Showing posts with label samar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label samar. Show all posts

Monday, October 26, 2015

San Juanico: Emerald and Crimson

Five years passed before I could return, and it meant repeating myself trying to cross over San Juanico bridge riding on seismic waves left by vehicles, big and small, zooming by.

The first was a huge letdown when I later realized coursing through the full span of the iconic structure was water and sun to a plant. I did half-step. It was in 2010, a futile attempt at smuggling myself into the provincial border of Leyte and Samar. I had to leave Leyte for Samar that day, even for just a short while, like a commuter on some hurried lunch break, yet on foot. That was the bravado of the then-youngish, amateur traveler.

Regrettably, I did not make it, as I succumbed to the sweltering and parching afternoon, the audible gusts with which I wrestled every second, the approaching produce-laden trucks on convoy, or the packed fears with nameless triggers. I listened to my instincts, and stopped mid-bridge. I couldn’t go on with a mind grappled with doubts, even though the heart was pouncing hard on the former for me to reach the finish line.

The traipsing redux was a stark 180-degree turn, poised at the other end of the bridge, ensuring that I would be at the gate of Samar, first second, no matter what. So, from a Tacloban jeepney, an hour prior midday, I alighted at the Samar side of the bridge.

I asked permission from the officers stationed at checkpoint, all three of them, if I could pass under the bridge, to the land jutting on my left. I was curious to know what lay there. One of them retorted with an enthusiastic yes. All dressed up with a self-styled adventurer look -- accessorized with grimy rubber shoes, soiled cargo pants, dri-fit singlet, backpack sided with bottled water, and camera hung from my neck -- nothing was thought of as suspiciously terrorizing of me. I guessed I just had the right ingredients.

I walked over a cemented path. I had realized then that the bridge coated itself with crimson paint, for better or worse. It was never painted last time, or not that I know of. But if you ask me, the cloak change complements perfectly with the emerald waters of the strait and the lush green landscape set as backdrop; red and green are the color pair that makes us all merry. The bridge looked fiery arching over the narrow gap between the two islands.

The bank of the strait exploded into life as I drew closer to it. Bursts of laughters saturated more the already breezy, cool air down low. Mothers, fathers, a grandpa, and over a dozen children, young and old, went for a dip, cooling themselves down and asking me to take several snaps of themselves. Those children were especially calling my attention here and there, posing for my camera. Anywhere in the Philippines, cameras are indeed notoriously kid magnets.

Climbing back to the threshold of my rambling, a whiff of déjà vu penetrated my senses. I thought I felt a familiar baggage of fears resurrected itself. But it’s all imagined and no mistake. I put on prudent eyes, swift hands, and stealthy feet amid distracting grinning and waving bus passengers, Korean tourists stopping over, expectant tremors, and spastic winds.

I walked and walked and walked until I reached Leyte.

No half-step no more. I had San Juanico bridge ticked off, at long last.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Black Butterfly

For how long can we remain faithful to someone who has made a big impact in our life we initially called our teacher? Do we still give the same amount of effort on the founded relationship up to this day? Do we stress our mentor’s importance in our day to day ride we call journey? How can we easily slip into forgetting the part they played in our early life, as we pursue happiness that’s supposed to make us any happier? How come by a single text you realize at once the same amount of affection hasn’t become any less through the years, saying that your teacher missed and loved you?

Two weeks ago, I was in a company of high school classmates for a prayer vigil over the body of our Biology teacher who passed away from cancer. I remember her as soft-spoken, someone who rarely got mad at unruly, naughty students, and with eyes carrying a shade of blue. I don’t know if she ever wore contacts, though, but that’s exactly imprinted in my memory. She’s one of the teachers whom I admittedly have become a fan of.

When we went out of the funeral parlor, while talking and waiting for someone, the very moment the door went open after us, a big black butterfly rushed its way out and man, did I feel its wings flapping against my head. I’m not superstitious, but it’s hard to ignore something that’s all too powerful at that moment.

I thought I felt her presence for the last time.

Image: Calbiga, Samar, Philippines

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crossing the San Juanico Bridge (Leyte - Samar)

A beautiful sight to behold and an experience in itself. That’s how I could sum up the San Juanico Bridge when I got the chance to actually feel its power, charm, and travel along its almost 4 decades of significance in Philippine history.

the Leyte side of the bridge
islets below the bridge
trusses over the arch of the bridge (pic 1)
trusses (pic 2)

Construction started in August 1969
and was completed in December 1972

To actually see the longest bridge in the Philippines that connects Leyte (Tacloban City) and Samar (Sta. Rita) over a 2.162 km. span is this lone traveler's dream come true. I was feeling the whole experience. In addition to that, it must be that I have become more than curious over the story behind the bridge. Word has it that the San Juanico Bridge was Ferdinand Marcos’ gift for her wife Imelda Marcos, a native of Leyte, as a testimony of his love. Well, that's what love can do.

When I finally arrived in San Juanico, from a 10-peso jeepney ride from Tacloban downtown, I asked a military officer if I could actually take a walk over the bridge. He eagerly said anyone has all the time in the world to do so. It rang as kind of cool to me.

San Juanico Strait, the narrowest in the world (pic 1)
I thought walking over it would be easy, but it occurred to me as a rather daunting experience, especially that I was pacing against strong winds the San Juanico Strait brought that day and had to hold on to the beams due to vibrations and movements I could feel every time buses, jeepneys, and vans passed by. When I reached the middle of the bridge, I let out a sigh of relief, I have to say less panicky there were lesser winds at those altitudes. There I met Mr. Base, one of only two bridge sweepers who are employees of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Well, thanks to him, for allowing me to bother him for just a minute or two of chitchat. He’s been working there for almost 2 years now.

