Saturday, April 18, 2009


Well I finally got a chance to go and look around, instead of going by air I went by sea. YES YES, by sea I said it loud and proud. I went with fellow workers which consisted 3 Field Engineers (myself included), 2 Pilots and a wife of the Mechanic went on the adventure. We made it a little joke between the colleagues calling our trip, "Ground Truthing". Ground Truthing in our line of business; Is going to an area of interest and surveying. Instead of going to an area to 'Survey' we went "SNORKELING". We saw firsthand what the ocean bottoms actually looks like in this part of the world.
This would be a perfect MasterCard promo, "Snorkel, Goggles, Fins, Filipino Lunch and 3 Islands"= 1500 pesos. Swimming with the fish and coral in the Hilutungan Channel "Priceless".
Our trip started out cramming in a small boat, which by no means was, "Bob Villa" approved. The small boat looked like it was built of ply-wood that was lying around and Gorilla Glue. Our engine was powered by a 45 Filipino. He was an older man wearing cut-off "Joe Dirt" blue jeans walking through a jungle of anchor lines and moored boats, one false move and the whole crew on the skiff would have been in the drink. After weaving in and out we arrive at our "Ground Truthing Boat" (I don't remember the name of the boat so we will just call it the "GT Boat") we carefully and methodically got out the soap box boat and climbed aboard.
On board this "GT Boat" had enough room for a family of 12 to sleep on the deck and underneath. It was a white boat with a canopy and an open sunning deck for those that want a good burn can sit out and fry. (I became good friends with this area) Sorry shoulders.

Varoom, varoom the engine fires up. All of the crew was hurrying around getting everything set for the “Ground Truthing” adventure.

The captain looked as though he was the same age as us, but once you have been to the Philippines you notice that people don’t age. I swear some have found the “Fountain of Youth” Ponce de Leon was looking for. He had a big grin on his face with a long cigarette that would have over powered the biggest of persons.

As for my curiosity it got the better of me and I began searching around the boat. I noticed the captain sitting in a plastic lawn chair holding a long bamboo pole, tugging on a white rope and kicking at a stick under the cabin. The long bamboo pole was attached to the rudder in the back steering the boat, the white rope was attached to the engine which controlled the throttle and the stick was the transmission for the engine. Needless to say the “GT Boat” had some power being pushed by an inline 6, 671 Marine Diesel Engine. We were going to cruise the sea in “Suck my Wake” scraping bugs off of our teeth. (Quote from: Great Outdoors) Have to give credit where it is due.

We headed to our first location right outside of a fish sanctuary. Getting closer you noticed that every, Don, Juan and Julio where all doing the same thing. It looked like the Columbia River during the Salmon run with all the boats lined up to make sure their customers got the best spot. We finally got arranged in our spot and cut the engine. All of us scrambled to be the first one in the ocean to see what kind of scene we had in store.

When jumping in water for the first time some people put a toe in, some slowly go foot by foot into the water, WELL not this GUY all I have to say is, “HEADS UP BIG CAHOONA.” OH yes a BACKFLIP. I didn’t land square on my back like I thought, it was a full rotation with feet hitting first. The judges didn’t give me a perfect 10 by any means but man it felt good to be off and in the ocean.

I climbed back up the ladder on the “GT Boat” and picked up my goggles and fins and went on my adventure, “Finding Nemo”. I saw many different types of fish, many that I can’t name right off hand but I know they were fish.

The area was outlined by a rope telling you, “Don’t go in here” to the edge of the drop off where it goes off into the abyss. From trolling around you could see all the beautiful colors of the corral and the sea creatures which live in this area.

After a while of looking through my goggles I felt like I was in the ‘Fish Cave’ at a Bass Pro Shop, being face to face with 5 and 7 pounders thinking to myself I wonder if they would bite a crank bait if I throw it out there in front of them. When I was done fishing this area out with wild dreams of whoppers through my goggles it was time to get back to the “GT Boat” and move onto the next area.

Again we were all on the boat. VaRooM, VaRooOOM. The diesel engine turned over and the captain assumed his position in his lawn chair with the bamboo pole under one arm and the string in his fingers revving the engine.

