"a caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. a caterpillar must undergo metamorphosis, and a cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all: enters total chaos, undergoes total rebuilding, and is born to a new way of living. only in taking the risk of entering that inert cocoon can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty."

Monday, May 21, 2012

babuyan memories, part 4a: losing sight of the mainland and finding the natural charms of camiguin norte

"One does not discover new lands without consenting
 to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."   
-- André Gide

during that early april morning when our group of eight -- kat, mati, bren, bryan, jb, sherelle, yanyan, and i -- boarded a motorized banca (locally called lampitaw) in sta. ana, cagayan to brave the big waves of the babuyan channel, we got what we hoped for: indications of good weather and favorable wave conditions.

the captain (kuya totoy), along with two assistants (jayjay and zombie), ably steered our boat towards our island destination in the babuyanes. the dual-engined boat effortlessly got us away from the northeastern edge of mainland luzon and across the channel.

after a good while of seeing only shades of blue (blue waves against blue sky) and some white (white clouds) around us, a breathtaking sight of camiguin norte, our island destination, welcomed us on the other side -- as if we entered another dimension.

as seen from my seat on the boat: camiguin norte island

as my eyes feasted on the vegetated mountain slopes and rugged edges of camiguin norte, i was reminded of other daunting boatrides survived in batanes, zambales, and palawan and i was thrilled to have reached another place, another paradise in MY country -- the philippines.

glimpses of camiguin norte island, 40km or so away from the mainland

destination: camiguin norte
camiguin norte is one of the five major islands comprising the babuyan islands, an archipelago of 24+ volcanic-coralline islands situated between the balintang channel and the babuyan channel of the luzon strait.

map of babuyan islands from http://www.worldatlas.com/aatlas/infopage/babuyanislands.htm

map of camiguin norte island
image source: http://www.scribd.com/doc/32556780/Varanid-Lizards
(i provided the labels in red)

camiguin norte of the babuyanes, not to be confused with camiguin island of mindanao, is a 22-km long volcanic island dominated by mount camiguin (also known as camiguin de babuyanes and locally referred to as dakkel nga balay, which means big house), a 712-meter high forest-covered stratovolcano located on the southern tip and considered by the philippine institute of volcanology and seismology (PHIVOLCS) as one of the 22 active volcanoes in the country. the island is part of the municipality of calayan which, despite the considerable isolation from the mainland, is under the political territory of cagayan province.

if camiguin norte's geological features are not enough to give away her volcanic nature, the undeniable strong smell of sulfur along the southwestern  shore and the smoke and heat emanating from a nearby semi-undersea hot spring are additional tell-tale signs.

notice that smoke? the smell of sulfur prevails in this area. this is one spot in camiguin norte island where you see a tell-tale sign of the presence of volcanoes

experiencing unpredictability in unfamiliar territory
i'd like to believe that all of us in our group of eight really knew what we said yes to in addition to taking the chance of seeing whales and dolphins in our country's northern seas. the trip is not for everyone, not just for anyone. it is only for the ones who are willing to yield to what's difficult to shake off -- the potent combo of the lure of the remote and the call of adventure.

we took the challenge of crossing the babuyan channel  and spending time in the babuyanes despite knowing that the area is a playground of the winds and that the possibility of being stranded is high due to the unpredictability of the weather and sea conditions even during philippine summer months, when the seas are expected to be calm.

the babuyan area's notoriety for unpredictability revealed itself to us soon after we reached the aquatic territory of camiguin norte. while the sky remained clear allowing the sun to shine on us and our boat as we traversed the babuyan channel, we suddenly found ourselves under a very cloudy zone and got welcomed by drizzle when we reached the island's southwestern side.

suddenly gloomy camiguin norte: experiencing unpredictability and still seeing beauty

under the gloomy sky, camiguin norte and the nearby islets on her western side still looked enthralling. towering above all, mount camiguin was imposing yet gave the impression of being coy, her peak hidden by a large mass of clouds. the caves, coves, cliffs, multi-colored rock formations, and the forest-covered slopes bore no signs of human abuse nor degradation and looked very pristine and inviting.

