Spending Christmas with Family

December 14, 2014 – January 1, 2015: Joy and Will arrived in Subic in the middle of December ready for some tropical weather and some cruising adventures aboard MOKEN. Joy is Chris’ big sis.

We were hoping to maximize our cruising time during their visit. The only thing holding us back was uncooperative weather. A low pressure system was on its way, promising lots of wind and rain and all around unpleasant boating conditions.

So we found other things to do while we awaited a better weather window. We hit the usual Subic area highlights. The market. A trike ride. A jeepney ride. The giant World War II memorial cross at Mt. Samat. Baloy Beach (long beach). Starbucks.

But our funniest side trip of all had to be our short jaunt to Pundaquit Beach for lunch and an afternoon swim. We ended up staying two nights, thanks to a spur-of-the-moment invite from William and Gina (whom we met after lunch) to stay for their son’s first birthday party the following night. By the looks of the planning that was in full swing, it was going to be a big deal. “Why not!?!”

There seem to be a lot of interesting characters around Pundaquit, and we met quite a few of them at the party. There was a clown to entertain the kids and karaoke for the rest. (A party in the Philippines would not be complete without karaoke.) There was a ton of food, including two whole roasted pigs, which certainly didn’t last long. Sarap! (Yummy!) The birthday boy, dressed in his Superman pyjamas, was pretty much oblivious that the whole event was in his honour.

Finally, the next morning we made our way back to Subic and started loading provisions in preparation for our delayed departure. The weather was getting better. It was time to set off. Destination Puerto Galera.

On our way, we returned to our usual mid-point overnight anchorage in Hamilo Cove and had another impromptu visit from Junior Rodriguez. He seems to be Papaya Barangay’s self-appointed welcome wagon (or in his case welcome banca). He invited us to join his family for dinner on our return trip.

The next afternoon, we arrived in Puerto Galera. There were a few tense minutes, while Chris repaired the dinghy’s outboard engine, before we could head in to town. We spent the next week diving, snorkelling and hanging out. The weather still wasn’t all that great and the water was way too cold for my liking…and unusually murky for diving. The aftermath of the recent storm, I suppose. Despite that, Joy squeezed in enough dives and course reading to get her PADI advanced diver certification with Paul and Amil’s help.

We spent Christmas Eve with Paul, our other friends Rob and Snooky and an eclectic group of customers from South Sea Divers enjoying a buffet dinner that included traditional turkey and prawns. After our Christmas Day dive, we helped the staff from the dive shop hand out food packets to a large group of Mindoro island’s indiginous Mangyan people, most of whom live in the interior of the island and continue to follow a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle along with their own styles of farming. This Christmas tradition has been going on for years.

All too soon it was time to return to Subic. Then again, the weather greatly improved as soon as we left Puerto Galera so we were overjoyed by that. We did stop overnight at Hamilo Cove again and joined Junior’s family for dinner. They brought out fresh boiled crab, chicken tinola made with green papaya and rice. And, of course, more karaoke. All the kids from the neighbourhood turned out to see us, and Will kept them all entertained with imitations and his karaoke renditions of a few classic tunes.

Back in Subic Bay, we decided to take Joy out for a day of wreck diving. The visibility in Subic Bay is notoriously bad. They don’t call it the Subic Soup for no reason. But considering what we just experienced in Puerto Galera, the conditions were at least as good if not even a little better. After a malfunction of Joy’s rental gear and an impromptu in-water repair, we finally got our dives underway. Ariel, our guide, kept us in stitches both above and below the water.

All too soon it was New Year’s Eve and our last evening with Will and Joy. We had dinner along the Subic Boardwalk and enjoyed watching the three sets of fireworks going simultaneously along the beachfront.

The following morning we all trundled off to the Victory Liner bus station to send Joy and Will on their way to Manila to catch their flight. But the ticket line-up was horrendous, there were no express busses and the next bus would risk getting them in little too late to catch their flight home. Traffic delays in Manila are notorious. In the end, we made an emergency call to Johnny, our go to driver and he saved the day. He picked up Will and Joy and whisked them to the Manila airport with plenty of time to spare.

It was fun to spend Christmas with some of our real family, with some of our adopted Filipino family and with some of our South Sea Divers family. Thanks everyone for making this holiday season memorable.

With additional photos by Cherry, South Sea Divers.

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