Monday, March 8, 2010


Friday morning, we were scheduled to be on campus for only the morning, as Dan needed to be part of a conference call scheduled from the States about the national quiz to be held at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in July.  The call ran a little long, so we arrived late for lunch in the canteen, and ate a quick lunch almost by ourselves!  We drove home to Camden to finish packing what we would need for a weekend at the beach and returned to APNTS.  The rest arrived in bunches for the next few minutes and soon were ready to leave in the Coaster Bus. Having left before the weekend rush of traffic and with Greg Taylor driving, we made good time down the C-5 and the SLEX; through Santa Rosa and Tagaytay, we recognized this path as the way we'd taken by ourselves a couple of weeks ago.  Past the sugar cane refinery, though, we turned left/southwest this time and continued, watching the sun set as we followed it to the west coast of this big island.  Twenty of us arrived at Coral Beach Club Resort after dark (2 more arrived the next morning) and checked into 8 rooms in record time.

Greg's detailed planning had included a dinner ready for us at tables on the patio. We enjoyed a vegetable soup followed by a beef dish, sweet and sour fish, greens, lots of rice... and ice cream!  This resort is right on the beach; we could see floating bamboo rafts with huts in the shallow water at low tide and there was an occasional wader with a headlamp looking for shallow water night sea life.  Our room is quite nice with a king-sized bed and huge marble-tiled shower; we slept well!

Straight out of our room to the beach in the morning, we found that those rafts – balsas -  were painted in bright colors and all had benches and other seats, and were each tied with a long rope to a re-bar anchor on the shore. The low morning sun created great reflexions on the water and Dan took a few photos right away.  We ate all of our meals outside; we ordered from a broad breakfast menu (Dan and I both got the “American” breakfast and enjoyed our eggs, toast, jam and, literally, about 8 pieces of bacon, along with mango juice and coffee.  (I could SO live here!)  In this relaxed atmosphere, there was plenty of time to talk with our colleagues as we ate our meals. The staff all spoke English and were very attentive to whatever we needed. 

As there were no group plans for the morning, Dan and I quizzed Dee, who had already been out snorkeling, about what to see out there and what direction, then got Keith to come along with us to enjoy the water!  It was quite shallow for a long way, then dropped off enough to see some different coral and small beautiful fish. We spent at least an hour in the water, including our moseying back to the shore where a bunch of young local boys wanted to ask Keith lots of questions (mostly “How old are you?” and “Where are you from?”).
After a shower, we gathered in groups to order lunch (what a life, right?).  Dan and I knew it would be best to share something, so we ordered a salad and Shrimp Gumbal – delicious, reminding us of a thick shrimp gumbo, with bell peppers and a spicy sauce over rice.  
It was quite enough for us before our planned group activity of Jet-skiing from one of the balsas!  Two Jet-skis were rented and Dan and I were aboard for the first run!  My first time, I urged Dan to start slowly... but,oh, well!  We sped around the cove for a few minutes before relinquishing it for others to have a turn.  Everyone who wanted to try had several turns, all had photos taken.  On our second and third runs Dan progressively got used to the equipment and said he was proud of me for hanging on tight and not screaming when he got it up to full throttle; it really was great fun!

After another shower, I met Lydia Kim at the resort's salon, Spa Bella, for pedicures!  We had such a great time of conversation while we got our toenails trimmed and painted!
It was a special sunset that many of us enjoyed together, as God painted the sky and a few clouds with blues, pinks, and purples while the orange sun dipped past the ocean horizon.  He did a great job with that one!

Earlier in the day, we had noticed that there were several long tables put together in the grassy area between the pool and the fence, reserved for a group for dinner and were excited to find out that it was indeed for us!  It was easy to get hungry for dinner after so much time in the fresh air and in/on the water!  The cooks prepared our meal outside, as we hovered close, waiting to be called!  Our meal included salad, beef kabobs, fish steaks, pork, chicken legs, shrimp, baked potatoes, rice AND Pavlova for dessert (not to mention another mango shake)!  At the end of our meal, we were each given a packet of cards  printed with an individual's name from our group, along with a pen. Our assignment was to give each team member some written encouragement and/or scripture; those cards would be sorted the next day and given to us to keep, knowing our team members had written something special, just for us! 

