May 16, 2013

Sablay Sa Sablayan: The (Un) Sublime Underwater Experience in Apo Reef Marine Sanctuary

Sablayan Town in Occidental Mindoro is the gateway to the Apo Reef Marine Sanctuary. It is 3 hours away from Abra de Ilog where the main port connecting this province from the rest of civilization is located. Obviously you will need to take a bus, a RoRo vessel and a 20 seater boat to get to Apo Reef. That sounds challenging and enjoyable for a long-travel-lover like me. But mishaps happens along the way. According to UNESCO, Apo Reef Marine  Sanctuary is the world's second largest coral system and the largest in the Philippines.



Not So Cute Dimple(s) of Dimple Star Liner
We were properly fetched by a comfortable van in Makati City because most of us came from work. It was 8:30PM when we reach Alabang bus terminal where other members of the group as well as the organizer of the tour were waiting for us. The bus that was reserved was suppose to leave at 9PM so I thought our arrival was  perfect. So 9PM came and there's no bus for us. A round of talks and laughter took place, Still no bus. Another set of stories and everybody in the station were sleepy, a bus came. Finally we can now all sit,  relax and stretch our feet. But to our surprise we almost had no place to sit. Haha... so what happen to the reservation? Kuya Dom was a little bit furious because of the inefficient system of the bus company. Good thing most of us had a seat after the conductor pulled some passenger to respect our reservation. But not for kuya Dom. The conductor of the bus handed a stool to him to have a comfortable seat. Wow... he was so brilliant in maximizing the bus capacity. Congratulations!




Chaos in Mamburao
We had a smooth ride I guess, two hours on the bus and two hours on the Roro. Some of us were waiting for the people to go down in Batangas City or maybe in Abra de Ilog because we were seated at the back thus frequent bumps happens. Oh did I mention that some parts of the road from Abra de Ilog to Sablayan is rough road? This aside from the driver who I think was always looking for the nearest restroom to release his nature. So we were eyeing to sit in the middle part of the bus just to be comfortable for the next 3 hours.

When we arrived at Mamburao, the town after Abra de Ilog, there were some handful of passenger who went down. We were expecting the conductor to allow us to move first especially kuya Dom because he was seated in a stool. But to our disappointment there were already people seated on it. The conductor should first prioritize his passenger sitting like sardines at the back. Like what I have said we wanted to move forward because the road was bumpy and some were dizzy because of this. Kuya Dom was furious - level 2. He went forward to approached the conductor about it and asked him to arrange it. The chaos I am talking about in the subtitle was started by a woman who just hop in the bus. While kuya Dom was talking and arranging the seats a middle aged lady walk at the back with her words like: 

“Hindi po kami makikigulo sa inyo. Kami po ay nandito dahil may opportunity na naghihintay sa amin” 

(We won't gonna join you in your dispute. We are here because there areopportunities waiting for us). 

What are you talking about madame? Who cares about your opportunity  We were trying to fix the seating arrangement and doesn't care about your opportunity. Duh... 

So the negotiation with the passenger goes on until some got the seat they wanted.




Sablayan Tourism Office
Despite of the mishaps happened along the way, and there's more later, we manage to arrived in Sablayan  Tourism Office safely. We were greeted by our catered breakfast and a free WiFi. The tourism office was very accommodating with all our needs (I guess). It seems that they were our host, (or they really were?) in Sablayan. We were roaming around their humble office all we want. They let us use the electricity for our charging needs, we used their water dispenser and water off course and they let us use their bathroom to take a shower. I said wow and we can't get enough to thanks them. Ate Angie Reyes attended to our needs and question very passionately. 






Heading to Apo Reef
Two hours and a half of smooth ride was enough to condition myself of what we were about to do in the place I never thought I will visit. The sea was on its finest calmness. It was the dark blue sky and the sound of the roaring engine of the boat that makes me awake most of the time. God has provided us a perfect weather. No signs of rain. The sun partially concede to our endeavor. Every second counts. Every moment matters. With the breeze going to my face it was a perfect moment of personal retreat. I learned to dance to the sound of the burning oil staged by the open sea and perfect cloudscape at times. It was moment of zen.










The Apo Island
Far from the shore the white powdery sand of Apo Island is inviting every longing eye for bathing and beach bumming. To my excitement I jump of the boat and immediately scrutinize the sand. I looked at it. I touched it. It was a fine sand that makes the water crystal clear especially when sun rays hits it. Oh I love it. Its like a powder scattered all over. We head on to the base camp for some orientation and rest. We then proceed to place where we will pinch our tent. It was my first time to do beach camping and I was really exited about it. After pitching our tents my feet was itchy to see the island. So under the heat of the sun me and Claire did some photo shoot by the beach while some of them (I mean all of them) was in our base camp chillin' and talking about life and travels.  























The Apo Reef Marine Sanctuary 
After lunch which was provided by our on-site caterer we proceeded to the lighthouse area not to ascend on top of it but to snorkel on the area.  First I saw few dead corals and a lot of sea cucumber. 100 meters away from the shore the world begins to change. My feet couldn't reach the sea floor anymore  All I have to do was to swim to the next big hard corals or was that just a stone to get some rest while standing on it. We didn't  had a life vest to keep us afloat in the open sea. This was the reason why others didn't go far enough. I don't know if our guide really forgot to get us a life vest or he intentionally forgot it. Haha... I remember that most of us reminded him of the lifevest. 