glimpses of camiguin norte's natural charms

when we cast our eyes away from these and looked to our left, pinon island easily commanded our attention. at first, pinon appeared as a mound of green rising just a little above the waves. when we got closer, it was easy to recognize her as an islet gifted with features that reminded us of batanes' valugan boulder beach because of the countless smooth rocks lining the shore where waves crashed angrily and zambales' capones island because of her vegetated elevated portions and the way the rocks were scattered on the lower portions. plus, she also has a good stretch of white sand. her beauty beckoned to us but the prevailing wind and wave conditions made further approaching her very daunting.

pinon island: an islet just off camiguin norte

beyond pinon and around 4 kilometers or so away is another island -- pamoctan (pamuktan in ilocano). our boatmen told us that she's really a beautiful island and we could stop over there. weary from the long boatride across the channel and badly wanting to walk again on land, we all agreed for our boat to dock in pamoctan so we could as well have our then soon-due lunch on her beach.

at first, since we were approaching her from the south, pamoctan looked like an island version of a misplaced and deformed chocolate hill. as we approached her on her southeastern side, her two-peaked terrain became obvious -- a charming tandem of a mama hill on the northern side and a baby hill on the southern side.  she's quite a picture of a lumpy pretty island and the babuyanes must have really wanted to show her off to us -- the clouds let up and allowed the sunshine in as our boat approached her shore.

approaching pamoctan island

according to online resources, pamoctan is actually a lava dome and is recognized  as one of the three volcanic centers in the southern part of camiguin norte. she is a landmark to navigators and is known as the island that lies in the middle of the entrance to the anchorage they refer to as port san pio quinto -- in ordinary speak, pamoctan is the island guarding the southwestern cove of camiguin norte.

personally, i consider pamoctan as my la isla bonita of the north -- the northern counterpart of tawi-tawi's sangasiapu island, my la isla bonita of the south.

the white coralline beach of pamoctan island, my la isla bonita of the north
very clear seawater and a glimpse of pamoctan island's underwater charm

more than her charming lumpy look and her white coralline beach, pamoctan really endeared herself to me when i saw the marine life she keeps around her -- corals and fishes -- so healthy, so colorful, so diverse, so attention-grabbing, and so close to the shore. even from the boat, the corals were visible because the seawater was so clear!  i was really more than thrilled. the natural underwater garden one could clearly see even from above the water surface is beyond awesome!!!

(to be continued)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

off the beaten path: the baliscar island adventure and the walo-walo encounters

"The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality,
a sharpening of the edge of appetite...
a brief excursion from his way of life."
--Robert MacIver

reminiscing "destination: baliscar lighthouse"

i assumed it was going to be a walk in the park. i did not end up being disappointed. it turned out to be a walk in the park, yes, but with exciting twists and overlapping multiple phases of adrenaline rush. definitely, it was a more than the usual walk in the park and one for the adventure chronicles!

it happened two years ago but it still feels like it was just yesterday because the details of the experience remain fresh in my memory. it was a sunday in march and it was the second day of the pinas flashpackers' "beachbumming" weekend in mauban, quezon of lamon bay. the open-close quotes are there for good reason -- it was far from the beachbumming trip we expected it to be and we experienced more than what we were ever prepared for.

once upon a sunday morning in march
i remember getting up early that day. we were in villa cleofas, a resort in cagbalete island facing the pacific. facing the pacific means facing east and facing east implies good vantage for watching sunrise, and i'm quite a fan of sunrise -- by now, you get the picture. i had an obviously good reason for getting up early.

it was quite a cloudy morning when i and some of my travel buddies set out to the white sand beach to catch the sunrise. sunlight seemed to struggle and barely won its early morning battle against thick clouds.

