Leg 1: Puerto Galera, A Personal Account

Sabang lighthouse Puerto GaleraAs in any journey, there are bumps on the road that can shake things up and knock you off your seat. Mine happened early on, with plans that went awry because of bad weather. I went to Sabang, Puerto Galera as scheduled on a maybe.

Huw, one of Action Diver‘s Dive Instructors, was to lead guests on a Verde Island Passage expedition the next day. I was to join the group on a huge discount — I was dependent on everyone wanting to push through with the trip, as I was on the weather. True enough, Tuesday, it was cancelled because of the weather. By Wednesday, the group was no longer interested in going.

This was actually okay with me. During the wait, I’d checked into a beach-side inn with Wi-Fi, and literally tripped into a story that needed urgent telling.

Well, it was the electricity that did the tripping actually. My cabin had no power, and the electrician was called in. He was Antonio Arago, four-time Galera counselor and environment committee head. Because of the four-peat, he had to rest for a term. He also told me that, by now, he’d felt disheartened with how things went. (I will write more about this in the next blog. ) April 2014, he will leave for Abu Dhabi to work as electrician.

It was not the first time that I heard a story like his… heard it, read it, I’ve probably even watched a fictionalized version on local TV. It’s the story of really believing in something, getting to a position where you think you can affect change, and then nothing. A brick wall. Glass ceiling. Name your hindrance.

Mang Tonio and the Little Guys
shareI don’t blame him. I’m old enough to see the political cycle. Old enough to now feel differently about EDSA, about the promised positive change to a corrupt system that didn’t happen. Old enough to be apolitical, despite my UP roots. In my head, they’re all the same.

What stayed is my belief in the little guy — the individuals, communities and local businesses who really care. I’m sure we’ve all come across the “good ones,” especially during and after Yolanda. They are too many to mention… and now there’s Mang Tonio.

And my best approach to a conversation like ours was with a joke: why don’t you run for mayor and make things right? I was half joking, half “what if.” He laughed it off, of course, saying he had no money and machinery.

Sabang, In My Mind
C360_2014-03-26-10-29-14-489Our kwentos brought me back to a time when I gushed about the beaches in the Sabang area: Sabang, Small La Laguna and Big La Laguna. I liked it here more than White Beach, which was the default Puerto Galera beach if you’re a local traveler. The La Laguna beaches had coral beds and an active marine community a few meters from the shore — which was great for me, especially when I didn’t have enough for an island hopping trip.

The Sabang area was overrun by, well, white people… Australians, Europeans and Americans who loved the waters of the area and made it their home. I don’t know the stats but to me, it looked like they owned and operated at least half of the establishments there. Now, you can add Korean to the melting pot.

It still felt Filipino. There’s a community vibe to the experience. And somehow, you don’t spend as much. There’s a talipapa that sold mostly seafood, and several bigasan that sold rice, vegetables, eggs and other stuff you can buy tinggi. Several barbecue stands come out in the afternoon.

Sabang, Now
old-sabangThe vibe is still there. It’s still laid back and easy. Hustlers hustle but no one scams. It still feels safe.

But the waters are different. The last times I was here in the last 2 years, I didn’t even bother to snorkel along the shore. I did before that but what I saw disappointed. Mang Tonio tells me the coral beds were destroyed in 2010 by Bagyong Caloy (International Name:Typhoon Chanthu).

Remembering all this, it stings to hear about the inaction despite the initiatives of the stakeholders, the little guys. (More about this in the next few days.)

The Canyons, Finally
The canyons Puerto GaleraIn the meantime, when in Sabang, dive. I finally joined a dive trip to The Canyons, said to be one of the best dive sites in Puerto Galera. And it is true, it is an amazing place — 3 canyons close to 100 feet below sea level, where fish rest. Lots of huge fish, and “struggling” littler ones.

Yes, fish struggled… so did I. I don’t like drift dives much — high voltage dives where you either go against or with the current. They’re tiring and I feel some loss of control when I let currents take me.

Ah, but hey… isn’t that what all this is all about? There is a shift, somewhat. Through Mang Tonio, I am seeing the humanity behind what I want to show here at TDC. I hope I do them justice.




Post Author: Roda Novenario