Philippines - Day 9 (Boracay)

This is entry #11.
Link to entry #10.
Jolayne is also chronicling our trip here.

Day 9.  Sunday, April 7th.

Day 9 was Sunday, in country for a week.  Another amazing sunrise, not that I was up to capture it; that's why I have Jolayne.

We nearly always attend church no matter where we are; we've attended in many different places ranging from Boston to San Diego and lots of places in between.  This week, however, there was no church on the island and it was too far to get over to the mainland, so instead we took it easy and listened to part of General Conference.

This morning we elected to skip the mango pancakes, yummy as they were, and eat in our room.  We'd picked up those groceries the day before and even gotten the house staff to get us some dishes.  We saved at least $30 with that single meal, and it was just fine.  Action shot...

Then the kids went out to swim in the cooler morning sun.  Jo went with them to relax in the not-as-hot morning breeze.  The view from our balcony did not wear out; it was incredible.

The iPad: Part II

I decided to try my luck by calling the airport people yet again to see if they knew anything about my iPad.  I was out of minutes and had to first walk down the hill and buy some more from a tindahan.  Phoning from a cell phone to a land line in Manila was very expensive, and the minutes were going down faster than an overloaded trike trying to drive up a hill.  

I managed to get through to Let, seemingly the only lady who was actually helpful.  There was much on-hold time, and I was worried my minutes were going to expire yet again.  But instead of placing me on true hold, they just laid the phone down.  I could hear what they were doing and understood what she was saying on another line.  My heart leaped as I realized they had FOUND MY IPAD!  Seriously leaped.  But then I pulled it back down because I knew from experience there was still much that could go wrong, or they could be mistaken.  After several more minutes she came back on the line and indeed confirmed that they had found the iPad.  A security officer had found it in the seatback pocket during a sweep of the plane between flights.  A true miracle!  He had turned it in (another miracle), and they were now arranging to transfer it to the nearby Caticlan airport where we'd be departing in two more days.  It would be waiting for me when we departed Boracay.  This was yet another miracle, because it would have taken me a good half day to bus over to Kalibo and back again to retrieve it myself.  I was elated.  I was emotional.  As soon as we confirmed the transfer, I thanked Let warmly for her help and dashed outside to tell Jolayne the news.  I nearly leapt onto the balcony!  (It also showed how fortuitous it had been to acquire a local cell phone when we'd arrived!)

By the time I got the words out "They found my iPad!" I was in tears.  It was a truly emotional moment for me.  My Heavenly Father was teaching me a lesson; how to keep hope when hope is seemingly lost.  I had no right or expectation that get that iPad back.  Anywhere in the world, a device like that would disappear forever if left behind, I thought.  It would only be worse in the impoverished third world.  After all, something like that was equivalent to as much as two months salary to some.  And yet, He reminded me of the hope and integrity that are to be found everywhere in the world and that He loves me.  I won't ever forget that feeling, and I suspect it's a lesson from on High to keep for future use when things are challenging.  

This experience wasn't just about an iPad or a piece of electronics.  That's not what solicited the emotion.  This experience was a visceral lesson in the Lord being involved in the details of my life, of showing me how much He really cares, and of answering my unique needs.  It's a lesson that I'm not sure I fully comprehend, but one which speaks to me in a way that I know will be important to me throughout the remainder of my life.  In a trip full of spiritual experiences, this seemingly temporal event about losing a silly tablet stands out the most.

Since the day before had kind of wound up a bust, I decided to arrange for a trip on a paraw, which is a small sailboat.  I thought that would a a low-key way to see the island and get out into the water.  I worked with the hotel staff and one of them had a brother with a boat so he said he'd set it up.  I was hoping for good pricing.  Uh huh.  The kids were pretty excited when they heard what we were doing.  The beach areas on the other side of the island were separated into zones; station 3 was far away and secluded, station 2 was the main party beach area in the middle, and station 1 was where many of the boats shoved off.  I hadn't been to station one and elected to arrange for a trike to take us down.  It was P100, which I thought was a fair deal.  But when we got there and I realized  to station 1 was right where we'd already walked a half-dozen times, I felt kind of sheepish.  Oh well.

We met the hotel-worker's brother, signed a form that said it wasn't their fault if we died, and negotiated pricing.  My "deal" was P1000 for an hour, which was indeed lower than some of the signs but far above the max price I'd heard people negotiate from people who reported on Trip Advisor.  Oh well, it was $40, so I figured I'd just donate to the local economy once more.  I agreed to an hour with a possible extension.  All around station 1 there were guys trying to get my attention so they could make me a great deal.  Parasailing, banana boats (inflatable pull-behinds), helmet diving, jet skis, etc.  It was all there.

Paraws are pretty cool little boats.  They are essentially dugout-style canoes (like a banka I've spoken of previously) with outriggers (bamboo) and netting stretched across such that you have a net deck to sit on.  They're sail powered only.  You could probably fit 10-12 people on one of these before you'd start feeling nervous.  Our Paraw was red.

We embarked and were soon off, though there was very little wind and it was hard to get any kind of momentum.  We walked through the seaweed/algae while getting onto the boat and the kids were thoroughly disgusted by its presence.  It was left sticking to all of our shoes.  We made our way (slowly) from station 1 down the island through the water-sports areas offshore from station 2 and eventually down to station 3.  We finally caught some wind and got moving along better.  We loved it!

Amy had borrowed a wide-brim hat from Jo and the next gust came along and blew it off into the water.  It took us several minutes to maneuver around in a circle to retrieve the hat.  Our plan was to sail all the way around the island (back towards our villa) to a good snorkeling area near a place called Crocodile Island (because it's shaped like a Croc).

