Friday was a national holiday in the Philippines, so we planned a weekend getaway to Bohol, the next island over. We left the house at 7:45 on Friday morning. Mark dropped us off at the ferry terminal. The ferry left over an hour later than scheduled, and the boat ride was about two hours long. The only ferries we had ever been on were car ferries. We envisioned ourselves leisurely strolling the deck and admiring the view. In reality, it was more like a plane ride. There were assigned seats in a slightly run-down interior, all in rows, sharing an armrest with the person beside you. There was a movie playing on a screen at the front, but you could only hear it when it reached top intensity and volume. And as Daniel said to Zion, there aren’t any battle scenes in Cinderella.There was a narrow window going the length of the boat on either side, but it was both grimy and foggy, so you couldn’t see much. On the bright side, these boats move fast. Around lunch time, we docked at Tagbilaran, and a minivan taxi was there to meet us.
We had made reservations via airbnb to stay at a backpacker. I know this is not a term used in the U.S. But I don’t know what else to call it. It was not a hotel. It was not a motel. It was not a hostel nor a b&b, and it certainly wasn’t a resort. The place was titled “Cottage Inside a Fishing Village” on airbnb. It’s real name is Natura Vista, and the subtitle on the sign is “Your Ultimate Provincial Experience.” That, my friends, is an apt description. This place was fun, with a nice, big garden, a courtyard, and a little wading pool for the kids. The staff were friendly and helpful. It was in the middle of nowhere. But it was just a few minutes walk to the beach, and also within walking distance of a grotto. On the down side, the rooms did not have private bathrooms. And I forgot to bring shower shoes.
After checking in to Natura Vista and eating some lunch, we walked down to the beach. It was low tide–what a fun surprise! We spent that afternoon watching crabs scurry across the beach, playing with coconuts and sea snails, and gathering starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. The tiny starfish were so plentiful you couldn’t walk near the water without stepping on them. Out where the water was 2 to 4 feet deep, it was easy to spot a larger type of starfish that looked like it was made of cookie dough. Some had red tips, and one that I found was cross-shaped instead of star-shaped–that is, it had 4 limbs instead of 5. Many of the sea urchins had spines that were 3 to 6 inches long.
The boys began sorting out the starfish, crabs and sea urchins into separate tide pools, until they had “Starfish Zoo, Crab Zoo, and Urchin Zoo.” Starfish Zoo had the highest population–20-30, all told. And Knox dipped into each pool, rearranging its inhabitants.
I was the only one who hadn’t brought water-safe shoes, and between sea urchins and broken glass it was not a hospitable environment for bare feet. So I didn’t get to do as much collecting. Also, the babies were fussy and tired and needed a lot of tending. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful afternoon. As the day ended, we walked back to Natura Vista and ate dinner. After cleaning sandy children, sandy suits and sandy towels, we put the kids in bed. Then Ben and I swung in hammock chairs overlooking the courtyard, enjoying the quiet evening. Well, sort of quiet. The sounds of new-age music wafted over the courtyard from the outdoor speakers. Someone in the next yard over was languidly strumming an out-of-tune guitar. A rooster crowed at intervals, and we could still hear Zion whooping and giggling for at least another 45 minutes. But taken as a whole, they were soothing noises–just the kind we would want to hear while nursing a beer in a hammock, and just the type we would expect to complete our “Ultimate Provincial Experience.”