I kept my word. In an earlier blog , I reminisced about my late February butanding encounter and promised myself I’d bring my family to Donsol for the same awesome experience. That promise was fulfilled last week.
It was a straight drive from Makati to Barrio Dancalan in Donsol, Sorsogon. Meal stops at Max’s Lucena, late lunch at Camalig’s Let’s Pinangat, and several pee stops. The little ones were good travelers. Expecting them to be restless, we were surprised they slept through much of the 10 hour ride. Leaving at 5 am, it was almost sunset by the time we reached the Butanding capital of the world. We stayed in a place that must not be named as it was very nearly a mood killer for this vacay. Well, only as far as I was concerned. The rest of the family went uncomplaining and were just too tired to call it an early night when we reached the place.
We spent 2 nights here. Randy, the Butanding Interaction Officer (B.I.O) I had that time I had my 1st whale shark experience has been waiting for us and eager to meet my grandchildren, aged 10 and 13. My girls were also with me, all of whom were just as excited to meet the butandings. I wrote about Randy the last time, and has since been my textmate with his “jejemon” language which never fails to give me headaches. For the day, he was Kuya Randy to my apos. So with the 2nd B.I.O. who joined us on our boat, Kuya Bong. Yes, we hired 2 BIOs. Wanted to make sure my 2 apos can each have a BIO cum life guard when they jump to meet their whale shark friends.
The gentle giants didn’t let us down. The 1st jump for the apos (plus 1 of my girls) was a hurried one. No chance for dear Martin, my 10 year-old apo, to change his mind. The minute the spotters alerted Kuya Bong and Kuya Randy that a butanding lurks beneath the waters near our boat, they ordered them little ones to jump with them. Oh, I was so proud of them! No hesitation. No second thoughts. They jumped in tandem with their BIO kuyas, and promptly raised their thumbs up shortly after seeing the whale shark which Martin described as “as big as a Honda City car”. Not exactly huge. But its size is enough to get these kids all smiling and proud of their experience. You bet it was the start of non-stop chatter from this excitable 10 y.o. till he grew tired and fell nearly asleep on the boat.
The duo of these kids’ mom and auntie was next. They made 2 jumps, without success. The first time, the butanding even displayed its dorsal fin for all to see. I was so excited I wanted to push anyone in front of me just to get a good shot. The second time around, they were just around 15 meters from the butanding whose shadow we can actually see from the boat. Oh, the frustration for these 2 ladies! The 3rd time around, and because the kids are so eager to have their turn, the BIOs allowed the 2 kids to jump with the 2 adults. Guess what. These butandings must have sensed the presence of my 2 apos that this 10 meter whale shark stayed with their new little friends for a while. I was beside myself on the boat, taking photos, when I saw them raise their thumbs up a second time. Happiness.
The B&B where we stayed, and which we refrain from naming here, packed a picnic brunch for us. No one wanted to eat. Or can’t. Too excited. Adrenaline pumping high. Me? I had this ill-timed eye infection that I stayed on the boat the whole time, snapping photos in between coffee and sandwiches shared with the boat crew. Though I’ve “met” the butandings just a couple of months back, I wouldn’t mind interacting with them again. But the glee I saw on the faces of them little ones and my girls are priceless. Empty stomachs, yet excited over this awesome animal experience. Too excited that 13 y.o. Patricia was swimming away from the pack, and without a life buoy at that! Enough to send her aunt into near-panic mode. But this grandma was watching the whole time. So did the 2 BIOs, Kuya Randy and Kuya Bong. We all knew that in glee, we sometimes make silly moves. But not that silly for my swimmer apo. Patricia , and her brother Martin, would likely not forget this experience for a very, very long time. :-)
See you next year, my friend. :)
Check also my TravelBlog piece on same subject.