Again… sitting here as Hurricane Harvey has been making landfall, and I’m thinking of some of the crazy situations we’ve been in in our lives. And this one just happens to have taken place in the Philippines…
So three years ago while we were teaching in China, Trent and I went on holiday to the Philippines. We started on the island of Palawan- we rented a motorcycle and explored the island that way. It was awesome. I kind of felt like Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries!
The countryside was absolutely breathtaking and we enjoyed seeing the mountains and the ocean and all the flowers and greenery.
But that wasn’t all! Between the vast expanses of untouched nature, we passed rice paddies, innumerable goats, basketball courts, schools and churches, and oh, so many friendly faces!!!
Oh, and did I mention water buffalo?!?!? Yeah, like a million water buffalo. In fact, for anyone who’s ever seen Veggie Tales… remember that episode of “Silly songs with Larry?” Yeah, want to know what song was rolling through my head for almost the entirety of our trip? You guessed it, “Everyone’s got a water buffalo!” (if you haven’t seen it, look it up on YouTube before proceeding any further)
Okay, where was I… oh geesh, I digress. Oh yeah, harrowing water experiences! So we made it through most of our trip without incident. We spent a lovely 2 days in El Nido, followed by a trip to Port Barton and then the final leg on that island… Sabang! This is where we were going to see one of the new 7th wonders of Nature: The Subterranean River National Park. It is considered one of the seven wonders right alongside the Amazon Rainforest/River, Jeju Island in South Korea, Komodo Island in Indonesia, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Table Mountain in South Africa and Iguazu Park in Argentina/Brazil. It is an underground river more than 24 km long and boasts amazing limestone formations, impressive stalactites and stalagmites, and one of the largest cave domes in the world! I was pretty psyched for this final stop before heading back to Puerto Princesa and moving on to Boracay.
However, the moment we left Port Barton, it started raining. It rained and it rained, and it rained! Thankfully, most of the dirt roads were at the beginning of this trip and we didn’t get caught in any terrible mud. Anyways, we tried to cover our things as best as we could. We donned our flimsy ponchos and helmets and hoped for the best! It was supposed to be a three hour drive… but with the rain it took much longer. We took things slowly to make sure we were safe.
We finally arrived and, although it shouldn’t have surprised us, we were saddened to find out that the park had closed because of the typhoon that was making landfall that day. In fact, they told us that another boat that morning had capsized, full of tourists! That was enough for Trent to say- “forget it! Let’s go!” Even so, I had still hoped we’d be able to do it.
We stopped anyways to give our tired bums a rest and to get something to eat. We wandered the beach for a few minutes and watched the dark, angry sky and the waves that crashed against the shore. The red flag was up, meaning that it was a high hazard day, so we didn’t venture far.
We ended up stopping at one of the only little restaurant there and eating a quick lunch before heading back out on the road to get back to Puerto Princesa. Our flight didn’t leave until the next day, but we didn’t want to be caught in the storm on our motorcycle without shelter!
We continued on in the COLD, wet rain for a few more hours, stopping only occasionally for respite from the beating rain and freezing cold before arriving back in Puerto Princesa.
We quickly found a hotel for the night and started to strip down and unpack everything. Although we had made an effort to cover what we had… I think EVERY. SINGLE. THING we owned was SOAKED (including our souvenirs from Vietnam on the earlier part of the trip). This also meant that we didn’t have any dry clothes. Not only that, but this particular hotel didn’t really have hot water for the shower, so we went from cold rain to cold shower to… nakedness. We wrapped up in a towel and tried to get warm under the blankets (aka sheets) as best we could. We laid out clothes and hung things wherever we could so that they could begin to dry.
We took to using a hair dryer to dry clothes and even to dry my Bible. It had gotten soaked during the trip and I LOVE that Bible… it has YEARS worth of notes, thoughts and cross-references in it and I wasn’t about to let it die. So I sat there on the bed, carefully blow-drying each individual page until the whole book was dry. However, blow drying has the same effect on paper as it does on your hair… volume!!! My Bible just about doubled in size!
Anyways, since the typhoon was coming, the next day’s air travel did NOT go as planned. We arrived early in the morning for our flight, which got delayed (but not too bad) before we got to Manila (to go anywhere in the Philippines, you have to fly through Manila).
But in Manila (where the typhoon was NOT an issue), we were delayed… and delayed… and finally cancelled. There were no more flights going to Boracay Island that night. So we were rerouted to Kalibo, another airport that was about a 2 hour bus ride away. We arrived there around 8pm and then got on the bus (which the airline paid for, thankfully). After a long, winding trip, we arrived at the port that would take us across the water to Boracay Island. However, now it was not only dark (around 11pm), but the wind and the waves were CRAZY.
We walked out and watched our ship bob up and down and lurch left and right… and the ramp that was connecting the pier to the ship was swaying violently back and forth. Trent and I looked at each other freaking out. Was this a good idea? Was this rickety little boat even going to make it across? Would we die out here?!? But on the other hand, where else would we go? It was late at night and we had no idea what was around us… so we just decided to roll with it (quite literally). Clutching our bags for dear life, we crossed over on that crazy ramp and got into the swaying boat. Thankfully there were life jackets! That made me feel a little bit better. But after I already fell as I was walking to my seat (and another gentleman fell as well), I wasn’t super confident. They weren’t even real seats… just benches that weren’t even secured to the boat! Ay-yi-y! Moments like these just make me pray harder… and that’s exactly what I did! I prayed hard that God would get us to Boracay Island safely and that this little boat and it’s crew would be able to maneuver us on the crazy waves to get us there!
Long story short… we made it! After that we still needed to take a rickshaw to our hostel, but we survived! The next few days were crazy, windy and rainy, but we still very much enjoyed our time on Boracay Island.
We didn’t let this damper our experience, we just let it be what it was, and wouldn’t you know… now it’s turned into a story.
Have you ever been caught in a typhoon?