As our dinner was winding down, the resort staff had been asked to prepare a bonfire on the beach for us for a worship service.  When we were assembled, seated on chairs and blankets, Daniel led us in several songs with his guitar, as Filipinos watched and listened from a ways away.  Mitch gave us a devotional message about Moses... we were grouped in threes for prayer, as about one-third of us will be transitioning, either back to the States, or to another mission field. To be prayed for specifically in that setting was awe-inspiring, to know that God orchestrated the people and the circumstances just for that moment.  It was awesome to be in the company of these godly people, and especially to have Lydia and her son pray for me and God's future plans for us, along with the growth of JoyFM (Lydia also understands the impact that radio can have on its listeners – yes!)!

A bunch of us walked south along the beach again, enjoying each others' company and conversation, as the natives watched us!  When we returned to the resort, Dan and I went back to our room to fill out the cards to encourage our friends.  After all the time we'd spent outside, it would have been easy to stop early, but we kept on until we were finished, then slept hard until morning.

Sunday morning, we got up early, dressed quickly, and headed right outside to the patio to order breakfast.  This time, it was two huge pancakes for Dan, eggs and hash browns for me, a bowl of meusli to share, along with the usual brewed coffee and mango juice! This resort has an excellent variety of dishes that should please natives and foreigners alike – delicious food!  Gathering our snorkeling gear and towels, we collected on the beach to be “ferried out” by pedal-boat and banca (sp??) to the larger touring boat that would carry us to our morning destination.  (It was really fun to see the ship captain ask a question of David Phillips in English and be answered in Tagalog!)
A little less than 2 hours later, we finally arrived at Fortune Island; we had watched it slowly becoming larger on the horizon, but enjoyed the leisure pace of this boat with lots of conversation and playing with Herman, a large, purple, hermit crab in a shell that the boat captain had found to entertain the kids - and the rest of us!  The boat crew dropped anchor a ways from the shore as the boat has a deep hull and the coral bottom would soon be less than 2 meters, too shallow to get any closer.  One of the boat's crew swam to shore with a rope tie line while another thru down the anchor.  We “had church” there in the boat, floating on the aqua and emerald waters off a white-sand shore – a place too beautiful for words!  David Phillips shared a short message with us and we passed around a cup of grape juice and a plate of crackers for a communion celebration and prayer.

This small island was once home to a lovely resort, but now was abandoned with an empty pool and cottages without walls or roofs.  There were stairways and paths in the hillside constructed from cemented coral; David and Naomi hiked up with us to the cliff-top where Greek columns and statues(!) had been erected, to see an incredible view of blue ocean. The concrete structures had been left to decay when the island owner made it impossible for the developers to continue running the resort. 

After the hike, we made our way back down to the beach, into the water, to pull ourselves (via the blue rope) back to our boat to don more sunscreen, then our fins and masks for snorkeling.  Dan had already been in the water a few minutes before I got in and he pointed out a starfish under where he was, so I fitted my goggles and airway, then located the bright blue starfish!  Then I paddled off in search of other interesting sights. The coral here was differently shaped from what we'd seen the day before, and I was also rewarded with seeing a squid, as well as purple coral and quite a few different varieties of colorful fish.  The time in the water was not long enough, but we had to get everyone back on the boat for our 90-minute return trip to Coral Beach Club for the lunch that would be waiting!

We had ordered our lunches at breakfast-time, and again Dan and I had decided to share one of the resort's generous selections, chicken pesto on spaghetti.  Even though we were about an hour later than we were expected back at the resort, everything was ready for us, and delicious (and I still haven't had enough mango shakes yet)!  After showers and packing up, we all loaded the Coaster Bus and headed for Taytay.  Lots of scenery and conversation later, we arrived back at APNTS around 7:30 pm.  Time to pick up a few groceries, get home to Camden House, unpack, read some e-mail and drop into bed!

It certainly seemed as though we'd been gone longer than 50 hours... God had outdone Himself with this perfect weekend of relaxation, recreation and encouragement.

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