03.14.10 sunrise picture | trivia: 03.14 is pi day and is also albert einstein's birthday in mm/dd format :D

i cheered for sunlight and prayed for the clouds to give way. again, i had good reason.

the weather condition for the morning and for the rest of the day had to be favorable because we were scheduled to go to the lighthouse, atop baliscar island somewhere further to the east. we were told that the island was a 30-minute boatride away from where we were and the trip was only gonna push through if the waves were not too rough.

while we were on the beach until the time we had breakfast, it was a waiting game but watching the sky and looking out the sea gave us good enough indications that seeing the lighthouse was gonna be a go.

it was still gloomy when we set out sometime after breakfast. by then, the tide level had gone so low that we first had to walk a long, long way from the beach to ankle-deep then knee-deep seawater to get to the boat, m/b st. anthony, which was already anchored further out -- where the water was deep enough for the waves to no longer dangerously tossle and eventually force the boat to run aground. 

a picture of my travel buddies which i took while we were walking towards the boat

the distance between where the water was only knee-deep and where the boat was waiting required us to either swim or wade through relatively strong waves that came at semi-tolerable intervals. another option made available to us was to board a small boat to facilitate our transfer to m/b st. anthony.

the small boat was of such unusual shape that "it reminded me of a triangular banyera (big basin)" is the way to describe it now. hehe. it looked cute and could be easily dismissed as a toy boat for the small boys (and small girls) but, at the same time, it seemed built for stability despite the waves. the boatmen and their helping hands convinced us to take a short ride on board the small boat since it's the best option for us (we can avoid getting wet among other things) and for them (no need for them to divide their attention assisting and looking after a lot of us walking, swimming, and/or struggling our way to the big boat). we were 17 in our group alone and the other group which was making the trip to baliscar with us had a headcount of around 20. go figure!

one adventure after another
walking from the beach to where we could already board the small boats (there were two of them) was an adventure in itself. for a good stretch, walking was just as simple as walking on white sand with ankle-deep water. then, there were already seaweeds, creatures like sea cucumbers, sea stars and anemones, and rocks which we needed to walk around, step on, walk through, or jump away from to avoid getting unnecessarily tangled, scratched, imbalanced, and, in the case with sea urchins, being punctured by their spikes. walking while trying to see the underwater path particularly got tricky when somebody else already disturbed the seabed and caused grains of sand to turn the water turbid. what if there were sea snakes? ewww.

riding the small boat was another adventure. we had to properly mind the rhythm defined by the waves and accordingly time the act of swinging our legs to board the boat or we risked being hit, thrown off-balance, and getting bruises. i was being careful but one of my knees still got bruised!

we had to go in batches since the small boats could only accommodate so much. however, we still ended up being like sardines packed in a limited container. hahaha. the helping hands -- most of them were kids still but strong swimmers and familiar with the sea -- guided the small boats towards m/b st. anthony.

the first to approach m/b st. anthony was our small boat. as in the case with boarding, we also had to properly mind the swell of the waves and time the act of making our way out of the small boat before rushing a safe climb onto the big boat via outriggers.

at the risk of breaking our necks or being beheaded by the bamboo katig
there was pandemonium when we realized that m/b st. anthony's bamboo outriggers (common local term: katig) spelled danger for us  -- one ill-timed movement of our small boat relative to the motion of the waves made us face the risk of bumping our heads and/or breaking our necks (or, worse, being beheaded, tsk tsk) if we didn't duck in time or if we failed to watch out for the others on board. hehe. no joke.

the bamboo outriggers

sometimes, in my head, i can still hear our collective girly shrieks caused by the momentary panic. we were all females on that boat and if you were there and shared that short ride with us, you'd realize it was really a spontaneous reaction to something very risky and very real -- a heart-pounding moment that thrill rides in themeparks could not duplicate.

the other small boat: filled to the brim but still afloat
in the foreground are 5 bamboo outriggers of m/b st. anthony

those who boarded the other small boat were saved from our ordeal since their helping hands and those of us who were already on board m/b st. anthony already learned  a better way to conduct the transfer from the small boat to the big boat. eventually, everyone of us who signed up for the baliscar island trip got on board m/b st. anthony and our journey to baslicar island began.

destination: baliscar island

cagbalete, bonsai, and baliscar islands in lamon bay.
image source: wikimapia. i provided the arrows and readable names

the engine of m/b anthony roared to life and the captain steered the boat to the direction that would take us to the island. by then, the clouds had cleared out, giving way to the sun and granting us a cool blue summer sky as we went further away from cagbalete and out to the sea. the boat rode the waves and defined an aqua path on super blue waters.

