Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time off

THE gentle rocking of the yacht and the cool breeze were making me drowsy, not minding the noise and laughter my companions were making as they downed bottle after bottle of wine in rapid succession.

We were in a cove in the Rock Islands and I was sprawled at the helm of the "Great White", a yacht owned by Sam's Tours, one of the leading dive operators in Koror, Palau. I had just photographed one of the best sunsets I ever saw, with the big red sun slowly setting down the horizon and splashing hues of reds, orange and vermilion over the darkening sky.

We were a few miles off the shores of the Palau Pacific Resort where a welcome party was in progress. Big waves started to roll in, prompting our yacht operator to head for some place where we can simply relax without feeling nauseous.

After finding a comfortable cove between two smaller islands, we dropped anchor and the party began.

Minutes later, a semi-full moon bathed the surrounding with a soothing glow, making the trees in the islands around us look like eerie figures that I almost imagined one of them will jump at us any moment.

This was the first activity of the yachting club and I grabbed the chance to join although I am not a member.

For the past year and four months, Wednesday nights had always been the busiest time for me and ex-Sun.Star layout artist, Celina, because that's our newspaper deadline and we have to stay by until the last page is ready to go to the printing press.

Although we are a weekly newspapers, the maƱana habit rules, making us delay writing until Wednesday morning and by then that is too late.

The appointment of a new editor from Saipan lifted much of the burden of closing the pages from my shoulders. I was finished at 2 p.m. and was free to go with editor Fermin's permission.

"Just keep your cellphone on all the time," he warned before I and co-reporter Junhan dashed off.

I was in a trance-like state, half-awake and half asleep when three cubes of ice landed on my head and my feet. I jerked alert and discovered that my companions (Americans and a few Palauans) were engaged in an ice cube battle. They were getting noisier as the night went deeper. We were supposed to be home by 11 p.m. but from the looks of things, nobody was thinking of going yet. I was already shivering in my thin shirt when I heard the engine of another boat coming towards us. More people were joining the party and as we didn't drink or smoke, we were starting to feel out of place. Luckily the boat operator had to go back to shore after dumping his passengers into the Great White so we grabbed the chance to go ahead of the others.

So much for the time off, but it was worth it.

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