Travel Two: Samal Island

For SAMAL ISLAND ITINERARY, click here.

It’s my first time to fly. I dreamt of flying before, not on a plane, but flying like a bird. I did not possess wings but It was more like magic made me hover and glide in the air. It was kinda weird though, because before I could fly, I should make these awkward dance poses correctly and there’s a slight chance that it won’t work. Maybe because I’m nearly awake and all of it sounded so stupid I realized I should get off the bed and try not to get back dreaming. Later that day I thought about doing the poses and hoping to actually fly. Don’t be silly. I was a kid when I had that dream.

Not a few minutes later I finally saw what clouds looked like when you’re above them. There’s the feeling of rush, reminding me that the first time is always the best experience. My friend let me sit beside the window to see the view. Just nearly two hours later and we made our touchdown. Welcome to Davao City. We planned to have our tour for three days and two nights again. This time, to make different reservations for different places. Davao is huge. The plan was to get a tour all throughout the city, to see wildlife at Philippine Eagle Center and to encounter nature’s obstacles at Eden Nature Park on our first day. During the middle of our flight, the cabin crews’ orchestrated a quick game of tongue twister for the passengers. Two of my friends, Baymax and Lumpy, went on the challenge and won a mini hand-fan.

Like strolling high above the sky.
Like strolling high above the sky.

After some groufie’s at the airport, me and my friends managed to locate our service. We told the driver to stay put as we take our lunch in a small eatery beside the airport. Then we took the road and sang with all the tunes we can belt out inside our car. The music made us alive until boredom got us and we finally reached our first destination. A souvenir shop, like we already finished the entire tour and we buy us some goodies to take home. Apo ni Lola had various of specialty candies made with Durian fruit. Some people don’t like the smell, but it tastes delicious when it’s made as a candy. Though the real stuff makes me as nauseous as looking at a dog spitting its guts out then gobbling it once more. We finished one pack of durian candies. Minutes later, we noticed that it smelled like a fresh durian popped open inside the car. Then we figured out that it was just our friend who burped. We laughed teasingly.

The tiny durian keychains are made from real baby durians which fell from immaturity.
The tiny durian keychains are made from real baby durians which fell from immaturity.

The road to Eden was a very long one. It was raining halfway and it took us nearly four hours to get there. It’s situated in the depths of the mountain at the end of a treacherous road. And when we got there, It was still raining. Yeah, no more ziplining and skycycling for the day. The things we looked forward to blew off of our faces and sucked our souls along with it. We thought of deciding to postpone our activities for Eden and try again the next day. But that wouldn’t work, we had to rent another van and that’d certainly cost us double if we did. So we chose to leave.

The sun completely went down when we made it out of that place and back into the main road. The tourist spots we had in our itinerary were then closed. We couldn’t go to other tourists spots anymore. We asked the driver if he could instead drive us to the farthest mall in the city. This lead us to SM Lanang, a newly opened mall at that time. It took us several miles, and calls from the driver’s boss, telling us it’s not a fair deal to let the car be traveled out in the long road. But we insisted, they agreed to do it but for a small additional cost.

We bought some groceries at the mall, stuff we’ll bring over to the next day for our next tour. Breads, instant meals, and a handful of snacks. The sky was still on downpour when we left. Our last destination was where we had our dinner, Jack’s Ridge. It’s a restaurant on the slope of the mountain. The city lights can be overlooked on the other side of the facade. Good food. Reasonable price.

Finally it’s time we go home. Home to where my partner’s family reside. It was where their family history was born, Toril, Davao City. My partner, Baymax, had his mother to come along with our flight. We were accepted with utmost hospitality. They were, are, a sweet family. A cute local dog named wacko was also introduced to us. After setting up our gears for tomorrow, and preparing the bed, we went outside the neighborhood to take a look at a free-flowing water not far behind the house. There we did our mouths, and had laughable moments. The water, which evidently came from the earth itself, comes out from a hole through a small tubing and is reserved in a tub a size where three to five kids could fit in. While we were brushing our teeth, my other friend was cleaning her retainers. Just before we were done, she accidentally dropped her retainers on the muddy sewage. HAHA. We were laughing as she scoops it out of the filth with her hand. Such good friends we are. We went back and moved on, but our faces still amused. We fixed ourselves and prepared to rest. But we thought about the day, about it not fulfilling our expectations. And our beaten thoughts ended up playing Saboteur, a thrilling card game. It was not until the third deal that we realized we’re not completely following the game rules.

