02 February 2008

The Southern Leyte-Anilao, Philippines Dive Odyssey

It has only been 3 weeks since I last unpacked my stuff from India, and now I’m packing up to leave again. I haven’t even completed my travel logs for the 2nd half of my journey in India, and now I’m starting a new chapter of another quest.

It feels good to be able to drop everything; family, work, friends and just go. But this trip has knocked some guilt into me. The opportunity came up when Kapal Selam, a dive club in Indonesia, organized this dive trip to Southern Leyte, where whalesharks are often spotted during this time of the year. When Angel, Andrew and I first showed our interest, we knew it would fall on the week of Chinese New Year. We thought ‘why not?’ Chinese New Year isn’t like how it was many years ago. The ambience is no longer there, there are so many restrictions, we spend more time gambling than with family members, why not? When I broke the news of my trip to the folks at home, they were rather disappointed. “On the eve of CNY, family members should be united, dine together and be grateful for the good that has happened last year and pray for a fruitful new year.” My heartstrings tugged. Where have my family values gone? It suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been selfish when making the decision to go. Nevertheless, I’m thankful to them for understanding and being absolutely cool about it at the end of the day… though, I can not really be sure.

This is 2nd time Angel and I are travelling on a dive trip together. =)

Our itinerary goes like this:
30 Jan: Brunei-Manila (by air)
31 Jan: Manila-Cebu (by air)
1 Feb: 5am transfer to Pier, 6am Ferry to Ormoc, 8.30am Van to Resort, 1 dive
2,3,4 Feb: 3 dives/day
5 Feb: Ormoc- Manila (by air)
6 Feb: Manila-Anilao (by road), 3 dives
7,8,9: 3 dives/day
10 Feb: Anilao-Manila (by road)
11 Feb: Manila-Brunei (by air)

When we landed in Manila, it was already past midnight. The only thing we could do was catch some good sleep for an early morning transfer to Cebu. For a measly $60/night, our hotel was pretty decent.

Manila’s signature Jeepney, a scheduled public transport.

.Talk about pimping your ride. Beat that! Each of them are designed so intricately and personally that I believe you can confidently judge the driver by his ride.

After 2 hours in the skies, we arrived in Cebu at noon.

For lunch, we figured the only way to be safe is to eat where everyone else is eating. Empty restaurant = lousy food. Packed restaurants, esp. with expats = good food. We ended up in Golden Casserie, a native restaurant and again ordered like hungry ghosts. I love love love their eggplant, gawd, it’s the most delicious eggplant I’ve ever had. Definitely deserves two thumbs up. We left the restaurant with contented stomachs. We left someone with a broken heart.
Waiter: “Errr.. *whilst clearing plates*, errr… my friend wants to be friends with you. Can he have your numbers?”
Angel: “Errr.. no.. we’re leaving tomorrow.”
Waiter: “Oh…”

We had an entire afternoon’s worth of S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G, though that’s exactly what I should refrain from after blowing my budget in India. But who in the right mind can resist, Cebu is a shopping heaven… in a couple of hours at SM Mall, I practically had a storebag hanging on each finger. I had to psych myself out of this horrid horrid temptation.

Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. Friggin’ Andrew called us a million times to ask our whereabouts 'cos he hates sms??. You friggin’ waste my moolah, dude! He left Brunei for Mactan, Cebu 3 days ahead of us to dive with the notable Yoshi Hirata! I am soooo not jealous, believe me I’m not. I’m so not jealous of the amazing and rare critters he saw. I’m so not jealous of the home-made feast that Yoshi cooked him. NO! Why?

Because he signed my book! Muuhuuhuu…
.Oh well, I’m that easily satisfied.

.This book truly depicts a person’s love or rather Yoshi’s love for the underwater world. His pictures and brief captions capture the essence of that ultimate-never again second of life. It tells a story like no other.

