Mission accomplished! Briefing and pictures below.
7:30 am Saturday. Cubao is really a backpacker's beginning and end point. Most trips start here and mercifully wind down at the same civilization by the EDSA artery, after a long trip.
8:00 am. We boarded the Five Star bus to Bataan. Forty kids via Route 63 promised of green road trip.
5:30 pm. Notwithstanding the bus downgrade, uhmm, transfer in Pampanga, flat tire, uphill malfunction at Mt. Samat, muggy hike to the Cross monument, sardine-can dorms turned quarter-star upgrade, the pawikan (sea turtle) groupies finally settled in at the Pawikan Conservation Center in Morong, Bataan.
7:30 pm. Dinner was served, after the orientation by Mang Manolo and the happy birthday ditties. Hormones, adobo lunch and international goodwill form a noisy cocktail, said an old crank.
For the most part the group was subdued. All that multi-lingual camaraderie can be a drain, Frank. Besides, no one could source a bucket of subzero beer for the thirsty teens.
We were ready to accept our tepid fates. But thanks to Mang Manolo and his ATVs, we had a round of iced Red Horse to fortify our resolve for the late night patrol.
11:00 pm. Volunteers of the center walk night patrols to scout for nesting female sea turtles by the beach. November is the best time. An important part of the conservation effort is their intervention to prevent poachers from harvesting the hundred or so eggs laid in each nest. Volunteers observe the sea turtles as they dig the nest. After that, the turtles are identified, measured, tagged and then allowed to swim back to the sea.
The next process in the intervention is egg management. Volunteers collect the eggs after they are laid, then relocate and transplant them in a safer area --- usually within the enclosed hatchery of the center.
2:30 am Sunday. A long walk in the sand under the moon, is exactly like that, a long walk. Two kilometers.
Moonlight and good weather brought in a lone, but injured, sea turtle to the black shores of sleepy Nagbalayong, Morong. A swim across nautical miles to the beach, no less than four attempts at nest building, big crack on the shell and an injury at the left hindflipper could not stop the call of nature. Before our hushed, sleepy senses, we saw how life struggles against nature and man-made barriers, in real time. A pin drop, or in this case, the calm sea could be heard as we saw the quiet birth of a hundred eggs!
3:00 am. We were barely awake when we reached the center. But before we retired, we saw a volunteer very carefully transplant the eggs in the hatchery. It's the last step before the long wait of incubation. Fifty days or so.
5:00 am. The alarm went off. Nobody heard. Ergo, it did not exist.
6:00 am. No eggs hatched. Snore. Nobody knew.
8:00 am. If the clock couldn't do it, the smell of food could. Everyone rose and shone to the scent of boiled rice, fresh tomatoes, salted eggs, longganizas (sweet and spiced sausages) and fresh watermelons.
9:00 am - 12:00 nn. The cool, sunny, black beach invited. Everyone obliged---even that guy clad in pink malong. Resistance was futile.
1:30 pm. Bus was stuck in the sand. Oh well, more siesta.
Somewhere off the coast of Bataan.... in Scarborough Shoal, Orcs and Gremlins from the Middle Kingdom were downloading invaluable intelligence from the injured pawikan.....
Senior Orc 1: Sir, there's a UN gathering in Bataan, a province northwest of Manila.
Senior Gremlin 1: Hmmm, an international caucus on regional balance of power?
Senior Orc 1: Sir, UNCLOS and strategic architecture.
Senior Gremlin 1: Do we have representation?
Senior Orc 1: Formosa, our renegade province.
Senior Gremlin 1: Send encrypted dispatch. Carrot and stick diplomacy must be revisited.
4:30 pm. The tow truck, they call it wrecker, arrived. Finally.
We all lined up for the bus, ready for the tired ride to the city.
Behind us glowed a cyanide sunset.... a mute witness to a rigged pawikan clone detonating a neutron bomb.... somewhere in Scarborough Shoal.
1. No sea turtles were harmed during the trip.
2. No sea turtles and humans were harmed during the conception of the story. Purely literary license and nonsense. Seriously.
3. Some resources:
Pawikan Conservation Center, Morong, Bataan
News Info Inquirer