My friends and I had to wake up before the sun shows up. We did not do that, as we were not yet tired of sleeping. I don’t remember taking a bath that morning. I think most of us didn’t. We’re off to a whole day of swimming in natural waters some of us had no trouble not being fresh in the morning road. Four rides. A tricycle, a jeepney, a roro from Davao City to the island, and our car service to the resort in Samal. We did not waste any more time, we started the tour early. Thank goodness this time we had a large boat, with its own comfort room, we can stand up, heck, we can dance on the boat, do cartwheels and pyramids(ok, too much). After a session of applying bottles of sunblocks, our boat finally started to move.

Flaky, Petunia, and I passed our time performing the cup song.
Flaky, Petunia, and I passed our time performing the cup song on our boat.

Seven of us on a wide boat, we stayed on the bow, taking groufies and enjoying the breeze of the wind. An hour or so to Talicud Island, we screamed songs again, while eating some snacks prepared for us. Our first stop was to do snorkeling. We put our safety orange suits on, climbed down and started swimming. There was also an available kayak. We took turns in kayaking. At first, we were overwhelmed by how deep our spot was from above the surface, but just a few feet away, a deeper, darker trench spread throughout the body of water. It was kind of creepy. Anyway, it was also a good thing we brought breads with us, we used it to get the fishes come near us. It worked, the feeling was wonderful. Fishes of different kinds cradled and danced along while we just stayed calm and swam with the bread in the palm of our hands. They said you shouldn’t do that, do not feed the fish in the wild, said wildlife shouldn’t rely on humans. Someday they will get used to it and they won’t look for food for themselves. I didn’t know about that. We didn’t know anything about that. It wasn’t a tourist spot anyway. Let’s move on.

My friends spending time snorkeling.
My friends spending time snorkeling.
Lammy, my friend, rides the kayak on her own.
Lammy, riding the kayak on her own.

There we were kayaking, and snorkeling, and swimming. We could not take off our life vests. None of us was a professional swimmer. While we were splashing around, one of us went to the boat’s cubicle to take out some of his nasty things. One moment we were swimming, next thing we were hurrying to go back up the boat. Rushing not to get our bodies close with the attack of tiny titans. Right after he went out the toilet, those little yellow submarines appeared from beside the boat, on the side we were swimming at. It came out through the disposal tube on one side of the stern. We did not know the purpose of the dirty hole until that happened. We called the floaters seashit, obviously. When no one wanted to go back to the ‘damaged’ water again, we just took turns with the kayak. Still laughing our asses off, we went on to our next destination.

The water was steady in some way and as transparent as glass. Below the surface spread beautiful corals. Angels Cove they call it. Wrong timing though, we couldn’t try and enjoy snorkeling. The tide current brought stingers in the water. We just enjoyed the view.

The clear water let us see what was lying magnificently below.
The clear water let us see what was lying magnificently below.

Our tummies were then feeling empty. Lunch was served on the beach at Talicud Island. Grilled chicken and pork, rice, cucumbers, mangoes, watermelon, pineapple and an available fresh coconut from some vendors. It was also a time for a lot of shutterbug action. Our eyes caught a small fruit bat lying in the sand not far from our hut. We thought it might be injured, and it also seemed aggressive so we just carried on with our munchies.

He wanted some of our food. Instead we left some buko for him. Look at him poke me. Cute.
He wanted some of our food. Instead we left some buko for him. Look at him poke me. Cute.

