So this is how it feels to be slowly roasted. I said to myself as the heat of the sun was slowly beating down on my exposed skin, biting, scorching, as our rented pumpboat, locally called lampitaw in Ilocano almost arrived, after nine hours at sea.
I was on assignment in Calayan Island in the Babuyanes and in between, I got to enjoy this piece of paradise this part of the Philippines. Nine hours, four hours more than the usual pumpboat trip thanx to a defective engine that saw us cruising at around 10 KM/HR on a fine sunny day, a calm sea and just great weather. It’s no fun. It’s no joke and it was just freakin’ exasperating. Not even my excitement of finally coming to these fabled group of islands in the Babuyanes can make me smile anymore. I was just so bored and helpless. We all were.
I wasn’t really prepared for the type of vessel that we have to ride on. It was more for small cargo for small islands and not for people. Passengers are there only as an afterthought. Only did I realize when we were already at the vessel and started to sail, after waiting two hours for the high tide, that I was left out in the open as we made our way out of the mouth of the Kabikungan River, to be roasted slowly.
The trapal, heavy canvass, that acted as the roofing was too small for all of us and I offered the seat, only good for four to the ladies and the PAGASA weatherman. Bummer. I left my patadyong, a smaller sarong, in my backpack which was loaded at the bottom. Unreachable. I was wearing my TNF100 singlet, a cap and shorts and left nothing to rely on but what I already have. No sunscreen and no recourse but to enjoy the view.
Darn picturesque, stunning, perfect view of the blue sky, the deep blue sea and pieces of terra firma (but not terra incognita) as our vessel passed, cruising slowly. For a few minutes, I was entertained and regaled with stories and at other times, fell sleepy and fighting drowsiness lest I fall unceremoniously into the waters and my dignity with it.
And just as we already passed between the three islands that form the Fuga group, the boat’s pilot decided to remove the tarp that covered some of us and further exposing us to the sun.
Its almost eight hours into the journey. Dalupiri Island was behind us and the sight of Calayan from the distance is causing us excitement as the prospect of reaching our destination was just overwhelming. But unfortunately, the vessel just chugged slowly.
By this time, my back is aching. No hard surface to lean on during the entire trip, unless I lie, sprawled over bottles of Pop Cola. So close yet so far.
Almost there and my exposed skin was already reddening. If I were the pig and basted with oil from time to time during the journey, I would have become lechon with all the crispiness of its skin. But I wasn’t. Instead, a warm sensation has been bugging me from time to time and the burnt part was becoming sore.
Land was coming closer and closer. The steeply inclined coastline strewn with pieces of polished shells and corals was coming into view and the vessel’s crew was already guiding it safely until, alas, we docked and we all heaved a sigh of relief.