                                                              Photo by Claire Madarang 

Well anyway the plan was, we will snorkel in a group going eastward towards our base camp. The lighthouse area where we started was on the west side. But because some of us do not know how to swim, some were left on the the shallow part while some including me made it to the deep part. 

It was the world under the sea that keeps me going and going. Take note I dont have life vest and I am really not sure if I know how to swim. I almost drowned 3 times but I still went on because of the spectacular scene I am seeing below. I saw blue star fish, a lot of table corals and a school of fish coming towards me!!! I was marveled by the life under the sea. Of course I see it on TV and Movies but seeing it with your own eye makes you  wanna shout under the sea “Wow!!!” But of course you cant do that with snorkeling gears.  It was different experience. It feels like I was communing with Gods creation under the sea. 


Photo by Claire Madarang  


I hear nothing but my breath and sound of water rushing. That made it a pure retreat from the world above. We snorkeled for about 2 to 3 hours, I actually don't remember how long we stayed on the water. But times was not the issue nor my physical strength. But after my  intellect told me to stop I decided to head back to the shore. I was so tired and breathing hardly. To my distress I just lied down on the fine sand and close my eye. Again I hear only again my own breath and the sound of the calm wave of the sea. 


The Lighthouse and the Sunset
After the seeing the underwater world of the fishes and corals its now time to see stunning view of the sky at dusk. It was the perfect time of the day especially in beaches and nice looking skyline. Every sunset is a unique scene made by the two main characters of the sky – the sun and the clouds. 
























The Lighthouse and the Sunset
The vivid color of the sun was mirrored on the sea makes the mood so soothing for a nice talking while walking. Better imagine it with somebody whom you admire the most, holding her hand and saying nothing at all. Its like two hearts talking without any words coming out. Better yet her and his lips are speaking to each other hungry for a sweet kiss under the waving sun. 

I hope those moment were for real at that moment. I just admire the look of the sunset. Its the drama that I will never ever fed up.





















The Socials and the Sea Turtle

I was asleep while they were sharing about their personal life. Oh wait, how did I know that? Hehe... maybe there were times that I was half asleep because I could still hear their stories. Love stories specifically. Hehe...



I was awaken by a scream. I thought that was intentional for us to wake up because its time for the sunrise. And I thought it was six am because the sky was so bright as reflected by the moon. That was 2am. They were screaming actually because they saw a big sea turtle that was about to go back to the sea after she laid some eggs on the shore. And yes the loud screaming's intention was to awake us because we were blocking the way of the big pawikan.



With my eyes half open I saw it battling to sea while I was battling to reach to the tent to continue my dreaming. Yeah I was so 'kj' because I didn’t pay attention nor took picture of the pawikan. Hehe...



I was again awaken by a screaming. Again there was a sea turtle making her way to the sea. When I went out of the tent I saw the dawn and the sea turtle. Then I knew it’s time to savor nature again. I grab my camera and jumped to the pawikan and have the complete view of the sky.










Snorkeling with the Sea Lice
After breakfast we jump on the boat to snorkel in the middle of the sea. Armed with a life jacket and snorkeling gears we were being pulled by the boat while our heads were looking down below. Then something brown looking elements showed up. It was like a mud or a pooh. I don’t know. All I know was it leaves itchy red marks on my body, our body. Later we found out that it was sea lice that attacked us. At the boat they used the vinegar to ease the itchiness bought by the sea lice. We think that the corals we saw near the light house was much better than this or it was just the sea lice who ruined our day? Hmm… we anticipated jelly fish but to our surprise it’s the sea lice.   



We headed back to the island to pack our things and make some epic pose by of course the shore. It was like a moment of a life time to do every pose with each group within Eskapo. In Filipino "Kanya kanyng drama" Lol... well the original Binondo Pips turned Ambisyosa had their own moment too!!! Haha... We welcomed Raj as the newest member of the group.

We had a quick snorkeling an hour away from the island. That part of the sea is another awestruck part. When you look it up on the map its the green part surrounding Apo Island. Looking at it in close it will be revealed that its actually white sand with corals. The white sand was visible because its 15-20 feet thus making it a good snorkling site.

Group Shot Photo by Dong Ho



Photo by Natz


Mishaps on the Way
Everybody (well most) was asleep when we reached Sablayan again. Maybe we were dreaming of our work to do the next day. Some wants to extend the vacation because they don not want to face their daily crusifiction in the office. But as for me all I wanted to do was to find a hospitable home and take a bath. Thank God our mobile canteen makes her house available for us.

We head back to the Tourism Office to have our lunch and to wait for the time for our departure. We were suppose to depart at 2:30PM so kuya Dom proceed to the bus terminal to secure the best seats for us. Then we got a call from him saying that we weren't booked at 2:30PM bus. The fault was with the tourism office. Ate Angie defended herself saying that it would have been the same if she booked us the 2:30 bus because we will still have to wait for the 10Pm Roro schedule. Besides, she added that the bus was ordinary. So she scheduled us for the 5:30bus. Ok granted all her arguments, but all she needs to do was to inform us ahead so we can either extend our stay in Apo Reef or find another alternative. So wonder how Kuya Dom looked like? Furious Level 3... hehehe... Good thing the best shake in Sablayan rescued us from head ached and stress. It helped us to chill and be calm. 


Cockies and Cream

What do you do with your 3 hours spare time? Well there's no much to see in Sablayan Town except for the hanging bridge featured on the tourism office's catalog. So we went there to see it and the Palengke/Market.

   


Happy Travels =)

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