Saturday, May 28, 2005

Going to Pandan Island, The Way To Paradise

From the Sablayan public market, the way to Pandan Island is a walk away. You stroll along a narrow street that fronts an equally narrow waterway that is some kind of a stream or river that leads out to sea. Before hopping unto the banca, we had to check-in with a little office of the tourism department right on this narrow street. We were asked to write our names on some kind of a registry and pay a few pesos (was that 15 or 20?) each – some kind of a toll or tax – probably for setting afoot on this newly-paved narrow riverbank.

Once all aboard, our banca operator and his companion started the engine then off to paradise we were. The way out of this shallow river-mouth was already interesting. We passed by some little shacks erected on both sides of the waterway where women were washing their dishes, menfolk tending to their fishnets and/or the hulls/engines of their bancas, while children were having fun in the shallows. We were told the bigger bancas with “living quarters” were the ones used for traveling to dive safaris at apo reef and/or long-term fishing expeditions while those little bancas like what we were riding on was for crossing to nearby islands or fishing in nearby waters.

Our little banca was not actually that minute! It was rather big for all ten of us on board. I was sure it could even have taken twice our number and/or weight. Ten of us? Yes. Barry, Sheila, Mameng, Me, Manang Bidang, Melda (cousin of Mameng and Sheila), Gerone (boyfriend of Melda), Arvee (nephew of Sheila, Mameng and Melda) plus the two crews of the boat!

A different air of freshness caressed our faces as the banca emerged from the shallow waterway into the deeper blue sea for the 10-minute ride to the island. Ahhh vacation! Pandan could actually already be seen as the water was very calm. No hint of any waves. It was almost like riding a boat in Caliraya Lake. We mused that if we were even just a bit richer, we could actually cross to the island via jetskis or even banana-boats. Calm with a light breeze, the ride was truly already refreshing. Then again, we had to shout at each other as the boat’s engine was rather a din drowning our voices.

Dark green to dark blue waters, we thought this must have been really, really deep. But at some portions of the trip, we could clearly see the sea-floor, the corals and marine life. Farther to our left was also an island about as big and interesting as Pandan, but the boatmen told us it was privately-owned by a certain wealthy dude and was not open to tourists or visitors.

As our little boat chugged along the serene waters, we saw fishermen in their even smaller bancas without engines but with white or multi-colored sails. The wake of our boat did rock them but we saw that they were safe.

From the time we emerged from the Sablayan departure area, Pandan Island – our destination was in full view. Looking at it from a distance, the island was a beckoning strip of greenery lined at the bottom by an equally inviting strip of white that hugged the blue-green waters of the sea! And of course, as we came nearer, the island became bigger and our hearts pounded faster in excitement. As our boat came into meters off the beach, we all were trying very hard to resist the urge of jumping on to the clear waters.

Oh my badness! It was just too inviting! But let's do that in the next installment of my stories!

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