Saturday, November 5, 2011

Operation Solo Flight Day 4: Rediscovering Samal Island

Au's note: Finally! Found the drive to blog about my #5daysoloflightindasouth Samal Is tour. Yay.

I've been to Samal Is before with friends, but we only stayed in a beach resort and did not wander around the island. I don't know where I got the idea that Samal Is is small, but that's what I thought. Until my half day trip-- which showed me how big the island actually is, and how much there is to see aside from the beaches.

Oh. Go ahead, skip the rambling.

I woke up early the day I was set to Samal. I only had a vague idea how to get to the ferry because as expected, I've forgotten how me and friends got there before. I only remembered that we went through a market, that the fare was around Php 10 -Php15 and that what we rode to get to the island was a ferry. That's actually an impressive number of things for me to remember from a trip that happened a year ago, but the thing is, I've forgotten how to get to the market in the first place. Fortunately, I have great faith in my ask-people-for-directions-strategy in going to unknown places so I shrug my lack of transportation knowledge off and went to prepare my day bag.

As soon as I'm out of FTC Tower I put on my 'lost' look; that usually get people to approach me and ask me where I'm going, and then to proceed giving me directions without me having to approach them (because yeah, believe it or not, I am sometimes shy). Yep, it worked. A few meters away from the tower, an old man saw my look and asked me where I'm going. I told him I'm off to Samal, and asked what jeepney should I ride.

He told me to look for Sasa (or Sassa. Couldn't really remember which spelling is right) bound jeep at the corner of Quirino street, which was just walking distance away. I thank him, and proceeded to catch the said jeepney. It didn't take long for one to pass by and I told the driver to drop me off where I can ride something to get to Samal, and as all jeepney drivers do, he nodded absently.

After sometime in the jeep, the driver told me that we've reached our destination. I looked around uncertainly, where on this place does one get onto something to take him to Samal? There are no signs of a pier, or a market, or even the sea. >.< Nevertheless, I got off the jeep, and went to apply my strategy: I approached a stranger nearby and asked for directions to the pier. He gestured vaguely to go straight ahead.

And so I went straight ahead, until I found it. Yay. A station for Samal bound buses. Wait, A bus? Yes, a bus. Nope, they're not going to float all the way to Samal-- that would be too awesome. What these buses do is to take the barge that will get across to Samal, of course, with the bus passengers in the bus. What's cool is we're allowed to get off the bus and roam around the barge, so you get a chance to soak yourself in sea-nery. The only let down is the bus is sooo crowded and you have no choice but to get in because a not-crowded bus is close to impossibility.

When I reached Samal Island, I immediately went to the tourism booth that was near the bus terminal. They helped me find a habal-habal to tour me around the island. Unfortunately, they won't help me haggle with the driver (it's one skill I haven't, and really need to, learn). Remembering a post I found in PEx, I asked if Php 300 was okay if I'm only going to three places (okay, haggling experts you may groan now) and the driver said yes. I shrug off the suspicions of paying more than what I should have and instead focused on enjoying the tour.

First stop: Monfort Bat Sanctuary
2.3 million bats and counting. Cool. The Monfort Bat Sanctuary landed in the Guinness book of world records for having the most number of bats in the world. Thank God they were fruit bats. Imagine if they're the vampire kind. Ugh. That day, I was the only guest in the area, aside from the 5 foreign biologists that were staying there to study the bats. As much as the bats intrigue me, I don't envy the scientists when they go inside the caves to take a closer look.
That's just, what? 0.01% of their population? 
Second stop: Hagimit falls
Like in the bat sanctuary, I was the only guest around. It was nice to have the place to myself. I imagine the place on weekends: kids diving into the falls despite signs warning them not to; their parents busy laying out a picnic or scolding the younger ones; groups loudly talking and taking pictures. It would be noisy, crowded and well, yes, fun. But it was also fun when the crowds not in there, and best of all: no lines in the shower room. It was also peaceful  and lovely just sitting there with my foot soaked in the cool water and my spirit soaked in nature. Hagimit falls is slightly altered, and it was a good thing that the man-made elements blended smoothly with the natural ones.
Tranquil was the word I was looking for. Found it here.
Third Stop: Fernandez Beach Resort
Would I pass up the chance to sit in a white sand beach while I'm in Samal? Of course not. I headed to Fernandez beach, which, in my opinion, had a better beach front than the one I went to before. The sun was blazing by the time I got there, so I just sat under a tree and watched a family frolic in the sea. It was just them and me. I took a few pictures and did what's best done in a beach: sit and think. I soon got lost in my thoughts (the sound of waves really encourages that), and it was a little past lunch time when I emerged.
This got me thinking.
I remembered my habal-habal driver who was waiting for me outside, and thinking he must be hungry (I certainly am) I got up, brushed the sand that clung to me, and headed out. I figured it was really the time to go home, since I do not know the bus schedule, and it would be prudent to go asap. The driver dropped me off at the bus terminal where I found out that the bus goes all the way to Ecoland for only Php 30. Cool. I had to wait a while though, because buses aren't frequent. I chatted with an old lady who calls herself a mananambal (healer). She tried to me sell a bunch of sticks for my freckles, but I politely declined, as I really like them. After what felt like hours, the bus finally arrived, and I was one of the lucky few to get a seat, while other passengers clung onto rafter and sat on unlikely spots, as comfortable as you please.

For details on expenses, see: Expenses
Read about my 5-day solo adventures in the south : Butuan city tour, Hinatuan Falls and Enchanted River (and more), Lolong the giant croc, Davao, Samal, and more Davao.

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