soon enough, baliscar island was in sight.

baliscar island from a distance

baliscar island is actually a rocky islet -- a very small rocky island. from a distance, it looks like a flat piece of rock in the middle of the sea with the lighthouse as the only thing that is prominently jutting out of it. it is easy to imagine that seafarers will definitely not miss the lighthouse, especially at night.

the baliscar challenge: jagged rocks and waves

as we got nearer and saw baliscar up close, i began to wonder how we were going to get to the top of the very rocky island. the boat circled the island once and we all saw that there was no port nor beach in sight and the waves incessantly lapped the perimeter, angrily lashing at sharp, rough rocks. more than that, the portion of the water where our boat remained afloat, a good distance away from the island, was far from being shallow -- the water was dark blue!

the boatmen announced we could already go to the island. a lot of people on board had that questioning look on their faces -- they sported the "big how" look.

i remember having this conversation with marl, one of the gals in our group:

marl (who turned to me and asked me, ): "pupunta ba tayo? bababa nga tayo?" (are we going there? are we really going down?)

me: "pag sinabi nila kuya na ok bumaba, yes! andito na tayo (baliscar). that (pointing to the lighthouse) is what we came here for." (if the boatmen will say it's ok to go down, yes! we're already here...)

so from the boat, our group went to baliscar island. how? the answer is another risky adventure which we didn't prepare for. 

picture this.

one of the boatmen jumped overboard and swam dragging a rope towards the island. we watched as he swam past the strong sea current and reached baliscar; he secured the end of the rope that he was holding to one of the big rocks there and gave the OK signal for others to cross. the helping hands positioned themselves along the long stretch of rope and beckoned for us to get moving and start THE crossing.

we grabbed the life vests and quickly donned them. i checked my dry bag, secured the straps of my ever reliable outdoor sandals and took hold of my snorkel and mask. one after the other, we made our way to the outriggers and jumped to the water -- cold, blue, with waves.

baliscar island, a rocky island destination where faint-hearted people need not go
one way to describe the crossing: not for the weak. another way to describe the crossing: dangerous.

the water was deep. between our boat and rocky baliscar island was an expanse of sea with strong current. closer to the island, the water was shallow but the waves were unforgiving and ready to drag and smash anything and anyone against jagged rocks. the only readily available lifeline was the stretch of rope. to do the crossing, one needed to willingly take the risks and face the unfamiliar. we did.

our group of 17 atop baliscar island

these pictures of our group -- headcount: 17! -- with the baliscar lighthouse in the background only mean one thing: all of us were able to cross and we were able to find our way to the top of baliscar island! yey!

the lighthouse of baliscar island

we were really not prepared for our baliscar island adventure. apart from the lighthouse and that it was 30 minutes away from the shores of cagbalete, we did not know anything else about it. the lack of proper unloading site, the crossing, the totally rocky surface, the rough climb -- all these made up for a very adrenaline-pumped surprise adventure.

getting to the top of the island was definitely NOT a walk in the park but we initially thought it was gonna be one. we thought getting past the sea current and  avoiding the crashing waves were the only things we needed to do and the rest of the way was gonna be a piece of cake. wrong! maling akala. totally.

proofs of our cluelessness? some of the girls wore bikini and loose knitted tops (beachbumming mindset!). some left their slippers behind. i still had the derring do to bring along my tripod -- well, two of the guys took turns in holding it for me (but still!). imagine those and try to match them with the risks that stared at us: drowning, being swept away, being smacked against rough rocks, falling off the rocks, snakes... yes, snakes!!!

baliscar may look like every bit of a barren island from afar but it is not totally barren. some plants grow on it and it is home to birds and snakes -- another detail which we overlooked and downplayed until the sight of snakes was right in front of us.

upon reaching the rocks of baliscar, there was no way for us but up. the boatmen guided us as we climbed the sharp rocks. we listened to verbal instructions of where we needed to place our hands and feet and how to position our bodies to avoid falling. they calmly told us to watch out for the snakes.