It was time to meet the giant clams in Taclobo Farm. It wasn’t included in our package, we had to pay for a separate entrance fee to be able to snorkel there. We were guided in the water while snorkeling. We held on to a floater(the lifesaver floater) as we were pulled and instructed by our guide. Huge clams stretched widely in the farm. Some have blue colorful coverings on their mouths, others were just as plain as rocks. We were careful not hitting them with our flipping feet, we didn’t want to go home missing a toenail or a foot.

Wishing island. We didn't care to wish for anything. Seemed oldschool.
The curious wishing island. We didn’t care to wish for anything. Seemed oldschool.

The sky began to go dark. and the wind breezed heavily. Our last target was the wishing island. I was the only one who went down and swam to the small island. When I got there, I saw ruins of might be an old recreational structure, two broken slides hung at the other side of the huge bedrock, with rusts defining its old age. We also noticed a single crow flying above us, orbiting the giant boulder. The boatmen said it was guarding its little ones that live on the trunks of the small trees. I felt a tingling creepy sensation behind my back. I then wanted to go back to the boat. I rushed going down.

The wails of the crow warned us of a forthcoming storm.
The wails of the crow warned us of a forthcoming storm.

The wind was getting heavier. Then it drizzled. I just got it in time to get back on the boat when the suddenly cold wind blew harder and the horizon appeared foggy and ghoulish. Rain followed as we made our way to the main island. The wild gust blew all what stood on the table at the center of our boat. We put all our things under our seats and we spurted on the other side of the boat to avoid the excessive blow of the bitter wind. It was so cold we arranged ourselves close to each other like penguins in the middle of a blizzard. We covered our wet bodies with our wet towels. Imagine the chilling ride. Several minutes later the wind slowly paced down and we arrived at the resort in the main island to refresh ourselves and get ready for supper.

As I said before, we’re set up at different accommodations for our places of stay. While we were on the resort north side of Samal, our beds are waiting for our tired and shaken bag of bones on the far away south. Just a couple of hours to Pangubatan, we thought. Twenty-three miles of nap time before the actual bed. But we were wrong, the course our car went through was the ruggedest, rockiest, bumpiest road we had ever encountered in our lives. We could not relax and take a nap, if we tried to, we’d be like shaking popcorns inside the cab. Recalling our carriage, it didn’t look like it could make it up to the end of the road. It looked like it had been there already. The shaggy way did not serve light, the only guide we had was our own and some roadsigns to tell us we might expect. Even the driver was not familiar with the road. If not because of us, he might have had lead us to a far more unfamiliar ending. At some point of our ragged journey, we witnessed several fireflies illuminating in the black corners of the woods beside the road. They were like stars in motion, quietly hovering the jungle.

1111
No way that can be traveled in 49 minutes with a road like that – and with a kind of car we had. -image snipped from google maps.

Finally, we reached the far end of our breakneck roadtrip. Our place of stay, located at Brgy. Pangubatan. Island Garden Resort did not meet our expectations. We thought (as our journey made us assume) that we’d be welcomed by a seemingly one-star rated refuge, we were proven wrong. The place was clean and our room was fresh. They had operational facilities and good service. Our room consisted of five bunk beds and we had no other travelers to share them with. We pushed two of them together so the couples could snuggle. A peaceful night it was indeed. The next morning I went out ahead to stretch and to see what their beach looked like. My friends came along a few minutes later. They had a hanging bridge and a couple of tree houses. Our company stayed at the beach until we were called for our breakfast. We noticed a few foreigners, too. There was also a time the resort manager (nicknamed Kuya boobs) approached us to tell some tales and talked about their other services, and we found out that they also offer cheaper tour packages. While there was still a lot of time before our service arrived, we walked alongside the beach up to the end of the shore far away. They said we’d find the Japanese tunnel when we get there and check out the skulls that remained from the old years of war.  Behind a tall rock wall lied a small pebbled shore. We thought the tunnel might be beyond that way. I crossed the raging waters and saw a staircase that goes up to the top above the rocks. I went up and there was nothing. Only a fence which then stopped my curious strolling. No signs of any tunnel or cave. Just to spend some time in the pebbled beach, we took some time with our cameras and were strained by trials of how to include everyone in the photos. Finally, we considered putting the camera on the spiky rocks and posed.

