I’m visiting Cuyo!

I live in a compound. With one exception–me–everyone in this compound is related, by birth or by marriage. Everyone here is a descendant of Cuyonons or a migrant from Cuyo.

My next-door neighbor (who owns the sari-sari store) regularly hosts former townmates when they come to Puerto. This time around the guests from Cuyo were three women and one man. They were delegates to a provincial-wide meeting of barangay officials that was held today.

The women were ribbing me because I’m (currently) single and unattached. The man, Conrad, was much nicer. He had a part that we brought to a machine shop.

"Western Motors" "Retired No Way"

Western Motors - a machine shop in Puerto Princesa City

The part was the cylinder head from his banca’s engine. The thread for the spark plug was stripped and worn down. He needed it re-threaded.

"Western Motors" "Retired No Way"

Western Motors - a machine shop in Puerto Princesa City

Conrad’s story amazed me.

First of all, we were born a month apart: he in September 1957 and I in August 1957. Knowing someone else’s age makes it easier to relate to that person’s stories. You knew what he was doing in relation to what you were doing at the same point in time.

He attended college in Puerto. In 1987 he took a job as a seaman that led him to Papua, New Guinea. And he stayed there for over a decade before returning to his native Cuyo. And yesterday was his first day to return to Puerto in 24 years. His island home of Cuyo is just 175 nautical miles (325 kilometers) from Puerto. What struck me as weird was the manner by which he described the machine shop we visited as one that had done some work for him before, to his satisfaction. Based on my perception, I thought that the prior work he described was done just a few years ago but it turned out that that prior work was done more than 24 years ago!

My sense of time was not the same as his! Or the way he phrased it was certainly different.

Oh my. More adjusting.

I think Conrad will play a prominent part in my forthcoming Cuyo adventure. He owns a banca. And I want to go island-hopping.

Preparation

Transportation first. This is an interisland passage. Two shipping lines service Cuyo from Puerto: Milagrosa and Montenegro.

I began by visiting the office of a third shipping line, Sulpicio Line, to ask for the location of Milagrosa Line.

"Puerto Princesa office" "Shipping Line" Sulpicio "Retired No Way"

The sign of the Puerto Princesa office of Shipping Line Sulpicio

Everything here is pre-Internet. There isn’t any Yellow Pages. Google maps does not contain enough useful content at the street level. This is like night-and-day to me since back in Chicago, I used Google maps to the hilt. So here, one goes about locating destinations by asking and listening carefully to the answers. Everything here is anecdotal knowledge–information that only resides in the minds and memories of the inhabitants. Fortunately, Filipinos are more than happy to share their information.

I correctly figured that they would know the office of one of their own. Where’s Milagrosa, I asked. Down the street.

"Puerto Princesa office" "Shipping Line" Milagrosa-J "Retired No Way"

The sign of the Puerto Princesa office of Shipping Line Milagrosa-J

I tried to buy my ticket yesterday. But the office was closed.

"Puerto Princesa office" "Shipping Line" Milagrosa-J "Retired No Way"

Closed on Tuesdays!

The Pilipino portion translates to “Please remember in order to avoid ringing the buzzer.” The last line translates to “It disturbs the guest.” And TY is short for “Thank You.”

I came back this morning and bought one-way passage. For the return trip, they preferred that I buy the ticket at their Cuyo office.

Ticket Milagrosa Cuyo "Retired No Way"

Cuyo Preparation - Ticket to Cuyo cost Php 980 (US$ 23)

Two hundred thirty passengers. I wonder how many restrooms we’ll all share.

Ticket Milagrosa Cuyo "Retired No Way"

Cuyo Preparation - 230 passengers on the vessel J Cinco

They have two ships that ply this route: Puerto Princesa–Cuyo–Iloilo and back. Puerto to Cuyo, they told me, takes 16 to 22 hours. It was that variable for such a short distance.

I wonder how seaworthy this death trap is. Okay, there I go, sharing my concern.

If the ship covers the distance of 175 nautical miles in 16 hours–the shortest time–its average speed is 11 knots. A knot is a nautical mile per hour.

(By the way, it’s incorrect to say 11 knots per hour. That’s like saying 11 nautical miles per hour per hour.)

Snorkeling Equipment

Puerto has a number of Dive Shops. I went to Paolo, owner of Moana Dive Center.

"Moana Dive Center" "Retired No Way"

Cuyo Preparation - Moana Dive Center along Rizal Ave., near the airport

Paolo’s got a decent selection. I’m already familiar with dive gear but I still appreciated his assistance. His first question to me was for how many days I was planning to snorkel. I said 12 and he then said that it was more economical for me to buy. Which is what I did.

"Cuyo Preparation" "Snorkeling Gear" Masks Fins "Retired No Way" "Moana Dive Center"

Cuyo Preparation - Masks & Fins at the Moana Dive Center

I bought a pair of Mares fins, a Mares mask, and an IST snorkel. If I drown, nobody can say it was because of poor equipment. The gear totaled 3,600 bucks (84 U.S. Dollars).

"Cuyo Preparation" Snorkeling Gear Mask Snorkel Fins "Sun Block"

Cuyo Preparation - Snorkeling Gear (Mask, Snorkel, Fins), Sun Block

Okay, now how do I deal with the loss of an important piece of equipment?

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