A One Way Voyage........

I live life not the way I want it. I live life the way I decided. Decisions never always reflect what you want. Whether it's a mistake or not, it is the way God wanted it to be. Not known for now, but there is a reason, for I have died once, yet lived again. Be it fraught with upsets, at the end of the road, for as long as I can say "I have not harmed a soul", then it withstood the waves and the journey was perfect.-Falcon116

Sunday, April 4

BORA '09

Four months ago(December 09), my son and I packed our bags for a well earned holiday. My then new job was too overwhelming and since I had taken the step to come out of my comfort zone, it brought so much stress on my own personal life. Thus, the Philippine holiday was as much a refuge as it was a holiday.

We left Darwin on the 5th of December, arriving in Manila on the
10th (after side sneaking two other countries). We were picked up from the airport by my cousin Bing (Thanks mucho Bing and Nikos), whom I am so grateful to. My sister also came to Manila for some shopping. Whilst Bing offered a room or two in her huge, newly renovated (her renovations and expansions never end- so far managed to buy three or four surrounding lots) house, we opted to stay at Dusit Thani for a couple of nights while we did a little bit of shopping and dining because it was right in the middle of Makati (neighbouring Glorieta, SM, etc.).

We were also joined by my Sis in law, Vina and my nephew, ARF. Both, I have not personally met until then. Amazingly, Arf looks so much like my brother. He is the most talkative, the most imaginative and the most candid kid I've ever met. He has this unbelievable attention to details. Things normal people don't notice or hear, he does...Then he tells you about it, and you go, "Ohh...yeah, how'd ya see that?"

Anyway, missing all Filo dishes, and craving at the thought of all the popular fast food chains only available in America and Philippines, we, basically gobbled every food that we see along the way. Jashkah had already set an aim for Jollibee months prior to our departure from Darwin . Of all the restos we've dined in, CHILLIS BAR AND GRILL topped my list, only because I love cheese and chilis together, and just about everything on their menu are smothered with cheese and chillis.

On the 12th of December, we boarded another plane heading to Bacolod city, where my sister resides. For those who've never been to Philippines, it's an archipelago casting 7,107 beautiful islands. These islands are grouped into three sections - LUZON, VISAYAS AND MINDANAO. Manila is in Luzon, Bacolod in Visayas, Cagayan de Oro City (my home city) and Bukidnon (my home province) in Mindanao. Although Philippines is geographically fragmented, every horizon is outlined by the same primal beauty no matter which Island you're in.

Adding to our excitement was KATRINA HALILI, who was on the same flight to Bacolod. She's an actress who recently faced notoriety because of a sex tape scandal. I told my son to go near Katrina so I can take a photo of her, to which he responded, "This girl is in a sex scandal, and you want me in a photo together with her...What the h**l mum". That left me laughing because his reasoning was so bizarre. I didn't know what he meant or suggested that would happen if I took a photo of him and Katrina...Yes, WOT DA...

We arrived in Bacolod around 4PM. That left us with only the night to rest before the drive to BORACAY early the following morning. We had to leave the next day because Jashkah and I had prior arrangement to do SCUBA lessons on the 17th of December in Dumaguete, which is at the other end of the Negros mainland...This is so we could go diving with my sister and her whole family, who have become ardent divers.

Richard, my brother in law, drove his new toy (KIA SPORTAGE2010) all the way to the jetty point of caticlan, where you board the 15-minute banka (small island boat) ride to the frontier of Boracay. A very comfy drive indeed. Altogether, it was a six-hour trip including the 2 hour barge ride and the final 15 minute banka ride.

All throughout the trip, I was fighting exhaustion and sleeplessness from all the plane rides we've been on since the 5th of that month. Though silently, I was appreciating the all too familiar greenery and the streets' well coordinated histrionics. I began to realise that I was actually in the country I grew up in. Travelling from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro city in my younger years was pretty much the same as that trip. You see sun-burnt people, children included, walking up or down the hills carrying chopped woods or sacks of I-don't-know-what. Children playing, men drinking along the side of the roads, men and women toiling the lands-planting rice, working on ponds.

My son got to see something which amazes him every time we go to Philippines-an over loaded vehicle. Most of the time, we see trucks or jeepneys with gazzilion passengers. This time, we saw this motor bike with a side cart full of people. Ridiculously full, that all you see are heads and hands holding on to dear life. Even the driver was on a standing position just to accommodate more passengers....Only in the Philippines.

My sister made prior reservation at CHALET Y (http://www.chalety.com/index.htm), situated in station 1, the high end of the island. The whole chalet is for P24,000.00 (AU$600.00)a night, but as I've said on my facebook site, it pays to have a connection like my sis...(konek konek maski walang dial tone) Hahaha. No we did not pay P24K!!! Instead, it was just a tiny weeny fraction of that...probably just for the maids, boy/guard, etc. The service was superb. For a long long time (since 2004-when I came to Oz), I have not had the assistance of maids. I had to do everything...literally everything.

Here at Chalet Y, the feeling of getting pampered was all coming back to me. Although it felt so wrong to wait for someone to re-fill your drinking glass, there was that feeling of delight...here in Oz, you fill it up yourself. If you're half way having your dinner and you forgot...say, soy sauce...you stand up and get it yourself. Having lived here down under for almost half of my life, conforming to the norms is inevitable. 'SARILING SIKAP' is very much a part of our daily lives. So all these little pampering that felt wrong somehow felt so nice!