We climbed on this rock and took our pose. Standing behind (from left) are Flaky, Giggles, me, and Petunia. Sitting in front (from left) are Baymax, Lammy, and Lumpy.
Standing behind (from left) are Flaky, Giggles, me, and Petunia. Sitting in front (from left) are Baymax, Lammy, and Lumpy.

On our way back to the resort, we heard a bird whistle. It reminded us of the Mockingjay, the genetically engineered fictional bird from the Hunger Games story. It sounded like it came from the tall tree just beside the shore we’re walking on. We tried to imitate the sound. They seemed to respond with the same rhythm. Then we thought to whistle with the tone like that from the movie. We were shocked by how exactly they followed the tune. It might have been just our fantasy playing with us because that’s what we wanted to hear. But we heard what we heard. It was fascinating and unbelievable.

An hour later our service came and we said our goodbyes to Pangubatan. Another hour on the jagged ride, we arrived to Hagimit Falls resort complex. Apparently, various owners settled there businesses in different spots within the entire area of the waters. It’s hard to pinpoint which trade owned the parts we visited. We came across subsequent rock formations when we climbed the long stairs up to the last structure of rock and flowing water.

It's relaxing to lean on the rocks with the falling water massaging your back.
It’s relaxing to lean on the rocks with the falling water massaging your back.

This particular rock formation for example, wasn’t the one we paid for in the main entrance. Another ten pesos for swimming in the wrong spot, or so the sweeping guy told us. I was the first one to dive in. I couldn’t walk on the surface below as the depth of the reservoir was irregular, one bit the water is above your waist, and another step lead to you not being able to breathe anymore. The main attraction was Hagimit Falls, in the middle of the waterway. A group of local kids and adults were already there, jumping eagerly to the seven foot deep water. Slowly they left the falls when we arrived. By then it was our time to plunge. As most of us were not swimmers, like me, it was a difficult exhibition to perform. Only one of us was able to enjoy the obstacle without the dread of drowning. But of course, to break the tension, we tried to do our best and conquer our fear. We formed what we called “the trust bond”. One of us jump, and the rest forms a line, holding each others arms, and the goal was to grab the jumper quickly and pull him out of his near death experience (lol).

Lammy takes herself down the falls.
Lammy takes herself down the falls. If you’ll notice, there we are behind forming our “trust bond”.

Time passed we almost forgot we still had two more places to visit. Still wet, we rode the car and drove on to Aqua Maxima, We told the guy at the cashier that we’d only stay for an hour or two at maximum so we asked for a considerable discount. Most of my friends, including me, are too small for our age. So, the cashier guy just assumed to think that most of us were likable students in a field trip, and the two taller ones, teachers. That absolutely worked for us. Thanks a lot, good sir!

The beach was not a beach at all, there were no sand, no shoreline. Beyond the mainland was a vast uneven structure of spiky sole-cutting rocks. And just a few inches stretched an undeniably deep trench, likely enough to harbor a ship.

The queue for the blob was open. Lining up, we decided who would be the first one to jump. After a what might have been whole afternoon of determining the first jumper, I decided I should go first. My feet was trembling as I walked on the thin platform, the lifeguard stood steadily at the end of it. I can still feel the shake of my feet whenever I recall those moments. Time seemed to slow down, the cheering turned to distorted muffles. The height between me and the giant air bag appeared to be going farther and farther everytime I tried to blink. No, I thought. I was not ready. The pressure was too much to take in. I pulled back.

Next in line came my friend Lammy. Slightly shorter than I am, with what I tease her stubby arms and legs, long black hair and a cute smile. She also spent a couple of minutes in the platform. Then decided to pull back, too. And Flaky, noticeably thinner than Lammy, took a longer time than both of us combined before retreating. We were like kids on our way to our first dental appointment for a tooth removal.

