A Jungle Venice
The Enchanted River. That’s really what the name of the place is, no kidding. After having dinner in Davao, the six of us hunkered down for the night in our fairly spacious and comfortable rented van. But since I was riding shotgun, I had a firsthand view of the mad driving skills of our driver, Jetter – I kept repeating “Jetter Jetsetter” in my head after we had introduced ourselves to each other so I wouldn’t forget his name – for the next couple of days. Suffice it to say, I was awake the entire first night. He holds a high regard for the former President for her ordering the highways in Mindanao to be repaired, voted hopefully for Estrada to win again in the last elections, and was pleasantly surprised when Binay pulled through for Vice President.
Though we were making record time, I noticed on the speedometer that from the high 90’s we were soon dropping down to the low 40’s after some three solid hours of Mach 3 diving (or as Mach 3 you could get on a Toyota Hi-Ace van, circa 2001). Soon, Jetter had taken out a doggie bag from the glove compartment and was soon swigging down a Lipovitan. I wanted to catch the purported morning rainbow at the first destination, but I also wanted to get there with an eye or two to be able to take pictures. And arms with hands, too, if you will. Plus, the last two-hour highway stretch was lit only by the stars (romantic only if not out of necessity.) Since we could find no boarding houses or rooms for rent on our lonely stretch of highway, I forced our good driver to park at a brightly-lit gas station where two indolent gas attendants were snoozed out by the gas pumps. Jetter had time to recharge his bad-ass driving batteries and I could finally catch some winks; the others were sprawled out, unconscious, in the back.
We finally caught sight of the sign leading off the national highway just as the sun was peeking out over the vast coconut plantations spread out every which way. Some ten minutes into the dirt road, we met a dinner fork (the road split in three directions; I am coining the term “salad fork” if it’s the customary two-split), so I got out to ask a woman grizzled in her years, sweeping the earth outside her hut, for the way to the Enchanted River. She spoke in the local dialect, and I was bamboozled. It is simultaneously frustrating and amusing how there are places in the Philippines where you take a thirty-minute boat ride and the words with how people who bade you farewell in one place can be said so differently where you arrive at. Nevertheless, the infallible, idiosyncratic Philippine method of lip-pointing was able to direct us to the right direction. That, and a hot rod Hi-Ace that hurtled past us to take the middle way.
Kuya Jetter, having regained the zest for life and Formula One driving, gave chase. The 15-kilometer dirt road, with its vine-and-ivy overhangs, twists through limestone and red clay hills, and a bit of seaside meandering, only heightened our anticipation in seeing the Enchanted River.
None of us were disappointed.