Anyway, as expected...If you're in Boracay, water activities are endless. Scuba diving, swimming, sailboat, parasailing, all kinds of water rides, shopping...did I mention Scuba diving?Ohhh...Just basically the beach bum's life.

What I found mystifying with Boracay is that it's like a little city along a long stretch of white soft powder-fine sand without the hustle and bustle of the usual city. Not a lot of cars, no jeepneys. It's basically a city where you can go around without the worries of what to wear and the fear of being nabbed. Adding more excitement is the possibility that you might just bump into someone you only see on TVs and movies (specially at station 1). Even my son somehow recognised Toni Gonzaga from TFC in a tricycle

The island boosts it's requisites with the most laid back mall I've ever been to in my life. It is called D'MALL. D'Mall is conveniently situated between Station 1 and 2. Shoppers donning bathers, shorts and just about anything you'd only wear in the privacy of your own home. Part of the mall is floored with nothing but the abundance of its' credulous white sand.

It basically offers the convenience of all the modern facilities we can never do without in the real world. ATMs, grocery shops, fish market, fruit stands, etc. Several eateries that offer international cuisines-Mexican, German, Swiss, and of course Filipino- interspersed among the other shops/boutiques. They even have STARBUCKS! Mang Inasal, Andoks, McDonald's, KFC and Wendy's, I've noticed, were the most packed restos.

Shopping was great but limited compared to Manila and the other major cities. Most of the shops sell beach wears, souvenirs and other beach abobots. D'Mall however has a LONELY PLANET shop. For those who love speaking out about travelling around the world and on Mother Nature's behalf, there's no better way to verbalise your heart than through Lonely Planet shirts...Lonely Planet in Boracay is a shop not to be missed.

Thousands of beach drifters accommodated by legions of beach-side bars pulsates the night life in Boracay. On our first night, we dined in this place called OBAMA GRILL BAR AND RESTAURANT. There, my son had his first taste of Krispy Pata. He didn't really understand what it was, but since the word 'krispy' is attached to the other word, he ordered it. Obama's krispy pata is actually something you should not miss if you're in Boracay. Since then, wherever we dined, Jashkah would always look for the 'krispy pata' on the menus. Oh, I also recommend their baby back ribs, they're nice...Well, that's all I remember about it... that it's nice because by the time we had it, we've already had two buckets of San Mig lights.

Anyway, the service was also superb and the ambiance was such that it allows you to loosen up and simply enjoy Boracay's boundless horizon.

There, we saw ERIC CHUA, the whistle blower of the earlier mentioned KATRINA HALILI scandal...Nope, nothing much to say about him. Good looking? Yes, he is but definitely not super good looking. He looked fit though.

Going back to the island itself...Boracay was once voted as the best beach in the world and is currently one of the top ten beaches worldwide. The island used to be a secret hideaway to a few travellers. It was not until the 70s that Boracay came into full view to the world when foreign movie makers accidentally discovered this awe-inspiring rim off the northwest tip of Panay Island.

Technically, this was my first time in Boracay. I'm saying 'technically' because I've actually been to this island before but never got to put my foot down on the soft white sand that it is widely known for. I was on a ship that did a detour stop to pick up some tourists off the coast of Boracay. Back then, I thought what's the big fuss about this place? It's crowded with tourists...just another beach.

Last December, I was in for a crude awakening. I did not realise, I was going to be one of these 'tourists' mesmerised by the beauty of Boracay one day...I had no idea I was born in a country with uncanny semblance to a paradise. I thought where has my life been?

Like all good things in life, there comes a time when you have to leave and move on, otherwise, it
just becomes too mundane and ineffectual as the first and could be lasting impression.
Halfheartedly, after three days, we packed our bags once again to head back to Bacolod City. Conceding to the inevitable but anticipating my future 'come-back', I shall return, I thought . We wanted to extend our stay, but because of the prior arrangement with a dive instructor at Dumaguete, we had to leave the island and get back to Bacolod late that day.

Upon arrival in the main island, we went straight to the 'P150.00 per-day' garage where we've parked my sisters' car (just a few meters from the pier where you board the 15-minute banka ride). Then, my sister received a text message from the dive instructor informing us that he can't do the course with us as he had an emergency call from Apo Island. However, he's arranged for another dive instructor to take over and certify us. He said, he'll never hand us over to someone he does not trust, and apparently, this other dive instructor is one of the best....

We thought...SHIT! Could've stayed in Boracay longer....But too late. We've already left the island. I wasn't really looking forward to diving to be honest, because I almost died twice in water and I have developed this biggest fear specialy in open water. But because I promised Jashkah we'll do this diving course together, I thought, I can't disapoint my son. And worst of all, I don't want to be left behind in every dive that my sister, her family and Jashkah will be doing, waiting for all them to resurface each time. So, I thought...Go! Go! Go!

We left Boracay with sad but hopeful feeling that we will one day visit this paradise again. Unbeknownst to Jashkah and myself, we were in for a bigger, brighter, more exciting ocean adventure.....An adventure, no doubt, will be part of my life for as long as I live.................