The capital city of Viet Nam – Ha Noi is…
On a Saturday, I was on a pump boat for more than an hour. The ocean was so still that I felt I was sailing through a gigantic beautiful canvas filled with calmness and colors. In the past, I’d get goose bumps or cry for those kind of little magical moments. But not on a Saturday like that.
I held thin clouds, emerald skies and every seaweed and coral within the clear seas. No sea-sprays. Only the taste of salt in the mid-day wind, the sight of healthy mountains, and margins of a sleeping giant from afar.
Islas de Higantes Sur. To get there, make your way from Manila to Iloilo City. From the city, travel all the way to Estancia town (seafood haven!). It may take 3-4 hours by van or by bus (around 150php). From the terminal to the port, you have to take a tricyle for 5-10 minutes. From Estancia port, you can look for motorboats that have regular trips (80php and has specific schedule) or you can rent a private motorboat and arrange the cost that can include round-trip sail and island hopping. (It is recommended to travel in a bigger group to trim down on the boat expense)
We saw photos of the islands online but had no idea how many they were and what it would take to visit them so we brought with us tents and sleeping bags. (As of today, there are new resorts and you can research about them more: Hideaway Inn, Antonia Beach Inn).
That time, I vividly recall, there were no existential problems. No craving to live parallel lives. I was happy to be me. To be there- in such a moment of communion with what the God who can dance shares.
In Cabugao Gamay Island, we climbed a hill of fragile rocks. Shared laughter over improvised cups. Shared grilled seafood. Shared the touching of skin to skin. We sailed under both the full moon and the tangerine sunset. We endlessly looked up, mouths hanging open in awe. Note: fresh seafood is so cheap in the islands, lavish!
In Gakit-gakit Island, we were blown away by the idea of this small island with a little shack standing in it. And everything that surrounds it – blues, emerald, vast sea and sky.
Mystic. You would know that only those who dared have been there to dive and swim. We spent some hours in Tangke Saltwater Lagoon. Rocks surrounded the clear waters and while in the water, you could not help but feel somewhere else- in a secluded world, a paradise. There were wild monkeys. There were also tall rock formations that serve as sanctuary for growing shrubs and trees between the sharpness. We shared a few owwww for locals who would throw their plastics into the waters. A cousin even jumped and swam to take them away. I applauded.
In Antonia Beach, while the rest laughed and talked, I took time to be alone and look at the infinite clear waters. From where I sat, I saw silhouettes of mountain ranges, no sailboats, no people, just the sky, me, super white sand, and tiny fish swimming around my legs.
Maybe just maybe -it’s called Islas de Higantes because when you are there, you can’t help but feel so small yet important.
It rained the night before we had to leave. The tent could not take it. I grabbed my military hammock and spread it on the floor. We were under a local’s roof. I wanted to dream of how my sisters look when they swim – how their hair tumble like weeds and how their noses look like small corals. I fell asleep.
/// Written by Kristine Buenavista, The Philippines