Time is a measure, so are steps. – 01.31-02.01.14
I knew I could not forgive myself if I let the first long weekend of 2014 without going anywhere. Potipot was an impulsive decision but it was the perfect kick-off to a year of wander.
I considered various options before deciding on a get-away that first long weekend of the year. Then one Sunday morning as I was doing my Googling of various beaches near Manila, I came across Potipot. Instantly loved the fact that the island is near to main land and travel time is fairly reasonable – not to mention positive reviews that its sand is fine, water calm and clear that it may even be dubbed as poor man’s Boracay.
There was only one hesitation I had then. The island itself is more a camp area as accommodation options are on the main land which is a 10-minute boat ride to Potipot. The moment I chose Potipot was quite impulsive as if I could hear myself say “eureka”. It was lunchtime but I immediately called my friend to ask about tent options, bathed and right after went to the mall to scout for tent for the weekend. I was advised to get a tadpole tent but ended up getting an affordable dome tent.
A day before that Chinese New Year Friday, I left Manila 11PM via a reserved ticket at Victory Liner in Sampaloc. Literally had 10 minutes to get my stuff at the studio as I came from another provincial trip for work in La Union. I was expecting a 7-hour bus ride but since it was a night trip, ended up being at the Dawal (place where according to my contact, I should ask to be dropped off) at 430 in the morning which is almost 2 hours earlier than expected time of arrival. It was a strange feeling as I remember wanting the trip to last longer – an opposite from the usual “are we there yet?” impatience with most trips.
So at that time of day when everyone was still sleeping on such a sleepy town, I was dropped off at this waiting shed along a dark road. On the shed was parked a tricycle and on its bench was its driver. My initial commonsensical reaction was of course to be scared but then felt I had no choice. Scare level went up a notch when he talked with me – asking me whether I was expecting company and whether I already have a resort to stay in. A bad liar I am, I nervously said some friends are coming ( a lie) and in the same nerve said the truth that I already have a contact person expecting me that day. To which he said – “Ate Minda”. Apparently, she is quite famous in that place. After our chitchat, he told me he would just buy cigarette but then he would come back so I have company.
The town was dead dark silent I honestly didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go someplace else but nowhere near seems promisingly safer than that shed. So again that trust in people I learned I must have during introvert travels, I had to use. He did come back, shared some stories how people in that town are trustworthy people because it does want people to keep coming back. For a moment there, I was like – “Kuya, can you read my mind?”. I was nervous and having all those thought bubbles the entire time but I tried to look calm.
In between talking, I politely stole a moment to text Ate Minda, crossing my fingers she is already awake and could reply. (Yes, at times like that, I had no choice but to be polite.) Luckily, she replied after less than 10 minutes so I immediately asked Kuya to take me to her house which is not so far from the shed. Was greeted by her and her husband whose name I already forgot (and upon checking my post in Facebook, okay it was Kuya Noy). First impression was how she thought I was a boy (either because of my name or was that because I asked for Red Horse when we were texting prior to the trip?). I was then offered coffee and a chance to go with them during “salubong” which is apparently that time of day when with their buckets, locals wait for fishermen and bid on their catch for the day. So after coffee, under those lovely early morning stars, off we were to the shore.
Worried that I may be starving, we even dropped by a sari-sari store so I can buy food. Ended up buying only two pieces of canned goods, some mini-chips and bread. As it was still a bit early for the “salubong” according to Ate Minda, we spent some sitdown at the sari-sari store while the nice lady owner prepares macaroni milk soup (locally called “sopas”). Some locals were dropping by, getting bread, coffee or cigarette; while two men (I think one is husband of the owner) were calmly chatting in Ilocano. I felt bad not being able to capture but it was one of the highlights of that trip as I get to experience raw early morning life in that town.
At around 6am, we went to “salubong”. Unfortunately though, we were not able to successfully bid on any catch (“huli”). On our walk back to Ate Minda’s place to get my stuff and other things I will rent / borrow from them, i.e. light as island has no electricity (didn’t know this!), can opener (for must-have Red Horse), utensils (for I still have to eat), we saw one of their three boats. It was funly named Three Brothers because all their children are boys. It was another keep to memory because I saw how a boat is being pulled from shore. And boy, it was hard work. With all those muscle-pulling it requires, no wonder these men get all these toned bodies.
Locals during “salubong”. Island right there is Potipot.
Who shall win the bidding?
Fishless but smiling. That’s Ate Minda and Kuya Noy there.
It’s a pet peeve but because I know the reason behind the boat name, I forgive the apostrophe.
Wait for me. (What a caption)
True to what is said online, boat ride lasted around 10 minutes. First to-do is to find a spot where I could set up tent. While it is my ‘dream’ and intention to choose my own spot and successfully tent-pitch by myself, Kuya was so eager that the moment he decided on where tent could be set-up, he just set up tent leaving me little to do. (Oh well, a month later, I did eventually set up tent 100% on my own)
When he left, I just put on the usual sunblock and despite Kuya’s advice that I should not wander yet until the afternoon, I rebelliously decided to walk around entire island. I remember asking Ate how big the island is and she replied in terms of how long it would take to walk around it which is roughly 30 minutes. Spontaneously, I thought about this project that instead of walking around and checking the time, I shall do steps. So I grabbed the essentials (including of course a bottle of beer) and started walking under the morning sun and fine white sand. Whenever I feel or see something that seemingly invites me to stop, I give in.
