Friday, February 21, 2014

Prelude To Our ‘Whaleshark Watching’

Okay, as said in the previous story, we arrived at Oslob exactly 9:56AM instead of my expected 11AM. Without us asking, driver let us off just across this restaurant called “George Whaleshark Watching”, exactly our intended destination as I have availed of their services before. Ahm ah, yes, this was called “George & Jimmy’s” before, but the two names (brothers) have separated ways just lately!

Anyway, there is something with public transportation and stopping in this area of Oslob. There are no waiting sheds nor clear signs where the bus stop is. Wonder of wonders? With all the daily earnings that this barangay has amassed, and with all the many willing politicians who can sponsor installation of a clear bus stop (with or without a waiting shed), why is there none? Wonder no more, this is a political anomaly in the barangay that I learned by asking around – not only in the area, but even the bus drivers/conductors and as far as the provincial capitol!

The catch? You are the catch hehe! It’s like this… there are establishments in the area that line up the roadside. They offer food or accommodation facilities, and I do really like the non-pretentious simplicity of “George’s”. They have little native huts called ‘cottages’ overlooking the sea and the whalewatching activities, simple turo-turo style food (don’t miss that lechon manok on the grill, its yummy!). Upper-left of this picture, those dark spots are the boats, tourists and whalesharks!

What if you didn’t want to avail of any of those “services” but just want to go straight and have a look at them butandings? That becomes the issue and the catch! Buses don’t stop at the very front of that “briefing area”. So if you were let off anywhere, there’d be some walking to it. Even if you have your own vehicle, that briefing area is a bit tricky to find since there are no clear signs easily seen from the roadside (though that building is very prominent if you view the beach strip from the sea).
What is that “briefing" thing anyway? Well, the usual bla bla ceremonies that the local authorities have instituted. You are supposed to hear some few minutes familiarization and reminders on what these whale sharks are and what you should not do.
If you availed of the services of the resorts and restaurants, once you are loaded on a boat (owned by the barangay association), that boat will first row to this building, for you to get off and hear about that ceremoniously celebrated “briefing”. After that, off you go to the sea (just a few meters away actually) to see them whale sharks – called “toki” in the local dialect or butanding in Tagalog/Bicolano.

What happened to us?

Well, we settled, enjoying the breeze from one of George’s nipa huts, looking at tourists who were already swimming with the whales, then the boatmen came telling us we could already hop on the boat. I did hear them talk about what boat to use and one manong said “kato ra gamay” (let’s use the small boat) since there were only 3 of us. I asked (take note) I ASKED if it was okay to bring our phones and cameras and if they won’t get wet. All of them (yes, there are many of them uniformed boatmen) said YES. They even told us, no problem of us getting wet since we won’t be snorkeling.

Off we went with me carrying my digicam, with wallet, phone and yosi in my pockets. My friends were already wearing shorts from Manila, but did not change into something for swimming (swimsuits for them means 2-piece bikinis since they have the right to flaunt it)! One was carrying her iPhone, the latest model delivered to her just a few days ago, while the other had an equally expensive LG phone/camera bought last week.

Voila! Just a few inches away from shore, we were already battered by big waves. Not really dangerous waves (water depth not even knee-high yet) but big enough to splash on us and fill the boat with a lot of water. Good I raised my cam high up and all phones were still in our pockets. Yeah, dampened pockets, but phones were safe.

And off we went to see the sharks? NO!!!

Boatman must row away from shore to avoid the battering waves then make a u-turn back to shore, now in-front of this briefing building – so another round of being battered by the waves for us three! I asked what we were supposed to do there and manong told us we needed to attend the briefing. Okay fine, and we were even excited about it!

Up ashore, and in this fairly new open-type building that buzzed with a lot of people in green shirts, we were told to write our names in some sheet of paper, boatman meddled when it came to the payments since he already had our money, then we were asked to sit at the rows and rows of chairs to await for the briefing.

This briefing thing was taking too long to “transpire” and we could see them men and women in green shirts busy bantering or eating while three women were like arguing on who should ‘brief’ us. A bespectacled old woman with short wavy(curly) hair finally came to face us standing just inches in front and asked if it was our first time. My companions like chorused to say “yes” while I did not say anything. Then this manang said “okay, no touching and no flash, enjoy”!

Then she waved her hand for us to go back to where we entered from, where some guys were ready with life jackets for us to wear. So we stood to follow her hand.

