I better get this done now. Sometimes I keep putting off certain posts until it's too late and they lose their timeliness and just fade into oblivion.
Anyway, Boracay was a blast. It was my second time, but the first time I went I was a junior in high school, shooting an AVP for Asian Spirit, so that was about 7 years ago.
I went with Neva, her mom, her stepbrother Angus and their dive buddy Rochelle. Our flight on Saturday was delayed almost 2 hours and stupid me, as usual, had 2 hours' sleep because I put off packing until the last minute. So I was dozing in the airport. This old guy was hitting on Rochelle, I remember. I was so bored at one point I wanted to buy the new Premiere, which I haven't read in ages (and I used to buy it every month) but it was over P500.
The place we stayed at is Crystal Sand, which is a nice, small, quaint place. It's near Station 1, beachfront, not too expensive considering its location and size. The problems revealed themselves later, though: lots of mosquitoes (though this may not be a problem exclusive to Crystal Sand. All of Boracay is infested with mosquitoes. If you stop moving for even a second they will land on you and devour you.). Later that night, I was already asleep in a mattress on the floor when the girls woke me up, saying that there were mice running around, and their squeaking was SO LOUD it woke them up. The next 2 nights there were no mice anymore, at least. And we had housekeeping spray the room for the mosquitoes, which worked.
Anyway, when we got to Boracay and Crystal Sand and had settled our stuff, we grabbed a really late lunch on the sand, then Neva's mom and Rochelle went off to the dive shops to make arrangements for their dives for the next few days.
Angus wanted to kayak, so Neva and I joined him and Mark, who met us at the airport. It was my first time kayaking, and it was easier than I expected. Tiring, though. And since this is Boracay, the water was crowded: swimmers, other kayakers, people on banana boats, jetskis, speedboats, parasailers, people coming and going from Caticlan, Panay, etc. So there was more than one occasion where people had to avoid us because obviously we couldn't turn as quickly as they could. And towards the end of it, Angus and Mark's kayak capsized, and they had to hang onto ours as we dragged their soggy asses to shore.
Sorry, this guy suddenly walked into the picture. But look at all those boats in the water! It's insane!
After that we just swam in the lovely water until night fell. It was low tide, so we were able to go far away from shore and still stand on our feet when we needed.
Check out that low tide!
The shore, by the way, is cleaner than it was when I was last there. Everything's cleaner. Except the scum, of course. I don't know what Dick Gordon did but the place looks great. Though when I tell people about the cleanliness, people tend to say that it's also because it's pre-monsoon season, which is about May. One thing that frustrated me though is that every fucking place you look, it says either Globe or Smart. Banners, umbrellas for tables, sails on boats, tarpaulins for shade, everything was emblazoned with those horrible horrible insignias.
Look at all those people! It's insane! Not ONE is a topless chick!
Also, there's just too many people now. And too many things in the water, either boats or people. No one's willing to sunbathe topless anymore, and where's the fun in that? Another thing I noticed different from my last trip here is that there is no longer any vacant spot on the beachfront. Last time, my friends and I walked the length and breadth of the strip, and there'd be undeveloped spots, that were really spooky at night with their pitch blackness. Now everything's either a resort or store or dive shop or restaurant or club. There are no dark spots on the beachfront of Boracay at night. You can't see the stars for the light from some nightspot blasting sad dancer music.
We had a buffet dinner that first night at Secx in Boracay, which is owned by some of Neva's mom's friends. Delish. On the way back, Neva's mom lent me a kind of textbook for Open Water Diving. I had to read 2 chapters. Which was about 100 pages. I tried, I really did, but much of it I knew already, and I eventually just fell asleep early because a) I was tired from all the swimming and had just 2 hours of sleep the day prior, and b) my diving lessons began early the next day.
I got to Lapu-Lapu Dive Center for my lessons, a little late, when this Swiss guy introduces himself to me. "I'm T-Joe," he says in his thick accent, "I weel bee yur eenstructor." This is a surprise because I thought my instructor was this other Pinoy guy I was introduced to the night before. I thought I would have the lectures first, but no, after a few trivialities out of the way he told me to suit up, and he then went on to show me how to pick a mask and fins. I'd told him that I'd already taken my Discovery Scuba in Anilao, so other things we just reviewed. But this time he taught me the parts of the BCD and tank, how to connect everything, etc.
