In Between

I was glad to have a spare time on my hands when I can finally write a decent post about our Apo Reef trip which happened in end of May this year. I know – I always write late about my travel adventures but who can blame me? – I am always procrastinating and work always happened and I think this was a true testing of my memory, of how much I love a place, that even if a lot of time has passed, I can still write about it because of how much it awed me.

I guess this is a fitting title to that adventure. “In Between” was the game we played while we’re on Apo Reef. πŸ™‚ But. It also was a term to describe the time when we went there. It was “in between” tax return preparations and filings, hence the title.

Background: Of course there will always be a background.

It was in April 2015 when my college friends invited me to go to Apo Reef. It was that time when I resigned from my 3.75 year long work in PwC and was in exile at home in QC. I told them I cannot go because I have no budget (but inside I really wanted to). It’s just that my savings from my previous work was already allotted on my 25th birthday trip in Baguio in June of that year. Haha. I can’t imagine I was so poor that time – I don’t even have a savings. πŸ™‚ I mean – I did have – but I spent it on more important matters, on emergencies and there I was, left with a little of savings but I still went on and resigned from my work because I was really itching to go away from the auditing firm. I even resolved to just walk away – I was determined not to get my final pay because I just want to GO. Eto un times na feeling namin ni Joie – “mamamatay kami kapag di kami nakapagresign”.Β Good thing – kinuha ko pa din un final pay ko after 4.5 months – that would fund my laptop and Japan trip. Haha πŸ™‚Β 

Anyway, since then, Apo Reef was at the list of my to-go places. We even planned to go there last February 2017 but we abandoned the plan because of scheduling, budget and work conflicts.Β 

But then – here was Tin πŸ™‚ We owe it big to her because siya un gumawa ng preparations and itinerary and the one who pushed through kahit na merong mga nagback-out. Actually it was in MF3, we’re just talking in our team meeting and then biglang nagkayayaan na pumunta ng Puerto Galera and Apo Reef and there was a memorial holiday (US) in the last Monday of May so- the plan was actualized. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ ‘Di na natuloy un Puerto Galera but at least un Apo Reef natuloy. Later on, malalaman namin ‘yung Apo Reef pala is three-years-in-the-making plan na pala sa MF Compliance – un time na wala pa kami sa Shell, plan na nila and ngayon lang nagmaterialize. And I’m happy to be part of it.

Day Zero

It was Friday. Plan was to come to the office at 3-12am shift so we can leave at exactly 12midnight from the office. However because this was nearing end of the month – we had a lot of things to do at the office. I remember the day before this (which is Thursday) of which I was resolved to just go home at 2am to 3am BUT then all of a sudden, I was able to go home at 7am. Haha. It was all because of the deposits that I can’t go. Darn payments. Anyway I was also wrapping up the last EOM returns in between so no time was wasted. (That was also the day that we had the 40th day of Adhie 😦 Β  )

And so, I got to the office at about 7pm. And had dinner with Malyn and Ai (two closest TMD friends) because we haven’t shared a meal since forever :). I thought that that Friday – since I already had finished my work yesterday I can just chill. Wrong! I remember I was supposed to do two amendments because it was expiring by the end of the month. Way to go! Good thing I was able to finish it in one sweep. What adrenaline rush does to people. πŸ™‚

We extended until 1am just so everyone can wrap things up. πŸ™‚

And so, off we go to Occidental Mindoro at 1am.

Day One

We rode a van going to Batangas Pier and boarded a RoRo at about 4am or 5am – I don’t remember. πŸ™‚ Even if we haven’t followed the original plan (to have breakfast in Pandin Lake) it’s okay. The view was amazing. It was my first time to ride and the view was relaxing. πŸ™‚ Ewan, sobrang na-excite ako that time – ‘yung feeling na sobrang tagal mo hinintay ‘yung trip and then here it comes! Dahil wala kaming tulog – dapat matulog kami sa byahe but no – I can’t sleep when you have this amazing view. πŸ™‚

And then we landed in Abra de Ilog. We still have to travel by land though, to reach Sablayan. On our way there, we stopped by Pandin Lake. πŸ™‚