“Tangina, yun na yun?!” was all I could whisper.

Anyway, we approached the green-shirted men who were giving us the life-vests. But as we did that, my “guests” remembered about their phones getting wet. So they decided they’d walk back to George’s (via the highway, its just a few steps anyway) to keep their phones in their backpacks safely deposited inside George’s store. I even tossed my phone to them so it could also stay dry from the waves.

I said I’d wait for them right here (so I could puff a smoke hehe). But as they went, the guy offered to have one of his colleagues drive them via a motorbike to George’s and back. I asked how much and he said “ah wala sir, para hindi na sila maglakad”! That was so kind of him. My companions (who are used to walking the entire length of Boracay’s beach from Station 1 to 3 and back even 3X a day) giggly said “salamat ha?” as off they went out of the gate.

BUT… immediately as the motorbike exited the gate, this old woman who briefed us said “oh asa man to sila” and the guy who offered the ride told her “ibilin lang ang phone sa George’s” to which she like blew her top wailing like “viewing ra man to sila, di ma toh mag-swimming”. And she followed it with a ramble of bla-bla-blah (yawyaw ba) as she kept pacing back and forth behind the tables. What piqued me was when she exclaimed “Arteha”! Yes, in Tagalog that means "ang aarte naman"!

Da! I hurriedly threw my half-burned cigarette and walked to front of the table. First word (aw sentence) was “hoy tanda, ano bang problema mo?” Sorry guys, while I think I am already fluent in Bisaya, I do switch back to Tagalog and English when I spurt out strong emotions like anger! She stopped stunned looking at me, and I fired…

“What the hell are you bitching around for? Iyo ba yung motorbike? Magkano ba ang pasahe nyan? Take note this guy (I pointed to the man) just offered that ride for free”.

And she attempted to retort with “hindi ba sir, hindi naman kayo mag-swimming..” but I curtly cut her on that saying…

“Yes, we are not swimming, but did you or your boatmen tell us that there are big waves today and that our phones could get wet? No! They even specifically told us we won’t get wet. Ikaw, ano ang sinabi mo sa briefing? No Touching No Flash lang di ba? Kaya mo bang bayaran yung 1-week old na LG at 4 days old na iPhone nila pati ang Samsung ko? Nabasa na nga kami coming to this place just to hear your No Touching No Flash eh. Ano ba pakialam mo kung bumalik sila dun sa resort. Iyo ba ang motor na yan? What the fuck is your problem?” I think I shouted all of those in a few seconds!

Silence. IN THE WHOLE PLACE. And I lighted another stick.

The whole of Oslob would probably be thankful there were no other tourists around. Just me (since my companions were already back at George). Yep, iskandalo!

The helpful guy in green (who offered the ride driven by his colleague) had to be the one to say “pasensya ka na sir, bisaya ka pala”. I said “I am not Cebuano but I paid 59,000 for my tutorials and I cannot mistake, I perfectly udnerstood, nagwawala sya sa ginawa nung mga kaibigan ko. Kung hindi ko pa naintindihan, kung anu-ano na sinabi nya tungkol sa mga kaibigan ko. Ano ba kasi problema nya? Is this how you talk about your guests in Oslob? Sino ba yan, sya ba ang Mayor nyo?”

He replied saying, di bale sir... {told me something censored} and promptly gave me a zip-locked plastic pouch (just like what we use to pack sandwiches) and he told me I could put my camera in there and still be able to take photos! And I really had to tell him he was very helpful compared to his grumpy old grandmother of a colleague. For indeed, he was!

Exactly on cue, when everything was over, my companions arrived. But they have been my longtime friends, they know what am feeling even just by seeing the tip of my hair strands hehe. And one of them said “don’t tell me you just encountered world war 3 again, that short a time we were gone”! So I told them what happened. They just looked at the oldie who was pretending to be busy at the table and we left to re-board the boat with chins high up.

And am sure the menfolk in that briefing area were drooling. I have sexy friends y’know! Sexy as they are, one is a Vice President and the other is a Manager at one of the world's biggest financial institutions. So that oldie had no right na basta lang laitin sila. They have traveled this far without sleep yet too. Atayang tiguwang! Don't anyone mess with my friends, even behind their backs!

Ah, let’s go to the butandings at umiinit na ulo ko just writing this!


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