The Hot Swiss Dive Instructor, pointing to where I had my check-out dive. T-Joe "ees Leetle John in French."
Here I should maybe mention that T-Joe is a Hot Swiss Dude. The girls ooh and aah as they pass the Dive Center. The girls at the Sari-sari store beside Lapu-Lapu are always smiling when he buys water and bread from them. He is also possessed of a certain sense of humor. Like when he was telling me about the tank. "Yoo shood alweyz check the regulator, inhale the air to mik shoor eet ees not contaminated." He motions for me to inhale, and I do. "Yoo see? Yoo can smell the fresh strooberries of Boracay." And after I suited up the first time, he told me "OK. Now yoo jog two kilometer. I wait for yoo hir. I give you 15 meenits." The next day, we went out of the dive shop, walked a little while and stopped at a puddle. "Wee weel doo the confined water dive here, so we need to do a running jump." After all these sentences I've quoted, you have to add a few seconds of awkward silence, before he breaks into a goofy smile. Once, underwater during a confined water dive, he taught me how to remove my BCD by first showing me. When he had his removed, he pointed to me, made some thumb movements with his hands, then pointed to his back. I didn't know what this was, a check for something wrong with the wetsuit? So I do the thumb movements at his back, then he leans his head back, gives me an OK sign and rubs the spot in relief. Oh, I get it-- he was asking for a massage. I hope I'm not giving the impression that I found him unfunny. It's just that the jokes always caught me off-guard, which is normally an excellent thing, but here I was concentrating on not drowning, and he would have the goofy smile in place.
But he's a nice guy, T-Joe. I was a little worried at the beginning of missing something because of his accent but there weren't any problems. Maybe the only negative thing I can say is that sometimes, underwater, he won't look at me for a while longer than I'm comfortable. I mean, if I'm the student, I don't want the instructor looking at anything but me. Because something might happen and if he's not looking I'll panic. But Neva said it might also be because he thought I didn't need much help, what with having had Discovery Scuba already. Or she thinks he's cute and is defending him.
He's been with Lapu-Lapu for 3 years now, almost the entirety of his time as a professional instructor. He started out as a pro in Guadalupe, has only been diving for 5 years, but has dived (dove?) in lots of different places: Red Sea, Dead Sea, Maldives, various other European places I couldn't pronounce but sounded exotic with his accent. This whole diving thing has revealed to me that the Philippines is one of the most favored dive spots in the world, because our variety of sea life is so diverse. Neva's stepdad has also dived everywhere, from Scotland to Spain, and his favorite place is still the Philippines. It's one of those features of our country we take for granted because we live here.
I had one confined water dive to review all the basics, and then an open water one where I was taught for the first time to do a backroll exit. This scared the shit out of me because I can't even do a somersault underwater-- my sinuses fuck me up something fierce. But it went without a hitch. :) When we got back I was so tired, but had to watch a few instructional videos, and later had to read another 100 or so pages. See, the thing is I was having a normally-4-day course crammed into 2. So in the morning I dive, in the afternoon I dive and watch videos, and in the evening I read the book. So while I was in the room reading, Neva was out getting a henna tat and enjoying the nightlife.
Apparently, the others, who've also been diving this whole time, saw two manta rays, each as big as a car. Wingspan of 5 meters. I didn't know they could grow to that size.
I take 4 quizzes in the morning and get a perfect in the first 3, one mistake in the 4th. If only I was like this in school. I have my last confined water dive, learn some new skills. Mask clearing is still the hardest for me. When water hits my nose I get disoriented and sometimes accidentally try to inhale with my nose. Which of course fucks me up right and good. My last 2 open water dives, Neva joins us.
This is my girlfriend: she nearly made me choke from laughing because she picked up a poor defenseless blue starfish, put it on her chest, started swimming face up, and closed her eyes and lay still. And if you get that joke, then you are a comics reader and are my friend.