We pulled from the sanctuary and cut over towards our next island. As we headed towards this area you could see a silhouette of buildings and a long bridge. It being my first and only trip I didn’t think we were going to be stopping here. The closer and closer we got it I realized this is where we were eating lunch. The captain turned the boat towards the long bridge and set his approach. Like a man of the sea he landed the boat just right at the dock with a light thud.

We all unloaded from the “GT Boat” and started what seemed like a mile trek to the island. The crew carried the fresh foods they were going to cook on their backs as did we with our belongings.

The bridge that we walked on looked as though it had been made from various pieces of wood that had floated up to the island and just thrown down and nailed into place. Along this bridge helping the nails to hold the boards in place was fishing line inner woven to hold them down. I have noticed from being in the Philippines they don’t use the American motto of, “If you can’t Duck it, f*&k it”, theirs is, “If 100 pound monofilament doesn’t hold, nothing will.”

When the bridge ended you stepped onto the island where huts and palms became interwoven along this island. They had chairs and tables to sit around with hammocks hanging between the palms. We had time to sit around if we wanted to or swim while waiting on the crew to prepare and serve our Filipino lunch.

Sitting on the island and looking out you could see Mactan Island where I have been staying for the last 3 weeks and Cebu City just behind the island in the distance. It took about 30 minutes for them to prepare the meal.

Our meal was laid out on the table in a buffet style with enough food to feed a small army. A lot of Filipino meals are cooked over an open fire so we are having a Cook-out for every meal.

For our Island Hopping Lunch it included:

Steamed Rice, BBQ’ed (Squid, Chicken, Pork, Prawns) and Fresh out of the Tree Fruit (Mango, Pineapple and Bananas)

Man you talking about good. “Make you want to slap your momma but you better not.” When we got our fill again it was time to load up and go hopping onto another island.

By about this time I am feeling the red on my shoulders and the rice in my belly and it was almost time for a siesta but I had to hold out for one more island.

So we collected our things from the island and began the long walk back down the Monofilament Drift wood Bridge to again get back onto, “GT”.

VaRoom, VaRooOOMM cried the engine as the captain gave it a good goosing and a kick. Off again headed towards the final island of our trip.

What we pulled up to next was not what I expected but by this time everyone was tired from the meal and the heat. Of course you can’t just give up on the last island so again we unloaded in search of more treasures on the ocean bottom. Each place was different than the next. This one had sea urchins on the bottom that we were warned about not stepping on because they carry a good punch. I swam around for a little bit looking at the different life on this island but I myself was ready for a nap.

Everyone piled back on the “GT Boat” and pointed the nose towards home and took off leaving nothing but a wake behind us.

The trip in total lasted about 6 hrs and that was well worth every minute. The only thing I might change if I go back again is instead of applying a little bit of sun screen, I am going to bathe in the stuff the night before and apply more once I get out there.

If you were wondering 1500 pesos= $31 U.S. Dollars

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Places You Will Go.

I am sure y'all have heard or know what field of work I am in. With my job I get to go to all of these exciting locations and see all these new places with my own eyes. The only thing is when you come home you run into your peers that ask, "So how was it?" or "What was it like?" or "What did you see?". It is hard to describe things over here because a description is always better when you can use all senses.
As of March 28th or so I have been on Mactan Island in Cebu City, Philippines. I am scheduled to be here for another 30 something days, never do remember exactly how many are left. The time difference between here and lets say, Diamondhead, MS (The place where I lay my head on a pillow for sleep during the week) is 13 hrs ahead. So if you are wondering what tomorrow brings just ask me.
"Today's Forecast" Partly Cloudy in the Morning around 86 degrees with 93% humidity. Mid-day rainshowers stopping around 2 p.m. Late Afternoon Cloudy. Night Fair. Enough about the weather.
I think my job is pretty cool at times(I am not big on sitting in an office everyday staring at dots). I sit in a King Air 200 Beechcraft flying over areas making maps. So I get to hang my head out the window (not literally) and take pictures of the scenery just outside the plexi glass. Oh man what a thrill to see what kind of images you can get from flying 1200 to 1300 ft. off the floor. What's even better is if the picture doesn't come out the way you want it you can erase it from known existence with a swift button push and go on with what you were doing.
I was instructed to and figured it would be nice to share some of the pictures I collect from "The Place I GO".