Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gone Fishing

FISHING is one of the most popular water activities on Saipan all year round and there are lots of ways to do it. You can go deep sea fishing, sports fishing and trolling and go home with your catch of tuna, wahoo, barracuda and more.
You can also fish the traditional way by throwing nets but the most common fishing that is free for anyone and which both adults and kids engage and enjoy is fishing with a pole along the shorelines where you don’t have to own a boat to paddle to the middle of the ocean or spend dollars to buy fuel. You can do it anywhere along the shores.
Seeing an individual, groups or even kids at the shorelines with a pole dangling on the water is a very common sight. Fathers and mothers do it, kids do it, and teenagers do it. It’s one pastime that breaks through the barriers of culture and generation.
It’s fun and relaxing to watch these individuals with fishing poles. Some of them fish in groups and ride on bikes. Some fish with one or two companions and some do it alone. The most popular sites for pole fishing are the Fishing Base, Susupe Beach, Beach Road and the Smiling Cove. You can rarely see a day without somebody with a fishing pole in these areas, and whenever I can, I always pause to watch and sneak a photo, although I can count with my fingers the times I saw any of them hauling in fish.
I’ve tried casting a fishing pole several times at the Smiling Cove Marina and at the Fishing Base sometime before but the fish were too clever. They either wait for my sandwich bait to melt and get separated from the hook, or they have a way of pecking their way around the bait without getting hooked. I bought several sets of hooks and plastic baits and other accessories to lure the fish to no avail. But try I did, several times until someone who must have thought I have no future in pole fishing my fishing pole from my car.
It’s fascinating to watch how patient these people are, waiting for any movement from their rods and yanking it out of the water only to find no fish at the end. Even the little kids who don’t have fishing poles found ways to tie the fishing strings around mineral water bottles.
I haven’t given up on pole fishing yet. Give me a call if ever one of you finds a fishing rod that comes with built-in patience. That may be the time I can catch my first fish.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Escape to a Secret Garden


THERE is one secret spot which I consider a refuge when I want to get away from it all and just forget everything without driving far or spending anything.
Time and again, I find myself heading toward this spot in Garapan—at the Club Elan inside the Hyatt Regency just to listen to the relaxing sound of the splashing water cascading down from the a man-made falls and flowing to the swimming pool.
The way to the water falls through the reception area is an adventure itself—it is like venturing into a dimly lit stone cave which forks into two directions—one leads straight to the bar and one straight to the pool.
Here is one place where you can sit and daydream while staring at the cascading waters and listening to the soothing, therapeutic sounds for hours, and forget about daily deadlines, pressures and the routine of work.  It is one place where you can have a mini vacation for an hour or two without having to go far—one where you can watch butterflies flitting among the flowers and the birds flying around unafraid of people, where the cool breeze from the lush gardens will caress you and bring you to state of relaxed bliss, where you will sheltered from the scorching heat of the sun beating relentlessly outside.
If you want, you can sit at the bar and order your favorite drink or take it to the tables by the poolside and just relax and while away the time. I call it a secret spot because it is not visible to anyone who visits or passes by the hotel gardens. I have been one of the frequent visitors at the hotel gardens for the past four years as it is one of my favorite destinations for taking pictures of both natural and manmade attractions but I didn’t discover the waterfalls until late last year.
When the pressures get high, try to plot an escape to this secret garden to unwind and experience what wonders an hour or two will do for you. You’ll come back to work refreshed and there’s no need to book plane tickets, spend gas to drive anywhere or file a leave from work.
(First published HERE)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Behind the Thick Shrubbery

