For the past two entries I’ve been hinting on a life–changing experience concerning our recent trip to Batanes. I wanted a creative narrative of the events; unfortunately there might be no way to completely re–tell our story. K-THOS (Karl, The Hero of Sabtang) though has a real and heartfelt account of what transpired. And who else is better suited to tell the story but the man who saved our lives? wink
Now I’ll stop kidding around.
It was past one in the afternoon and we were leaving for Batan after our half–day tour of the island of Sabtang. The strong waves we experienced in the morning upon our arrival gave us enough warning on what might be another rough trip on the way back; we somehow knew what to expect. Little did we know it could be far worse.
As everyone in our approximately 30–man group boarded the boat, the waves pounded relentlessly. This made turning the boat water–bound very difficult. The boatmen struggled to maneuver our vessel into position, taking almost 45 minutes with most of it sideways and dangerously parallel to the waves.
We were relieved the moment we were finally pointed towards the deep sea, knowing the threat of the crashing waves will soon be gone — but we have a few more ones left to bear.
When I saw the wave start to break, I knew it was going to be big. Surely it was at least six feet high. Scared as I was, the boat rose and rode the wave, followed by a huge dip as we fell into the wave’s trough. Just as everyone breathed a sigh of relief, I saw in the corner of my eyes the next wave starting to break as it crashed into the end of the dike, just to the right of our boat. We were not positioned to ride this second wave, I had a bad feeling we will be taking in water.
I’m sure it was at least as high as the first wave, perhaps more. I told Hana to hold on and brace herself as I watched the wave rise right in front us. It crashed directly inside the boat, a deafening sound followed by the feel of cold seawater touching our skin. I closed my eyes as water engulfed us, without an idea what I would see the moment I’d open them.
I almost thought we’d be in the sea after such a wave.
I felt for Hana before I could even see. Holding her hand, I realized we were still safely inside the boat, all of us. But we were all drenched. As we checked ourselves what were amiss because of the wave, frantic shouting ensued. Water and steam was spraying from the engine, with a stream rising straight up, much like what we see in children’s cartoons when a boat is punctured and water rushes in. Only this time it wasn’t funny at all.
The boat’s skipper was shouting as the engine was almost submerged in water. It was probably just a matter of seconds before the engine would die. Us in the back of the boat could barely see the engine as it was now almost completely deep in the water. We had to do something.
Mimi was still composed enough to know what to do; she quickly grabbed a pail and handed it to Karl (now known as K–THOS). Bewildered at the predicament suddenly in his midst, K–THOS rushed to scoop water and dumped it into the ocean. It could have been just a glassful (isang baso, hehe), maybe even less, but it was the first glassful. Stuff of heroes and legends. Quickly, the boat’s crew took over, dumping a pailful of water every few seconds. As they did this, the engine sputtered hinting that the drama night be not over, yet.
Midway through the trip, the boatmen had to briefly idle the engine to remove a good length of nylon cord caught in the engine’s driveshaft, all this while freely floating between Pacific waves that could fit a chapel in its trough. The ocean is mighty indeed.
Several silent minutes later, we docked in Batan to no drama. It was raging as we left, it was now as calm as a sleeping child, oblivious to everything. Joey remarked, “Tignan mo ang dagat, parang walang kasalanan.”