It's still summer.
You know it's still summer in the Philippines if you still hear crickets all day through. The sound crickets make reminds me of when my grandmother would babysit me and we would make a lot of paper boats out of newspaper as we hung out under the shade of this old mango tree in front of her house. Crickets then were really loud, but thinking about it now, it wasn't surprising. Aside from the large mango tree, we were surrounded by a huge diversity of trees, including bamboo and coconut trees.
So when I heard crickets singing loud the past few days as I walked to work, I knew that it is still summer.
Last week, my friend Noimi sent me a quick message asking if we could hang out on Korean barbeque Friday. Considering I go home to the province every Friday night, I couldn't confirm. What I told her was this: if we would hang out, then that meant she would accompany me to the province. Surprisingly, she was game! In fact, she suggested to go swimming.
The next day, an email came bearing an invite to all of our friends. To say that our friends were taken aback was an understatement. In hindsight, surprise getaways work best. They end up coming through. Can't say I would complain.
Noimi emailed everyone with this pubmat. We ended up conferring so the dates would be May 26 to 27.
On the way to Soleil Real Resort.
I still had to go home Friday night. My mother @lerma told me I could just instruct my friends how to get to our place. Thinking about it now, at least Noimi and @ririgi had already been to our place two years ago. While they were on their way early Saturday morning, I was accompanied by my parents to the market so I could buy our food for the surprise outing.
We all agreed on having barbeque and grilled fish. We bought fruits on the way to the resort.
All morning, I was on the phone with either Noimi or @ririgi. They left as early as 5:30 AM from Los Baños, Laguna, and I felt bad that they had to stand for more than 1 hour of travel to our place in Batangas. By nearly 10 AM, I met up with @ririgi, Noimi, Joverlyn, Joshua, and Lucione at the bus terminal. Soon, we were off to Soleil Real.
The resort is located in Lemery, Batangas. It offers different activities including banana boat riding and jet ski riding. You can go snorkeling, too. It was June 2016 when I have last been there with my friends. It was great to be back again.
For reference, entrance fee to the place is PHP 100, exclusive of activities and accommodation. We paid PHP 600 for the family shed accommodation, strategically located right by the shore.
The day was blessed with good weather.
Somewhere between preparing food and swimming, @ririgi was approached by a man who was offering us a boat ride to the area in the sea where we could snorkel. The offer was PHP 150 per head. We had to wait for one of our friends, Josiah (who was running late), before we were able to hitch a ride on the boat.
We were afraid that the weather would turn bad, so as soon as Josiah had arrived and eaten, we went for the boat. @ririgi prepared 2 Ziploc bags for our phones and other valuables. Then off we go.
Inclusive in the PHP 150 boat ride were life jackets, goggles, and snorkeling accessories.
I don't know how to swim (the water scares me), so I compensated myself with sightseeing. There were other tourists in the area, too, so I didn't feel too scared anymore. Even the boat man was really kind and talkative, and we had decent conversations with him as my friends swam. Soon, they managed to make me hop off the boat to join them.
The life jacket made me buoy comfortably on the sea, and I even managed to check what the sea had to offer. I unfortunately wasn't able to take photos (for fear I would drop my phone some feet under), but the reefs weren't how I expected them to be. It was disappointing, but they were not as colorful as I had imagined. There were many fish around, too, and while they make me shudder, I am glad they were there.
It didn't look like it was going to rain soon.
When we arrived, I thought it was not going to rain soon. In fact, even the waves were calm. It looked like I was looking at the wrong direction, though. Looking north, the clouds started to turn grey, and the color of the sea at the far side from where we came looked less saturated. "Oops, we have to get back to shore, quick," ran through my mind 50 minutes into the swimming.
I hated to spoil the fun, but I soon called out to them so we could get back. I worried too much, but it was for a good reason, I believed. To be fair, I didn't know how to swim but still enjoyed the escapade.
Joshua was being a free spirit; he decided to go swimming by himself at the farther parts. The others soon followed.
The clouds from the north looked ominous.
As we sped through the waves back to the resort, drops of water kept hitting us straight in the face. It was worse than the first time, and I was afraid it began to rain. The weather was unpredictable; it was good one moment, it was angry the next.
Clouds loomed ominously ahead.
I sat on the boat floor with Joverlyn. The whole activity tired us, even when all we did was hang on to the boat so we wouldn't be taken far by the waves. My arms hurt bad, and I was getting dizzy. Soon, the rain was out of mind and being dizzy was all I could think about.
Finally, after about 45 minutes of boat ride, we arrived back to the resort. Regardless of anything else, I truly enjoyed spending time with my friends. In the middle of the sea.
It was mostly Joverlyn and I who hung on to the boat while the others swam happily. I don't know about her, but I did so because I was scared to drift far.
To perhaps summarize the trip, I can say it was an eye opener. As we traveled, we couldn't help but notice trash that litter the waters. We would notice food wrappers drifiting, as well as tetra paks of drinks. In fact, Joshua even managed to fish half from a pair of shoes (along his usual and almost comical cursing), and we teased him by saying he should take it home as souvenir. Kidding aside, it was a worrying matter.
One time while we hung out in the middle of the sea, Josiah asked the boat man if there was dynamite fishing around. We thought it was weird that he asked, but he later clarified that he asked because the reefs looked dead. Not really dead dead, but they looked like they could need more colors in their lives. He wasn't the only one to notice. We all did.
It wasn't how I remembered it looked like when I was 10 years old. That's why I am glad that, even they weren't as much as I remembered, there were still fish living down there.
To more getaways.
Soon, the sun was beginning to set. We had tk call it a day so quickly!
We did some last few rounds of playing in the water and sand. Oh, before I forget. The sands there were black, as opposed to the white ones tourists seem to be more familiar with. One of the many things we liked to do with the sand was bury our friends, like we did 2 years ago.
We did it again this year, and it felt like a tradition we could keep on doing.
Lucione and I buried @ririgi in the sand this time.
It felt silly! And somehow, it brought me back to the moments when I was a kid, and I would play in the sand with my cousins. It looked like @ririgi enjoyed it, too, which is great, because she was one of those who had to stand in the bus trip from Calamba, Laguna all the way to Lemery, Batangas (which normally takes 2 hours, I think).
Finally, it was getting dark and the sun was setting. I asked my mother to take a photo of all of us as we sat overlooking the sea. We did so, too in 2016. Doing this, it seemed like a start of tradition I wouldn't get tired doing.
I'm glad Noimi messaged me last week. I'm glad I asked her to come along. I'm glad some of my friends made it. Truly, a spur-of-the-moment escapade is the way to go.
Thank you for reading!