I normally dislike blogging personal happenings, but this one's too rich for me not to post.

Okay, so early this week I went on a trip to Batanes with fellow journalists, photographers and photo bloggers. This three-day stay was sponsored by Epson Philippines in a bid to promote printing among photographers (especially among digital photographers), which is to me a good and jolly cause, and what better way to do this than to bring trigger-happy shutterbugs to a place where the photos we take would definitely be worth printing.

Now the tour was wonderful and on the first day we were able to cover most of Batan island where our hotel and the airport were also located. The second day had in store for us an island hop to neighboring Sabtang, where communities with picturesque stone houses still thrived. Our ride on the way there was a 10-meter long bangka, which carried thirty or so of us. I sat at the front part of the boat, with my two cams wrapped in plastic and strapped around my neck (we weren't told to waterproof our stuff beforehand, so I did the best I could when I saw the situation). Aside from a girl who shouted at the back when we skipped over a large wave right after we set sail, and some initial nervous laughter, our first trip was pretty uneventful.

The trip back was decidedly different, as from the shore before setting out we noticed that the waves were rougher and the wind harsher than on our morning ride to the island. Still, our manong pilots persisted, and we set out despite the change of weather. The next sign that things would not go well was that, before leaving the port, the rear rope on the boat was cut, making it hard for it to turn around and leave. So for around thirty minutes we sat there while our boatmen shouted and cursed at each other in native Ivatan, telling each other to push a pole this way or pull a rope that way.

Well, finally, we were able to face the sea, and trouble began as soon as the pilot started the engine. The first wave that hit us was taller than the boat, but we were able to ride over it. Problem was, when we came down from that wave, the boat's front was dipping downwards, and so we dove right into the second wave. Siyempre, I had front row seats and could hear the screams of the people behind me when we all simultaneously realized that we wouldn't be able to ride this one.

So the boat and everyone was submerged for a few moments, and when we came up I saw that the inside of the boat had took on around three feet of water with a fountain spurting violently in the middle (which I mistook for a "leak", and after a few seconds of pure panic realized that it came from the engine at the bottom, rejecting the water). I remember one girl begging to be taken to shore right that instant, and one manong putting on a life vest, which caused further panic (of course this was fucking scary at that moment. We had a good laugh about it only way later after dinner, and when someone wanted to play a game I couldn't help but suggest "The Boat is Sinking." Anyway). Knowing that I couldn't swim, and that rescue was probably my only possible way to survive, I got on top of my seat, held on to the roof of the boat and waved my arms frantically to the people on the dock. We were still about fifty or maybe a hundred meters from shore, I don't know, but from where we were, they were as small as fingernails. I went down from my seat when I realized with disgust that the people on the docks weren't moving and had decided to be merely curious onlookers, and coming down I saw that the manongs had developed a bucket-passing system for ridding the water.

I was stupified to find out we were still heading out despite water buildup in the boat and blurted out, "Tutuloy pa tayo?" but then noticed that the waves in the open water weren't as bad as the ones near the shore. After a while most of the water in the boat was taken out, and we were just freezing our asses off in our drenched clothes the rest of the way. And the guy beside me puked out a generous amount of orange rice, crab and whatever else we had for lunch at his feet.

So there goes. I'm just happy that I'm alive. One of my cameras, though, didn't make it. My old friend and now backup 20d stopped working, though the wide-angle lens attached to it is fine, as are my main cam and its standard zoomer. My phone, also drenched, now has its infrared permanently on, but is otherwise okay. My companions had their own share of damages. Oh, and it's worth noting that the impact of the second wave was such that it knocked off the sunglasses from the heads of five people. I don't know if they were able to recover them.

Anyway, photos of Batanes to follow when I get the time.

My only shot of Deathboat (left) at the Sabtang dock.

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