Oh, I should mention Harry. Harry's a guy I met at Lapu-Lapu, also taking his Open Water Course with his friend Steven. Harry teaches English at some school in Japan. But when he introduced himself to me I didn't know what to think: he was Pinoy, but bald, big, had a tattoo and an American accent. He told me a story of how they were at this bar until 4 in the morning. And he also talked about his frustration with the women. He said that all the hot girls in Boracay either came with their boyfriends, or some group of friends. So everytime he'd try to talk to them, they'd just dismiss him with a wave of their hands or move somewhere else in the bar. Which pissed him off right and good. I felt sort of bad for him, because what can you do? He was right. How you meet people in the US (Harry grew up in California) is different from how you usually meet people here. His friend Steven showed up late that morning, and dived with a hangover.
Before the final check-out dive, I was given the final exam. 50 questions. I got 2 wrong. But not in the last section, which was all computations, I'm proud to say. After the check-out dive, T-Joe shook my hand and filled up the form that would get me my PADI ID. So I'm now a licensed diver. Yay!
I am the poster boy for diving. If I can do it, anyone can. This is because I'm scared of deep water, don't swim well, and have sinus problems. And lung problems, when I was younger. So if you're interested, go for it. It's much easier than I thought. You can't forget your first fish-feeding, which happened on one of the check-out dives with Neva. You hold bread in your hands, and they devour it bit by bit. I didn't have gloves, unfortunately, so I was a little freaked out with the occasional bite from a fish. But it was worth it. I put my hand in front of my mask, so all these fish were literally beside my eyeballs. Wonderful, fascinating, and mesmerizing. It really made me feel like I was in someone else's environment. And these aren't just ordinary fish, they're tropical fish of all kinds, so the colors were beautiful. The feeling of weightlessness is terrific, too. It's the closest the average person'll get to feeling like an astronaut.
Neva and I took a walk after we got back. I was finally done with the damn book. The internet café is on Globe DSL. There wasn't even an internet café when I was last here. Boracay is still the only place where I can find a papaya shake. That hasn't changed. We walked through D'Mall. I thought it might be an actual mall, but no, it's like a one-floor Greenhills. I actually spotted a student of mine, and this was amusing. I saw her from afar, then when she was closer she saw me and her eyes went wide in recognition, fear and paralysis. And for a second I had power: I could call out her name (which I remembered) and embarrass her in front of her friends. But I was nice, and pretended I was looking at something else as they passed by. But when I turned around, I caught her looking in my direction, still with the wide eyes of fear. Haha.
I also had my first Boracay crepe. Nutella was just-- man, there's no way for me to describe it that won't make me sound like a pervert. It's a spread, hazelnut mixed with chocolate. I also had a Lovely Sin crepe the next day, which is a combination of vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and warm peach halves. Yummeh.
Our last evening at Boracay we ate at the house of Neva's mom's friends, the owners of Secx in Boracay. Boracay proper is nothing like the beachfront we know. I was sort of reminded of the favelas of City of God, but I'm sure it's nothing that violent. Still, most of the time the roads were just one lane, and some parts were yet unpaved.
We woke up too late and missed the chance to go parasailing. I'm scared of heights too, but, you know, when the opportunity's in front of you... Oh well. At the airport, there was this European couple who wouldn't stop kissing. As in their tongues were exposed and occupying each others' space. What's worse is they were doing all this liquid-swapping beside the TV, so naturally everyone seemed like they were watching MacGyver, but we all know what they were looking at with rapt attention. Later, in the airport in Manila, I would catch the girl picking her nose. It must've been a tight little bugger way in the back because she was at it quite a while. If you're unabashed in one thing, may as well be shameless in all things.
By the way, we found out that there's finally kite-surfing in Boracay! Man, I've been dreaming of that ever since I caught it on TV one night. But it's still damn expensive right now. Shit.
This is Friday, one of the famous Dogs of Boracay. He's the mascot of Hey Jude (there's a picture of him on their menu), and has to wear that sad shirt everyday because it's "cute." I bet the poor bugger's sweltering. I was going to get a better shot of him where he actually faces the camera but my memory ran out. Sorry.
Here are the other members of Friday's posse.
This guy isn't in the posse, he was just getting a massage on the beach. I didn't know they had that now.
I think this guy's a part-owner of Lapu-Lapu. His barber came into the store and did his hair there, which reminded me of Danny Aiello in The Professional.
This is my Hallmark card sunset shot. Also applicable for those posters with inspirational cliches I see in classrooms and government offices.
This is the only topless chick I saw.