If I told you I came out of a twenty-six hour boat trip that was only supposed to last six to eight hours, your initial reaction would be pity, amazement, shock, anger, worry, any one of those or all of those at the same time maybe. When I think about it though, I am glad that it happened to me, not for anything else but because it can only happen to a few people in this world, and it had to happen to me.

It started out a pretty normal day. No premonition of a night spent under a starlit sky that could have been well-appreciated, admired through the night, if only I were warm enough. No signs that I’d get burned under a hot sun for hours and go hungry and thirsty.

I have always loved the water. When I was in grade school, I frequented a swimming pool a kilometer away from our house. It was where my dad taught me how to swim. It was there I spent many afternoons, sometimes with my friends, sometimes with my sisters and sometimes just with my dad. In high school, that swimming pool closed down and I had to go farther, take the bus and go to a bigger one that was two towns away. I most often went alone. I have no problems with being alone like that. Every summer, we made it a point to go the beaches, of which there are plenty in the province where I come from. My dad loved buying watermelons. I think I might have had too much of them that now, it is but one in a long list of food I don’t eat anymore. Except for swimming and maybe badminton, there is not a particular sport I can say I take part in. I can be a pretty good swimmer, if I’d just give up my vices and all those unpleasant habits that I seemed to have acquired through the years.

When I was in El Nido, my life revolved around the water. We went swimming every afternoon, we went snorkeling every weekend. It was one of the most wonderful things I have ever had: access to that much water.

I have always loved boats. In high school, we went to international youth conferences during the summer packed in Negros Navigation boats that took us to places like Bacolod, Cebu and Iloilo. The splash of water and the wind against my face were my favorite memories. That is the reason why I always want to be on the top open-air deck. There is no place I’d rather be but in that place where the salt water seeped into your senses and the wind caressed your skin while your body is rocked into this deep bliss of sleep.

Living in El Nido, we all came to realize that during outrigger boat trips, the best place to be in is the bow. We took turns sitting on the bow, turns to having the wind on one’s face, turns to having the sun kiss one’s back or face along with that welcomed refreshing spray of saltwater, turns to having a completely unobstructed view of the sea, turns to drowning oneself in the undulating crests of waves and, turns to indulge the insatiable desire to watch the sparkling play of light onto the water.

In that long boat trip from Coron to El Nido, in that boat anchored in the middle of the sea, bobbing up and down the water, I felt at home.

Of course I would be lying if I said there was never a time that I became angry and frustrated. After three hours of being stranded during that first day, I woke up and asked if help was on the way, to which yes was the answer I got. Two hours after that reply, looking at the low sun, I reached the breaking point of my patience. After all, I have never been known for my patience; but I knew then that even if the rescue boat bearing the propeller replacement arrived, there was no way we were traveling in the middle of the night. I sat on the bow of the boat, looked at the setting sun, looked at all the water around me, and was rewarded with a group of dolphins. A group of baby dolphins that only I, in that boat, got to see. They were swimming with a group of fish, and had surfaced to play with a floating dead tree. I then resigned myself to sleeping the night in the boat, even if cold, hungry and running the risk of using up all of my one liter of water.

A lot of worried people were texting me, friends from the places I left and friends from the place I was going to. I wished I could say there was nothing to worry about for I was safe, and home, but I could not. In my sleep, I dreamed that in the darkness of the night, another boat had rammed into ours, broke it into half and I woke up swimming amidst the wreckage. We had but a faint red light.

Through the night, I ignored my hunger pangs, buried myself in blankets and towels and slept. At one point I thought of going out and laying there to watch the night sky, but I was too cold, and I had seen the sky with a million shining stars perhaps a hundred times when I used to sleep in the sand outside. I could make an exception out of that one night.

The boatmen gave us food for dinner and they were really quite nice, but I ate little. I knew that food had been reserved for the lunch that had passed, and we all had to have our hunger sated even for a little bit for a little time.

We were stranded only three hours away from the port of Coron. Derrick, my friend who owns a boat in El Nido, wanted to fetch us with his boat but we were closer to Coron than El Nido. The rescue boat arrived nine hours after our boat stopped. Apparently, on their way to our boat, the boat that they themselves were using acquired a hole and they had to get another boat to pull their boat back to Coron port. They had to get another boat to get to us. What was amazing there was none of the boatmen had cell phones, or at least none of them had batteries on their cell phones. They had to pass instructions through me back and forth.

Rescue boat: “Asan kau. Lapit na kme.”
Me: “Kuya, asan daw po ba tayo?”
Boatman: “Sabihin nyo po ma’am, Binolbolan.”
Me: *texts location*
Rescue boat: “Lapit na kme. Magsignal light kayo.”
Me: “Kuya, malapit na daw po sila. Maglight daw po tayo.”
Boatman: *signals with light*
Rescue boat: “Kita nyo ba kme? Green light kme. May red light b kyo?”
Me: “Kuya, kita nyo daw ba sila? May green light daw po sila. May red light na po ba tayo?”
Boatman: “Maam, malayo pa po sila. Di pa po natin sila kita. May red light na po tayo. Kung malapit na po sila, dapat kita po nila tayo.”
To himself, “wala naman akong naririnig na tunog ng makina a..”
Me: *texts message*
Rescue boat: “San kayo banda? Di naming kayo makita.”
Me: “Kuya, san daw tayo banda?”
Boatman: “Sabihin nyo po rombohin nila yung buwan, nasa likod natin ang buwan. Bandang kanan, baba.”
Me: *thinks to myself.. “ano daw?” then texts exactly what boatman said*

On and on until I ran out of load.

We had no lunch, little dinner and no breakfast. I lived on coffee. Isn’t it nice that I brought sachets of instant vanilla coffee, the coffee-addict that I am?

When we arrived at about lunch time in El Nido the next day, my friends felt so sorry for me, but they all said I didn’t look flustered at all. I did not feel flustered.

I saw my godmother a day later and she said, “Oh! That explains your color!” and she went on to tell me the story of the Asian Fairy boat. It’s a long story but it’s a sad one. I felt sorry for the owner I sent messages of invectives to.

Angku at 3pm: “Asan na po kayo? Pupuntahan nyo po ba kami?”
Angku at 5pm: “Punyeta! Alas singko na! Tatlong oras lang to galing sa Coron ah. Papunta ba talaga kayo?!”
Angku at 6pm: “Ano na?! Leche!! Gabi na ah! Punyeta!”

When people ask me about that boat trip, I just laugh about it. It was frustrating when I felt that something could still be done to avoid spending the night but when darkness settled and not a trace of the boat could be heard, I had resigned myself to the fact that even if help arrived, we were arriving in El Nido the next day. I was actually quite happy I was there, though I doubt anyone else would be, and for that matter, I do not recommend taking that boat we took.

I had such a wonderful time during those twenty-six hours but that was just me. It is something I’d willingly go through again, though I hope on that second time, I have more than enough food, water and warm clothes to get by. It wouldn’t hurt to have someone you love in your arms to give you warmth while you watch for shooting stars. I will always love boats and boat rides. I will always be near the water if not in it. I will always dream of the crests, waves and sparkle. I will always crave for my turn in the bow.

I am glad it happened to me. Of all the people in this world, it had to happen to happen to me and in that I am lucky. It is a story i can claim my own.

Written April 21, 2008

This was first posted on a blog on Friendster in 2008.