Philippines Day 13: Finally

We got a message from Oly first thing in the morning that they would be in White Beach at the Summer Connection hotel at around 11am and to meet us there. We no longer had to worry about what to fill our morning with. A relaxing breakfast followed by a walk on the rocks at low tide around the point to avoid paying for a trike to just get over a steep hill or getting super sweaty first thing in the morning.

We headed over with our masks and snorkels just in case, camera, bug spray and sunscreen and of course, Cloud Atlas. As it turns out they had arrived on time, but were so starving having gotten up for 4am mass in Manila that they couldn’t wait to find us and had to eat first. This left us waiting past noon and worrying. Both Jenn and I finish our respective chapters in Cloud Atlas, she’s now on the last chapter, 11. I’m now on chapter 4, though I’ve read 6 with Jenn and the first third of 7. Cloud Atlas is an amazing unusual work of 6 stories, all but 5 broken up into two halves and interleaved like an onion with the first story also being the last read. Each chapter is really more of a mini novella written in a different time in a different style: Journal at sea, love letters, a detectives novel, third person narrative, an interview, and a story being told to children. Each has its own flavor. Each is intrinsically tied together touching one another in unusual ways with strong theme throughout.

Eventually I spotted Oly and her husband Marc, followed by Oly’s sister and mother. Today is Jenn’s Mother’s birthday, and also Oly’s Mother’s. Jenn wishes her mom a nice birthday from the “future” but we’re not sure if the message made it through.

The Fernando clan checks into their hotel while we go next door for a bite to eat. We can see Oly and Marc walking down the beach looking for us, not wanting to lose them I step outside and flag them down. They’re really very tired and Marc looks ready to pass out. Not only did they have an even longer flight from Las Vegas, they also had that 4am mass. We catch up quickly, telling the stories of our trip almost in a hurry. Marc is fading fast and our lunch isn’t very good. We figure out that we might like to go snorkeling with a boat when we’re done so we grab the check and go check on her mom.

Luz Fernando, clearly the leader of this operation, is napping in her room. Oly’s sister joins us and the 5 of us head down the beach bargaining in Tagalog for a good deal. Oly gets us setup with a pair of guys who lead us to a trike to the pier. We somehow squeeze all 5 of us in and on and around the trike and go the quarter of a mile down the road to the pier. I tell everyone we’re getting 2 trikes on the way back, no reason to be risky to save a dollar. At the pier we wait for our bangka, the smallest we’ve ridden in yet to show up. He’s got life vest and snorkels and masks, but no fins. It’s all right.

The ride is fun and pretty smooth all in all. We’re dropped off at a very busy stretch of reef. I’m worried we won’t see much with this much activity. Little did we know, it was worse than we thought, small bangkas tow visitors wearing life vest and masks and snorkels up and down the edge of the reef in a sort of make shift glass bottom boat. There are tons of them swarming around and they won’t let us be. Worst of all they’re churning up the water giving us maybe 10ft of visibility. The entire time I’m concerned with being run over as they come close by dragging tourists or worse asking if we want a tow. All I want to be able to do is dive down and get a good look at stuff maybe 10ft down but its worrisome surfacing with these guys around. When I do dive down I’m trying to surface as close as comfortable to Jenn because they’ll see her for sure. But I still have this image of getting cut by one of their unguarded props. My chances of seeing a turtle seem slim, I can’t imagine they’re not disturbed by all this commotion and it’d be hard to spot one. Oly is scuba certified since childhood but Marc and her sister are not and all 3 wear life vests. Preposterous to me! Oly’s sister hasn’t snorkeled before and is having trouble with fogging masks. I don’t think any of them remembered or maybe didn’t know about the spit trick that works so well.

We go as far away as we can from all the bangkas, and finally get left alone. Though it’s hard to see through the water, the reef is teaming with life. Many spots the fish are clearly being fed to bring them out. We see a lot of good stuff including a banded pipe fish of some kind I manage to get a shot of. After a little while though the Fernandos get cold and head back to the boat. I spot another Lion fish, this time swimming along and snag some good pictures of this little purple beauty. Jenn and I continue on for a while until we’re pretty far away and starting to think we’ve seen everything and head back ourselves maybe 20 minutes later. Not long after we turn Jenn spots something moving but wasn’t sure what it was. She has a second look and realizes it’s the flipper of a turtle! Finally, a turtle!

The little lady is sitting in the coral hiding out and blends in brilliantly. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were there the first time we passed overhead. Jenn is having a little party finally having seen one. She’s large and very relaxed. I go down for a photo and get a couple good shots before accidentally scaring her deeper. I’m guilty of robbing Jenn of more of a view, but she’s still stoked to have even seen one after looking all this time. I can’t really see her now, but diving down I can get a view, pulling alongside at the apogee of my dive I grab a couple of more shots but that’s the limit of my depth without fins.

Content and too preoccupied with our find to care much for whatever was down below us we made a b-line back to our boat. Just before boarding the boat Jenn got stung by another jelly. These long strand like jellies are hard to see and avoid, you just suddenly get a nice sharp sting that doesn’t go away for a few hours leaving nice red welts.

As we pull up Oly tells us there was a turtle near the boat apparently, but we one up that with our pictures of our turtle found on our own by Jenn, and away from all the commotion. Our bangka heads back to the pier as we enjoy the sun going down.

Instead of going our separate ways we all go back to our hotel in Aninuan and show them around, it’s a possible place for dinner with her mother. It’s decidedly Western though and the goal is Filipino food, so we split up and get ourselves ready for dinner then head over.

Back at White Beach we walk up and down the beachfront checking out our different options, not all of it looking very good. Luz picks a place and we sit down. Everything is ordered for us except for my delicious choco-banana shake. Food arrives in waves with the BBQ chicken being my favorite. All of it is edible, but nothing is all that awesome. They told us on a scale of 1-10, this was a 4 for Filipino food and we believe it. I joke we’re jinxed to need to have Filipino food back home to have anything good. We’d been told by our Belgian host at the gokart track that White Beach is filled with lady boys, and he’s right. Our restaurant is staffed by them, as are most of the others.

Down the beach more lady boys are doing fire dancing or singing karaoke for the crowd, or doing a comedy sketch. I don’t understand what’s going on or why the lady boy craze. It’s odd to me and I don’t get the appeal. We walk back a little ways towards their hotel before splitting off on our own to walk out to the main road and catch a trike, we can’t walk the rocks at night. We can’t bargain much and 100p gets us the half mile over the hill and to our front door. We shower to cool down and crash for the night.

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