Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Backpacking Bicol - Details on Distance Travel Travels II

Balading Beach

Sta Magdalena

Let me tell you something about Sta.Magdalena. If you look at google map and zoomed at the southernmost tip of Bicol, you will see the port city of Matnog, the jump-off point for bus going to Visayas through Samar. Trace the shoreline to the right and you will see another town almost facing the Pacific Ocean. That's Santa Magdalena. It looks like an island town, There's the sea in front, Mountains at the back and rice fields in between. My dad was a fisherman and my mom was an amazon hehe. Perfect! The place is so isolated that not even the Japanese were able to access it during WW2! (I asked my granpa what was he doing during that time and he said he was just plowing his fields) Unbelievable! To think that Gen.Douglas McArthur landed on the shores of Samar which is visible on a clear day if you look east. Apparently, the trip to my place was considered a quest those days. Jap and American soldiers alike have more possibility of being swallowed by a constrictor, poisoned by snakes and tarantulas, or drowning in quicksand... than being killed by a bullet.


So from Sorsogon, we travelled south inland, passing rolling hills and mountains, separated by rice fields with Mt.Bulusan looking closer. The aroma of the ocean is so omnipresent here, that I gleefully updated BPNM and CM that we are really near every 15 mins, that lasted for almost 2 hours hehehe. (Blame it to my oversensitive olfactory system due to my more than average-size smelling organ) I just hope they enjoyed the trip, there's no rolling hills and greens at Tarlac (BPNM's province) or fog covered mountain/volcano at Pangasinan ( CM's) At last (for real) we all smelled the salty air and saw a glimmer of blue somewhere behind a hill. BPNM was a little confused, she associates palm trees with beaches not with rice fields. We arrived at our not so finished house at nightfall and proceeded to clean up. Well, at least the bathroom has strong waters and immaculately white tiles, very out of place in a rundown house of ours. We raided my Lola for dinner, she didn't know we were in town.


The next day we went beach combing! I woke up with the crow of roosters and the smell of macopa burning. The essence of rural living! Then our first problem occurred to us, we have a stove but no gasul. No Gasul, No food! Question: How do you solve a problem like that? Answer: Realize that the whole barrio is your relative up to certain degrees once, twice, thrice removed.Hehehe.

We went to Balading beach, and once again the trip on the previous day was well worth it. We were rewarded with semi-white sand beach, not as powdery but soft and comfortable enough. The beach was gently sloping up to breast-deep waters. And the best thing? We were alone! After the girls finished applying copious amounts of sun protection and stripped off in their 2 piece (abeng and elek, maglaway kayo!) they proceeded examining the waters if it is cold enough to check if anyone will notice if they were to pee, and I proceeded to the formidable SAWANG (BPNM is a living testament to this) , to snorkel.

Balading is not a beach for sissies. Although on high tide the beach can only go as high as neck deep, and there's an ample meter of sand under your feet to safely wade to, beyond that is a rich seabed of fauna. There are seaweeds, anemones and occasional corals on the seafloor. A dream for snorkels, and nightmare for seaweeds-are-icky-they're-touching-my-legs wimps. There're no waves at Balading, the waves crashes a good distance away (20 meters or so) where the Sawang starts. Sawang is the local dialect for sea wall. You can walk the whole 20 meters in knee deep waters, and when you see the water turns dark blue, you know you're at the edge of Sawang already. Here I spent my time snorkeling, diving, and chasing school of nemos. I reckoned it is a good 10-15 feet deep, but the waters are so clear it could be 20-30 feet deep. There were corals hanging at the seawall, lots of fishes taking refuge and some occasional coral snake. There was a resident little octupus there as well but I didn't get to shake tentacles with him. Once I saw a big fish with a horn in front of its head, looking like a shallow water version for an anglerfish (later food for us).


I was so amazed that I successfully coaxed BPNM to go snorkeling with me. She said she'd done snorkeling at Galera, but she failed to mention that she was wearing an effing life vest! There're no life vests here, only my snorkel set and an extra pair of goggles. So we dived at the edge of Sawang, we were making these thumbs up signal like a pro diver, and I was pointing here and there so she could see the fishes. I'm no aqua-man, so eventually I have to surface and breath (she had the mouthpiece and I only have goggles) , I accidentally released her hand... and she panicked! Even with the constant reminder not to panic if I accidentally released her hand she still panicked. She even forgot she can breath because she still had mouthpiece! So there she was trashing and drowning the only person who's trying to make her float. I dived and pushed her upwards, She almost lost my aqua shoes (which she borrowed), My whole body and extended arms where all under water (but i still can't feel the bottom) It all happened so fast and I'm still baffled how I was able to react with calmness under the situation (for example I saw my aqua shoes sinking "sayang aqua shoes ko!" and I dived to retrieve it, THEN I went back to BPNM to push her up,WHILE consciously biting my shoe to avoid it from floating again! )Fortunately she had a survival instinct to turn and face the seawall and paddled frantically towards it. The waves carried her towards to semi-safety --- semi-safety because she was scratched, wounded, and shaken by the wall. But, still she was safe, battered but safe AND apologizing for the lost shoe!

All this happened when Churchmate was busy picture taking at the safety of the shallow waters and catching starfishes. The true amount of bodily harm came to view when we surfaced. BPNM legs was scratched by the sharp rocks of the Sawang, and a skin was opened in one of her toe, and was bleeding profusely. If there were sharks around, I'm sure they'd show up before Glock 9 or Francis M finished a word. And so, feeling guilty (me), stupid (BPNM) and oblivious (CM) we went back up to shore to heal the wounded (I had several scratch in my palms and fingers). You have to give it to BPNM, in a near death experience, all she taught was apologizing to me because she panicked "OK lang pare, nag panic ako" Maddapakingshe.... Tamang guilt trip! (later that night, in our inuman session, she said she confessed thinking "is this it? This is a pathetic way to die!")


We were there almost for a half day, from 9am - 2pm. We had our lunch at the Resort's resto. Newayz, I was asked by my Lola to get some buko for her. My uncle's house is just walking distance from the beach and so we walked. I thought, I'll experience being a monkey for a while, I really wanna climb a coconut tree. But instead, my uncle asked me to carry a very very long panungkit! Everyone is a sissy these days! What happened to hard labor! My mom even climbed a coconut tree once when I was younger (being the amazona she is) We ate the first 3 felled bukos on the spot. We had no spoons so we used the coconut's hard skin. Newayz, we got around 7 or eight bukos, oozing with juice. Which ChurchMate geekily pointed out - is a form of Isophrophyl Alcohol! - which was confirmed by wounded and limping Butiki when it trickled down her legs and hands "POTA HAPDI! "

That night, we ate dinner at my Lola, with 7 Bukos as pambayad. Only to find out that what she needed was NIYOG for GATA not fress BUKO! I'm really messing up my bicol dialect.


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