Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pumped up by Pujada Island (Part 1)

The adventure junkies in Pujada Island
Not too many people know that Mati, the lone city and capital of Davao Oriental, has three lovely islands under its jurisdiction: Pujada (the biggest), Waniban and Oak (the smallest). I had been wanting to explore these islands during my recent visits to the city but time and circumstance kept me from pursuing my plan.

Pujada Island
Early this month, I got an invite to go to the city from Judith, a friend who hails from Mati. There was this big beach party that’s going to happen over the weekend at the powdery white-sand shores of Dahican Beach, which the organizers dubbed as “Mati Summer Frolic 2014”, an electronic music festival of the colors of summer.

The two-night event would feature some of the country’s best DJs performing live on stage, providing beach bums with pulsating beats of electronic music. Food, drinks, foam machines, spray paint and water sprinklers were expected to turn Mati’s popular beach strip into one helluva venue for summer merrymaking. 

Coming close on the heels of a weekend wandering in the beach town of Glan in Sarangani Province, I was poised to turn down the invitation. Besides, the roaring revelry wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. But when Judith mentioned about the “cruise aboard a yacht” to Pujada Island, I quickly changed my mind! LOL!    

 Wild revelry at Summer Frolic

“Of course, I’m coming!” I responded without reservation. For who in his right senses wouldn’t want to cruise in style to one of Mati’s best-kept secrets?  Certainly not me! After convincing my college buddy Jobots to join the trip, I quickly packed my stuff. The two off us headed for Mati one Friday afternoon. 

Aside from Jobots and I, Judith had also asked two of our friends, Marisa and Lily (and their respective families), to come over to Mati to attend the beach party at Dahican. Driving her own vehicle, Marisa went with her kids, Pao and Yssa. Later that afternoon, Lily and her daughter, Ira, also joined Judith in a separate car.

With Marisa following my lead, our vehicles convoyed all the way to the city. The long drive from Davao to Mati provided us scenic glimpses of the seascape in that part of the region.  Driving for about three hours, I hardly noticed the time. I was so busy laughing at the antics of Jobots. There’s no doubt about it. The guy’s a congenital clown! LOL!

Dusk had settled over Mati when we reached the city. Marisa then led us to her friend’s home, which became our den for the next two days. After leaving our stuff there, we went to the downtown area before going to Dahican. Famished, we drove to Mati Baywalk and had dinner in one of the barbecue stalls dotting the area. 

Sated, we proceeded to the popular beach strip to watch the show. When we arrived, the venue was already crawling with people from all walks of life—young and old, rich and poor, men and women, straight and gay, locals and visitors—all raring to experience the spectacular summer shindig unfolding at Dahican. 
Foam explosion at Summer Frolic
The following day, our fifteen-man entourage went to Blue Bless Beach Resort, one of Mati’s newest seaside destinations. Located in the village of Bobon (roughly thirty minutes away from the downtown area), the resort boasts of several floating cottages standing on stilts and offers cruises to the islands of Pujada and Waniban.

Blue Bless Beach Resort
Arriving at the resort, we walked towards the jetty where the “yacht” that would take us to the island was docked. To my chagrin, it didn’t exactly fit the definition of a yacht!  Blessie Mae looked like a prettified fishing boat. But there was nothing else we could do about it. So, we just hopped in and braced ourselves for the ride.

Around ten o’ clock in the morning, we left the resort’s jetty and headed for Pujada Island. Sailing under sunny skies, we gushed over the awe-inspiring sights that came into our view: gracefully curving mountains, long shorelines along the mainland, coves with white sand stretches, a few fishing boats and the blue waters of the bay.

Blessie Mae, our unsinkable "yacht"

Waniban Island
Excitedly, I took out my Nikon and joined some of my younger companions who were shooting the picture-perfect seascape. The others were busy swapping stories and jokes as we sailed.  Caught up with the joys of the moment, everyone on board Blessie Mae was clueless about the peril somewhere in the depths of Pujada Bay. 

The mood, however, quickly shifted from festive to restive as we sailed through treacherous waters. Shrieks filled the air as turbulent swells coming in from the Pacific Ocean started to clash against our vessel. For the most part of the journey, we were sailing over choppy waters as the tempestuous waves pestered Blessie Mae.

Waniban's white-sand shores
With quiet aplomb, I tried to stay calm throughout the cruise. Geez, are we going to survive these insidious little monsters when we go back? I asked myself. Then I suddenly remembered what some of my co-workers said about Pujada Bay: “Be careful with the waves there.”  So this must be what they meant! 

A portion of Pujada Island's white-sand stretch

Almost an hour passed before the sea showed signs of calming down. Soon laughter and chatter among the passengers resumed and competed with the roars of the boat’s engine. When our vessel reached the shores of Pujada Island, we disembarked and headed for the thick bushes along the shore where we sought shelter. 

Isolated. Idyllic. Impressive. Three words that came into my mind the moment my beach-hungry feet touched the island’s sandy shores. Pujada, said to be the largest among the three islands belonging to Mati City, had long intrigued me so I was pumped up with excitement when I finally saw it for the first time.

Pujada is nature at its best—no cottages, no stores, no electricity and other creature comforts that most tourists would want to have in an island destination. But I bet its au naturel charms would surely take the breath away of any nature tripper. Its white-sand, coconut-fringed shores are enough come-ons that surely lure beach lovers.

From what I’ve gathered, the island has a total sprawl of about 156 hectares, with a freshwater lake in its middle to boot! How I wanted to see the lake myself.  Too bad, we didn’t have time to explore the said lake as we had to go back early to the mainland if we were to make it to the beach party at Dahican later that night.

Wasting no time, we then took quick plunges into the emerald waters to refresh ourselves. Geez, that part the U-shaped bay is perfect for swimming, snorkelling, sunbathing, and, of course, shooting seascapes. I took time out of the water to explore the nearby surroundings of the island while capturing its beauty. 

All the swimming, the playing, the talking and the laughing worked up our appetites. Good thing, the women had packed a lot of eats to satisfy our hunger. Geez, what they served wasn’t lunch; it was a feast! Consider these: lechon (roasted pig), kinilaw (ceviche), sinugba (grilled fish), empanada (pork pie) and lumpiang ubod (spring rolls).

(to be continued…)

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