In the long run, I was the first successful jumper. But not completely successful. I was not able to restrain my body from falling out of the water trampoline. Lammy came next again, she was able to stay on blob. The lifeguard soared on out for her. She bounced high and screamed her lungs out. On my second try though, I was successful. Baymax leaped for me but my exhibition did not turn pleasing, I fell on my lowerback and I hit the water with discomfort. The burning and the swelling sensation on my back advised me not to try and jump again.

Our hairs turned white. Our children got married and sooner our great grandchildren did, too. Flaky spent a generation on the platform before plunging. After an essay of encouragement she finally jumped. The next thing that happened was priceless. She stumbled on her back and threw herself on the water with her head first. If anyone deserved a grand prize for the funniest epic fail stunt, she’d be the winner. But she did took her throne on the blob when she tried again.

Your projection will depend on your position and the force of your jumper.
Your projection will depend on the way you sit on the blob.
Try not to panic in midair.
Flaky, trying not to panic in midair.

We still had time for the last ride, the giant slide opened at one in the afternoon. It was more challenging and thrilling than the blob. The intensity of accelerating down the enormous blue runway to the open sea gave more rush. But be careful, a wrong landing may result to a painful fallout.

There's no backing out once you're there.
There’s no backing out once you’re there.

When we were all down in the water, we swam to the other corner of the swimming area. Flaky acquired a number of flesh wounds from the grazing rocks at the edge of the reef. I accompanied her to the resort’s first aid clinic.

The awesome thing was the waters were populated with plentiful kinds of colorful fishes. We had a chance of feeding them with the bread we brought from the mall two days ago. The sight of them grouping together and coming closer was stunning.

It was time to refresh. So much fun had been accomplished we forgot to eat lunch. The remaining snacks were all the stuff we crammed up to our mouths.

Last but not the least, the bat caves. A few minutes from Aqua Maxima, were home to millions of bats that originally habituated the whole Samal Island. We also decided to spend just minimum time to visit the bats. Logging in to the facility, we hurried to follow our tour guide. We realized we spent so much time in Hagimit Falls and Aqua Maxima that we dreaded about being late to the airport for our flight back to Manila. The way back to Toril would take an hour and a couple more to the airport.

Caves serve the bats for specific purposes. One had all the youngsters, another had the elders, and also, a whole cave for the preggers. Limestone caves stretched hundreds of feet down the ground. One would notice the awful smells, but the history and the culture of the bats were not to be overlooked for they were extraordinary.

We found an isolated bat hanging by the fence around one cave. It suffers from illness, our guide said.
We found an isolated bat hanging by the fence around one cave. It was not feeling well, our guide said.

Again we consumed too much time with the bats. We still had to buy fruits at Magsaysay. Not trying to get stranded in line at the port, we amazing-raced our way up the roro. At Magsaysay, we bought kilos of Davao Mangosteens and Pomelos to take back home. We needed to ride two cabs, the girls went on first. They said they have a lot more luggage to sort. Our paths did not cross as our cabs took different directions to avoid the heavy traffic. Us boys were the first one to arrive.  I told the driver to just wait for us so we won’t have trouble in finding another taxi. Extremely agitated, we sprint to the house and were surprised with a bountiful grub served for us. No time for feast, we thought. We arranged our bags first, and hassled our way to the dining table to eat. The girls arrived, and they did the same but with more haste. The people on the house stared at how we chomped up the food. It was our first decent meal since breakfast and we are in a hurry to the airport. That was not the time for proper table manners.

Due to our eager skedaddling, some of us were not able to say farewell and thanks to the people of the house. but we all waved our goodbyes while inside the cab as the sun disappeared from the horizon. We came in the airport just in time. Checked in our baggage and finally rode on the plane. Just an hour and a half and we’re back in Manila. I did my last interview for the video clips as we waited for our baggage.

The night ended with all of us peacefully resting in our own homes. All the unforgettable memories we had in Davao, from the smallest detail to the most significant factor are now a part of our never ending adventure. anigif1


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