Two friendly Australian couples from Hong Kong were also staying at the resort. We all got along well from the start and decided to explore the area together. The next morning, we congregated in the hotel lobby, rented a boat, and ventured off to visit the nearby islands.
Our first stop was a small pristine island called “Dako Island.” It was inhabited by a small community who lived off of coconut plantations and canoe manufacturing. While the men were busy carving canoes out of trees, the children played on the sandy beaches with home-made wake boards.
As we approached the village, we were welcomed by several boisterous islanders. Since it is a local tradition to treat visitors to a fresh coconut, a young man graciously slipped away to scale a nearby palm tree on our behalf. He zipped up to the top with his bare hands, extracted several coconuts, and then sliced them open with a big machete. He carved out wooden spoons so that we could scoop out the white meat from inside. I must say, I’ve had many coconuts throughout my travels, but there is something about a freshly plucked coconut that never ceases to delight me.
Our next stop was a place called ‘Sohoton Caves’. The highlight of this trip was a deep, dank cave in a remote corner of the island. It had two entrances: one that was roughly at water level and one about five meters from the ground. We entered the cave from the lower entrance and began our exploration. After a short hike over the sharp and slippery rocks, we reached the upper entrance. Looking down at the water, I wasn’t particularly motivated to lunge off the platform. I’m The Traveling Dutchman, not the Flying Dutchman.
Moreover, I do not plan on changing my name to the Broken Leg Because I Jumped Out of a Cave Dutchman. However, heading downhill seemed significantly more treacherous than uphill. Okay, new plan… the Flying Dutchman it is! I leapt off of the platform and landed perfectly in the crystal blue water below. I knew I should have been an Olympic diver.
On our way back to the resort, we were exchanging life stories with our new friends when the engine of the Banca (traditional Philipino boat) sputtered to a halt. The two Filipino boatmen hastily tried to repair it. After a half an hour at sea, I began to panic. We were in the Pacific Ocean on a small wooden boat with no means of communication and no working engine. To make matters worse, the sun was setting and we had no flashlights. As I looked around, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy.
I thought about all the episodes of my favorite Discovery show “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” The show tells the stories of people who had lucky escapes from seemingly hopeless survival situations. Several of these stories follow men and women who are stranded at sea for days in small boats such as ours. Just as I imagined us being on the next episode, or worse, not being able to re-tell the story, I heard a beautiful noise. The engine made a cough like sound. It was soft and subtle, but hopeful nonetheless.
The boatmen began to work more vigorously, sensing that they were on the verge of success. I could feel the tension as everyone’s eyes were on the engine. I wanted to look away to relieve the pressure from the boatmen, but I was too entranced. No drinking water, no supplies, no nothing. I know it sounds like I was being over dramatic, but just a day or two at sea without proper supplies can wreak havoc on the human body. We tensely stared at the engine in silence for what seemed like days. It was beautiful and scary at all at once. And then it came. A loud BOOM ripped across the warm air. The engine roared back to life, and the entire boat came alive with cheerful applause.
After that, our boat skipped across the sea without any further troubles and soon General Luna Harbor came into sight. We were all happy to make it back alive. After setting foot on land we enjoyed a cold beer on the boulevard and headed back to the resort with plenty of time to enjoy a delicious dinner. My debut appearance on “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” will have to wait.