We arrived into Tin’s house past lunch but we still had lunch and then siesta! πŸ™‚ I think it was more like we need to catch up on sleep because we haven’t slept the night before. I can’t remember anymore now but what I do remember is that we had dinner and then walked out of the house that night. Wala lang – libot-libot lang and then we ate halo-halo there while watching MMK – ‘yung part two yata ng Mother’s Day Special nila – ‘yung kay Angel Locsin. Nakakatawa lang parang inoccupy talaga namin ung buong tindahan ng halo-halo pero enjoy. The simple things – watching tv habang kumakain ng halo-halo and then nung medyo nahihiya na kami kasi sobrang tagal na namin ‘dun bumalik na kami nung commercial break at tinuloy ang panonood ng MMK sa bahay nila Tin. πŸ™‚

That was the first day – not so much happened but it was worth the while – imagine, medyo invested pala kami sa kwento nung MMK! πŸ™‚

Day Two

Maaga kami nagising and we thought pupunta na kami sa Pandan Island pero hindi pa pala! We went to the Sablayan lighthouse to catch the not-so-sunrise kasi maliwanag na! πŸ™‚ Actually, eto pala un place ng Pre-nup video nila Tin and Randell. Aun lang, natuwa lang kami magpicture sa puno and sa lighthouse.

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And then after that, we went back home (home na talaga un feeling ko sa bahay nila Tin) and prepared for the trip to Pandan Island. πŸ™‚

We rode a glass boat and I still remember the excitement I felt that time – to see the sea. Lol. Rhyme. I mean it was like sobrang pinagkaitan ako ng dagat na that time super excited akong makakita ng dagat! How long I’ve waited for you, how much mountains (figuratively) I had to climb to see this!

And it didn’t disappoint. We saw the very large pawikan up close thru the glass boat though we’re not allowed to swim at that point. Ansaya lang, kasi kita mo ng malapitan eh. And then when we reached the Pandan Island, we sat for like fifteen minutes before heading out to the beach to swim!

I don’t know kung alin ang nauna – un nalaman namin na naiwan sa glass boat ‘yung cooler kung saan nakalagay un food, or yung volleyball, or ‘yung swimming. Pero basta lahat un nangyari. After ng sumptuous lunch, para kaming may breakout session na nakacircle lang ung upuan and wala tambay-tambay lang as if it’s all in a day’s work! πŸ™‚

And then we resumed to beach bumming. Pumunta pa kami sa other side of the island ‘yung wala nang tao and wala – minsan ansarap lang talaga ng walang ginagawa at nakatingin lang sa dagat. Then eto na ung part na pagalingan sa skipping rocks. πŸ™‚

Pandan Island was enjoyable – not because of the place itself – but also because of the people I came here with. I guess, so many islands never reach their full potential if you do not come with the best people. πŸ™‚ It’s in this place where we just enjoyed and never bother with anything – because “vacation feels” and also because the sea is relaxing. And I was always delighted to see the sky, the vast sky and see its fullness unobstructed by buildings and infrastractures. In these times I realise the world is really wide – that you can see the sky and somewhere out there, someone is also looking at that same sky but you’ll never see that person.

Day Three

We woke up early – this is the day that we’re going to Apo Reef and we need to leave early. Soon enough all of us were ready and we even saw the sunrise on our way there. (Medyo may kwento pa un pagpunta namin sa port na iba pala kami ng binabaan at un kagat-ng-aso stories and whatnots)Β And then when we’re all complete – we set sail to go to Apo Reef. Mga two hours (nga ba?) ‘yung boat trip but then this will be worth it because of what awaits us there. And knowing myself, I’ll just enjoy the ride. I am so used to travel by land, sea, air that it no longer bores me, except when I am on a rush to go someplace but in this time – with all the waves around entertaining us, it is already satisfying. Plus the sea which stands for the unexplored world – ewan – kaya ko siguro gustong-gusto ng dagat kasi it’s like a metaphor for something you want to explore but at the same time afraid to – it’s like the world, no matter how many places you swim into, you can never know its entirety.

And there – the spot where you can feel like you’re flying. And also – we spotted dolphins from afar and you can also hear them πŸ™‚ And the rainbow sa gilid ng bangka because the droplets of water acts as a prism and when the sun hits them – rainbow!

