Butanding Nothing

So there was no Butanding (Whale Shark).

It turned out these migratory mammals have changed their course this year maybe because of climate change as what the tourist guides are saying, or maybe because the butandings got scared out of their wits with the flock of people always searching for and sometimes mishandling them.

But none is more disappointing than the system that the tourism office has in Donsol. I want to shake their shoulders and wake them all up but all I was able to manage was to shake my head time and time again for almost 5 hours.

When we got here last Saturday, we went to their office to pre-register for the whale shark watching for the following day. It seemed organized. They gave us a piece of paper where we wrote our details and were advised to come back the following day at 10 as the first batch, which leaves by 7 AM, is already full. The first batch is composed of 30 boats with 6 persons inside each. That’s 180 persons hunting for Butanding per batch! 10 AM is not a likable time as it is extremely hot by then but what can we do?

So fast forward to the following day. We got there around 9:45 AM and when we asked the staff what is our boat number, she said there are no more boats for 10 AM. If we want we can wait until 1 PM because the number of boats for the second batch has reached more than 50 and they cannot accommodate everybody at 10 AM! ARE THEY CRAZY?!

They just told us the day before that we can go by 10 and then suddenly they are saying there are no boats! They said they didn’t see that there was a big group which pre-booked  that day. Is that our fault? ARE THEY CRAZY?!

We got so demanding together with the other guests who were promised the same thing yesterday but were also disappointed. Still, nothing happened. After almost 30 minutes of heated discussion with the staff, they gave us boat number 50 (BOAT NUMBER 50!!!!). We got to leave the shore at 2:30 PM (2:30 PM!!!!!), a very nice time when all the whale sharks have eaten all the planktons they need for the day and are now having their siestas in the deepest and farthest part of the sea, away from the mayhem of the Donsol tourism office.

It was almost 5 PM and our boatmen and spotters are spent and tired. They haven’t eaten anything since they went out at 7 AM for the first batch, they said. They were very apologetic about us not finding a whale shark in that three hours of coursing the sea but I know it’s not their fault. They did their best.

Am I coming back to try another shot with the Butandings? Heck yes. In Donsol? Heck NO! Oslob sounds more promising as my friends were able to really see and interact with them.

I hope the Donsol Tourism Office shape up and fix their system. They badly need a consultant to advise, manage and implement a more efficient way of doing things.

And I hope they also do something to really protect their whale sharks. I have heard some unfairytale stories.

Donsol’s name popped out in the map and gave livelihood to their people for several years because of these gentle giants. The villagers have to do something to keep it that way lest they will know what will happen.

And to conclude what a frustrating day we had, let me share what I eavesdropped from one of complaining foreigner tourists who has been there the same time as us,

“I don’t understand it. Why can’t you give us an expected time on when we can leave? You have 30 boats that leave every 3 hours. The first batch leaves at 7 AM, the second batch at 10 AM and the third batch at 1 PM. So what time can we leave?! We have booked this tour 5 weeks ago and you are telling us now that there is no boat?! I don’t understand it. I really don’t understand it.”

I can totally understand her.

I was in that office as well to complain and follow up our boat but I got so amused watching the dynamics of the tourism officer and the complaining foreigner tourist. The antibacterial hand sanitizer I got for free from one dive expo in Singapore was dangling near the complaining guest. I have to snatch it away and cover it with my hands.

This time, it is really not.

Of One Night Stand and Walking (Away)

My sister and I found ourselves in a very compromising situation last night.

Two ladies traveling on our own made us maybe an easy target.

After dinner, two good-looking, well-bred Pinoys from the other table joined ours. A conversation started. They were interesting.  The night went on.

Being in the province, life ends early. 9 PM and the whole Barangay is sleeping. Wanting to have a few more drinks before my sister and I call it a night, we agreed to join them in search for an open place. And where did we end up? In their resort where the bar stays open up until people stays drinking.

Holy cow. I was feeling uncomfortable as we were just a few meters away from their room and one of the guys was dropping innuendos that we can check out their place after the rounds. I rolled my eyes. You wish.

Our resort is a good 10-minute walk (15-20 minutes for my sister. Yes, she is fat, unfit, I mean) from theirs with unreliable lampposts and howling dogs in the streets, a perfect scenario of a horror film.