"andyan lang po sila. ingat lang." (they're just there. just be careful.)

when i looked towards where they said the snakes were lounging, my eyes almost left their sockets. mannnnnnnnn... very close to us, shaded from the harsh summer sun, was a nest of walo-walo -- very, very venomous sea snakes but the boatmen told us about their presence as if they were just ants nearby.

there was no time to complain or panic or go hysterical or simply faint. it wasn't the place nor the time. when you've just crossed the sea and survived the waves that tried to eat you while the sun tried to blind you, you're determined as ever to continue your efforts for survival. we focused on completing our real deal rock climbing adventure -- getting scratches on our arms and legs in the process -- and, finally, got to the top of baliscar island. yes!!!

one of the sights at the top of baliscar island is this gaping hole facing the pacific ocean

the island top was as rough as the jutting rocks that we climbed. with the image of the snakes still fresh in our minds, we were ever careful in going about. we did not walk too far from where we came from and did not anymore get too close to the lighthouse. plus, the sun was beating down on us mercilessly. we had no reason to stay too long so, after we took enough pictures, we began descending.

going back to where we came from
the rough way down

one after another, we carefully made our way down the rough rocks, earning more scratches on our arms and legs, exerting our muscles some more. we were too focused on reaching the rope and crossing the sea again to get back to the boat in no time,  we couldn't be bothered anymore by the walo-walo snakes -- nevermind that there's actually a nest (or nests, who knows?) of them there.

surviving the waves that tried to drag the unsuspecting towards the rocks
crossing the way back to the boat was relatively easy and more enjoyable

having done the sea crossing once, the way back to m/b st. anthony was a whole lot more fun. as we neared the boat, our queue lingered along the rope just so we could have our pictures taken. hehe. 

during our trip back to cagbalete, there was a temporary commotion as most of us rushed to the front of the boat to take a look at something huge, something dark, something moving, something very near... a whale! it was totally unexpected and we were all taken by surprise. among our group, only one of us -- tiff -- managed to get a picture of it.

the shoreline of cagbalete island was already within sight but still too far from us when we were told that we had to already leave the boat. it was around noontime and water had further receded so much so that not only more of the seabed directly facing cagbalete island was exposed, a lot of nearby bonsai island was also already exposed and drying up. it was easy to see that there was no way the boat could go nearer to the shore without running aground or being pushed by the waves against the rocks in the shallower portions.

just when we thought we already had our fair share of survival-at-sea challenges that morning, we had to go through another crossing -- from the boat to the rough shores of bonsai island. as before, the boatmen laid out the rope and guided us to the outriggers of the boat and we jumped to the sea -- cold, blue, with strong waves. again.

as soon as i regained use of my legs and feet and was assured i could keep my camera dry, i took pictures of my travel buddies who were still in the middle of our pahabol crossing adventure.

how we got to bonsai island from the boat

bonsai island
bonsai island is about one kilometer away from cagbalete island and it is located just in front of villa cleofas. it is an islet that got its name because of two clusters of bonsai mangrove trees that, according to stories, are at least one hundred years old-- century old bonsai, they are called and they dominate this islet of mostly flat rock surface that reminds one of a cracked-here-and-there helipad. during high tide, the entire surface is submerged in water and only the top branches of the clusters of bonsai mangrove trees can be seen.

walking on bonsai island

since it was low tide, we had freedom to explore and enjoy bonsai island. the noon sun gave us good light and allowed us to take good pictures.

destination: bonsai island | hello world, this is not an indoor studio shot.

we were naturally drawn to the bonsai clusters and had our pictures taken with it, mostly as part of our background. one of the girls, tiff, went into one of the clusters (the one farther from cagbalete) and -- good thing she looked before taking another step -- discovered a nest of snakes  there. yup, snakes. sea snakes! again.

the bonsai clusters that gave bonsai island her peculiar name

the nest of snakes
they were of the same color and appearance as those snakes we saw in baliscar -- the very, very venomous walo-walo!

the nest of walo-walo snakes that we saw in one of the bonsai clusters in bonsai island

it used to be that the only sea snake that i knew of was the tangkig -- which, i was told, is relatively harmless that, if somebody got bitten by it, the worst that could ever happen to that person was a week-long fever -- perhaps out of a psychological (rather than a physical) affliction.

