Rowjie wakes up at 5:00 AM. It is drizzling and still very cold. He wakes me up. I fixed myself and brushed my teeth. I did not dare take a bath because the water was too frikken cold. He calls the contact person of the MB Ocean Spirit at 5:30 AM; the person on the other line confirms that the 6:00 AM trip to Itbayat is pushing through this time. Yes! We’re sticking to our planned schedule. The trip the other day was cancelled because of the bad weather. At 5:45, we are on our way to the port, which is just a good 5-minute walk from our lodge.
We immediately see who seems to be the officiating person of the marine boat. He recognizes us as the couple who have been calling him. We had our names listed in the manifesto and paid our dues. We are told to just wait because the Coast Guard has not arrived yet but when he does, the action starts.
All of the cargoes from the local residents of Batan are then brought to the boat. Motorbikes, sacks of cements, letters, money, and all sorts of stuff. Then the passengers are allowed to board the boat, which unlike the regular ones we all know, has no katig. They call it U-boat and is made of pure fiber glass. It is designed that way so that it just flows along with the waves. We intentionally go ahead of the pack because I read somewhere that it is best to stay at the left side of the boat when traveling to Itbayat since the waves are coming from the right side.
Rowjie notices that there are more crew than us passengers. Later, we will find out why. The machine starts and the next thing I know, the boat is now voyaging to the dreaded Balintang Channel, which is known for its rough waters. The weather is gloomy. The rain clouds are everywhere. There is no chance that the sun will shine.
The first minutes of the ride is pleasure to the other passengers. They are sightseeing, taking photos, and just being amazed. A few more minutes passed and the real journey begins. The boat starts to swivel real hard. We are like balls being shaken inside a jar. At one point, one of the passengers from the right side of the boat lost her balance and hit her nape hard on the wooden tiller which is in the middle part of the boat. The boat is swinging like there’s no tomorrow. It’s like riding Enchanted Kingdom’s Anchors Away, only it’s swaying sideways.
I lay my head on the side of the boat and just close my eyes. I hear Rowjie saying he’s about to throw up. As if listening to us, one of the crews hands us plastic bags. Now this is why they have these plastic bags, which I saw earlier and why there are so many crewmen compared to the number of the passengers.
No, I am not giving up to sea sickness. I am a strong girl, that is what Rowjie always tells me. I hold his arms, waiting for him to ensure me that everything’s gonna be fine. Nothing. He is as still as me.
I open my eyes and I can now see the waters blocking the window view. That is how high the waves are. Then I start feeling real dizzy. You know that feeling the next day after a night of heavy drinking? I’m not really like this on a normal day. Sea and ocean waves don’t scare me.
No, no, no. I am not throwing up. But the sickness is consuming me. I grab one of the plastic bags that the crew handed us. I start crying, vomiting. We didn’t eat breakfast and I have nothing to throw up. My stomach starts to hurt. When I’m done, I check my watch only to find out that only 30 minutes has passed since we leave the port. This is going to be a painful 3-hour ride.
I throw up twice. Then Rowjie. Again, one of the crews hands another plastic bags and takes away the ones we used. I grab the new bags but refused to let go of the one he previously gave. I am too ashamed to admit that I was defeated by the sea sickness. I just hold tight to it. Suddenly, I become drowsy. The boat is still swaying real hard.
I didn’t know that I fell asleep until I heard a commotion. We are now entering the coves of Itbayat. The waves have receded. It is still gloomy but definitely better than before we leave. I can now see the famous cliffs and rock formations of Itbayat but I couldn’t care less not even when the other passengers are screaming in awe because of the group of dolphins that are traveling with us. I just give zero fuck. I just want this ride to end. And it does. The boat slows down and the trip ends.
BUT, we still have to manage to get off the boat against the strong waves and we still have to climb a steep flight of stairs before we can even begin our travel to the town proper of Itbayat.
I called all the saints and their families not because I was scared but because I didn’t want to get sick while I am in this beautiful island of Batanes.
Kaiz is a stay-at-home mom and currently works as an Operations Specialist for a software engineering company based in the US.