You’ll know when danger is looming and you’re playing with fire.

The guys said it’s ok if we stay in their room and spend the night. ARE THEY CRAZY?! For sure we’re not.

The guys insisted. I stepped my foot down, told them straight to their faces, “We’re going home. It is not ok for us. Thank you very much.”

And then we walked away.


Photo grabbed from google

April 26, 2012

The plan was to wake up early, lodge my visa application, watch The Lucky One, buy a swimsuit or a rashguard, meet up the online seller of Dicapac then go home.

What happened…

I woke up late, 10 AM to be exact, lazed in bed for 30 more minutes, then jumped out when I realized time is running out. I didn’t bring a car because I was too lazy to drive plus the toll fee is exorbitant and I don’t want to get caught in traffic when I can just be sitting comfortably as I daydream about my life.

I was in Makati by 12. I decided to have lunch first as VIA, the office where I will lodge my visa application, might be closed as people need to eat since it is supposed to be lunch break. Or so I thought. So buffet lunch it was. It was a so so one from Chef d’Angelo. I realized I changed a lot. I am not enjoying eating out in as much preparing and having home-cooked meals. It must be the age.

Then off I went to VIA and lo and behold, my number is 1102 and they are only at 1062 when I arrived. What the? And it takes the clerk approximately 15-20 minutes to sort all the requirements of the applicant. So all my plans went down the drain. My only thought is that I get to be called before the day ends. I don’t want to come back the following day. Que horror!

I finished around 4. Thank God. Their office closes at 4:30. That was close.

And since VIA is a stone throw’s away (ok… maybe a forceful stone’s throw away) from Greenbelt, I decided to take a walk. Since the sun was directly shining on the pathway that I am walking, I looked for some shade and made some turns here and there. And then I saw the Greenbelt chapel. It is calling me. I went inside and my initial reaction is to look for the Adoration chapel. I swept my eyes over the whole building which reminds me of the church in UP Diliman, only this one is a smaller version, but I saw no signs of Adoration Chapel.

Then my eyes caught one lady getting out of a door. My eyes failed me and I cannot see the signage of the small room she just emerged from so I stood up and walked towards it. CONFESSION ROOM. Big gulp. I haven’t received this sacrament for several years but I suddenly had the urge to go inside.

I did a quick examination of the conscience and then mustered the courage to open that white door. There is a green confession box inside where the priest is hidden and a soft pillow to rest my knees. As I knelt near the confession box, I can see there is somebody inside. He is not stirring nor talking. Errrrrr. So I kept quiet. Then he started to talk sounding pissed. He said I am the one who is supposed to talk and not him. I wanted to run out and forget the whole thing. This arrogant priest! Rarrrrrrrrrrr.

But I maintained my calmness and started talking. He butted in from time to time to insult errrrr clarify what I just said. And then I just poured out all my thoughts and I found my eyes getting watery and that’s when the priest started to warm up.

He asked me to continue talking. He said I sound interesting. And talk, I did. I told him as much as my brain can conjure. We had healthy debates.

Then came the advice portion. He said, “Leslee (yes, he asked for my name) you are too strict to yourself. You are not living in the 1800s.”


He further continued with a quote that he received a few days ago, “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can go nowhere without changing it”

“Are you saying that I have a bad attitude, Father,” I asked.

No, he said. You have a weird attitude. Try to process things. Look deep within you. What are the things you need to change? Are you really happy?

I admire the way you lived your life but life is about balance. You have to mix it yourself to make it more exciting. I am your Devil’s advocate.

At the end of the day, God won’t ask you irrelevant things that doctrines inculcated in you. He will just wonder, “Were you able to help?”

And on and on our conversation went. I even told him about my lovelife. Yes, we went as far as that. He gave up later on saying we have been talking for too long, almost an hour! He gave me my absolution and wished me well. Then he said, “I will go out of the confession box. I want to see you.” And there came out an old, thin man with smiling eyes. He held my hands not wanting me to put it on my forehead. He wished me well and hoped that we will talk again soon.

