Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Riding The Bicol Express

By Enrico Gutierrez
Shooting with a Nikon D70

Last March we ventured on to the Bicol province. I must admit that this was my first time and needless to say I was excited. This was one of those trips where I was sure it was going to be tiring but fun.

The trip started out with a long bus drive…10 to 12 hours I think. I usually have a hard time sleeping on long drives, fortunately for me, Michelle ate a big box of donuts so she was hyper and talkative during the long drive : )

Excuse the picture. I was tired from the ride and it was raining hard. I used a 50mm fixed lens. Wrong decision.

We arrived in Bicol and it was pouring hard. The bus dropped us off at a make shift bus terminal because the drop off area was flooded. I think we were all kinda sad thinking that there was probably a storm brewing since Bicol was well known for that.

We transferred to a vannette courtesy of Ate Lea’s gracious friend. Our agenda this morning was to have breakfast, check in at our hotel and to swim with the whales.

It was a long two hour drive to see the whales and it was pouring hard when suddenly the rain stopped. Like magic, the clouds lifted and out came the sun. We arrived at the whale station and took a micro mini seminar, as this was required before you can swim with the whales. The guide made us sign a “release” form freeing them from any responsibilities in case the “butanding” decides that he’s no longer a vegetarian and goes for meat. The gist of the seminar, “oh sign nyo na, alis na tayo para ma abutan natin yung butanding.” With goggles and flippers in hand we headed towards the open sea.

Imagine this…when we got to the butanding site, the guide told us to ready ourselves. With flippers and goggles in readiness the guide pulled us closer as a butanding was nearby. I put my head underwater and I was shocked as a 20foot whale shark swam beneath me. He was literally two meters between my legs. It was AWESOME! My pulse was racing fast as he slowly glided beneath. Within seconds he was gone in a cloak of murky shadows. Wow, that has got to be the highlight of this trip.

We took turns whale spotting. After a while the water became choppy and cold so we called it a day. It was around 4pm when we docked inland. Tired, happy and hungry we grabbed some delicious Bicol Express. The hotel was approximately two hours away so we decided to relax a bit and wait for nightfall to shoot some fireflies.

Shooting fireflies was an adventure in itself. Our guide who was also our guide on the butanding, took us to a river where supposedly was infested with fireflies. We took a boat ride as dusk was nearing. It was a nice peaceful ride. The glow from the setting sun really added drama to the river. Interesting silhouettes surrounded our peripheral view. Unfortunately the boat was shaky to be able to shoot properly. Our guide directed our attention to some trees-which were cast in silhouette and was glowing. The fireflies filled the leaves. It was like watching lights on a Christmas tree. Another, highlight of the trip. We called it a day and headed back for some needed rest.

The road trip to our next destination was filled with stops and some exploration. We headed towards Bicol’s Landmark…the famous Mayon Volcano.

I have seen the Mayon in postcards and in TVonly. I was pleasantly surprised at it’s majestic, and mysterious allure. The locals say that the volcano erupts every ten years and each time taking with it many lives. With that in mind, countless urban legends have spun around its mystique. See for yourself...

I was shooting between Nick and Rance when this picture was taken.

We spent the majority of our time shooting the Mayon at different angles and locations throughout the day. Its fascinating to see it’s peak clear and with some clouds surrounding it. With each shot we tried to include a bit of the foreground, middle ground and some background. When night time came Ate Lea informed us that we were invited to her friend’s place for a little get together and some home cooked meal, plus a procession shoot of the station of the cross. Yummy more Bicol Express.

Next day came and we decided to veer of our agenda and to head towards Camarines Sur for some action phography.

Cam Sur was fun. We were going to attemp some wake boarding but unfortunately they were booked for the day. Around lunch time we have heard from the locals of a “virgin lake.” This was probably for me the most scariest of the trip. Not knowing if these people were legit or trustworthy we decided to go for it. Maybe the thrill of the adventure and the unknown got the better of us.

We found ourselves in a run down shitty boat on an equally shitty lake. In the movies you see clear and calm waters on a lake. Ours was dark and dirty. The boat chugged to an island. I noticed our guides had some interesting jailhouse ink on their bodies. And would constantly look at us, smile and talk bicol among themselves. I was uneasy at this point. We are, after all, in NPA territory.

We trekked in a single file through mud and tall grass. The sun was high above us. The path was getting worse and slippery. We were committed at this point and was too late to back out. With our camera gear, bottled water and slippers we pushed forward. At one point we were separated from the group. Our guide was lost and we were disoriented as well by the tall grass blinding our view. At a distance I could hear strong water sounds, I guess our guide was trustworthy. He whistled a bird call in the air and his friends signaled back. In a few minutes we were standing in front of the Virgin Falls…

Overall the Bicol trip was an adventure. Every minute was filled with surprises. It was very tiring and rewarding from a photographers viewpoint. From the butanding, firelies, Mayon Volcano, wake boarding, virgin falls and bicol express. This was an experience and thank you for the friends who made it happen. Ate Lea, Michelle, Rosllyn, Kuya Nick, Rance and Rosy.

Till our next adventure.


riza said...

wow kuya! so nice! i want to go back there! didn't get the chance to swim with the butandings and see Mayon volcano! =(

ricos_escape said...

talaga next time join us kasi. i think you work too hard. : )