17 April 2009
Today was a day of helplessness and frustration. It was flat, calm, and full sunshine yesterday. We left the boat Stella Maris with all the guests and crew wishing us a not-so-scorching hot visit to Bird Islet, and warned us to wear lots of sunscreen.
At about 3 or 4 am, while sleeping at the ranger station, the rains started. It didn’t let up. The rangers stayed positive and said it was just a passing squall. Hope springs eternal. Well, the weather didn’t change, and we re-scheduled.
The rangers packed our camping needs for Bird Islet, but the thunder and lightning made us ask them to abort the day’s plans.
The rangers are such troupers. When I asked the chief what their day was like, his answer was, “It will be what you want it to be.” They were to assist us in any way they could. Well, he didn’t answer my question, but he was truly sweet.
Like ranger paparazzi, we tailed the boys the whole day. After breakfast, they efficiently formed an assembly line to wash dishes. They tilled their garden, wove hammocks (an income-generating venture), entered a visiting dive boat to collect permits and give away Tubbataha bag tags, and went fishing for their/our food in the rain. Then it was karaoke night! Yes, karaoke in the middle of the Sulu Seas with Magic Sing!!! It was hilarious.
These tough guys have been singing practically the whole day. For no reason at all, they will break into a song. Now with a little alcohol, once the generator was on for the evening, they let loose. Choy, the WWF Philippine Researcher, sang “Delilah,” and only after a few days did I find out he was banned by Angelique from singing this song, because he wouldn’t stop. One ranger sang “Top of the World” with gusto. They are a happy bunch, and they are going home in a few days!
These guys are truly unsung heroes. Tubbataha Reefs are patrolled 365 days a year, with three-month rotations of seven to eight men. Incredible!