For the longest time, I've been planning to take the ferry from Guadalupe to Escolta via Pasig River. I would like to see both banks of the river from the boat and take pictures. But I can only do it on a weekend or on a holiday. Unfortunately, I am such a couch potato when I am home. I told Ivar, my 21-year old nephew, of my plan and he wants to go with me. I hope it would motivate me during the long Christmas weekend.
I love riding on boats especially when the waves are a bit rough. Growing up near the sea, I have always gravitated towards water. In high school, at least once a week, I had a 10-minute banca ride with a classmate who lived across the river. We usually had lunch at her house on Thursdays. It's a 20-minute tricycle ride from school but most of the time, we preferred to ride a canoe to cross the river and walk to their home. Banca fare was cheaper and we loved the excitement of riding a small canoe. We usually cross near the mouth of the river where it meets the sea--it's a busy port and oil depot. But up stream, there were mangrove and nipa forests, an oyster farm with only a handful of settlers and small communities that settled by the banks of the river.
One afternoon after lunch, E and I were going back to school and decided to take a banca to cross the river. E apparently knew the boatman as they exchanged pleasantries as we were boarding. It was a small boat that can only load up to 5 people including the boatman. There were only the 3 of us and the boatman started to paddle. We didn't pay attention and continued with our banter. A few minutes later, we noticed that we were not crossing the river but going upstream. E asked the boatman [he was an "older" guy, in his late 20's] why we were not crossing the river. The boatman murmured (I could hardly hear his voice) that he's taking us sight-seeing. Oh, alright, I thought--our first class was at 2 pm, we still have time. But I noticed E had gone pale, she was signaling me and could hardly speak. She was giving me a hand sign that the boatman was crazy!
As if on cue, we started talking to the boatman. I couldn't remember the conversation--we were probably blabbering. His back was turned and we couldn't see his face. In an emotionless voice, the boatman said that it's beautiful upstream and there were weird-looking trees and birds. We begged him to bring us back to the pier as we didn't want to be late for class. Then he started singing--and I still remember the song, "Only You"! E started to cry while telling the boatman that her father would get mad at him if he'd know about this side trip. But he didn't seem to hear our pleas..he kept paddling away from the pier. I thought of diving off the canoe but wasn't sure if I could swim safely to the river bank! The boat was too small that any sudden movement would probably turn it over. I sat there clutching my notebooks and prayed.
My prayer was answered when we saw another canoe cruising at the far side of the river. We screamed for help, really screamed! The boat rocked and it caught the attention of the other boatman and he paddled towards our boat. When the other boatman saw us crying, he told our boatman to bring us to the pier pronto or he would call E's father. Our boatman looked at us innocently and said that he didn't do anything wrong, he just wanted to take us sight-seeing!
Both E and I were sobbing [with relief] as he paddled quietly to the pier, and in a soft voice said, "Halong kamo" (You take care). The side trip was about 30 minutes and it was the longest 30 minutes of my young life. E told me that passengers noticed the boatman was acting weird lately---he was heard talking to himself and smiling and staring into space. In those days, when men were acting weird, it's always about unrequited love. Loco de amor, E and I concluded. Our young, romantic hearts went out to the boatman and we promised not to tell our parents about the incident. And we didn't...after all this time.
I wonder what happened to him.
Posted for Nostalgic Marveling