For the Love of the Road

San Jose, Occidental Mindoro
San Jose, Occidental Mindoro

The past four weeks have been busy. I went to 3 destinations (Pideg, La Union, Calatagan, Batangas, and Occidental Mindoro) and was on the road for a cumulative of 50 hours. By on the road, I mean “on my butt and being transported to a destination.” That’s a lot of time just sitting around.

I took  note of the hours because just a while ago, coming back from the gym, I was on a bus cruising along Coastal Road. I sat in front and was watching the road — a scene I am absolutely in love with. I remembered how, when I was younger, I’d watch this clip from Goodwill Hunting over and over again just to see the road unfold.

That sounds like a lot of romantic drivel, I’m sure. But there is something to it for me, even now. I can miss the plane and end up on a 14-hour road and sea trip alone, and I’d be happy. I won’t regret the 14 hours I could have spent going about my typical Manila day.

Must Be Love
A good gauge of love is when you allow yourself to go through a roller coaster of emotions and still want to take that ride again, every day if possible. This is the road for me.

The gut-wrenching, vomit-inducing stretch of roller coaster this month was the well-intentioned but badly managed island hopping trip on my last full day in Occidental Mindoro. I was with the Bluewater team, the ecotourism trainees of Occidental Mindoro, and the provincial tourism council. Plus, the governor’s wife was there. So, it was a big deal. You’d expect some controls in place.

And you know, it started out fine. The day was bright and sunny, at least from the Aroma Beach side of San Jose. The water, blue and silken, I couldn’t resist taking a clip:

We just had three destinations that day: the island home of Fr. Fernando Suarez, Inasakan Beach and finally Grace Island Resort for lunch. The troop was supposed to be back at Aroma Beach by 2PM — ideally.

Grace Island Resort, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro
Grace Island Resort, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro

Of course, you guessed it, plans went awry. 30 minutes in and we hit a rainy patch. The people toploading the boat’s car — this included me — got soaked. Decisions were made and we went to Grace Island first. It sounded like a good plan.

Grace Island is a nice place, if you’re into resorts that look good and have all the requisite toys. The Bluewater team and I snorkeled and kayaked. The rest seemed less interested in getting in the water; some weren’t even dressed to get wet (bad decision for an islandhopping trip). They biked around the island and bought souvenirs. Lunch was a feast of steamed crabs and curried seafood — yummy!

Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro
Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro

We left at around 1:30PM, while the sun was still high. Note how, if the plan was followed, we should be ending the trip by then. And this was for a good reason: the seas get rough before dusk. For three straight days, afternoons were dark and wet. We only saw a tinge of sunset on the third day.

(I took a clip of that too 🙂 )

It was no different this islandhopping day.

The original plan allotted just 30 minutes each for the other two islands, which I now know was impossible. There were too many of us. Unless there’s a drill sergeant around, you cannot possibly herd people in and out in such a short time frame. And,  it was low tide so we either had to walk through waist-high water or were transferred in batches via a smaller boat to get to the islands. This alone took 30 minutes one-way for each island.

So what happened next happened. We only headed back at around 5PM, and promptly got caught in the afternoon’s rough waters. Even I — with my shark tattoo and all, and my imaginary gills — got scared.

I’d rank this as my scariest boat ride ever. What fell on second place? That stormy dive day in Anilao, when we were the only divers around because Luzon was stricken by a Level 2 typhoon. We had to dive because one of us, a dive instructor-mom, was mourning the death of her son a week before. Our boat was being bitch-slapped by the ocean, 5 feet high each time. We needed to do a negative descent. Air Force divers (our companions that time) had to assist so we could get back onto the boat. The mom’s mom actually pooped in her pants on the way back.

This boat trip back was scarier because there were a lot more people involved, most of whom do not know how to swim. How scared was I? I was so scared that I actually put on a life jacket. I don’t normally do that because I’m quite confident in water. But put me in the ocean with panicked people? I was afraid I’d be useless unless I secure myself first.

But hey… good times. We got back safe after a horrendous hour and a half.  Soaked but safe.

Basic Ecotourism Training Certified!
Basic Environment and Tourism Course Certified!

And I’d definitely go see San Jose, Occidental Mindoro again, perhaps alone or in a smaller group. Bluewater Consultancy brought me to this trip so I can observe and learn about what they do —  I’ll write about this more soon. I even got a certificate for it.





Post Author: Roda Novenario