November 21, 2015

Fun-ilao Weekend



"The charming little province of Mabini, Batangas, some 140Km south Manila, is a popular weekend getaway known for its prolific marine sanctuary — a treat for underwater photography enthusiasts. It boasts a 40,000 km stretch of lush aquatic life with over 20,000 species of fish, colourful nudibranchs, and varieties of hard and soft coral."

This particular piece from my recent article can be found on almost all websites that promote the famed diving spot. My trip to Anilao was supposedly  scheduled earlier this year. I had made plans with my uncle, a certified diver himself, about getting licensed this year. But a week after he helped me pick out my mask and snorkel, a prerequisite to the amazing adventure I was about to tackle, he passed away in an unfortunate accident, right in the waters of Anilao.

Disheartened would be an understatement. I had this discomfited feeling that I wouldn’t be able to trust anyone else with my safety. But, I felt that it would be a much bigger disappointment if I stepped away from my dream because of what happened. It’s difficult losing someone... There’s nothing that our hearts and minds can do when we experience death of a loved one, especially when it’s unexpected. I have experienced a number of these at such a tender age but it is through experiencing them that I learned how to move on and progress.

This is the reason why I came to see the place my Tito Duy loved so much. I’m sure he would’ve loved for me to see why he kept coming back here. With a heavy heart, I chose not to pursue scuba diving on my first visit. I wasn't sure I had the balls to explore the deep blue with his story still fresh and pulsating in my head. I opted to get acquainted with the place first by means of snorkeling.

The drive is reminiscent of the winding roads of Rizal I’ve so gotten used to. It was my first time to experience the star toll way, which I likened to a scene in a foreign action movie. It was as if Megatron was about to appear or a car chase was just about to happen. The view of the coastline was a refreshing sight, despite my seemingly increasing heartbeat — an indication that we were getting closer. 

We stayed in a rather fancy hotel, El Pinoy (you can read all about it here), which gave a perfect view of the calming sea, a sign of reassurance that my Tito Duy was now finally at peace. 

Anilao appeals to me in a completely different way compared to most beaches I've seen. Its unobstructed view of the bay gives a dramatic picture of the sunset against the silhoutte of Maricaban island. The sloping topography provides an elevated perspective — a feeling familiar to me whenever I stand in a mountaintop. It was grand.

The tranquil sea was so inviting that I almost forgot the presence of a marine sanctuary beneath the surface. Such stillness so deceiving that you wouldn’t think life existed underneath. You wouldn't survive without protective footwear, which were gladly available in our resort.

I would have to say though, that the best thing about Anilao is that because the beach isn't really wading-friendly, the shores are almost spotless and devoid of any people, hence no photobombers. You might see a couple but it isn’t a place for beach bumming. You know that when people go there, they mean business. They’re there to enjoy nature and explore nature's masterpiece, as did we.