Father made me so happy. The fact that he acknowledged my weird thoughts and my strict life and how he is attempting to change the way I think is amazing. And wanting to put a face on the conversation made the experience more real.

I left the confession room lighter than when I went in.

Did I get answers? Not really.

Was my mind instigated and fed. Definitely.

I hope to meet you again Fr. Blas Briones in Sacred Heart, Kamagong or wherever you may be.

You were not supposed to be in that confession box as you only sat for a priest friend who cannot make it that day. And I am not supposed to be in that chapel if not for the sweltering heat that I am trying to avoid. We were meant to meet and talk, Father.

Our meetings is God’s Providence as what we both agreed or maybe serendipity if I want to be more romantic about it.

Thank you for a wonderful one.

Dicapac and a Lot of Faith

I got my Dicapac today. I have been eyeing this underwater camera case for more than a month now.

My sister and I booked this holiday trip to see the whalesharks as early as January this year and I just have to immortalize that moment when I will be face to face with that beautiful animal. I have been convincing my sister to buy a new underwater camera since her old Olympus underwater camera died without her knowing. But she is a cheapskate and doesn’t want to part with her pesos. Maybe she knows that I will find a way to get an underwater camera or a case by hook or by crook. Errrr. I swear I am not going to take her photos underwater! Php100 per shot!

When I was in Singapore, I tried looking around for this underwater case but it is more expensive than the one I saw online here in the Philippines! My hopes soared high when I attended a Dive Expo in Marina Bay Sands and saw that they are selling sturdy and reasonably priced underwater camera cases. But all don’t carry a stock for my camera model. I also tried looking for it in Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur but one store staff told me that my camera is old already and they don’t carry a stock that will fit it. Errrrrrr to them. How dare them insult my camera?! I got it only in 2010!!! Ok. So maybe it is old…

So there, since my plan was to be in Manila today and my trip to the whalesharks is only a few days from now and the underwater cameras are too expensive for me to buy at this time when Mom is trying to redo the kitchen and she volunteered me and my sister to pay for it, I am left with no choice. Dicapac it is.

For only Php1,800 it is far cheaper than getting the cheapest underwater camera I found in SM which is Olympus costing around Php10k. Fine! Dicapac will do!

So after I got it from the online seller I met up in Glorietta, I was excited to test it. I youtubed how to test it and read some reviews which I have actually read a million times before. But I chanced upon this review which said that after three uses, his Dicapac gave up and ruined his whole camera. Holy cow! I AM SCARED!

The Dicapac I got is WP570 which is meant for Canon G series and Lumix T series. The idea of my Panasonic getting washed and dying haunted me. This is a nice camera which takes nice photos (even if I am on Intelligent Auto all the time)! I cannot afford to lose it! My Mom gave it to me! And I cannot afford to buy a new one now. That’s even more frightening.

So I decided that instead of putting my Panasonic in the firing range, I might as well exchange it for my pink Sony camera. I love that camera, mind you. It was my birthday gift to mysefl several years ago and it has served me well. IT HAS SERVED ME WELL. So does it mean I am ready for it to expire just in case?!  Hay. Still, better be in the safe side. The Panasonic is more precious to me now so end of debate.

The pink Sony looks extremely small in my WP570. It is not its compatible case. But what the heck! I am only going to buy a Dicapac once in my life. Next time, it will really be a decent underwater camera.

Risking is not my best hobby!

My Dicapac WP570
Testing it with a paper camera inside. The manual said it is a must to do this before risking a real one!
Now, dunking it in a kaserola! I AM SCARED!
This time in a timba! Hingang malalim!
Drying it to the bones. The paper is as dry as when it went in.
Now, the pink camera is ready to get in.
I took this shot just in case it's my final one with her. DON'T DIE, OK?!
One more time. You may be battered and used but I still love you to bits. Remember that.

And in my extreme anxiety, I forgot to take photos while the pink camera is in the water! I was so busy checking if it is still alive!

And alive it came out! Make sure you behave the same way on our trip!

So there! Here is the buwis buhay of my pink camera! Forget about the Panasonic getting inside that Dicapac. It will never happen! Or maybe up until I get a new decent point and shoot camera which I don’t see happening in the next couple of months!