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The rainbow that the droplets of water creates

The boat ride is like a prelude to a series of awesome places that we’re going to see on that day. First off – the beach – the Apo Reef in its entirety – once we arrived there, it was just so magnificent – we squealed in delight once we set foot on it. Never mind the sun – the sun makes every piece of the sea glitter and I loved it when it does that! πŸ™‚

We stalled for minutes and finally made the plans for the day – setup camp, guided snorkeling, lunch, rest, snorkeling at the reef, land tour and then sunset at the lighthouse. Whoa! Upon hearing all those things made tired all of a sudden. You see, it’s not that I dislike those things – it’s just that I got so used to “no plans” vacation wherein you’re just going to do what you like in the moment and not bothering with “plans” because you want to do something when you feel like it – you don’t want to stick with a fixed plan because doing so would make it less enjoyable. The beauty is in the spontaneity.

But then – this is this and I think the itinerary is there for us to make the most of our stay in Apo Reef so off we go! πŸ™‚

From this point on – I will be sorry because I have not taken a lot of pictures of the sea as much as I want to. It’s just that everything was so fun that yeah – still having to say it over – there was no time to take pictures.

What I really liked about our activities that day is because I’m with a large group of people. I used to travel only with a small number of people like three, four to five but not more than ten – which is why it was fun – like the mix of the MF peeps were so right – all of us making fun of each other but also balanced.

On our afternoon rest – we started to play “in between” and it was at that moment that the “bet everything!” term was coined! πŸ™‚

And then after the second snorkeling of which we would’ve wished to go to Coron because Coron is very near to Apo Reef – we started out the land tour.

That was when I concluded that Apo Reef is not only about the sea and its coral reefs underwater – it also includes the land we’re stepping on. The inside of Apo Reef is as beautiful as much as its ocean. For instance this trail, and also this:

And then we proceeded with the highlight of the day, or of our trip: the lighthouse. Our kuya guide even has a disclaimer – that it’s not required to go up but you will really, really, really regret it if you don’t climb up.

And so begins an arduous task of climbing the steep stairs going to the top of the lighthouse. At first – it really wasn’t scary at all. But halfway through it, I realised that the steps were little and there are those blank spaces between steps that you can see how high you already are and what if you fell down? And then when my knees started shaking, I still have one flight of stairs to climb. I actually felt a bit sorry to the person on my back because I was very slow – because fear of heights/falling – whatever it is – it’s not a joke – it’s not just our whims – it’s not that we can control it – how can you control you fear if your heart beats faster than normal whenever you encounter it and your knees shake and suddenly it’s not your body anymore – it’s your fear taking hostage of your body –Β darn, what is my point? Haha – I think I already described what it feels like having to stand on high places when you have fear of heights – I swear, I’m doing the best I can to overcome this fear.

And then we’re rewarded with this great of a view:

which is so worth the climb. You are so going to regret not climbing the lighthouse. And I’m glad I climbed up. πŸ™‚ And then when all of us were up we just stood or sat there in the lighthouse, watching the sun set, watching it go to another place to bring light. I really like sunsets – the way the world shifts and there are streaks of orange, yellow, red in the sky and the rays and how it slowly, ever so slowly, dims and then suddenly the sun is no longer where it is. I love what the sunsets symbolises – an end of the day, the beginning of night, you can never have too much of what it symbolises. I liked that we are there not just to take take pictures but to see the sunset, the clouds perfectly forming a straight line, the view from up which is so much better than the view below. If you could paint a picture of the word perfect – this would be it! πŸ™‚

And then the climbing down of which I decided to be at the back because I am mustering all my strength to confront my fears because going up is easier and I always had trouble in going down – like when climbing a mountain – because going down you clearly see the height of which you’re going to fall – IF you’re going to fall and because going up is optional but going down is mandatory because who says you can stay up there? If only I can just climb up and not go down? The climbing down is a metaphor for that time when you go out to a really nice place to get away but no matter what – you always has to come down, to go back to reality. Why is falling down such a cruel thing?

There is just so many funny stories of this trip involving that going down and then when we’re all down and walking beside the shore back to our camp, you can already see the moon.

And the night launches.