It took us probably 90 minutes to get all the way over, but it was a really delightful little trip.  Just quiet and peaceful as we sat on the netting with our feet bobbing in the water.  It was great.

The snorkeling area was a protected sanctuary and was setup for the activity, sot here were anchored ropes to which we tied off.  The water was incredibly clear; from the surface it appeared to only be several feet deep.  I jumped right in and got to snorkeling and quickly found the water was in fact 10-20 feet deep; it was just so clear it looked more shallow.  There were just tons of fish!  It was an entirely different snorkeling experience than I'd ever had before.  But there was also a very strong current, and even with fins on it was a challenge to get where I wanted to go.  I wound up spending much of the time holding on to the ropes to keep from being pushed away.  Kristen couldn't go under, so she held on to me and stuck her face under so she could experience it as well.  She loved it.

There were a couple dozen other boats, some of which were arranged tours, tied off in the area doing the same thing.  The boat next to us was much larger, and had a contingent of probably 50+ Chinese who apparently were not very comfortable in or around the water.  They had trouble with the whole snorkeling thing.  But it was the best snorkeling destination on Boracay.  What a cool place it was!  There was great coral, tons of small fish of all colors, and a generally clean feeling, which I couldn't say of any of the snorkeling I'd done previously  The kids all jumped into the water as well and we traded around snorkel equipment so that everyone got a turn.  They had a blast and it was unlike anything they'd done before.  Even Jo did a bit of snorkeling, which had been something she had trouble with on previous trips.

We wound up swimming around for an hour or so.  During that time, we first were approach by a "ranger" in a tiny little boat who was there--you guessed it--for payment.  It was something like a dollar each or so (P25) and so was super cheap, but I found it funny that there were payments for absolutely everything on this island…. look at the view over there, make a payment…

We were then approached by an ice-cream truck!  Okay, it wasn't a truck, but a guy in a small boat rows up to us and asks if we want to buy ice cream.  Pretty funny.  Very enterprising people.

By the time we'd swam around for an hour, it was time to find food, and our sunburns were getting nice and red.  Most of the other boats were gone about this time (probably 1pm or so) and we shoved off as well, heading south again around the end of the island.  Since we'd super-extended my agreed-upon timeframe, I had the boatmen drop us off at station 3, near the end of the island on the other side.  It was still a good three hour trip, and for that it set me back P3000 (at least double what it should have been).  Glad I got the friends and family rate.  But we really enjoyed the experience.  For me, it was the highlight of our Boracay trip.

This end of the island was much less crowded, and we quickly learned that it was also much less expensive for food!  We found a place called Hakuna Matata.  It's pretty common for an employee to stand out on the sidewalk/path and show menus and do pretty much anything they can to get you to eat their stuff.  In this case, it worked.  

We enjoyed an inexpensive but satisfying lunch, all except for Kristen, that is.  She ordered a hot dog, which came on a stick but was dyed much pinker than she was accustomed, and which had some sort of sauce all over it.  She didn't appreciate that.  Come to think of it, I don't think Kristen had enjoyed any of our meals up to that point…  We then began a long walk (over 2 miles) back towards our hotel, checking out the island along the way.  We found McDonalds and enjoyed the oasis of air conditioning and ice cream.  In that part of the world, McDo (as they call it) has a whole different feeling; it's upscale and a welcome sight, even for us, the classic McDonalds haters.

We stopped off and picked up more groceries and water, so that we could avoid eating out too much the following day as well.  Finally we got back to our villa, pretty worn out, at about 4pm.  The day had gone by quickly.  We all wanted showers pretty badly by this point.  We were hot, sticky, and coated in salt-water residue.  We cleaned up and were pretty tired.

In order to get some Sunday services in, we then listened to the Young Womens General Conference session, pausing along the way to explain to the kids about the hand of the Lord in our own lives.  The topics were well chosen and seemed to mirror our own experiences closely.  It was a nice way to unwind and relax, and to feel the Spirit.  The Internet is perhaps not new anymore, but I'm still amazed at what the technology can do for us; we can get whatever content we choose from pretty much anywhere in the world, whenever we want it.  While we listened, I chatted with Armida on Facebook and we talked about her gospel experience and upcoming trip overseas to Saudi.  I got the impression that she was pretty nervous and unsure about her upcoming trip (she had never flown before and was to be away from her kids for two years while earning money overseas selling cosmetics).  It was good to help buoy up her fears and concerns in much the same way others had done for me previously.

Misha fell asleep while we listened, and I suppose we were all in that somewhat catatonic state.  We enjoyed the session, though, and thought about how one year previous we had listened to that same YW broadcast while at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.  We got around, for sure.  We've been very blessed to see and experience some amazing places in recent years.

It was now early evening and everyone was feeling pretty lazy; Jo and Misha had crashed.  Around 8pm I decided to walk back down into town to find something to eat.  We'd had lots of fried food and so I wanted to try and find a sandwich place; Boracay has pretty much any food you'd want, so I figured it wouldn't be too hard.  I managed to catch a trike already on his way into town for only P40 ($1.50), and felt as though I was getting better at negotiating.  Amy, Kristen, and I went back to D'Mall and promptly found a sub shop.  We ordered sandwiches and amazed the staff at our Tagalog skills.  Kristen of course stole the show.  We got sandwiches for Jo and Misha and then walked back up the hill to the villa (a mile or so).  I think it was still in the 90's; very hot evening.  We were glad for our air conditioning, and the rest of us crashed pretty quickly, but I did manage to get some notes taken, which is the only way I can recall what to write at this point!

It was a much improved day, and I'm sure that the experience of finding the iPad lifted my spirits immensely.  I'm sure the umbrellas in my hair helped.

Next: Philippines - Day 10 (Boracay)


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