January 15th – Island Hopping off of Cebu Island.
We actually get to sleep in until 7:00 A.M. and during breakfast, John tells us he has a date tonight. To recap: John met three young women at the mall last night and was charmed by one in particular and they exchanged Facebook information. It is our last night in Cebu and I ask John about his plans for meeting? They want to meet at the Alyana Mall, at the railing where they met the night before. Although I am surprised, this will work well. We can all take a taxi together to the mall again for dinner tonight and John can meet up with Hana, take her to dinner and return by taxi on his own.
After breakfast, our prearranged driver picks us up for a 1.5 hour drive to Mactan Island the departure point for todays island hopping and snorkeling. We take a large and private catamaran out to three different snorkeling spots; Talima, Hilutungan and Nalusuan, off of Olango Island.
|Mactan & Olango Islands|
Our first snorkeling stop is reasonably good, the second very good and the third one amazing. I wear a life vest, more for the coral protection than for my own. With a life vest to keep me buoyant, I will not be tempted to stand up and possibly damage the coral with my fins. We snorkel just a few feet above huge islands of stag-horn coral with luminescent pale green and blue damsel fish swimming in synchrony, like leaves blowing in the breeze. Bright orange damsel fish add to the underwater symphony and luminescent orange anemones, each with their own species of clown fish, undulate in the current. Brain coral, table top coral, ribbon and stag-horn coral abound. Dr. Seuse could not have imagined a more magical underwater garden filled with brilliantly colored parrot fish, trigger fish and angel fish. It is remarkable and heartening to see this fragile and remarkable ecosystem thriving.
|Catamaran to Mactan and Olango Islands|
|Motoring out to Mactan and Olango Islands|
|Tying up to the Buoy|
Shortly before lunch, a small boat pulls along side of our catamaran and three men climb aboard. We are not quite sure what they are doing here and feel a bit uncomfortable. Although our crew seems to know these men it feels as if we have been boarded by pirates. They hang back by the motor and watch us. I don’t want to go back in the water and leave our valuable unattended so I tell Art and John that I will rest onboard awhile. Art remains onboard as well and it soon becomes clear that the islanders wish for us to “order” coconuts from them for the exorbitant price of $4 each. They speak an island dialect and little English but Art manages to communicate and negotiates the price down to $2 each and they motor off back to their nearby island, presumably to climb a coconut tree to procure the coconuts. The men return thirty minutes later, Art pays them and we sip the sour, rather than sweet juice. In the meantime our crew has fired up a rusty grill and barbecued a surprising good lunch of grilled chicken, pork, squid and fresh mango. For lack of vegetarian options, John and I eat the chicken, rice and mango.
In 2008, Art, John and I traveled to Komodo Island and spent two days onboard a tiny wooden boat motoring between Komodo and Rincon Islands where the dragons roam. We slept one night in the open on the wooden deck of our boat and were surprised and somewhat frightened when two small boats pulled along side ours; village men selling souvenirs. One of the men was missing an eye and we felt vulnerable, anchored off shore of this remote island. John and I purchased a teak carved Komodo Dragon sculpture and several bone and shell necklaces from the men. In retrospect, our night time visitors were one of the highlights of the trip.
|Night Time Visitors, Komodo Island, 2008|
|One Eyed Komodo Villager, 2008|
We are tired and salty when we return to the dock for our return drive to our hotel in Cebu. We all shower quickly and change and it is a little after 6:00 P.M. before we all climb into a taxi to drive to the Mall. Traffic is terrible and John checks the time on his phone anxiously. Last night it took only 20 minutes by taxi to reach the mall but it takes us nearly an hour tonight. it is nearly 7:00 P.M. when we arrive and John’s date is at 7:00 P.M. and we leave him standing at the railing waiting for Hana. I tell him I will check back in 15 minutes in case she stands him up but when I return a few minutes later, John is no where to be seen.
|The Terraces, Alyana|
I want to have dinner again at the Siam Restaurant but John is planning on taking Hana there and we don’t want to intrude. Art, Joe and I wander the terraces reading the posted menus until we settle on a Japanese restaurant. Because both Art and Joe were raised in Okinawa, Japanese food is always a draw. We sit outside on the patio overlooking the public garden space below. Dinner is disappointing and I am worried about John. He is 22 years old and a seasoned traveler but I am still anxious. Will he remember the name of our hotel if he looses the hotel card and I think of worst case scenarios and how we could find him if he doesn’t return to the hotel? Eventually I relax into the evening, glad that we have Hana’s contact on Facebook.