There is no freshwater in the island Β so we took a bath using sea water, all the freshwater that we had is used only in preparing the food – because food tastes so much better when you’re in an island. πŸ™‚ I remember there were so many beetles there and fireflies even, but a lot of beetles that we were so scared but they were just there flying around us. πŸ™‚

After the dinner – we continued by playing In Between again. We have to start early because at 10pm it’s already lights off at Apo Reef. This is the part where I loses even if my cards were a King and an Ace or a King and 2 – like, what are the odds of losing if your cards were that? It’s like I am 100% sure that I will win but then a Joker will come out or a King and yeah I lose. πŸ™‚ But it was fun! Best ever night at the island. That concludes our first day at Apo Reef.

And then we settled into our tents to sleep. And then I woke up at around 4am and already see that the sky is lighter like, the sun is already on its way up at 4am. How early is the sunrise that starts at 4am? We scurried towards the shore to see the sunrise.

This is the part where I did not know that a lot of sandflies are around me because my I am already occupied with how great the sunrise is. Pink and purple skies. How awesome is that? Pink and purple skies is so much cooler than orange and yellow skies. πŸ™‚ I have my favorite. Hence this is the beginning of our day four, the beginning of our last day of this trip.

Day Four

Of course the day starts in having breakfast, or wait, did we swim first? I don’t exactly remember but what I do remember is that our food that day is delicious. Spam and salted eggs and ensalada and adobo and watermelon, of course! Thinking about our food makes me hungry now. But really – food in the island tastes better.

We swam again just before we head back – it’s like a goodbye swim to Apo Reef. I really missed it, you know and writing about it now is saddening.

And then time to break camp and pack up because we’re still heading to Pandan Island to swim with Pawikans – because we weren’t able to on our day two. We had a good time in the boat ride because we played in between again. The two hour boat ride seemed like minutes because we played on our way there. πŸ™‚

And then when we reached the Pandan Island – no more hesitations, some of us even jumped out of the boat (someday too, I’ll do that, but for now, let’s use the ladder). And then soon we’re searching for the pawikans and yeah we did see a lot but you have to really look for them. And then when someone sees it you have to swim fast to that person in order to see it. This is also the part where I swam with no lifevest – I just used the lifesaver – holding on to it because I don’t know – someday I’ll really swim without lifejackets. πŸ™‚ I lost count of the pawikans and we even saw a sting ray on our way back to the boat. Sorry I have no more pictures to show but it’s really fun chasing pawikans when you know that they move at the pace of an airplane, one swish and they’re already gone but we still would try to catch up to them and fail but we still do because doing so gives us delight.

That concludes our day four.

We travelled back to the port and immediately took turns in taking a bath upon arriving at Tin’s home. πŸ™‚

And then who could ever forget the crabs at lunch. The very delicious crabs. Seafoods really are the best! But I don’t know – I guess I just really love foods. πŸ™‚

A little siesta and then it rained hard and we even had a brownout and we were just so blessed that it rained AFTER we got back from Apo Reef. It’s all in the timing. Now this is the part where we closes in on our trip because we’re going back to Makati. Sad. But the vacation was worth it. The travel time – by van, then boat, then van is so worth the pleasures that we did see.

We even had stories to share on our ride back – we played games and the almost horror stories that we didn’t continue because they said that you should never tell ghost stories on Tuesday.

We arrived at Makati at 2 or 3am and there we capped off the Mindoro trip.

***

Looking back on it after two months, I was so glad and thankful I was part of that trip. And even grateful that I get to enjoy it with people at work. I get to talk to these people and it’s no longer about work – I guess that’s how you build relationships at work – it’s no longer about work but sharing lives outside of work. Can you imagine I already typed the word “work” too many times in this paragraph? But really, I was glad that I get to enjoy this trip with them. I wish MF Compliance will have more trips like this. πŸ™‚

This Apo Reef adventure is definitely one for the books! And will be one of the highlights of 2017 – because what more can you ask for – awesome place, amazing people and good food. πŸ™‚ The perfect mix for a satisfying vacation. Because that April was so very hard and really – you have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.Β 

This is one of the best days of my life and I’m glad I fought for it. πŸ™‚

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