Friday, November 16, 2012
THE DATES AUGUST 18-21, 2012 shows a good promise of a long weekend which offers a very healthy possibility of an out-of-town trip. The 18th and the 19th is a Saturday and a Sunday while the 20th and the 21st are, respectively a legal holiday and a special holiday.
It is on these dates that I make another trip to the northern island of Cebu known in the map as Guintarcan. I have been there on two separate occasions, the first on October 2010 and the last on February 2011 with eighteen visitors from Denmark.
With me again are Boy Toledo, Ernie Salomon and Boy Olmedo. Going for the first time are Benjie Echavez and Glenn Abapo. We all meet at the North Bus Terminal in Mandaue City at 12:00 midnight of August 18 and take a 1:30 AM CERES bus trip bound for Daanbantayan, 136 kilometers north.
I have no anxieties about the trip, the weather and the sea’s temper for, I know, that when a storm exits the archipelago, it leaves a climatic condition that augurs well for perfect travel. Besides that, when it rains in Manila it is sunny in Cebu and vice versa. This observation is not scientific but common sense borne out of living in the Visayas and long experience of island travel.
Yes, typhoon “Helen” may have battered land, sea and wind up there in Luzon but, here, the Bantayan Channel is plain and flat as if it is concrete. A breeze blows in from the east stirring the tarpaulin of a small motor boat moored along the pier. The habagat1 winds are absent sucked up mercilessly by the storm up north.
After securing our food provisions good for ten meals, we leave the Cebu mainland at 2:15 PM on board the small boat together with forty other passengers and an assortment of cargoes. I sit near the prow to give way to women and children who availed of the most shaded part.
The boat arrive at the beach of the fishing village of Dapdap and we all stream out to the safety of Boy T’s mother-in-law’s house which is located just fifteen meters from the shoreline. Mrs. Tita Rosos is healthy as ever as was the last time I saw her over a year ago and she is quite happy to see visitors and she welcomed us all into her house.
Her grandson, Taddy, automatically becomes our man Friday and into his shoulders were the tasks of arranging everything starting from securing our sleeping quarters to sourcing fresh sea bounties to contacting the local villagers for our needs. I notice him breaking up a gnarled wood for firewood with difficulty but I insist that I do that task so as to free him for other chores.
We do nothing on the first day except to rest, plan, talk and prepare our dinner. I do my part by providing firewood for the earthen hearth while Ernie, Boy T and Taddy cook the meals. To entertain the rest, I retrieve outdoor magazines I brought for this occasion.
Power generation in Guintarcan starts only at 6:00 PM each night and ends at every 12:00 midnight. For six hours of the first night and for the rest of the days, meals and social time settled adequately with hours to spare. We opt to sleep outdoors instead for want of a cool breeze.
The second day goes on as scheduled. Right after breakfast, we all walk towards the hidden lagoons of La-aw which is five kilometers away. We pass by small farms, deep wells and the highest point of the island at 62 meters. People speak in a smattering of mixed Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray dialects. I notice a few locals of Polynesian descent judging by their facial features, bone structure and hair.
We fail to bathe at the La-aw Cove as a wood-and-bamboo gate had been constructed and locked by the land owner to discourage treasure hunters and grave diggers. We transfer instead into a fishing village in Hagdan where there are steps hacked out of the coral stone cliffs leading to the beach.
The place is a beehive of activities where villagers were busy gathering and drying seaweeds. It is a small strip of plain protected everywhere by cliffs. Access are through the stone steps and from the sea. I could have counted a hundred small boats beached on dry land and some were kept a foot off the sand by stilts. Amongst these are small houses.
We stay at the white sandy beach and bathed in its crystal clear waters. I scheduled this activity to take advantage of the 1.77 meter-high tide at 11:59 AM and by 2:00 PM, after consuming our own-cooked lunch of pancit and two long necks of light rum, we say our goodbye. Along with our departure are two kilos of grouper (local: lapulapu) which we paid for just 260 pesos.
