Saturday, May 22, 2010

I looked forward to my first day of scuba diving.

I miss it—the clean air, the quiet, the calming continuing rush of waves right outside our room on the beach. I miss the refreshing sea breezes, the smiling ever-helpful wait staff, and the beautiful tropical scenery that fills the eyes no matter what direction the head turns.

My buddy drove us all the way to this heavenly place; right to its tiny gravel parking lot (I’m sure hardly anyone drives their own car to that place). On the way there we showed up at the roll-on-roll-off piers at Batangas and learned that we’d missed the one vehicle ferry to Puerto Galera. It was past one and the ship pulls away daily at noon. So, we caught the afternoon ferry to Calapan arriving there with dusk fast on our heels. Good thing he’s a good driver, his car with engine strong and brakes dependable. My eyes were often shut during the heart stopping ride; if something bad was going to happen I didn’t want to see it. Credit to him though; we didn’t kill anyone and he pulled into Puerto Galera as the last of the day’s light went from dim to headlights required.

We drove the narrow winding 3 miles to Sabang in the dark. I knew we were in town as we headed down hill past the Tropicana Hotel then right at the bottom and past the marketplace on the left before heading back up some seriously steep hills toward the inward side of the peninsula. Much of that road is single lane and lightless. After making only two wrong turns we found ourselves going down a ridiculously steep descent. It was there at the bottom of that final hill that we finally found the resort.

The manager had one of the hotel workers show us a sampling of the rooms available. It was obvious that we were the only customers and we were still only potential ones at that. With that in mind my buddy did his thing and got us into rooms directly on the beach and got her to agree to $30 a night. So far so good.

We checked our bags into our rooms and let him talk us into “walking” back over the hill in the dark to get some dinner in town. We weren’t excited by the idea of it, but being team players we grabbed flashlights and followed him and his gal into the night. Within a minute we knew it was a questionable idea. Within five minutes I was soaked with sweat. Much of the road is in bad repair and there are long stretches that are completely without any light at all. If not for our flashlights we would have turned back, but we trudged on—stubborn I guess.

At last we plodded down the final hill into town. What took less than ten minutes in the car was a 30 minute exhausting hike on foot. That was the last time we did that. We settled into a table on the beach side of Eddy’s and ordered some dinner. The food is pretty good there, but my oversensitive nose continually picked up the foul sewery scent that now permeates Sabang beach. They really should do something about that, but it’s not likely.

At the end of the meal it was decided that he would ride back to the hotel for the car on the back of one of the numerous motorcycle taxis. In much of the Philippines paying to ride on the back of a motorcycle is the common mode of transport. As soon as he left to catch a ride back to the hotel, a group of five Korean men, each accompanied by a young Filipina, boisterously took a table directly adjacent to ours. I immediately got up and moved our little group, including two young girls, to a table as far from them as possible. Truthfully, families should not try to go to Sabang for any reason after 8pm. It’s not fit for decent folk after that hour, something that was definitely proven two nights later on another ill-conceived foray into town for dinner.

He sent us a text that he was on the way back down the hill with the CRV and we began walking back through town to meet him. It was a treat not having to make that return trek on foot. Back in our room we hit the hay and passed out from sheer exhaustion. I looked forward to my first day of scuba diving.


Ed said...

It seems (from my perspective) as if the Koreans and Japanese were frowned upon by many native Filipinos. I always thought it had to do with previous wars but perhaps it is because of their attitudes.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Nah, the locals that I know don't seem to really feel all that strongly about any foreign group. Young people here don't know history any more than young people do back in the US. The academic elite here almost universally despise the US, almost as much as our own academics do. No, the average person here doesn't go down that road at all, and are more interested in whatever financial benefit might be gained. When it comes to how most feel about foreigners here, I have to say its about one of the most grudgeless societies there is.