inside the cave abuzz with the sound of numerous wings flapping and then the bats begin to swarm outside of the cave as they were spooked by my returning comrades. I positioned myself with a meter-long stick on the entrance like Barry Bonds and whacked each bat passing near me. I hit seven and four proceeded to dreamland. I bring the bats downhill intending to be part of my noontime meal but, before that, I named the cave as Cantingting Cave for documentation in reference to the owner of the land where it belonged.
We walked the the half-paved road into one of the best and unsullied beaches of Cebu Province where, during a rest in Pasil Beach, we were refreshed and inspired to explore another cave instead along the way. This time, it is much shorter and devoid of guano and a large bat population. What it made up for its lack of horizontal chambers is it has sinkholes and passages that are quite enticing! And as before, I proceed to document the cave as Cantita Cave before we leave.
We reach Dapdap and we prepared meal for lunch. Boy T took care of the mixed-vegetable stew and pork adobo while Taddy took care in cooking the milled corn. Randell and Jecris lend their cooking sets and their cooking stove to augment our Bulins while I concentrate on skinning the bats. I have not done this before but stored information from my grandpa began to sink in and I dispose the skin, glands and sinew from the meat and deep-fry the critter with garlic, onions and soy sauce.
We all eat lunch at the same time and nobody dared to touch the bat except me, of course. Who else but the cook would patronize his own cooking? The bat meat were robust and tasty and much better than chicken. In the end, everyone tasted a little of the meat for curiosity's sake. Oh, so much for adapting the dominant Western culture and those Leave No Trace bullshit that you get to bypass the best things primitive life offer.
As the heat became unbearable, everyone looked for a shade and reclined for siesta time. I cool my body instead into a clear beach on a high tide and stayed for two hours. I returned at three in the afternoon and everyone were already awake and Boy T is quite worried that he couldn't find a cold bottle of beer. I suggested instead a long-necked bottle of cheap light rum mixed with three 250-cc bottle of Cobra and we consumed five sets that day from four to nine in the evening.
A hospitable islander offered to us his catch of five juvenile giant Pacific clams, three oyster clams, two edible sea urchins, a common oyster, a leopard cowrie, three convoluted seashells and three wing-horned seashells which he caught while diving Guintarcan's depths. I brushed clean the seashells and boiled these in sea water, except the giant clams and sea urchins which we plan to eat in the morning. These were all consumed thereafter and dipped in spiced vinegar.
The power station failed that evening and the full moon was covered by a thick thundercloud that hover over the mainland. I removed the screwed cap of my giant Maglite and illuminated the front yard of the Rosos house where it became the center of our small gathering while the mixed-rum drink made the conversations animated and amusing. A slight shower became an excuse for everyone to disperse early and Ben and I have the whole yard to ourselves for the remainder of the night.
In the morning of October 24, I retrieved the sea urchins kept in a tub filled with sea water and eat it raw. From a log of gnarled jackfruit root, I began to split wood with my tomahawk to augment the disappearing wood that were used to cook our meals on an earthen hearth. I blistered my palms and skinned my knuckles “pumping” a considerable amount of firewood and I could feel the old lady appreciating my initiative.
Boy T boil the clam meat after separating it from the shells, slice it in cubes and mix it with spiced native vinegar. The meat is tender and the hot spicy vinegar gave warmth to our stomach. It is my first time to taste giant Pacific clam meat, locally known as “takobo”.
After that, we prepared for another overland trip to the fabled interior lakes of La-aw. It is about five to six kilometers distant from where we are based and, for the most part, we took the liberty of walking the beautiful narrow half-paved roads. About halfway, motorcycles-for-hire arrived and whisked us away to the direction of La-aw.
A side trail lead into limestone steps and walls and a narrow passage. We are now on the wildest part of Guintarucan where old mangrove forests and fig trees grow. We reach the first of the two “inland lakes” of La-aw but those really are hidden lagoons where the first tank is separated from the other by a narrow division of coral rocks and is colonized by sea grapeweeds (“lato”).
This place used to be a resort but abandoned by the owner. It is best left as it is without any structures. People will come here by word of mouth and, I think, this is a perfect place for a bushcraft lab. Giant fruit bats hang on tall tree branches and you could fish from the beach cove where it is accessible from the two lagoons by a short trail that snake into a cavern-like passage. The cove has low salinity level. We spend the rest of the morning of the second day here and consumed another set of a mixed-rum drink.
We leave at ten-thirty in the morning and I insist in walking the distance from the lagoon to Dapdap while the rest rode tandem on motorcycles. I am the last to arrive at 11:15 AM, giving me enough breathing space to rest and carve an outline of a wooden spoon from a piece of firewood. After lunch, I immediately dip at high tide and Boy T, Jecris, Ben and Randell joined me. Doing nothing for the rest of the afternoon, we dispatch another two sets of the mixed-rum drink as Taddy look something fresh and tasty for dinner.
Jecris, Ben, Kim and Randell decide to practice their singing voice on a nearby videoke bar as the lights went on at six in the evening. Taddy arrive with a half-full plastic bucket of rabbit fish (danggit) and we both prepare the fish while Boy T keep busy looking for spices. I took seven of the biggest fish and cooked them above an ember while Taddy and Boy T alternately cook the rest of the fish by frying it in oil and in vinegar.
After supper, it is just a matter of a few hours before we leave this paradise for the mainland. We drink again another two sets of the mixed-rum on the front yard and waited for midnight. We thank our graceful host and leave Guintarucan at exactly twelve amidst a very serene sea under a full moon. Our crossing the wide strait is very calm and we reach the other side an hour later. A bus arrive just as we set foot on the highway and carry us to Cebu City three-and-a-half hours later. It is October 25 and it is the barangay elections day.
Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
JPEG-generated collage from Powerpoint 2003
All photos taken from a Sony DSC-W220 Digital Camera