It took me a limb and a half to get hold of this book. Goggling it failed. Emails to Yoshi were never returned. Finally, Ivan Cheong – field editor of Scuba Diver Australasia, with whatever stunt he pulled finally got Yoshi to mail it to him, and then to me… Never underestimate the power of good contacts.

.Andrew’s Mactan treasures.

.Photographed by Andrew at Mactan's dive sites.

.L-R: Yoshi da man with “Mui-chan”, Tomo, Andrew, Dhong dhong with “Manta”

1st Feb is the beginning of our Philippines dive expedition. We finally met up with the other 11 divers from Singapore, Indonesia and Shanghai. They seemed like great fun and have had just as many, if not more, dive adventures around the world.

.Bloody worried that we wouldn’t like the food so we stocked up on instant noodles… or more like karit? Haha.


Nobody likes waking up before the sun does, lugging a bag full of heavyweight dive equipments and another full of shopping, cramped in seats that even an anorexic can barely be comfortable in for 3 whole hours. My buttcheeks practically went on strike…

But that’s not the end of it… our peppy drivers were waiting for us at the jetty, ready to rock on another 3 hours ride to Southern Leyte. MY GAWD! Good things never come easily. So we cruised by stretches of straw huts called home to many locals, paddy fields that bring food to their mouths, and misty mountains they set their dreams on. It looks almost like Bali. It’s so calming that I was beginning to fall asleep when my buttchecks decided to just D.I.E.

Good things infact do not come easily, but hard work always pays off. The view at our resort is indescribably stunning. Barely ten steps away from our veranda lies blue turquoise waters. My hair got all tangled up by the strong breeze but who cares… It’s simply perfect.

.Top to bottom: Don’t you just envy Barbara’s life? Me with Dopey, there’s a rule that goes around Southern Leyte: “Don’t kick Dopey or Phil(resort owner) will get really angry”. Andrew stressing over his expensive gears, buy SLR for wut!?.

After signing millions of indemnity forms, Andrew, Angel and I were told that there weren’t enough rooms at the resort. Whatta… Instead, we will be accommodated at Phil’s house, a mere 3 minutes walk away. It isn’t that bad but we’ll definitely miss out on the nightly symphony of waves. Huu huu…

You know, it’s weird how things work out sometimes. The world is such a big blob, and yet some of us are brought together effortlessly. When Phil found out that we’re from Brunei, he yelped with surprise. He lived in Brunei 3 years ago when his wife was working for the Australian HighComm. He’s no stranger to the dive sites in Brunei. It’s the work of mother of fate.

Dive #1
Max Depth: 33m
Dive Time: 61m
Dive Site: Turtle Rock
Temperature: 27’c

We only had time for 1 boat dive today, i.e. a check dive. Basically, the divemasters will observe the way we dive, and make sure we’re not those crazy freaks that pokes around and molests every single thing we see. *ahem* At 27’c, the water is friggin’ cold. I had on a swimsuit, a rashguard, and a 5mm thick wetsuit. We had our hearts out and hopes up to see a whaleshark but today just isn’t the day. However, we still enjoyed our dive. This site has 4 huge rocks, each heavily dense with stunning corals and fish life. Visibility easily reached 20-odd metres which is fantastic for today’s rough sea. 10 minutes into our dive at 30m deep, Pedro our divemaster pointed our 2 pygmy seahorse. Gawd! It’s that pink dot above, barely the size of a pea. I couldn’t get a decent shot b’cos of a leak in my BCD… I sank like a rock, and had to kick my life out to stay buoyant. I’m burning calories… totally guilt-free for pigging out. Muuhuuhuu….

It’s 12am… Andrew and I are chilling out at Phil’s bungalow, Angel has konked out since 8pm. We’d better too.
Till tomorrow, Good night from Southern Leyte, Philippines.

1 comments:

Scubabum on February 2, 2008 at 9:10 PM said...

Babehhh.. i pray pray u see a lot of whaleys and big big ones okie? remember to put prawn paste in andrew's BCD pockets! ;) hee hee... miss u lots! muakzz...!

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