Where I set camp.
From the tent I see this.
I found my spot at 385th step, stayed there for a few minutes, listening to music and just spacing out. I just felt so happy because everywhere I look, I could see something lovely.
Spot, we meet.
Peek, you playful sun.
From the left is where water meets sky.
A bit to the right is where it meets land. Further right, it meets high land.
So how many steps around? A thousand and 647. And during my two days in the island, all I did was retrace these steps, with a routine that kind of goes like – find a spot, read, write, lie down on the sand even to point of napping (which is rare but apparently beach and probably alcohol intoxication do have nap-inducing properties to me).
And in those 1647 steps, I realized that what I really find fascinating about the island is that you get to choose where you want to be depending on your mood – whether you want to be alone or be with others to people-watch.
On one of the more ‘remote’ areas.
Funny those two little boys.
I was at the people area when Kuya Noy approached me and told me he’d take me to this spot where there is a lovely view of the sun as it sets. In his words, he said that on a cloudless day, the sun looks like a light bulb.
A few minutes before sunset.
Whoa. That was some intense orange.
I honestly didn’t want to be spending the sunset with a stranger so didn’t wait for sun to fully set so I went back to my area, freshened up and sat there on the sand waiting for it to get really dark. When I started seeing stars, I high-fived myself for choosing right. One by one, they appear and I was like “putangina. Kinikilig ako!” (Fuck. This is so romantically thrilling!). For about an hour, I was just staring at the sky – realizing more and more that stars really do twinkle and at unique intervals and brightness even.
This was not how that looked like. More powerful camera, please.
But as it was my first to camp and with few campers around so I was scared still, inasmuch as I want to sleep under the stars, I decided to continue my little party at my tent. Actually slept early that night, waking up occasionally to sound of waves and with some panic, to my shade tree leaves making shadows and sounds as it was touching my tent.
In the morning, I failed to catch the sunrise but woke up early enough to bask under the friendly warm sun. I was listening to that song again, was reading my favorite author and had this wonderful feeling how romantically thrilling it is to read under the most natural light.
I would love to do again this kind of reading.
Only when people started showing at the beach did I decide to move somewhere remote. I happened to again pass by this area with rock formation (I guess both natural and man-made). Though it never occurred to me to even try to cross those rock formations, I decided to give it a try. I kind of even challenged myself to go as far as I can. I was a least physically capable person (in Filipino, a “lampa” at that) that I felt that feat was a challenge already. With cautiousness that exceeds acceptable, I knew when I should stop. Funnily, it is when I found a snail tucked in a rock. Who gets scared with a snail? (And I shyly raise my hand.)
I didn’t know why I find wading around here scary.
Let’s do this! And then I saw that snail.
The rest of the day essentially a repeat of the first, except a ‘disturbing’ realization which I think made some significant degree turn-around in my life these days.
From my perspective.
That was some nice tan there, little buddy.
I again waited for sunset, thankfully alone as I deliberately tried my best to ‘hide’ from host who might again join me. Unfortunately though, it was a cloudy day so the sun was covered with clouds as it was saying goodbye. Interestingly also, I could not find the previous day’s spot. What is with this bad memory and bad sense of direction.
Stealing other people’s moment at sunset.
Consequently, there were also less stars. That made me sad a bit as I even had to move my tent a bit so I can have a better view of the stars from my tent. That left me with decision to just spend the night drinking from my tent and eavesdrop on my neighboring campers which have quite increased since previous day.
I remember vividly a moment when while I was drinking my evening beer, I overheard neighbor say that hotdog is ready. I was so inggit I don’t usually eat when drinking but I remember taking a bite of my day-old pandesal. Hotdog sandwich, here we go.
What is envy.
Woke up deliberately early the following day because have to disassemble tent. Didnt care whether sleeping drunken people were disturbed. I just knew I had to do that 100 % and successfully I did. By that beautiful sunrise, I was set to go. And that beauty was not helping.
What’s more beautiful than a sunrise that looks like its opposite.
In less than 10 minutes, orange turned to blue.
But as in many things we have to eventually let go of, I had to let go of that island, temporarily, that is.
How to go there: (Not sure if this is best route but thought this be of help)
Take a bus bound to Sta Cruz from Victory Liner station in Sampaloc. Trip schedule as follows : 6AM, 11AM, 1PM, 6PM and 11PM. (I suggest purchasing a ticket in advance). Bus ride lasts about 5-5.5 hours if take the evening trip and about 7 otherwise.)
Ask to be dropped off at Dawal waiting shed. Alley across it leads to Ate Minda’s house (Ate Minda is my contact for the boat ride from main land to island. Her number is +639393233459.)
Roundtrip boat ride cost 400 Philippine pesos. Earliest trip at 6AM and latest I assume before it gets dark. Apart from boat ride, she could also help you out with tent, water, light, blankets etc.
How to leave
There are buses from Sta Cruz that pass by the road near Dawal Resort. There’s one at 7AM and interval of succeeding buses is typically every hour.
Another option is to wait for UV Express vans bound to Olongapo. UV vans pass by every 15 minutes. Upon reaching Olongapo Victory Liner terminal, take any bus bound to Manila. Unfortunately not sure of schedule details but I believe it is posted online.