Sunday, July 8, 2012

[SABLAYAN] Pandan Island and Gumo-Golden Gate Bridge

What to see in Mindoro? Being my usual self, I really did not think about this in advance. All I knew was that there were promo fares and I had to book a flight. I usually panic about my trip around half a day before the flight date, and so when I found out that Mindoro is like THE diving place because of Apo Reef, well, I panicked. The feeling of panic was soon replaced by surrender. As I am forever a lone traveler, the 7,500 peso-boat ride to get there seemed rather steep. As they would like to say: “The more the merrier,” and CHEAPER. And so I settled for Pandan Island, but first, Gumo-Golden Gate Bridge.

Sablayan is the name of the municipality where you get boats to reach Pandan Island, which is also said to be the jump-off point for Apo Reef. Wait, I digress. Gumo-Golden Bridge! In Sablayan, they have this baby version of the popular California attraction. Well, it really isn't a version of anything. People just want to call it that because of the similarity in style between the two . Regardless, you now have a place where you could pose for that photo-op. The bridge connects the mainland to an inlet facing the sea where Pandan Island is also visible from afar.

To get to Sablayan, you have to ride a bus or a van from San Jose where your plane will land. Sablayan appears to have its own airport but no commercial airline flies there. Why did I even bring this up. Anyway, the tricycle dropped me off at a Filoil gasoline station. I was supposed to get off at the bus station but somehow I found the sight of a bus headed to my final destination kind of exciting. So there, the bus was old and without air-conditioning, which was supposed to be perfectly fine because I love long distance open-air bus trips, except that it was raining and the roads were not paved. That must have been the bumpiest bus ride I have ever had in this lifetime. I felt as though I was physically abused by ten angry water buffaloes by the time I alighted the bus four hours later.

First bad news: no signal. This is the third time that I have brought my work with me while traveling. The first two times were cool. Boracay and Ilocos Norte both seem to be well-connected to Smart’s wireless network. Mindoro, on the other hand, was apparently not. Looking at the low signal, I watched helplessly as time passed by and I had to cancel my remaining shifts so as not to cause any more damage. And there I thought tethering was cool. It probably is, as long as you have good signal. Damn it.

Feeling down because of this major boo-boo in this work-and-travel experiment of mine, I just stayed at the guest house after having lunch. The accommodation was right in front of the pier where you can get on a boats to Pandan Island. Although there was still time, I chose to just laze around and went to the plaza instead. Surprise, the plaza has Wi-Fi, which I found quite weird because the guest house had none. Strange. Well, the signal was also bad, intermittent, and public. Back to the plaza, well, this is what I love about provinces and far-flung towns, they really make an effort to make their plazas look appealing in that you can freely take a stroll, play some basketball, eat at one of the food stalls, and so on. The museum and tourist information office are also within the vicinity. Unfortunately, the tourism office representative told me that there were no scheduled trips to Apo Reef within the next few days. Bummer. He told me, though, that I could still go if I wanted to pay 7,500 pesos for the boat. No, thanks.

As I find museums rather creepy and boring, I decided to go to this Parola place they were talking about which was supposed to be a park on a hill or something to that effect, except that the tricycle driver took me to this Lord of the Rings-ish place where the beach's shore was populated by skinny-dipping trees. It was the first time for me to see such a sight and so I was amused for a while before it started to rain and the bitchy dog in one of the houses there would not allow me to seek refuge under their roof. Dogs and rain, why you hate me so much?

Well, I guess you know what happened. No, the dog did not attack me or anything. What I am trying to say is that I spent my first day here traveling and trying not to get wet under the rain. How productive. Everything is worth it, though, because I was able to finally visit Pandan Island the next day. It seems idiotic to go through all of these hassles just to set foot on a remote island but believe me when I say that my fascination for islands and boat rides is simply insatiable. I must have been a seaweed in a previous life for me to love the ocean this much and everything that you could associate with it. Oh well, so much for my aquatic past. Let's discuss the island!

There is only one resort on that island, aptly named after it. They do have electricity but it is powered by the sun which means, yes, there is no electricity in the evening or during bad weather. This is one of the reasons I decided not to spend an evening there. I can't live without electricity. I have to charge my laptop. I have to charge my phone. I have to surf the net. The island has Internet but I'm guessing it would have also been a risk, which I should have taken since I already canceled my shifts for that day anyway. Stupid me. I digress again. Island!

As islands in the Philippines tend to be, this one is no exception when it comes to the turquoise waters + fine sand combination. The bonus is that there were only two Caucasians there when I arrived. Well, six, but the other four took the boat I was on to get back to the mainland. Later on, a group of tourists from Batangas (judging from the accent) came to have a swim and share stories on the Monobloc chairs by the beach.

After eating my rather expensive lunch (island, they have to import everything), I decided to engage in some serious beach-bumming on two of those Monobloc chairs that I had claimed as my own. I do not know how lively this island is during peak season or if there is even a peak season. All I know is that it felt awesome to be baked under the sun in such a peaceful place, away from the monotony of life I am trying to escape from back in the city.

In terms of activities, you can rent a kayak or go diving or snorkeling. Sorry but I have no useful information for you because I did not do any of those activities. A beach for me is something to stare at and laze at. I rarely swim or dive or snorkel. I like harassing baby crabs though. Now are they not the shy type? The mere sense of danger makes them retreat inside those shells they carry on their back. Cute. They bore me, though. They won't even chase me or threaten me with their pincers. Killjoy.

I stayed there four around four hours, equally dividing them among lunch, sight-seeing, beach-bumming, and documentation. The thrill of the day award goes to that moment when I was busy trying to adjust my phone's camera when a snake suddenly zigzagged in front of me, climbing all the way to a nearby tree. Damn snake, I felt stressed. It was moving so fast! I couldn't get my brain to process how those crawling reptiles seem to excel in athletics. Earlier that day I saw a gecko the size of a house cat by the bushes next to the resto. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a photo because like the boring baby crabs, it was camera-shy.

And so there ends my Mindoro trip. My badly planned Mindoro trip. The next time I come back here, it would for Apo Reef, and hopefully, with companions. Or maybe I should start raising funds for the boat ride. Oh well, until the next promo fare!

[SABLAYAN] Pandan Island and Gumo-Golden Gate Bridge

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