i learned of the walo-walo sea snake during a trip in caramoan, camarines sur in november 2009. i first saw something like it floating in the middle of the sea on our way to sapitang lahi island. when we got to sapitang lahi, a group of girls who were taking turns posing for photographs along the shoreline started shrieking and moving away from where they were standing. it turned out, they saw a snake, slithering. two locals -- boatmen, i suppose -- came to their rescue and managed to put the snake inside an empty plastic bottle.

walo-walo sea snake in a bottle | sapitang lahi, caramoan, camarines sur

i got the chance to take a photo of that bottle with the snake inside it. since it looked nothing like the sea snake that i was familiar with,  i got curious about it and asked questions.

walo-walo sea snake in a bottle, freed | sapitang lahi, caramoan, camarines sur

getting to know the walo-walo
according to a seafaring local, the walo-walo is very deadly and got its name because it will only take eight (the filipino term for eight is walo) seconds for the snake's venom to take the life of the bitten. whether this eight-second figure is true or not, there's only one thing i can say for sure -- when you see a snake like this, be on the safe side: just avoid getting bitten!

why? because the walo-walo is the banded sea krait (genus: laticauda), common in tropical waters and mangrove swamps. this particular snake's venom is known to be stronger than the cobra's, "packs a punch ten times more toxic than a rattlesnake's," and "ranks among the most toxic in the world."

it works to our human advantage that banded sea kraits, like most sea snakes, are very docile and rarely aggressive. add to that, they have such small mouths and their fangs are at the back of their mouth so when they strike to bite -- which, according to internet sources, happens very rarely -- the only body parts at risk are those that are small enough like fingertips, small toes, appendages between digits, and edges of the ears when underwater.  moreover, the only known occasions when they do eject venom are feeding and under great duress.

i leave it to you to learn more about the walo-walo. there are places in the philippines, like the island of pulo laum in olutanga of zamboanga, sibugay that serve as sanctuary for walo-walo sea snakes.

the kilometer-long walk to cagbalete island from bonsai island

none of us in our group of 17 got bitten by any of the many walo-walo snakes which we saw in the islets of baliscar and bonsai in lamon bay.

having experienced what we experienced and having encountered what we encountered, it is now easy to understand why there are write ups that say stepping on baliscar is not all possible. i'm telling you that IT IS POSSIBLE and it is possible to enjoy the whole deal as well. however, you have to be prepared and very careful.

one of my travel buddies collectively referred to the back-to-back-to-back adventures that we experienced that day as buwis-buhay. i say, thrill-seekers' delight. reserve buwis-buhay for the suicidal. we are thrill-seekers. (--,)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

babuyan memories, part 3: post travel thoughts on summer rains and such things

"somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight..."
-- lyrics, somewhere out there

transformed skies, early morning rain, moonset, and rushing waves | memories of the rained on and awakened

somewhere out there -- in the babuyanes -- lies that beach where we once slept while the stars and the full moon kept their watch. i remember spreading my sleeping bag in full view of the big sky and it was comfortable, felt right. i remember sleeping, my spirit at home and calmed after humming songs and watching the stars to my heart’s content.

the beach in naguilian
the beach is in barangay naguilian in the southwestern cove of camiguin norte island, a volcanic island bounded all around by the deep blue sea & her waves and accessible mainly to those who take time to leave the comfort zones to dare cross the babuyan channel.

we -- kat, mati, bren, sherelle, bryan, yanyan, jb, and i, with our three boatmen -- left our comfort zones. we dared, we crossed the babuyan channel. we got to camiguin norte island and we got to the beach in naguilian. we got rewarded with tranquil ambience, a beautiful sunset, and a pretty night sky with full moon and stars -- my senses feasted on all these.

i usually don't sleep early. however, i do observe exceptions and that friday night, when the moon was full and bright, was one of those.

