Latagaw Series: Almagro, Samar

We drove from Tacloban City at 5 in the morning, passed through the picturesque San Juanico Bridge while daylight was breaking and had breakfast at Catbalogan. After a hearty meal of sardines whisked in eggs at Arianna's house, we then drove on to Calbayog City, where we are hoping to catch our 1 pm boat ride to Almagro.

Everyone was excited about this escapade. There is so little written about this island in the internet and the bulk of information that we got was from Wikipedia bragged about a Disneyland and an Ocean Park. Interesting!

The municipality promised to send us a boat but because of the inclement weather, we had to take M/B PALS. Fare is 100 Php.

Good thing it didn't look like this overloaded boat. It still amazes me how it managed to stay afloat.
Photo grabbed from Taken by Brendo Prudenciado.

When we got inside, all the best seats were taken. Malongs and tarpaulins were already spread and some of the passengers were already snoozing. We had to seat at the back, next to the smelly rest room.

We were expected to leave before 1 pm but up until 2 pm, cargoes were still being loaded like these cases of beers and soda pops. Bags of cement that was sending a dust storm was threatening to give me an asthma attack. 

Because of the mounting cases of bottles in front of me, I got so nervous and tried to look for a life vest just in case we sink. Failing to spot one, I asked one of the stevedores where I can find it. They just laughed at me and told me not to worry.

Moving away from the dock took a lot of agility and skill because it was so narrow and lots of boats were "parked" there. It took us almost 30 minutes just to get into the open waters.

I spotted this life vest. I wouldn't trust my life on this.

Beautiful islands dots the water.

We had to make three stops in the island of Almagro before we were dropped off at the Lungsod, or the town center. At Buri, I was amazed by the coconuts floating on the shores. There were hundreds of them. The waters was so still and clear that you can almost see the bottom of the sea floor. Later on, we were told that there were also lots of monkeys living here and sigbin.

Yes I am not kidding. I am talking about the mythical hairy creature that comes out at night to suck the blood of victims from their shadows. It is said to walk backwards with its head lowered between its hind legs, and to have the ability to become invisible to other creatures, especially humans. It resembles a hornless goat, but has very large ears which it can clap like a pair of hands and a long, flexible tail that can be used as a whip. It is said to emit a nauseating odor. It looks like the chupacabra or smeagol with a tail.

There is speculation that the legend may be based on sightings of an actual animal species that is rarely seen; based on the description of the Sigbin in popular literature, the animal species might be related to the kangaroo. With the recent discovery in the island of Borneo of the cat fox, a potential new species of carnivore described as having hind legs that are longer than its front legs, it has been postulated that reported sightings of Sigbin may actually be sightings of a member or relative of the cat-fox species. (Wikipedia)

What if the town folks were right?

This is me sea sick with a messy bed hair approaching one of the small barangays of Almagro. See all the coconuts spread for miles? It may look beautiful but because of this, there is no watershed to help support the water supply.

It was already sundown when we docked into a dock near the Lungsod. In this picture, the Lungsod is to the left. Children would scramble down the steep dock to help unload the cargoes. This is their way to earn their baon for the next day. While I was watching all these activity at the forward part of the boat, I overheard the elderly woman smoking cigarette beside me and her husband talking about going to Masbate later that evening. So yes, you can get to Masbate from here. And yes, the island of Maripipi in Biliran is just a giant's stones throw from here.

Traveling is the best way to learn geography!

We arrived at the Lungsod at 7 pm. So the total trip lasted for 5 hours. If we were to include the waiting time it would be 7 hours. Bring something to nibble on if you are heading to Almagro. Good thing I packed our left over lunch!

Only a dim flash light guided us to the shallow, rocky shores. Since the tide was low, a bote or small boat was needed. So first, we had to walk down a gangplank to a small boat while holding on to a frayed rope. Then we need to walk over slimy rocks to get to the slimy stairs. All the skills I acquired hiking was put into good use that night especially that it was really dark.

Do you know that electricity runs in this island from 6pm to 12am only? Yet amazingly, the household where we stayed had a washing machine, refrigerator and oven. I had to ask our host how they managed to get these things into the island. It was transported using the boat we rode it. There was even one time that they had to transport the ambulance in the same way. Although why they would need an ambulance in such a small place baffles me.

Some 8 hours of shut eye later, here I am standing at the 2nd floor of their dilapidated school, trying to capture Almagro's beauty with my trusty point and shoot camera.

Here's where the women wash their clothes.

Parking area for boats.

Their drinking water comes from Calbayog City. However, this is not necessary since the water here is still potable. Their main source comes from springs. When its rainy season, it turns milky white.

This is a common site. Even the bath rooms are piled high with this. 

Here's our ride back to Calbayog City courtesy of the Municipality of Almagro. Its smaller and waaaayyy cleaner. If you are not as lucky, you will need to wake up at 2 in the morning and catch the only boat trip back to Calbayog City.

Nope I am not going to dip my toes in this shark infested waters. The locals say so.

The best way to end this journey is to seat at the aft with your friends while watching fishes fly by at sunset.

Too bad we didn't get to taste see the island of Kirikite or see the beautiful fishes and coral reefs. Or taste the nocus or giant squids and sea urchins. Maybe next time.


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