making up for lost time: board to death

the bicol region is quickly becoming my most visited area of luzon lately. i have been to legaspi city at least 4 times since 2004 to attend hearings for shell and to look at mt. mayon, to bulusan once to climb mt. bulusan, to iriga once to hike mt. asog, to donsol twice to swim with the whale sharks and marvel at the fireflies, to naga city twice to sing karaoke, to the otherworldly caramoan peninsula once, and to daet once to climb mt. labo and where i recently spent my holy week. in the previous entry when i passed by naga, i remarked: "i had heard of the CWC previously, and i wasn't too excited to go wakeboarding, noting that my first experience in anilao didn't even get me anywhere. but when i stepped foot on the impressive, world-class resort, i was possessed by this desire to try out this über-coño, very superficial, at-times-pointless, poseur extreme water sport for the adrenalin rush that it provided. "

i don't make declarations lightly, and i remember each of them, and in most cases, i pursue them with dogged determination. barely two months after i made the promise referred to above, i returned to CWC to do exactly that: i tried out wakeboarding.

the invitation wasn't surrounded with a lot of fanfare and even serious planning. it was a suggestion tossed into conversation over many bottles of beer. i might have raised a brow because people have a tendency to plan many things, but are really quite poor in delivery. but a week later, i boarded a comfortec bus at the ali-mall bus station en route to naga city. there was 9 of us. it was a long but very comfortable ride. the bus has large, airline seats, only 3 in a row, which recline almost the entire way. when we arrived in naga, it was only 6am. we were whisked to the camarines sur government center after breakfast at bigg's, sitting at the back of a pick-up, and checked in to metal rooms shaped like barnyards at the eco-ville. someone had joked about our accommodations not being too different from chicken cages, but despite their size and very square design, they were nevertheless airconditioned. plus the attempt to paint the wall with a mural is charming.

on our first day, we loaded a case of beer, some raw fish, and lots of food onto a pair of borrowed vehicles and drove to the foot of mt. isarog, some 400masl. there was a natural waterfall there with a paved walkway. the falls itself wasn't particularly fantastic. it was a small stream that tumbled down the smooth face of a solid rock that stretched from high above. not the thunderous kind of waterfall that fell and poured from a river that ended at the edge of a cliff. the solid rock may have been magma that flowed down the dormant volcano and solidified. the boys took care of lunch at the falls, while i just turned on my speakers. hed kandi accompanied us the entire afternoon while we soaked at the natural pool where the water fell. i was amazed by my courage. i can barely swim, but with the pool being no more than 20 feet across, it was easy to swim back and forth.

later that afternoon, we walked back to where our vehicles were parked. the parking lot is also the jump-off for a 5-kilometer mountain bike trail that slides and tumbles down narrow, muddy trails carved inside a lush and verdant forest, and ends near the road. the entrance to the falls is perched in an area with a fantastic view of the outlying vistas, including desolate plains and mt. iriga. at that particular time, one side of the horizon was bright with the blinding sun, while the other side was dark with brooding clouds, and getting darker. evil-looking clouds began to swirl slowly into an imperfect circle. this is probably how a tornado begins, or if you saw fantastic 4: rise of the silver surfer, this is what the sky looked like when galactus was about to engulf the earth. but it ended up as a brief but very strong rain.

we returned to eco-village, slept, and changed for dinner. we were less than a kilometer from CWC, so given our predilections for long walks, and since there was a cool evening breeze, we decided to have buffet dinner there. the buffet was excellent. for P250, there were many choices. the cooking wasn't bad, and the dessert was fantastic: make your own ice cream surprise! there is also free internet wi-fi in the facility, but the signal was a bit weak, and the speed was hardly impressive.

i remember saying that there were many sightings the last time i was hear. not to be disappointed. we saw our first star before turning in for the night. and i happened to bring my camera, of course. geoff should really lose some of the weight, although i fear that if he does, he'd lose much of his charm.

when we returned to the chicken cages, we ended up drinking till very late. i was tired from the trip so i only had a few compared to what i would usually have. i woke up early the following morning though, eager to strap myself onto one of those liquid force boards. i signed up for two hours. at P165 an hour, it was so much cheaper than lago de oro. i was given a stiff lifevest -- but a good one, not the kind you get when you're ferrying from batangas to puerto galera, and a helmet. we were given very brief instructions, which can be summarized to three sentences: keep your body low as close to the board at take-off. lean to the left if you want to turn that way, or right if you want to turn right. watch out for other novice boarders behind you as they're likely to run you over. everything else would have to be learned hands-on.

i remember seeing a lot of newbies failing to even get past 10 meters from the take-off ramp. so when it was my turn, i was gripped by not just a few nerves. no, i didn't fear injury, or drowning. i feared embarrassment. my friends had rented a cabana right along the man-made lake, and all riders were visible from there. as the cables went around the murky lake, i held on to the bar at the end of a yellow rope, similar to what trapeze artists must use. i kept my head low, and expected to tumble painfully onto the water like many others. and in an instant, i was yanked out of the ramp, and dragged onto the water. after 5 seconds, i was still holding on to the rope, and had just passed the first two of many expert ramps. i was still there. yay! kuya mar, chris, don, melay, tito boy, marga, xenon, lia, and roy cheered me on. i even threw a glance and made a thumbs up. and then came the first turn. i remember very little about physics, and whether what was involved was centripetal or centrifugal force, but i very briefly felt a halt in the pull, and wondered whether the cables had stopped, when the rope was suddenly pulled to the left and that sent me hurtling on the surface of the water.i was under water for a short time, and i immediately unstrapped my knee and swam to shore. incidentally, i didn't really do wakeboarding per se, but rather knee boarding, where you kneel on a thick board, and a huge velcro is strapped over your thighs. pathetic, i know. but then i'm a beginner!

i very eagerly returned to the take-off ramp, and began one of many rounds of the man-made lake. unless you're a maniacal aussie possessed by the spirits of dead stuntmen wanting to die, this kind of water sport gets old pretty quick. so i felt very useless, and i couldn't even engage the crowd. and there were many of them there, looking at john hall and even marc nelson. the only thing distinguishable about me was my black rash guard and its yellow trimmings. after i had successfully completed a full and continuous two rounds of the lake, i decided to take a breather. the turns are sharp and particularly tricky, as the pull is very sudden and strong. the most difficult part is near the take-off ramp, and once another rider almost hit me on the head.

while i rested, melay and marga tried it out. they were unsuccessful for a couple of times, but eventually managed to go as far as the second bend. i don't know though if either of them managed to complete a round, although i think melay was able to go farther than marga. i rested for a full half hour, and when i returned, i insisted that i should already graduate to something higher. as no wakeboard was available, the man suggested i try skis. easier, he said. so i put them on, and after about 30 meters, i was under water. i think i stood up too quickly, and my body was cocked way too forward. anyway, there will be a next time, and that's another promise i don't make lightly.

there was a pool on the facility, so after my ride, i decided to go for a swim. i would have wanted to do the full length, which was about 30 meters, but i realized that my muscles were hurting too much from just 2 hours of wakeboarding. it was just 2 hours, imagine. meanwhile, these white guys can go for it the whole day! for the afternoon, a tournament was scheduled. it was part of a series for aussies where they competed in at least 4 different wakeboarding parks around australasia. and CWC in the philippines won out as the venue for the last and final leg. one thing about these aussies is that hardly any one of them has unsightly fat around the waist. they were all very slim. i borrow a line from allen ginsberg, who said: "golden-headed hipsters." very appropriate description. another fascinating thing about them is their fashion, which is not too different from the surfers i saw in siargao. they like to wear their board shorts lose. lose enough to just hang over the buttocks, exposing the butt crack. it was like a kuyukot festival, and i had a field day photographing these cracks, which cropped properly, would even look like cleavages. a variation of this general theme was wearing boxers, and still very loose board shorts. the boxers would be low enough to expose the crack and the hips, and the board shorts would be lower still. i don't understand it. or maybe it just won't look any good on me!

the competition was brief, and the last opportunity for them to show off was at the ramp almost directly in front of our cabana. so xenon and i took pictures of these crazy white guys. i saw someone with fresh scratches all over his body and asked him what caused it. "fell off a bike," he said. another one had bandage wrapped around his arm. another guy limped with a cane. the cake, though, goes to this kid with the neck brace. he just sat there, eating ice cream. so this is really dangerous stuff!

we were scheduled to leave for manila that same day, so after much-needed baths, we left for dinner at chili peppers. we passed by two historical churches first, it being a sunday and all. the dinner at chili peppers was fantastic. very good food. we had crispy seafood, a seafood pancit, and all these grilled goodies you normally do not find in manila!

we boarded a bus going home, and after some confusion in the seating arrangement, i ended up on one of the seats on the right, with only the window beside me. being very very tired, i was the only one who stirred when we made a stop at lucena where the drivers ate. i alighted and bought longganizang lucban. they weren't all that good, but at least i thought of home, hehe. barely 5 minutes after we left the bus station, i saw an accident on the street. an isuze elf lay on its side, while an FX-type vehicle was stalled in the middle of the road, its hood a total wreck, and its side scraped by something huge. i'd been hearing about accidents, and road-related deaths and injuries that entire week. i worried briefly about our trip, and the next thing i knew, we were already in cubao.

the following day, i finally used my GC to santuario and had a much-needed full-body deep-tissue massage.
sawa ka sa ganyan sa siargao at sa CWC! haha. i think bagay sayo magpakita ng butt crack. try mo when we go wakeboarding next time. :D