HAPPY 4th of JULY! Last year we were in Hawaii with family, two years ago we were in Washington, D.C. watching the beautiful fireworks in the rain, and this year we celebrated the holiday in Batangas, Philippines. We decided to take the new SUV out for a drive—we named him Boeing, by the way. The brochures and neighbors say Batangas is two hours south of us, Boeing lived up to his name and my lead foot made it in 1 hour and 15 minutes! It was crazy to see how much the scenery looks likes Hawaii once you are out of Manila.
Batangas looked similar to Puerto Princessa, a smaller, less dense, less polluted version of Manila. We drove around the city for an hour “taking a tour” really I was lost and there were no names on the streets, so the map was not much help either—hate when that happens. So we took the scenic tour, which actually was quite interesting. You get to see what life is really like, not the store front view from the town center or main roads. Boeing has tinted windows and we all commented on how we were staring at one person or another and they did not know. After several back roads and a few U-turns, we made our way to Mabini, a small suburb of Batangas.
We really just wanted to see a beach. Bryan has not been to one in a while—not real plentiful in Utah I guess. Lady Hiva and I miss the beach. It may be we are spoiled by the beaches in Hawaii, or that our expectations are too high, but as of yet we have not found a beach up to par. The search is on! The drive was fun, through several little towns. We stopped to take photos of an old Cathedral built in the mid-1800s and to eat at McDonalds (we knew they would have bathrooms that were semi-clean). People were selling chickens, live of course on the side of the road. Or you could buy the usual snacks, water, and clothing as you went along your way.
Once at Mabini, again Hiva and I were struck with similarities of Palawan, this time Sabang. We drove into a small town with stores on either side of the lonely street that dead ended with a cement pier that doubled as a basketball court. The only differences being this pier had cement buildings instead of bamboo and there was a petrol station. We bartered for a private boat to take us out on the sea. When it came it was HUGE! They kept telling me it was a ‘small bangka’ but for the three of us, it was excessively large. Bryan entertained the tourist information lady with speaking Tagalog, later when we returned she had invited two friends to come and see the ‘white guys that speak Tagalog.’
The boat ride was so beautiful. The water was glassy and clear, depending on the depth it was either a deep sapphire blue or an aqua green. Hiva and Bryan plopped on either side of the boat letting their feet ‘water ski’ as we drove. I opted to stand out on the point of the boat and pretend I was Leonardo De Caprio and sailing on the wind of the Titanic! HAHA. They took us to a small cove up the coast. We passed by several resorts that are only accessible by boat or helicopter because the steep mountains do not permit a road.
I jumped right overboard into the water it was splendid and refreshing. The boat guys were alarmed because none of us wore life vests. “You know how to swim?” Well, yes, we do was my obvious answer, then I wondered who they have given tours to that did not know how to swim, came out on a boat to an area with no roads to swim with fish in the middle of the ocean? We fed the fish with bread and hundreds came to eat out of our hands. The only time I got nervous is when the big Parrot Fish came up with their pearly white teeth and nipped at my fingertips. There are so many beautiful colors to see. At one point I decided to let my bread go all under Hiva’s legs, within seconds thousands of fish were swarming her! It was great! I could hear her squeal with shock and curl her legs up into fetal position to avoid the fray.
We jumped off the boat into the water for a good hour, it could not have been a better day. To cap it off if you watched the water, you could see hundreds of fish of all sizes jumping out of the water in a synchronized show.
Finally, we asked to go to the white sandy beach we were promised we could see. The guys told us that it would be extra 30 pesos to dock there. I was annoyed by that even though it equals less than a US dollar, but we agreed to pay to go. They started the boat and we trekked back down the coast, all three of us resuming our previous positions. We pulled up to a community on the coast. The beach was white, but it was piled with mounds of washed up coral! Not to mention, the ocean must be serving in dual positions as a beautiful vista and the local rubbish bin. We all thought we were just there to get something then we were off again. But the boat guys docked the boat and when I looked back he gestured in typical Filipino fashion with his lips and eyebrows to both sides of the boat to say, here is your beach. All I could think was, “this is the ‘WHITE sandy BEACH? It looks like old coral framing water filled with TRASH! AND we paid to come here too!” LAME. But we decided to make the best of it and went snorkeling some more. The trash was only near the shore so we swam out away from it dodging the debris in our path as we went. One time a big piece of wrapper plastered itself to Hiva’s head, it took me some time to get her to understand what it was!
Bryan and I both got fried! The cloudy day was deceiving. I usually do not use sunscreen because I would rather have the tan, but last week the dermatologist told me I CAN NEVER go out without sunscreen SPF 30! It was like she sentenced me to eternal prison of whiteness...oh wait, she did. But I forgot to put it on and Bryan thought that if I did not need it with the cloudy day, he did not either. We both have a perfect line on our sides where the water level was while we were swimming. YIKES!
We drove the scenic route home, complete with more little villages, all looking strangely familiar, but definitely unique, in color, shape, and size. The road took us past the ocean, over some mountain tops and past this random castle that popped out into the sky. It was in the middle of NO WHERE! We have no idea what it was, but we stopped for pictures. Within seconds five women were RUNNING at us with their goods to sell. When I say running, I mean running. Competition must be tough because usually it is woman trying to YELL louder for you to buy their stuff, but RUNNING is a whole new experience.