Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gallivanting in Galera

Ahhh yes... Vacation. After getting pummeled with work month after month since the second half of this year, I finally decided that I will ask for a two-week vacation. I haven't used my vacation leaves this year and have been a good soldier. I definitely needed a well-deserved R&R.

Rest and relaxation. Two words that seem like ice cream in the middle of the hell that is my work life. Of course there is also the matter me getting married but that's another story.

So I politely reminded my bosses about my scheduled leave (read: argued for them to honor their previous approval). And finally, mercy was bestowed upon this faithful servant of the nation (read: lazy-ass bum).

The main part of the honeymoon/ vacation was the 3 days 2 nights stay in the Puerto Galera. The sun. The sand. The surf. I'm not really a beach person. I prefer long road trips and high-altitude areas. But my wife Cay wanted to go to the beach so off we go to Puerto Galera.

We went to the hotel were or bus to Batangas Pier would be waiting. Not surprisingly, half of the people waiting for the bus were foreigners. All caucasians, surprisingly no Asian tourists. There were the standard tourists: the typical old couple, the nature-lover/ photographer, the balik-bayans (complete with funny "pilit" American accents), lonely foreigners with ambiguous sexuality, the Filipina married to a foreigner who desperately tries to show the world that she is now an upper-class "sosyal" (and committing unintended yet hilarious comedy of the tragicomic sort), and the fat, old white guy who is meeting his longtime Filipina chatmate for the first time (who decided to bring along her sons).

I like long road trips. Just seeing the countryside pass me by gives me a sense of serenity. So I really looked forward to the bus ride. I had my mp3 player with me ready with my favorite travel music.

After a few hours on the road, we finally reached Batangas Pier. We waited in the terminal while being assisted by the resort personnel there. She could easily decipher that me and Cay are newlyweds. I had an obvious tell, I kept on fidgeting with my wedding ring. I've never really worn a ring, or any jewelry for that matter, for more than a few minutes. (I never really took a fancy to jewelry as an accessory.)

So the call to board the boat to Puerto Galera was sounded. I've been on island trips before, either on a fastcraft or a RO-RO, and so that was what I expected to board. Lo and behold, a motorized bangka was what was waiting for us. But what the heck, it was supposed to take us to White Beach directly and the trip, I learned, was just one hour long.

The boat seemed to be a microcosm of the place we were headed to. There were the locals plying their wares, the residents who came from Manila with boxes of items that were probably acquired from Divisoria, the foreign tourists who must have been excited to undertake what they must consider as a "roughing it out" kind of trip, and the family of tourists complete from grandparents to grandchildren, among others.

This was Cay's first boat ride so she made sure to take her meds to combat motion-sickness. That was a good idea. The ride was bumpy all the way. And just when we got to swimming distance from the island, the boat stalled. Things just weren't looking rosy for the trip. We anchored on the spot for about 20 minutes before the crew got the engine to work again.

The island of Mindoro from afar was a beautiful yet strange sight to see. The green-ness of the island was so evident. The cliffs and small mountains touched the low-lying clouds that were shaped like thundering herds of Tamaraws. Which was but fitting, this island being the home of the majestic animal. And ironically, my wife and I are two FEU Tamaraws about to spend our vacation on the island.

The island sort of reminded of Skull Island from King Kong that seemed to hold so many secrets once you venture past the point that you can see from the boat.

There was a stop that the boat made before going to White Beach. It was a nice looking inlet that must be great place to go scuba diving on. Then we finally got to White Beach. I cracked a little smile since I got what I wanted, the beach with only a handful of vacationers. There was only a little less than 20 vacationers swimming on the beach or lying on the sand at a given time. We were escorted to the resort by personnel of the establishment.

The resort was one of the biggest on the beach and had the best pool and the only jacuzzi. The rooms were comfy but not too flashy. For a vacationer who was a stone's throw away from one of the most popular beaches in the country, the first thing on my mind was to sleep in the room. This was still a vacation from work, and when I was working, I dreamed of just sleeping all day and just lounging around, not really swimming on the beach.

Cay and I walked around on the beach in the afternoon and decided not to swim just yet. For me, I just wanted to soak in the atmosphere.

The beach wasn't really that awesome in my point of view. The beach was just a small strip of land and half of it was reserved for boat docking. The water wasn't as clear and inviting as in the other beaches I've been to. But I appreciated the quietness of the place, given the small amount of vacationers there. Around 80% of the tourists there were foreigners, 3/5 of them European/ American/ Australian while the rest were East Asians. It's just brings a tinge of sadness to see that it's mostly foreigners who get to enjoy the wonders of the country while most of the locals have to keep on working in their jobs as they make only enough to survive. But as a little consolation, at least there are tourists bringing their dollars into our market.
A little snack at a kiosk and we went back to the resort.

We decided to go night swimming on the pool. We were the only ones who used the pool throughout the whole stay so it was another plus on our part. The whole place tried to project a Mediterranean feel, it might have worked for others but for me who has actually gone to a beach resort in the Mediterranean, I wasn't so impressed. Not even close. But hey, big ups anyway for trying.

The following day, after an underwhelming breakfast at the resort, we decided to continue touring the beach. Cay seemed to have wanted to go on the adventure packages but not me. Like I said, rest and relaxation for a lazy-ass like me. So around the beach we went and watched nature run her course.

The gustatory highlight was definitely our lunch at Tia Maria's. It wasn't really special eating at a Tia Maria's in Manila as it seemed just another establishment. I just mainly order drinks there. But given the beach setting, the place seemed inviting. With Bob Marley playing in the background, me and my better-half partook of steaks, ribs, and tacos. The setting was just right and added to the enjoyment of the meal.

After the rest after the meal needed before swimming, we plunged into the beach. The verdict on my beach swim, meh! I've been to better ones. I particularly didn't enjoy the steep dive the beach had a little into the water. So that's that, plus a badly sunburned skin.

I consoled myself by going into the swimming pool again to swim of my disappointment and then the obligatory souvenir shopping.

Night life here, at least during my stay, was non-existent. Maybe during peak season there would be so much going on. Or maybe I just didn't know where to look. After a so-so and over priced dinner at the resort's bar, we finally called it a day.

A (very) early morning breakfast later and it was time to board the boat back to Batangas Pier. The island experience was relaxing overall but this was just a quick getaway. The urban boy in me was longing to be back to the bright lights and big city.

Cay and I may one day be back here for a longer stay to get a better feel of the Puerto Galera life. Then rest and relaxation can be set aside for real adventure.

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