things felt right. after having our dinner -- with some sand getting on our food, hehe -- there was nothing much for us to do anymore but to gather around the campfire, to give in to good vibes, relaxing vibes. think of nighttime society minus scary stories. think of night life minus booze and minus boisterous behavior. think of light from the campfire dancing off our faces, us aglow with orange light. think of the full moon keeping watch and the stars not wanting to be outdone. think of the night wind blowing just right and the waves hitting the shore making a lulling symphony. think of all those, put them together, and you could see what that friday night was like -- untainted, unstrained, a time to just embrace all the good, if not perfect, in.

maybe it was just between 8 to 9 o'clock in the evening when i spread my sleeping blanket next to yanyan. we -- yanyan, sherelle, and i -- were supposed to sleep inside yanyan's tent but sleeping directly under the night sky was more inviting so we stayed outside, close to the campfire but not too close. sherelle, yanyan, i and then space, space, the fire.

at around 11:30 that night, i woke up. probably, it was because of the campfire. somewhere in my sleep, i remembered kat's instruction that we put out the fire before we go to sleep. i looked at the fire and it was still very much alive. sherelle, who was also awake that time, and i partnered in putting the fire out. then, i went back to being cocooned in my sleeping bag, went back all the way to dreamland.

at around 1:30am, i woke up again. i heard kat, who was two or three meters away from the rest of us girls, calling out my name. then, the word 'ambon'. drizzle. i took out my left hand. i felt no raindrop. i looked at the sky and saw that it was close to overcast, the clouds trying to mask the full moon and the moonlight. so i continued to hold out my hand and, yup, raindrops. small ones, dropping in intervals that made them almost unnoticeable. yanyan and sherelle stirred and awoke; we decided to go inside the tent. kat decided to just remain where she was.

i passed by mati's sleeping form between bren's tent (with bren inside) and yanyan's tent; i mumbled 'ambon, ulan' to him, he acknowledged what he already knew and simply went back hiding in his sleeping bag. beyond yanyan's tent, was jb's tent and outside it, i saw a sleeping form but, without my eyeglasses and my eyes lazily half shut, i couldn't tell if it was jb or bryan who decided to sleep out there. i had half a mind to inform whoever it was of the raindrops but i was feeling too sleepy to walk any further just to mumble 'ambon, ulan' some more; besides, the person stirred so i figured he'd probably have the sense to transfer should more raindrops continue to fall. i went inside yanyan's tent, settled myself between sherelle and yanyan, and slept BUT...

sleep became elusive. at around 2:30am, i decided to go out and went back to our sleeping area next to the campfire. i had a feeling that time that i won't be able to sleep anymore. just as well. one of the boatmen probably stirred the fire back to life when we went to the tent so, with that fire needing tending while the rest continued to sleep, my senses had something to do beyond idling. i switched from sitting to lying to sitting to lying to sitting, half awake, half asleep, watching the fire and our camp, half awake, half asleep, trying to court sleep (i don't count sheep), watching the clouds growing heavier and darker as they moved and changed patterns.

at 3am, it rained cats and dogs (and elephants and giraffes, i must add); we barely had time to secure our stuff from out in the open to the small waiting shed, where we made them all fit, where we scrambled for shelter from the sky's seemingly all-out shower of many, many big tears. i remember shivering and feeling cold despite wearing my waterproof jacket. i remember thinking, "very interesting philippine summer season. this."

it took a good while before the rain started to let up. at 4:55am, we were rewarded with the sight of the moon... setting. the clouds were still dark and heavy overhead but the horizon was clear -- the moon looking like a perfect ball of orange light, the sight unhindered by clouds and mists.

the full moon setting on a saturday | very, very early in the morning
by 6:30am, there was good morning light and the pictures i took gave the impression that it didn't rain heavily just a few hours before.

the waiting shed and the stuff we kept safe from the downpour
the waves had gotten bigger and stronger though, so much so that i was reminded of the morning waves in calaguas and i couldn't resist welcoming them as they rushed to shore, eventually breaking, creating beautiful foam. despite having been rained on and awakened way too early, it was still a good morning that greeted me on a saturday.

the saturday morning waves: bigger, stronger
we were supposed to cross the babuyan channel again (and go back to luzon mainland) that day BUT unfavorable wind patterns intervened. we got stranded in babuyan.

stranded again?! hehe. =)

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