We sweat on the island road on the middle of a hot afternoon devoid of breeze and reach our abode in Dapdap an hour later. We prepare the grouper into two dishes: soup and fried. As was yesterday, we waited for the power to go on before we start dinner. It was an excellent meal and another two bottles of rum gets decapitated. I sleep outdoors and it rained hard later so I worm inside Glenn’s free-standing but empty tent and keep myself dry.
The third day gets another good dose of sunshine. This will be devoted to the tour of the island through its circumferential road. I have never been to beyond La-aw in the north and the lighthouse of the south. I need to see what’s on the other side of Guintarcan. The big villages of Bitoo-on and Langub is on that other side.
We retrace our route to La-aw but we take the road left once we reach the main village of Hagdan. The road goes down to the other shoreline and follow the bend of the beach where it is shaded and cool. The island’s public cemetery and the first public school is located along this stretch.
The school’s recreational ground is covered with Bermuda grass and its access to the beach is unimpeded. Amazing! I found the only barber shop of the island in Bito-on and I believe that this is the first settlement of Guintarcan. Probably Bito-on is named after a tree whose scientific name is barringtonia Asiatica.
We reach the village of Langub at 11:00 AM and we pass by a wide beachfront. This could probably be the southern tip of Guintarcan as the waves smash itself among rocky bulwarks. We rounded a bend and I could now see the lighthouse located on top of a hill. I follow a trail and climb the hill. Although terribly hot at this hour, I persisted. A puppy is the only living thing inside the fenced property.
After going down the hill, I climb another part of the hill and bring them to the mouth of Cantingting Cave with the help of three island youths. Glenn goes inside the cave while I wait for the bats to stream out but only two were startled and the rest of the bats prefer to stay indoors, probably getting tipped of my coming.
I have hunted bats here during my first visit. I was able to bring down four bats and cooked it adobo-style. What made my hunt interesting is that I just used a three-foot stick in a very primitive yet simple way. Most people would have used nets and other contraptions but I hunt just a few and for my own consumption.
We go back and reach Dapdap with me empty-handed. I estimate, we could have walked eight kilometers, more or less. Lunch is served at 1:00 PM. The viand is chicken soup. I take a dip in the sea to cool my body down after the meal. The sea’s coolness is so refreshing and I stay for an hour doing nothing but standing in the water with only my head sticking out.
All were tired and all take a nap as the rest of the afternoon pass uneventfully until supper came. I sleep early outdoors while everyone were talking and discussing our departure for tomorrow. I wake up in the middle of the night shivering. Since I am using tarpaulin as my sleep mat, I folded the other half over me and it keep me warm for the rest of the night.
The fourth and last day opens up for us with the hot rays of the sun melting away their fears of another storm coming which was announced yesterday on AM radio and caused some to talk of shortening the trip by a day which I vehemently opposed. I came here because of my commitment to Glenn and Benjie and I decide when to go.
I silence all their fears and my planned activity for this day will proceed without delay. The visit to an underground lagoon in Pasil is the last activity. It is beneath the house of an elderly couple who are devout Adventists and we have to go down first a narrow shaft to reach the cave.
The water inside the cavern have not risen yet since it is low tide and we take a short tour of the narrow passages. We were smeared with mud, our knees and elbows scrape the bottom as we crawl and stoop. I keep reminding everyone to watch their head for them hanging stalactites. After washing ourselves of the mud, we gladly leave the grotto for the high ground and for lunch.
Meal serve are thirty pieces of fresh wing-horned shells boiled in sea water with a saucer of spiced vinegar to dip the meat into for added taste. After lunch, we all pack our gears for our departure at 1:00 PM for the mainland. We all say our goodbyes to Mrs. Rosos. A small motor boat arrive to pick us up and bring us back to the Daanbantayan pier.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer