CLUB NOAH, PALAWAN – DAY 3 (Bottom Fishing and Trekking)
I’ll be honest - Monday was overall not the greatest day for us. If I had to say why, I think it was probably just that it was really frustrating to have some of the same issues that frustrate us in Makati follow us to the resort. Tim and I have never made claims to being fully adjusted and comfortable as world travelers, and we aren’t out to either change or save the world, although we have been touched by some individual situations while here. We are more than aware that there are large cultural differences among people and that there are both good and bad parts to every culture and every person. But despite this, it is still frustrating at times. There are many aspects about our time here and my resulting feelings that I really do not want to discuss over the public internet, and I’ll probably keep a lot of my true feelings about this experience to myself for some time.
But suffice it to say that for many reasons, Monday was frustrating and for me kind of put a damper on our vacation. Although you would think that being in such a beautiful place and seeing some of the most beautiful parts of the world would make us enjoy our time here much more, it really did not have that effect on me. Tim’s feelings about the day were more or less the same and more intense than mine even in some situations. However, overall, I would say Tim has slightly less upsetting times than I do. He has more control over what he does here and what he has to or choose to deal with. We have discussed this with a lot of the other expat families here. It is much different experience to be the spouse that comes along than the person who comes here to work. My feelings are not so bad that I am completely miserable here or need to leave tomorrow. However, I will be very happy to go home. What I usually try to do is just focus on the good events that occur each week and deal with the rest. This is exactly what we tried to do on this day at the resort, as you will be able to tell from the individual activities we participated in.
The previous day we had signed up for a 6am bottom fishing activity, so we were up at 5:15am to be there in time. We weren’t entirely sure what bottom fishing is, but thought we would check it out. We had also been reminded about our activity about three times that previous night. At this time of the morning the moon and Venus were still out. The moon here looks like a football and it has a very, almost eerie, glow to it.
When we got to the pier, Rose and others were waiting there because some guests were departing but there was no boat driver for us or tour guide yet. We waited for 25 minutes and the whole game of everyone running around trying to figure out what was going on with bottom fishing ensued, although no one was telling us what was going on. They just kept offering us more coffee and bread. Finally, one of the women – I think a manager with whom I had already had some tense communication moments – came up and I asked her what the problem was. She said that the problem is we were the only ones that signed up for the tour and there is only one boat, so we had to wait for the driver. I responded politely, but I found this excuse to be incredibly snotty. I felt like shooting back, “And you didn’t realize when you posted this activity for 6 in the morning that you might not have another boat?”. I realize the whole situation does not translate well on paper as being a big deal, but I get sick to death of excuses and delays rather than just admitting a screw up so that people can deal with it. I’m sick to death of it.
Tim also broke his normal calm demeanor and was pretty pissed about this. It was early, the sun was starting to come out full force, and we were hungry (having planned to eat breakfast afterwards).
Finally, we went out on the boat. They sent Rose along with us – I’m sure because they saw that Tim was really upset. I don’t think they cared if I was upset, since apparently my desire to eat already made me unreasonable. But when Tim was upset, they weren’t really sure how to handle it. And due to the cultural differences, I’m not sure they understood why we would be upset about waiting, since now that I think about it, they probably posted all their times in Filipino time, and in general the people here are patient almost to a fault. During this entire time, even as Tim and I were getting more and more frustrated, the people were continuing to be very friendly and trying to help – just in all the wrong ways.
Our guide for bottom fishing was a guy named Eddie. Eddie was incredibly friendly and seemed to make it his personal goal to help us have a better day, since we had many activities with him that day. In bottom fishing, you get a spool of fishing line, with a large sinker on a leader with two hooks place about a foot apart and with squid parts for bait. You then toss it out over the side and have the sinker hit the bottom of the sea. Then you lift the line up and down frequently and if the line stays taught you will know there is a fish. No rod or reel, just holding on to the line. I was pretty horrible at this. Tim got a bite, but the fish was so big that it ate his sinker and both hooks.
Eddie caught a fish though. He was so friendly and happy that it almost made me smile. He caught a black tipped, orange and white striped grouper with big red bulging eyes. But… then the fish was just thrown still alive in a bucket containing no water and just left to slowly suffocate! I should not be surprised because of some of the ways I’ve seen humans treated here that no one would think to keep the fish in water until they are killed for food, but it is a pretty small thing to do.
So, I was a little upset about this and was only really half heartedly fished the rest of the time. For all of you out there who thinks people shouldn’t impose their views on other cultures, I didn’t say a word. If that is how people fish here, so be it. But, nonetheless, I’m in the situation, and for me it is ridiculous, particularly at an expressed environmentaly-conscious resort.
At this point I have a few choices – observe and say nothing, try to change it and everything else, or remove myself from the situation. My only option while here is usually the first one. Eddie saw I was pretty much done with fishing, and I think he even noticed that I was upset about the suffocating fish thing because when someone caught another small fish he put them both in water for awhile, but it was too late, and eventually he just tossed out the water and push the fish into an empty basket.
After our fishing tour, we said thank you to the boat staff and Eddie with about as much enthusiasm as we could muster and headed to breakfast without saying much of anything. The usually gregarious and happy staff was pretty quiet when we arrived. Who knows if this is because some of our experiences had trickled back to them or not, but it was very noticeable.
We ate and headed back to our cabin to get changed and rest a little bit before our next activity at 10am – the Eco “Trekking” tour. We were both in pretty bad moods. Not only had we had a number of mixups and communication issues with the staff by this time, but the formerly tranquil nature of the resort had been broken by the newly arrived group of guests who – to their credit – were having a great time, but were so incredibly loud and kind of took over the entire resort, so you couldn’t really even get a peaceful moment on the balcony.
As we were resting, they were trying (comically) to windsurf, so we watched those antics instead since we could not help overhear it. We also saw some white fish eating algae off the supports of our cabin and digging in the sand of the ocean floor. We saw the baby shark again trying to eat the large schools of small fish.
At 9:45am we headed back to the front desk for our rescheduled Eco Tour. The guide came 10 minutes early and we were happy to see that it was Eddie – our bottom fishing guide. Although both Tim and I had both changed into shorts and sneakers and put on OFF spray, we very clearly did not realize the extent of this Eco Tour.
Tim brought his big camera in the bag and I brought a small shoulder bag. Very quickly we realized this was a serious Eco Tour, bordering on a Kenbrook staff-training bushwhacking experience! We headed for the grotto which had steps of stones and a path with a clearing, complete with shrine to the Virgin Mary. Overhead were long bamboo arches, covered in hibiscus plants with many large and beautiful flowers.
Then we were surprised when Eddie very quickly started walking almost directly vertical up next to one of the trees! We were hiking up the mountain on the island! The terrain was a very steep pitch covered with rough rocks, trees, and at times bamboo leaves on the ground that made it a little slippery. The tour lasted an hour. We moved pretty quickly, but saw lots of different types of trees, bamboo groves and rock formations. We had to watch our heads a lot when we were climbing over and under rocks and trees, and at some places, we actually had to crawl.
Eddie showed us several places on the tour where there were makeshift ladders made of bamboo and rope where poachers had made access points to steal sparrows nests for birds’ nest soup – a delicacy mostly in China. He was very good about helping me when the terrain was too rough since I had my shoulder bag, but I think overall we did very well! I fell down two times – almost over the side, because I slipped on leaves – but I was able to catch myself.
After the tour, Eddie walked us back to our cabana and stopped with us to pick up our snorkel gear for later in the day. He also insisted on carrying it. He was extremely nice and very friendly. He showed us the military barracks where the soldiers live and told us he used to be a soldier but prefers the safety and security of working at Club Noah.
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Airport and Flight)
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Journey to the Resort)
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Activities)
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 2 (Easter Sunday)
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Bottom Fishing and Trekking) [You are Here]
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour)
 Palawan, Club Noah, Day 4 (Departure and Return Trip)