“Drop by Manjuyod sandbar”
I don’t even know what it is. We were flying to Dumaguete to attend a convention aiming to learn more about healing stroke patients. I did not put this reminder on the priority list but left it on the subconscious.
While waiting for the bus, I saw a sign regarding a tour to Manjuyod.
Maybe we could. I told myself.
I inquired. Their prices were too high for me. I trashed the thought of going. I am not looting such amount of money. But the fire was not dead.
I told my friend am not going because it was too pricey. He then bombarded me with links on how to do it on a shoestring budget. I did not even opened them and go by our business as usual.
Days passed. Lectures were delivered. Our brains cramped with information, on the last day of our seminar we were aiming to drink cold beer and chicken on the rooftop of our hotel. Thinking, we could watch the stars even if I have doubts if there will be stars. What do you expect in a city full of lights?
We asked if we could access the rooftop. We weren’t. Gladly we haven’t bought the beers and chicken yet. We were stuck in our hotel room for a while. Then the thought of going to Manjuyod came again. I opened the links and ramed phone calls, thinking maybe we could. But each phone call was a failure. There were times when probably Koreans were answering the number. Those who were left offering their service were still too pricey for both of us. Many were not doing it anymore. We even ended up calling the operator of the phone lines of our very own hotel. In disgust, we just head out for dinner.
I head on to get a shower before sleeping. I was singing to Wannabe when she sent me a link. It was a song. I played it while the warm water trickles down my skin. Our milk scented body wash lingers with the steam. The song? It blends with the pouring water from the shower head and her sobbing.
By the time I was finished she was still upset. I told myself. Maybe we should go.
“We’re just gonna ride the bus tomorrow”
We skipped breakfast and grabbed a sandwich to catch the earliest bus. We were waiting for more than an hour but no bus was passing our way. A guy approached us and said we were waiting on the wrong side of the road.
There were 3 busses that have passed already. The blog said the best time to see the sandbar was from 5am to 10am. We got to race against time.
The bus ride was a delight. The driver is probably in a hurry too. On our right, you’ll see and smell the sea. We also passed the strip of restaurants we had dinner at. It looks entirely different in the morning, it looks like a sober man tired from the night of drinking. You’ll pass through a very old bridge beside a modern bridge. A forest of mangroves, rice fields, and bangus paddies.
There were plenty of what ifs.
“What if we got lost?”
“We’ll ask for directions”
“What if there were no boats”
“We’ll go back to Dumaguete or maybe we could explore Bais’ market”
If it doesn’t work, let us just make the best out of it. I told myself.
The conductor yelled.
We are here, what now?
As soon as we get off the bus, a couple of men approached us.
“You guys going to Manjuyod? Have you been booked?”
He said in crooked tagalog. Before we knew it, we were riding a tricycle. We don’t have pack lunch so we driven through a fast food joint.
“The boat is waiting on the port. I’ll give you the biggest boat and the best captain”
Sir Rannie shouted while our tricycle drifts away.
We arrived at the port. Our driver leads us to the boat.
It was the smallest boat. I looked at our bangkero and thought; I am not expecting him to be the best. Good will be enough.
Off we go!
The sun was blindingly bright, the sea is utterly calm.
The blog said the sandbar is just 15 minutes from the port. It is only 8am we still have ample time to enjoy and get back. My eyes are glistening.
Then we passed by the rest houses I saw on the internet.
“Wasn’t that Manjuyod?”
I told our bangkero. Sadly he just understands tagalog but cannot speak it fluently. With all his lingual strength he said,
“Yes, it is. We will go back after dolphin watching.”
Thinking it will just be brief. A little dolphin watching won’t be so bad.
The water becomes bluer and bluer. An hour has passed and was still on the boat. It is already 9 am. And I have not seen a single dolphin. If we go back now we can still see the sandbar in its prime for minutes.
“Can we just go back. We did not come here to see the dolphins.”
But he insisted
“It will only take us a few minutes more”
So I sat and waited.
A few minutes more and a herd of dolphins welcomed us. They were in packs. Swimming from left and right. You can not fix your gaze. Because our boat was small you can actually sit in front. I was so delighted. They were only inches away from me and swimming just under my feet. At first, I taught the dolphins were nearing our boat. I suddenly realized our bangkero was actually chasing them so we could see them as close as we could. We were so close I could touch them.
He told us, Manjuyod Sandbar only appears during the low tide. If we came there first, we will see nothing. The water will still be a man deep. And explained to us the time it appears, the phases of the moon and all the islands we can see from where we are. He knows what he is doing.
We stopped for a while. We sat in our cozy little boat and marvel at the view. I played the song. As I looked at her. She was crying. Pain demands to be felt. One of my favorite books once said.
I looked back at our bangkero and told him we could go back.
“We have to take it, slow Mam”
He was looking ahead with a warry face.
I said as I look to where he was looking.
“It is raining,” he said.
The once bright sunny day is now turning gloomy. He started the engine. As we go nearer. The warmth of the sun turns into cold shivers. The calm waves became fierce. He maneuvered as carefully as he could but the waves kept on splashing our boat. The water was getting in. She was still crying. What the heck! Talking about ambiance and loneliness.
In my head. After knowing we will not see the sandbar fully all I want is my feet to touch the sand floors and swim a little. Our flight is at 4pm. In this state of stormy weather, maybe I won’t even be able to swim. In my worries, a big splash of wave hit us both in the face. We end up both laughing our hearts out.
A few minutes later. The sun was out again. We arrived at the sandbar. The water is only at my chest deep. So I splurged and swam. I walked through feeling the sand under my feet.
“I may not see you in your full magnificence but atleast I knew how you felt.”
I told myself.
At the hotel, she pledged to the moon that she will not take a dip. I guess the crystal waters entice her enough. She was so afraid to let her grip from the boat. Thinking she’ll drown. Mind you, by that time the water was only knee high. When she realized, I was dying in laughter.
Our bangkero, seemingly became our friend. He would go to deep waters and bring us starfishes and other sea creatures. He would even listen to her stories.
I was particularly content being on that part of the sandbar.
“At 1pm a part of the sandbar will appear, I’ll bring you both there”
And he did.
We bought buko and tried kinilaw na talaba, fresh oysters cooked in vinegar. We walked and talked through the sandbar carrying and sipping the buko. We sat and played on how fine the sand was while tuning to happy songs.
He received a call from Sir Rannie. The-Amazing-Race-Asia-feels starts. We lost track of time. We forgot. Our flight was at 4pm.
He brought us to the port. Sir Rannie was there waiting. He led us to a bigger boat with a comfort room. You should see how hurried his face was. As if his the one catching a flight. It was the quickest bath I have taken my entire life. With only a pail of water to share, I can still smell salt water in my hair. He then rushed us into his tricycle and brought us to the bus stop. Gladly telling stories.
“Comeback next summer”
“I’ll give you the boat for free, I’ll even bring you to Siquijor”
We just smiled. Cause more likely, this will be our first and our last.
Gladly we arrived 30 minutes before our flight. We even had time to buy our love ones pasalubong.
As our plane took off. I looked back to Dumaguete and whispered,
“We love you.”