Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pandan Island, Roaming Paradise

By advise of Mang Jimmy, and by instinct, soonest after we dumped our belongings in the cottage, we started out to stroll the perimeter of the island! Oh great nature!

We emerged from the bar and reception area to the beach (which is nothing more than seven or 8 steps away) and decided we should go walking to the left (eastwards) where the fine white sand lured us to. Going rightwards might have been equally fantastic but we saw that at the end of the sand were some boulders and cliffs that might have been a challenge to go through for a leisurely midday beach bumming. So walk we did!

This was it!

Walking, running, pausing, posing, laughing, splashing in the shallow waters, drawing things on the sand, chasing a sand-crab or two, marvelling at the sights, resting below some trees, ogling at an empty sea shell, throwing stones and sticks to the calm clear turquoise waters, singing, giggling, shouting and whatever else… there were only three human beings we could see around. And that was us and us alone! We felt like we owned the island.

This beach strip is the most private/silent I have ever yet landed on anywhere in the Philippines. Well it was off season, and I was thankful indeed. The very calm waters around Pandan do add to the stillness of everything where the only unnatural movement I could witness were some fish or two jumping to the air and back to the water. They were probably being chased by bigger fish. Looking further out, I could see fishermen silently cruising in their sail-equipped bancas like those you see in Mindanao. At one point of our stroll, we saw one of the resort’s little boats silently anchored by the shallow waters and it seemed like a permanent fixture as it barely moved in the stillness of the water. The scene offered a very nice photo op which we tried of course to capture on our cameras so we could remember it.

Circling to the other side of the island we were confronted by nothing but still the clean shimmering white beach and the calm turquoise waters oblivious of the sun's fiery midday heat. Even on a hot sunny day, here was an exhilarating – even romantic – scenery. Clear skies with a sparse scattering of cottony white clouds very high above and in the horizon was nothing but endless sea that seems to meet the sky somewhere in the distance. Oh vacation!

Onwards as we tried to skirt the island, the white sand do after all has an end. But where it ends, an equally exciting part of this little paradise unfolds. This is already the back portion of the island directly opposite the place where our cottages are located. The white sands give way to a rocky portion covered from the midday sun by a limestone wall that climbs to a hill just about the height of a four storey building. The rocky area of the beach is mostly made of corals unperturbed by many a tourist’s hand. Here we encountered sea creatures that we thought could only be seen on corals far out in the open seas. We played tag with some crabs who were experts at burying themselves into the sand! At no more than 5 inches deep of water, we spotted an eel with its head perched outside its own little cave in a coral stone. Little fishes of every conceivable colour seemed not to mind our gate-crashing feet, hands and cameras. Sea shells big and small were scattered everywhere. Even sea grass was represented here at ankle-deep of sea water.

As the sun got a little bit kinder to “bearable”, I found myself laid on my back on the sandy area where nothing but the softly lapping little waves was my company and background music. A very peaceful circumstance indeed that I actually snoozed there for a while until my companions roused me from that unperturbed slumber! Oh paradise.

Back at the resort’s bar-cum-receiving-area, we noticed there were a number of kayaks so we borrowed one and paddled around. Such a fun way to roam around the island! With little or no waves, I did get the temptation to paddle as far away from the island as possible until my companions were just centimetres tall to my eyes. However, sensing that Mang Jimmy was waving to let me come nearer – plus the fact that I felt some stronger current out in the open – I heeded and came nearer to shore! Nearer to shore was in no way a bore. I was often traversing above some corals teeming with a lot of sea life. Some of them fishes I could see were swimming beside me as I paddled on! Thus, we could not resist giving the kayak a rest for some snorkelling.

No farther than 5 meters away from some parts of the shoreline, we were already having a grand time chasing and observing underwater life! Anemones, little fishes, bigger fishes, sea urchins, sea snakes, dead corals, new corals, sea grass, blowfishes, Nemo and hundreds of his friends, even Lapulapus were some of the many sightings we had to marvel at. And our sole underwater camera had to keep clicking! There was even a debate if what we saw was a prawn or lobster! And many of those fascinating sights were actually in waters no deeper than up to my chest and neck area. Gosh!

As if to cue us into something else, the ocean bottom started to get dark and when we looked up, an enchanting mixture of orange and the light blue skies were preparing another show for us! We were never told and we never imagined sunsets were spectacular on this part of the country! So from about 30 degrees of the horizon, down till the last glint of that orange thingy called the sun, we never focused out attention on anything else. Our cameras never ceased clicking! This we did up until our day-touring company (Melda, Gerone, Arvee and Manang Bidang) pushed back from shore to return to Sablayan.

Dusk had befallen on Pandan! And we thought it was going to be nothing but sleep. We were literally and categorically wrong! Very wrong!

While the sun already submerged itself down at the far end of the darkening blue-green seas, there was still enough light on the beach for us to loiter, banter and play around. As we did so, we caught sight of two foreigners swimming into shore from some scuba sojourn. They just swam in – meaning they did not use a boat to go scuba diving! Golly this place, too many surprises! So I curiously went down to them resting at the water’s edge and sensing they were friendly anyway, I started out a barrage of questions to them as if I was an investigative reporter! Sooner I found out, I was the foreigner and they were residents of the Island! Shame on me! One was “just” the owner of the dive shop inside the resort while the other was one of the dive masters! And they just came from an “investigative dive” – really to check-out what would be new and best to offer future dive customers. Anyway, when they both retreated to their quarters, I went back to join my pack!

The playing around at dusk was actually a way of entertaining ourselves as we took turns at the shower since our room only had one. With our cottage being nearest to the bar, we opted to wait for our respective turns to freshen up while hankering around the bar area. Billiards was the agenda and we all tried our very best to shine at the pool table even if we knew that a single game seemed to have been taking us forever. Mang Jimmy was just around the bar area, occasionally chatting to us and occasionally giving some pointers or techniques on how to become the next Efren Bata Reyes! Occasionally too, we would attempt rousing the now resting parrot in its cage! And although not as active, he/she would respond with either some cursing or some shrieks and other words we did not seem to recognize. In sum, the parrot was probably too irritated for having us around its cage when Angelus was already more than an hour ago!

Wasn't that a fantastic day?! Let's go to dinner next, aight?!

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