AN unplanned drive to Lower Base last Friday afternoon led me and a friend into a place I hadn’t explored before.
Armed with cameras, we left our car on the roadside and we made our way toward the jogging track, looking for some way to get near the shore. We finally found a small clearing where we were able to crawl beneath tangles of hanging vines and clamber over protruding roots and trunks to discover a small paradise.
Cloaked behind rows of thick foliage was a clearing that gave one a new perspective of how  Smiling Cove Marina looked like. Picking our way so as not to step on soft sand, we started shooting photos of anything and everything that caught our attention.
It was a real challenge to  watch your steps and your head at the same time so you wouldn’t get entangled in a spider’s web or hit your head on the trees and branches while slapping mosquitoes and other insects that seemed angry at our intrusion.
This was one spot where life seemed to stand still. It felt almost a sin to talk and break the silence. The tide was out and hundreds of crabs big and small were scrambling out of their holes in the sand. The surface of the water looked so smooth under the hot rays of the afternoon sun, broken only by the occasional flash of flying fish.
My companion Donna, who was wearing high heels, ventured farther out to a small “island” of sand but I stayed safely on the shore, standing on a half-submerged tire. I had no wish to get my flat sandals wet.
We stayed for a long moment and crawled  to another portion where a small boat was pushed under some trees — a perfect place where the owner could easily pull it out to the water the next time he wanted to use it.
Under more trees, we saw a broken boat — or the rusty remnants of a boat. Oh the stories that boat could tell! To the regular individual, the rusty ruins were an eye sore, but not for one with a camera. It added to the beauty of the place.
Very soon, we had to move on and look for another nook to discover. Back at the jogging trail everything was normal — men and women, most of them wearing headphones, and lost in their own world, as they jog. They didn’t know that if they would stop for a while and cross those few steps beyond the cemented trail, a whole new world awaited them.
First published HERE

Friday, July 6, 2012

One afternoon at a dive site

FOR a non-diver, an afternoon spent at a popular dive site means sitting on the beach watching those small red buoys bobbing up and down, like small flags in the far distance, indicating that there are divers beneath the waves.
I had the luxury of an afternoon off a week ago, and got the chance to sit on the warm sand, munching on a bag of chips and simply enjoying the occasional spray of waves on my feet while breathing in the salty breeze from the ocean.
The parking lot of the Laulau dive site was almost full, which means that a lot of divers were out enjoying the underwater wonders of Saipan. I and some friends found a small shaded spot on the beach and settled down to throw pebbles at the water.
From a spot where a red buoy was floating, a couple clad in wet suit emerged. With heavy tanks strapped to their backs, they wobbled their way across the knee-deep rocky waters, looking so tired. But satisfaction was clearly written on their faces, and it just made me green with envy.
Diving is one aspect of adventure I haven’t ventured into yet, but one that is on my bucket list. I’ve tried scuba diving at MaƱagaha before — a giant leap for one who doesn’t know how to swim.  But I survived, and found the experience exhilarating.
A few minutes later, two guys emerged above the water from the spot where a buoy was floating, and they made the slow, weary trip back to shore, dragging the buoy behind them while rolling the rope. Two ladies who had emerged from beneath the waves were busy rinsing the sand off of their wetsuits a few feet from where we were.
Down by the rocky shore, a little boy and girl carrying a small pail started to search for crabs. Further down, a fisherman with a net slung on his shoulders stood at the end of the rocky strip left uncovered by the water, surveying the sea and mentally calculating the best spot to cast his net.
To our right, a Japanese tourist sat on a fallen log, staring out into the deep blue expanse of water, looking lost in thought.
Very soon, all the buoys were removed and dragged to shore as all the divers emerged from the deep, reminding us that our brief mini-afternoon vacation was almost over and that we had to go back home.
The Laulau dive site is considered by divers to be one of the best sites on island. Stories and pictures posted by those who have been down there tell of the glorious experience of meeting a school of fish, turtles, carpet anemones, eagle rays, coral and other marine life, as well as rusty pieces of historical remnants buried underwater for decades.
These are more than enough reasons to make one take up diving lessons. In the meantime, I just contented myself with watching the shoreline teeming with life and people, with the hope that soon, I will be telling stories straight from beneath those waves. It will be a whole new world.
First published HERE