Tuesday, May 27, 2003

First day: Camiguin

The ferry soon approaches the island. I don't know much about Camiguin. I had been in email correspondence with a friend of a friend there, a woman by the name of Ros. There was some talk about me teaching kali to local folks when I'm there. This is how she described Camiguin to me:

...in one word I would describe camiguin as "succulent". Camiguin is known as the island of your imagination. it is blessed with seven volcanoes, nature's hot and cold springs, white sand bar, fragrant rice fields, falls, rugged and white sand seashores and the rest I will keep for now, for you to imagine....camiguin is full of surprises like a woman full of deep secrets...

The clouds hide the peaks, so I do not see the 7 volcanoes, a woman full of deep secrets indeed. The vegetation is dense along the shore. As we approach the port, Tanduay Rum, Fighter Wine, and Winston signs welcome us forth. I learn later that "Fighter Wine: a superior Chinese wine" is this really cheap alcohol not sold in Luzon. The ads say it's for "Pang-Condisyon" with a cartoon of a buff guy flexing. It's supposed to get you drunk fast, and get you into prime "fighting" condition when you are drunk.

Time to grab the bags and jump into a multi-cab. A multi-cab is kind of like a jeepney but smaller and tends to have more stickers than physical ornamentation. It's just the right fit for all of us. Compared to Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin is quite provincial. Most of the houses are wooden, bamboo and woven walls with grass roofs, rather than the concrete and tin. There are a few higher end mansions in construction.

It starts to rain again. There's a small woman walking with a young boy using a large American flag draped over their shoulders to protect them from the rain. We cross an airstrip. Tia's beach resort sits on the other side of the runway. A 15 passenger plane from Cebu flies in and out every Friday and Sunday for those weekend getaway types.

There's a great deal of commotion as we greet people and see who's there. I'm still in a bit of a daze, my body still in the motion of all that travel. I greet Cyra, then Don. Don explains we are one of the waves of people coming, a total of 6 waves, for 100 guests. I'm impressed. 100 guests is quite small especially for a Filipino wedding where every relative remotely connected to you is invited.

There's still some time to settle down a bit in our accomodations, then dinner, then a trip to Ardent Hot Springs after dinner. It is now 4pm Philippine time. I call home to let them know I'm here. My dad tells me its 1am there. OK, now I know the time conversion: minus 3 hrs flip the am/pm. I've been up for nearly 40 hrs with a few plane naps in between. Just need to hang in there for a few more hours, so I can crash and get over the jet lag.

There are several wooden cottages on the beach, with 5 cots, a toilet, a shower, an electric fan and a porch. I'm in cottage 10. Before heading to dinner I stand on the beach watching the sunset. It's no wonder they wanted their wedding here. There are numerous boulders that protect the beach from the waves. I do a few sets of kali forms barefooted in the sand before dinner to get me centered again, breathe deeply, find a focus. The waves, the breeze are invigorating. Makes you forget about the day's worth of travel on a plane, van, multi-cab, and ferry.

I take one deep breathe, exhale slowly and allow this sense of joy and peace to settle. It's good to be here for this wedding. To share and contribute to this celebration. I think of my boyfriend across the ocean and hope he can feel this joy as well.

We have dinner. More and more new faces to get to know. After dinner a couple of jeepneys pick us up, about 40 of us and we head to Ardent Hot Springs. Menchi and her son try to ride on the roof, but we get stopped in town and they have to get off. Though a common practice, many towns have restricted riding on the roof anymore, and even where it is allowed, women usually aren't allowed on the roof or hanging on the outside, unless you're a schoolkid heading to class. Schoolkids get stuffed anywhere, especially when they're late.

Ardent Hot Springs is pretty developed spot. It wasn't like this 10 years ago I'm told, when there weren't any lights at all. It now has a restaurant, picnic sheds, bathrooms and changing rooms, a bandstand with live band on the weekends and run by the local municipality. Ardent Hot Springs is really wonderful! three cascading pools, the highest one the hottest, like a hot tub that falls to a larger pool that mixes with a coldspring that is channeled in then to the last pool at the bottom. The hot tub end is pretty shallow, the larger middle pool deepens to about 6 feet.

I float on my back, the water muffling my hearing and look at the darkened outline canopy against the gray night sky. Ang sarap! I don't remember how I got here. The day blurs behind me. It's so relaxing, I'm ready to fall asleep then and there.

On the jeepney ride back, there's talk about going to White Island in the morning. 6am. Back at Tia's as everyone winds down, I find myself standing on the porch of my cottage, taking in the sound of the ocean, the warm breeze, before heading to bed. I spray some bug repellant on my feet and arms, and just cover the rest of my body with the sheets. It's still early in my journey and i'm still vigilant about keeping the mosquitoes away. In two weeks time I won't give a damn, but for now I try and duck under the covers when that piercing buzz reaches my ears.

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