Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An Almost Failed Success

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I was hoping to have some rants from my guests of the previous month. However not much to my surprise they have procrastinated, submitting nothing to me. Perhaps they had a bad time. Perhaps such a good time it can’t be formulated in words. Perhaps its simply laziness. My guess is the latter. While waiting for them to meet their imaginary deadline I will fill you in on the events that followed the departure of the American boys.

After some big hugs and exchange of pointless British slang Tin Tin and I bid farewell to Pete, John, Kyle, and Justin. It was hard to see them go, however I feel it was a shared feeling that we all knew it was needed. Our bodies could not handle much more. Upon returning to my house in Miagao I promptly returned to work for the remainder of the week. Tin Tin promptly visited the CR (Comfort Room, aka bathroom) for the first of a multitude of visits. I believe he spent more time there than anywhere else during our four day rest period.

That Friday the two of us headed off to fulfill one of Tin Tin’s childhood dreams. A few flights later we landed in Legaspi City, Bicol. Our plane flew in over and landed next to what is considered the world’s most perfect cone Volcano, Mt. Mayon. Upon disembarking from the plan I turned to my left and it stood smoking and towering over me. It was magical.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A few rides later we were sitting on the other side of Bicol Island, in Donsol, looking out over the ocean, beers in hands, willing the creatures of the deep to grant us their presence the following morning. We were going swimming with the largest fish in the ocean, a shark that can grow in to the length of 18 meters. Yet it has a throat the size of a large fist, Whale Sharks. Gentle giants of the sea. The Butangding (whale shark) conjugate in the waters off of Donsol during this time of year to feed on the large plankton population. I sure was hoping the plankton were out there, acting like bait to Tin Tin’s dreams.

We awoke quite early with anticipation, it wasn’t only Tin Tin that had a dream to fulfill, yet he did travel, and invest, the most to fulfill it. After awaiting many people, all were on Filipino time, and using our meager math skills to work out a way to pay (who knew it would be so expensive?) we were on a boat searching for our Moby Dick. Little to our knowledge three mornings later we would still be searching, turning ourselves into Captain Arab himself. The day went by, the weather turned bad. We were of course let down. We had but one more day before our departure.

Salvation was in our hands. We discovered that often times the sharks are located off another island near-by, near a Manta Ray bowl. We could dive with Mantas, the angles of the sea and Whale sharks, the gentle giants of the sea! The fate of the gods had turned to smile on us. Of course we booked three dives the following day, took a ride to town to get the needed funding for this adventure and were off early the next morning.

Half-way to the dive sites Tin Tin’s keen eye spotted some disturbances in the ocean. We were hoping it was our Moby Dick. It was not, however not to our disappointment a huge pod of dolphins was cutting through the ocean. It was a scene that belonged in a movie. Tin Tin and I standing on the bow of the boat, the dolphins cutting across the bow up and down through the water, blowing water into the sky. It could only be a sign of good things to come. Our expectations were high, a day of such great possibilities. In life that is the only thing you can ask for. The possibility.

Our possibilities were great, but fate didn’t lean our way. Others in the area saw manta rays. Not us, also no sharks. It was a long, wet, cold ride home on the boat. The sun had disappeared; the clouds had rolled in. Not just on the weather but on our spirits as well.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We arranged for an early morning outing, our one last chance. We were now Captian Arap in the flesh. We had to depart by 9:30 am to make our plane. At 9 am I informed the boat captain to take us back to shore. Our spirits were dejected and low. We consoled each other but it was half heartedly. I was disappointed, but more so that my friend hadn’t fulfilled his dream. I knew in the back of my mind I could return relatively easily in a more appropriate time of year to witness these beasts. He could not. It was agonizing. Tin Tin had covered his head in a towel; I thought he very well may break down. He is good with dealing with his luck, which is impressive, seeing his luck is almost always bad. However in this case I thought that it may be a bit much for him.

“Butangding! Butangding!,” our guide yelled. Before looking to the ocean I immediately looked to Tin Tin. He had flung his towel off, and was peering out over the ocean like a child who was just told Santa was nearby. I followed his eye line, and there it was, a huge dorsal fin slicing through the ocean. We quickly threw on our snorkeling gear, the captain positioned the boat, and we were in the ocean. Visibility was quite low. We were swimming in a general direction and all I could think was “that was it, it has already submerged. I am not going to see anymore of it than its fin” For the thirty seconds it took us to swim to the where the Sharks path would be I was completely pessimistic. The days leading up to now had conditioned it in me. Then, as if in a special effect from a movie, coming out of the darkness, was the whale shark. My brain locked into it, it was so quite, I swam hard to keep up with this magical beast. As it passed me I felt the power of its huge tale push the water into my face. It slowly submerged to a depth I couldn’t see. It was breathtaking. This short exposure to one of nature’s wonders was followed promptly by two similar incidents with the same shark. At my closest I was within two or three feet. I could have touched the shark! But I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t but I think it was similar to Tin Tin’s view. He said he wanted to desperately but held back, “I just had to much respect for it.”

Looking back I don’t know what I enjoyed more. The anticipation or the shark. Clearly the shark was magical. Something I will never forget. All in all I probable spent less than two minutes swimming with the whale shark, however those two minutes are written in my brain like no other. Yet the two days leading up to the shark; the anticipation, the possibilities, the let downs. It all helped to build to that moment.

We made it to our plane on time, actually very early. I had mistaken the plane departure time. Apparently I have a hard time reading military time. However if we wouldn’t have told the captain to take us back when we did, would we have left the weekend in total disappointment? Or perhaps the gods simply wanted us to be agonized before granting us the view of something so mesmerizing.