Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pandan Island, The Morning After

At 830AM, Sunday, after more than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep, I woke up via “natural causes”! That means no one was banging the bed and no alarm clocks roused me to be with the world again! I was still not opening my eyes but I could already hear different kinds of bird songs all around the cottage (including the talkative parrot in the distance) plus some chickens, turkeys and at least two or three geckos occasionally clacking – all probably already up and have started their day! There was also a faint swishing sound of one of the crews sweeping fallen leaves and other weeds off the yards of the cottages with a broom. Sensing that there was no evident movement or sound from any of my companions, I mustered that they must have already been up and out roaming the beach. So I excitedly got up thinking I must not miss shooting with my own camera the early morning sights in and about the island especially the sunrise.

But I was surprised and murmured a soft protest to see that the three human beings I called my companions were still where I saw them just before I slept. And they were all still tightly wrapped with their blankets. So I started taking video and still shots of all of them. My shooting spree did not go unnoticed for long. The flash and probably the clicking, plus my whispered annotation on the videocam probably gave me away.

First came Sheila who poked her head out of her blanket and was smiling with a lazy gooood mooorniiiiing! Then as we started to talk about last night and about my protest why they were still asleep, I caught Mameng peeping from her own wrapping and already giggling! Then she joined in the conversation. I was still mildly protesting reprimanding why none of us woke to raise everyone so we could watch (and probably take shots at) the sunrise from one end of the island! This was excitedly agreed upon like a pact last night! Gosh! To fulfill that pact would have meant us sleeping in this island again. We actually didn’t mind doing so, but our itinerary said today was bye-bye Pandan Island day! Oh well…

Oddly enough, Barry, the ever active always on the go bubbly type was still quiet and wrapped at his side of the terrace! I went inches of him with my cam and I could not hear anymore snoring! So I poked and shoved him. He just tightly pulled the blanket to further envelope him like a pupa, pleading that we let him savour more of the fine morning atmosphere. So we left him be even if glints of the 830AM sun was already shining on his blanket. But the stories continued.

This time I learned that the commotion was on the geckos when they arrived at the cottage last night. The girls said they could tell that there must have been at least five or six in the house all seeming to be on the roof but some sounded like they were on the walls. So they were afraid those little reptiles might jump or accidentally drop from the roof and cling to them forever unless thunder and lightning came! Gosh! And this was the reason why all of them were wrapped tightly with their blankets that even a battalion of ants would have not been able to penetrate! Oh well! And Barry was already butting into the conversation!

The giggling and the laughing continued, and as the three of them were animatedly exchanging their stories about the geckos, I went off to catch some shots of the Pandan Island morning. All crews were up and about doing their respective chores and cheerily greeting me a good morning when I passed by them. And indeed, a boat had already crossed to mainland for those who wanted to attend church and those who were assigned to fetch “non-salty” water. This time I made sure I was at least able to see the entirety of the resort complex – meaning the island. I was beaming with sincere delight as everyone greeted me and called to me by my first name. Wow! But then again, we became like long-time friends last night! The fun was not just superficial, the bonding was real! Yes, the bonding was even physical *wink wink* - I mean we were dancing, we were giving high-fives, we were patting (even slapping) each other’s back in agreement and/or in appreciation! So the bonding was physical, right? Ehem ehem… right!

I got to see the dive shop and it was fully equipped! Whew! And there were souvenirs and other little things on sale! The shop was open yes, (though I don’t know if they ever close this place anyway) but there was nobody manning it! I waited a while… nothing! I called on a waitress. She came by and showed me some of the things on sale then told me “just look around and get what you like sir. The prices are in all of the items, so please just leave your payment on the table. If you do not have change you can also pay later at the bar”. Then she excused herself and retreated to whatever it was she was doing for a chore – with a genuine smile, of course! I thought this was an utterly straightforward way of telling anyone “ok looters, we are open and vulnerable, so hit us”! And as the waitress walked off, she paused and told me, by the way sir, if you want to go for a dive, just tell Mang Jimmy over at the bar and our dive staff will be around to assist you! Gosh! I never thought this was still possible in this my chaotic country!

As if I did not have enough of interesting discoveries, this island was another realization for me! The Philippines is not Metro Manila, and Metro Manila is definitely not the Philippines. Rare as they might be, good values and virtues such as honesty and sincerity do still exist in this part of the crazy globe. Indeed, Pandan Island is proof!

Reverse psychology even works here, I think. In my home, it is a given fact that until now, I cannot, therefore I do not attempt anything like folding clothes. I just don’t know how to and even if I did, the house-help would just either laugh at me or silently curse or openly reprimand me for attempting to do so – and ever without any hint of progress! But in this dive shop, yes in this unmanned dive shop, after trying to fit a shirt, I had to sweat it out carefully re-folding a shirt back into its crisp form and putting it back to its plastic container. Why? Because I felt guilty having rummaged through them and not being able to put them back into how they were when I already knew beforehand that there was no one to assist me!

Oh such fun in this place! And they come with a lot of discoveries about the country but also discoveries about myself!

Back at the bar, Mang Jimmy was asking us if we really had to check-out this day and if we really wanted to go! Of course we said we did not want to leave but our itinerary meant that we must go! This while we were settling our bills and the T-Shirts we all got from the dive shop! We did tell him that we must come back to this place some other time perhaps to probably explore more of the island or even go to the famed apo reef! Then he advised us that we better get more of the beach and the island while waiting for our “commissioned” boat to arrive and fetch us. And roam we did. In fact, Barry and Sheila could not help but dive again into the waters while I strolled along the vicinity of the island and while Mameng was again busy on her hand phone talking to friends and family!

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