Now I am convinced that life at its craziest is also at its most instructive. No person in his/her right mind would cross the sea knowing that there is a typhoon. But we did in spite of the news, warning people in the Bicol region to suspend any maritime travel due to tropical storm Bebeng (Aere).
However, I intend not to recall in detail how nightmarish our more-than-two-hour ride from the port to Calaguas Island had been. Rather, I’d share what I and my travel buddies have learned in encountering a very unlikely experience: a storm in summer.
1. Pray, if you must
As my friend said, it took a major leap of faith to cross the sea amidst the raging storm. The sea is vast and deep and it’s dangerous in times like this. Just one wrong move and our boat could turn around and our lives would be over. Yeah, our lives would be over just like that. But entrusting the entire journey to God had made all the difference. We were able to reach our destination safely.
2. Stay calm
This experience had been an ultimate test of patience – from the scary boat ride to the challenge of setting up the tent due to strong winds and the unstopping rain and to the need to cook the nomadic way. Then we were stranded.
It may be hard to do especially if you feel like freaking out, but take a deep breath and know that help is available. The coast guard’s quarter is also set on the island and you can ask them about the weather forecast and safety precautions. They may ask you to transfer to a daycare classroom like we did.
3. Express your gratitude
“If birds sing after the storm, why can’t we?” The ride was traumatic, but it didn’t prevent us from going on – as if nothing had happened. I’d never forget how my travel buddies played under the rain the moment we reached Mahabang Buhangin. At that moment, they look as if they were celebrating how wonderful life really is.
4. Have fun
A misadventure will always be a misadventure, but it does not mean that we can’t find something bright and positive in it. As the old adage says, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade instead.” In other words, the quality of our experiences would depend on how we respond to the circumstances they bring.
5. Learn to forgive
Partly, it was my fault why we encountered this traumatic experience. I did not follow the plan; hence, the group suffered. My travel buddies had the right to get mad at me and say shit before my face but they did not. Most of them are emotionally mature and sensible (and, yes, too kind) that they’d not do a thing that would make the situation even worse.
6. Ask an apology right away
Guilt is too heavy a burden to carry within you for a long time. Admit your mistake, forgive yourself, and, if necessary, ask how you can mend the damage.
7. Contact your parents
Tell your parents that you are stranded in the island but in a safe place, even if it takes hiking or climbing a hill to find a signal. When we went there in 2011 only smart subscribers have a signal. We, globe subscribers, had to look for a signal and we found it on top of a hill.
8. Acknowledge your boatmen’s efforts
It helped that our boatmen had a strategy from the start. They asked us to ride in two boats where the bigger one carried our bags. One of them also brought a compass and we docked at Mangcawayan Village instead of directly heading to Mahabang Buhangin which is facing the Pacific Ocean. That would mean a suicidal boatride for us.
In return, be cooperative. Follow their instructions without complaining. We had to walk a half-kilometer to reach Mahabang Buhangin from Mangcawayan village while carrying our bags with our wet clothes and a grumbling stomach. We had to transfer to a classroom with a pig that tried to enter inside at night when the storm struck. Amidst all these, show your boatmen your appreciation simply by trusting their decisions.
I offered my gratitude to our boatman, Mang Boy, by writing a tribute to him for my Father’s Day article in Rappler. I’d like to share some parts of the article below:
“In all those events, there was a man who had been supportive of us and assisted us in every way he could. He was there silently doing his part, showing up when we needed him, ensuring our safety above all else.
He could have just left us there. After all, his job as a boatman was simply to bring us to Mahabang Buhangin and back to Vinzons.
But he stayed longer than what was required, taking charge of things that were no longer scope of his work. That included ensuring that there was food on our plate, clean water to drink, and a roof to shield us from the storm.
To others, Mang Boy may just be a friendly local. But to us, he was every inch a father figure – strong yet calm, supportive and dependable, and most importantly, caring.”
9. Go out and explore the village
When the rain had stopped but we still couldn’t cross the sea, we decided to go around the village. We had come across mangroves in the area before reaching the foot of the hill overlooking the islands surrounding Vinzons, where the village is located.
We had also come across locals selling fruits like bananas. Buy some as a way of giving back. The village is a poor community in Camarines Norte. You’d see it in their very basic living – cooking with pugon and drinking water is not readily available.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” So if one would ask if we’d travel again, our answer would be a definite yes. But this time, we will be more cautious and respectful of PAG-ASA’s weather forecast. After all, life is more precious compared to the thrills our spirit constantly yearns for.
About the Writer:
Mavic Conde is a freelance travel writer based in Albay. She is a contributing writer at Rappler Philippines and keeps a personal travel blog at WordPress, called The Joys of Journeying. Currently, she’s working towards becoming a full-time travel writer.