I should have crossed the bridge to the Samar side. But as I said, it was daunting taking a walk over the bridge against strong winds, besides being all alone. But I’m telling you this, I realize I missed getting a better perspective of the bridge that you could only get when you’re standing on Samar side (how could I forget the arch!). Well, that’s regret right there, but I'm already thinking of redoing the experience. Hmm.

Walking down from the middle of the bridge to its Leyte end would take you about 10 minutes.

grazing sheep beside the bridge
San Juanico Strait (pic 2)
San Juanico Strait (pic 3)
San Juanico Strait (pic 4)
San Juanico Strait (pic 5)
San Juanico Strait (pic 6)
forming an "L" which stands for Leyte
a picturesque view
that's an "S" which stands for Samar
Mr. Base, thanks!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Beginner's Journal: Spelunking in Langun-Gobingob Caves (Calbiga, Samar)

For every beginner at anything, there is for sure something more encouraging than the excitement. It is the start of something worth taking in his lifetime. Any first is as good as it gets -- a fresh memory it always will be. And perhaps, it only aims at one thing, to taste a far different take at life showing some courage at uncomfortable situations or unfamiliar encounters, especially when you’re all alone by yourself.

Last year, I came across a website dedicated to caving in Samar. It is actually maintained by Joni Bonifacio, a cave master himself, who leads a nature-loving team called Trexplore the Adventures. I found caving cool and fascinating and very different from the more familiar outdoor activities there is. Just perfect. That’s what I needed. Imagining myself doing caving at the expense of only my always-on-the-go spirit and not experience would be a first for me.

Then on May 21 this year, I knew I was at the point of no return. I was so hyped for the 6th Extreme Caving in Langun-Gobingob Caves (touted as the second largest in Asia), Calbiga, Samar for 3 days and 2 nights. Joni, the 8 others who responded to his invite, and I met up at Kaunan Ha Tulay (Waray for "Eatery by the Bridge"). At 1 P.M., we departed from the bridge to the starting point of an hour of trekking to the entrance to Gobingob Cave.

Honestly, I was exactly half-ready, half-prepared. Take this, I brought with me less than half of the right caving gears. I only had with me a helmet with chinstrap, head lamp, and flashlight. I didn’t realize that spelunkers, too, must have to have arm warmers, a good pair of shoes or boots and gloves, and even more preferably coveralls. Thank God, somebody in our team had extra warmers and gloves that were just enough for me. Should it not be because of her extras, I would definitely have a hard time going up and down the caves, especially that I was on slippers the whole time, because my shoes already gave up on our way to the entrance to the cave. The story of my dead shoes.

Three days and two nights, yes, but we had literally lost a sense of time. Days and nights didn’t matter anymore, only the turns of coursing to the left and right of various chambers of stalactites and stalagmites of calcite and limestone, and muddy areas, to the way up climbing against boulders and down the caves’ subterranean world (we did swimming and enjoyed a facial mud treatment); and the fact that the caves were teeming with bats, balinsasayaw birds (edible-nest swiftlets) routinely forming a large assemblage at the exit of the cave at 6 P.M., cave spiders (we saw a tarantula and a weird-looking spider), blind fish and white crabs (with no eyes, exactly blind), white shrimp, cave crickets, snakes (one was called “the guard” of a small, diamond-shaped entrance to the lower Langun Cave you had to crawl your way in), centipedes, and beetles feasting on guano manure.

As much as we had walks and climbs, where we would pick up litters along the way, seeing steam from our own sweat, we too had lots of rest in between, quenching our thirst and munching on energy bars. At 2 A.M. we returned to the camp, peed on plastic to be poured into a gallon-sized vessel, pooped on plastic to be dumped in a bin bag, reenergized ourselves for a 4-5 hour worth of sleep.

I didn’t have any hint of tiring out during the last day in the caves. But the greater challenge was the way out -- a steep hike on a 60-degree slope for 15 minutes and a long 3-hour trekking of going up and down the mountains. It wasn’t just tiring, but exhausting, seriously! We got our form back, all relaxed, only when we arrived at Mapaso Springs.

Then, we headed off to an eatery close to Kaunan Ha Tulay by way of a habal-habal (motorcycle).

What a journey! Let's go back to the caves!

For inquiries, please contact:
Abesamis Store Allen Ave. Catbalogan City,Samar 6700
Tel: 055-251-2301 Cell: (Smart) 0919-294-3865
Viewing Deck (overlooking the entrance to Gobingob Cave)
Entrance to Gobingob Cave
A shot before the real action
Campsite 1 - The Football Chamber (Gobingob Cave)
6th Extreme Caving: Langun-Gobingob Caves
The Stage
Harp-sound-producing columns
Cave cricket
The Mushroom
Deadend - Upper Gobingob Chamber
Cave spider
Where I became a king for a night. Ha ha!
Rappelling down a 40m vertical cliff
Tita Cave (Muddy Chamber)
Campsite 2 - Langun Chamber
Langun Chamber Exit
Fallen balinsasayaw birds (chicks)
My dead shoes
My socks fresh from Guano Mountain and Tita Cave (Muddy Chamber)
A 6 P.M. show of balinsasayaw birds