Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Anilao: Beachbums and Divers Paradise

 Marine photos by Kawabata

I’m not really into beach bumming, I mean who wants to get charred up after a year of wasting half of my paycheck buying glutathiones/kojic/vitaminC/lotion just to lighten my skin.

But here I am, armed with super strength sunblock spf 50 that promised to keep my skin from harmful UV rays. I just wish it could also keep stingrays and jellyfish at bay.

As we reached the Anilao harbor in Batangas, the bus had to circle a 90 degrees turn towards the cove that was our destination. Clumps of trees lined up to partially hide the blueness of the South China Sea.

And there it was.

Frame by frame the radiant blue emerged from the tree trunks that served as a fence from the outsiders called tourists. The bus stopped at the farthest point of the bend, and from there I picked up my cramped bottom to get a better look at the panorama that lay before me.

The air was clear as crystal and my sleeveless blouse whiter than the light which did hurt my eyes a bit.

Summer was painted right in front of me. The light blue sky was splotched by balloons of perfect clouds while the blue of the sea was a shade darker giving an impression that it was alive and breathing, a world worthy of exploration with its promise of a vibrant aquatic life underneath.

I could scoop the image and put it in my pocket or I could capture it with my camera. I did the latter, of course.

Looking from the top I can see horizontal shaped white buildings, I guessed would be my lodging for tonight, the simplicity of which played a contrast with the amazing view of the cove.

There was a gradual slope deep enough that if you toss a stone it would roll all the way down to the lowest point that was the beach. The path was carefully made safe even for flip-flops. My companions, who were from different parts of the world hungrily wend their way down to the lodgings below.

I descended to an inn highly recommended by a backpacker friend. The cool interior was a welcome respite. There was a spacey balcony made of wood and bamboo. It opened up to the beach below. There were colorful bancas or boats parked at the shore. Dark skinned waifs played on the sand.

I unexpectedly noticed the lack of chairs. Low wooden tables furnished the balcony. The owner of the place, a Japanese expatriate and his Filipina wife welcomed us warmly. Pretty soon sushi on plate was served with cold beer .Ice clung on the side of my beer bottle. The ice was thawing and a puddle of water formed at the base making me even thirstier.

Lunch was soon served. We ate authentic Japanese dishes like crispy and delicate tempura served on a wooden dish, Osaka style okonomiyaki, which is the best they say, kamameshi or special rice steaming from its wooden pots. Sitting on the bamboo floor with chopsticks in hand, I relished the melting blue marlin in my mouth. It was one of the juiciest raw fish I have ever tasted. The luscious mangoes halfway ripe was lightly sour and sweet. I dipped them in bagoong sautéed in tomatoes and jalapeno.

The black, steaming capeng barako, a native Philippine coffee was just right for my taste. I guess the Filipina  owner masterminded the whole meal.

After an hour of lazing around, we trooped to the bancas docked on the beaches. We were going to an island they call sombrero island. “Sombrero” means hat and knowing that Filipinos have a penchant for naming things because of their shape, I guessed as much. In the map, it was a mere dot in the blue. The banca man told us that a typhoon visited two weeks ago and that we should not worry because it’s going to be a lovely day.

Approaching from the sea, the beach had strange rock formations. They were glaring white. I tried to quash my disappointment. I mean, it was beautiful but I hardly think that the beach would be friendly to neither my feet nor my bottom. Upon closer examination, the rocks were actually corals of different sizes and shapes. Nature had been rearranging her face again. The patterns of the corals oddly reminded me of snowflakes.

I made my way to the island, carefully lifting my slippers as I walk. My slippers sank into the soft sand. The cave that jutted from the wall that faced the beach looked so inviting. We took refuge in its coolness but stayed at its mouth. I imagined pirates of long ago hiding from inside this very cave.

Our guide hauled us and made us walk a good ten minutes more and it was then that my heart melted. Stretched before me was a beach so white the sun danced on the sand. It was also so smooth I could not help but lie on my back right there and then. The water lapped on my heels. I only heard the distant sound of  wind blowing and the waves rocking me to a gentle nap. I was at peace.