I guess my complaining finally worked and SB booked us a weekend away somewhere. You know, a real holiday, not a drive a few hours away where you still breathe the same air. We went on the ‘drive a few hours, catch a boat and be on another island’ kind of holiday.
I was pretty excited by the prospect and as the day we were leaving drew nearer I started thinking through the endless possibilities of how things would go. You know, the thought that I would be transported to a tropical paradise, reminiscent of Blue Lagoon without the creepy ritualistic sacrifice, but with a young Christopher Atkins-esque, loin cloth attired hunky-spunk. Alternatively we would end up in another place like Subic. Oh dear god, no…
Then I started thinking about the boat ride over. I was not getting clear information about the type of boat we would be on so I did have visions of me hoiking my guts up over the side holding FB by the ankles as she did the same, because if one of our kids was going to chuck, it was her.
Anyway it turns out I did not need to worry. We drove down to Batangas which is South of Manila, on the coast. From here we caught the ferry across to Puerto Galera, in the Province of Oriental Mindoro. We walked the plank (literally, a narrow plank with side rails) onto the giant sea boat and as we got comfortable, the little children who live there were jumping on the edge of the boat begging for food and money. They had little boats they paddled out with and attached to the big boat. You could see these kids had a booming business as they lay their boats, feet hanging over the edge into the water, eating sweets and biscuits, counting their pesos.
Batangas Port – local children begging
The ride over was lovely. The water was beautifully calm. The lapping waves on the outriggers took me straight back home to being on the water in Dad’s fishing dingy. Looking out across the ocean at islands dotting the horizon took me back to our time in Thailand. Looking across at my hunk-of-spunk husband, cradling our daughter in the crook of his arm, I realised I had my tropical island hero right next to me already.
After about an hour we arrived at Sabang, one of the beaches on the island. Puerto Galera is known for its coral reefs and is a major destination for professional and novice divers, snorkelers and the like.
On the ferry, walking along the beachfront of Sabang
We walked along the edge of the beach to our hotel. The path was narrow and winding. It twisted and turned between tightly wedged shops creating narrow laneways like a maze. Our hotel was set apart from the main strip which was good. Sitting right on the beachfront and nestled into the mountains we had found a fabulous relaxing haven and I could not wait to lay on a daybed by the pool and fall asleep.
On checking in, we climbed up a winding moss covered stairwell to our villa which sat high up in the tree canopies. Our villa was gorgeous; don’t get me wrong I loved it. I just have some feedback for hotels and, well, anywhere that provides accommodation to people. Running hot and cold water does not constitute the rain warmed by the humidity, and air conditioning does not mean opening a window for the breeze to flow through…just saying. Despite this, what our villa lacked in running hot water and sufficient air con, it made up for in charm and appeal. We had a giant balcony overlooking the ocean and we could have climbed off our balcony into the trees. It was glorious. It seemed so private too, except for the time SB and I were walking around totally naked after hanging wet bathers out to dry, watching the afternoon storm, impressed with this total privacy. I looked down and across the way, and made eye contact with guests next door…I had already started drinking coconut daiquiris so thought it was hilarious as we ran back inside in fits of laughter. So aside from that, it was very private…
Happy hour, Coconut Daiquiri (my latest love), & the almost totally private view from our villa
Our First day was spent relaxing by the pool and sleeping, because we could. The sounds of the ocean waves lapping and the cool sea breeze were intoxicating. The children played on the balcony as we dozed away our time.
Our second day we went island hopping. This was quite fun. We were taken to a little beach where the children ran around squealing in delight and we swam and frolicked like lunatics who haven’t seen the ocean before. Good golly we all missed being at the beach! The children made collections of coral and shells until we walked down the beach a bit to where the coconut trees were. Now it got exciting. BB was in his element finding coconut husks, sticks and drift wood. He got busy building a fort of some description, reminiscent of an episode of Survivor actually. I felt confident that if for some reason we were trapped here for the night that we would be very safe in an awesome coconut and bamboo shelter.
A little piece of paradise
After our refreshing swim we went for a bit of misadventure which involved me holding onto a cliff ledge making sure my son didn’t topple off into the raging ocean, while I screeched at SB about the possibility of drowning our children. Oh FB was being taken off by some random guide while this was happening, who thought this was an appropriate place to take a three year old child. Enough said on that incident. It was short lived and once we were back on safe ground I calmed down. This was followed by a bit of snorkeling for SB while FB and I fed the fish. After using up our bread rations, FB dangled her little toes over the edge of our little boat and wriggled them. The fish were curious and came up for a look much to her delight. BB got in the water for a bit with his dad to try his hand at snorkeling. I think we need to just work on that in the swimming pool for a bit before putting him in the deep ocean again…
We returned to our hotel in time for lunch, a bit more swimming in the pool, a few more coconut daiquiris and then a bit more sleeping away the afternoon.
Dusk falls and the town awakens
On our last night we walked through the narrow twisting streets taking in daily life in this eclectic town. During the day it is quiet, tourists are floating around and heading out on tours and diving expeditions. The locals however, are few and afar between. Dusk falls,the tide goes out exposing the rocks and rock pools, and the children come out and play. Hanging out on the sand and the rocks they make up games with just what they have around them. The local kitchen sets up and food starts getting cooked over open flames. The smell is divine. The atmosphere is friendly and charming. The streets are alive now with fruit and vegetable sellers and people out, about just living their lives.
We had dinner in a restaurant which had a lovely view over the ocean. That was where it ended and here is a tip for you. If you are walking along looking for somewhere to eat, perhaps go to the places that have people in them. That is usually a sign that the food is good…We were the only ones in this place and now we understand why. Lesson learned. As we walked back to our hotel, the sounds of Martika and Roxette sang out from bars filled with revelers and it made me smile.
The tide goes out & the children play in the boats & on the sand
Back in our villa I sat on the balcony, listening to the waves which were strong and their sound filled the air. The breeze was cool and fresh, the leaves were blowing in the breeze and music from ‘The Point Bar’ was wafting from below. I could not think of a better place to be.
I have tried not to take things for granted but when you always have some sort of access to an experience you can’t really help it. You don’t actually know what life is without it. Now I do. Living in manila I know well the life without the gorgeous sea breeze caressing my cheeks, the smell of the ocean, the lapping of the waves to the shore and how meditative this is. How cleansing to my soul it is.
Morning came and it was time to leave. Sitting on the ferry home, FB asleep in my arms, I looked around at the boat full of people. I noticed an extraordinary number of loved up couples surrounding us. It was such a lovely, peaceful sight. There was one couple wearing matching tee shirts. One said ‘Born to love her’ and the other said ‘Born to love him’. The tee-shirts were bright yellow; just to be sure people saw them. I remember thinking that is so sweet. I remember once suggesting to SB that we get matching slippers, back when we were first dating. That was met with a surly ‘no’. So I left it at that.
We were finally home, back to Manila where our life is. Somehow that small window of respite was all I needed to renew my energy. The sea breeze had swept away the black dust that covers everything here. Making me feel new again.