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Date Posted: 01/04/10

A long wait in Surigao (Nov 24-25, 2009)

By: Arturo Valdez

The Lipata stopover was originally overnight only. No plans even to stop at Surigao Port which was farther east and out of the way towards Butuan. However, after almost 3 months of sailing, we learned that it is Nature that has the final say on schedules and destinations.

We made the most of our extended stopovers by having a call at Surigao City Mayor Casurra. The local tourism officials also brought us on guided tour of the city and other places of interest while waiting for the weather to improve. The latest news on Urduja showed that she was moving very slow on a northwestern direction. There was not much to do but wait. I also kept in mind that I should be in Butuan on Nov 27 for our last stop this year and the much awaited Christmas break on Dec.6. The thought of reaching Butuan on a fixed date and having an early Christmas break got me impatient. In the evening, the rain stopped. I looked at the skies to see if the heavy rainclouds had disappeared. I also searched for stars. By Tuesday evening of November 24, the skies were still dark and no stars. However at 3AM in the early hours of Wednesday November 25, the dark clouds were gone and the stars can be seen clearly in the skies. Just to be sure, I requested Toto Calo, a Butuan crewmember, to drive me around the tip of Surigao to see the condition of the sea along Surigao Strait. Surprisingly, the Strait was calm at 5AM in the morning of November 25.

Earlier, I saw a super LPA developing on the same site that produced Urduja. If it will follow the same course of the present typhoon, we may be stranded in Surigao for at least a week – not the best place to be and causing delay in my arrival in Butuan to help supervise the construction of the Butwan Balangay.

The sea condition of Surigao Strait, the clearing of the skies in early morning and the developing super LPA in the Pacific played a major role on my decision to sail to Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte in the early morning of Wednesday.

I instructed PCG Rey Godoy to depart Surigao Port at daybreak and picked us at Lipata.  By 7AM, we were all aboard Diwata heading towards Surigao Strait. Modest size of rolling waves kept us busy as we navigate the Strait towards the long stretches of Agusan del Norte along Bohol Sea. Somewhere as we were cruising in front of San Francisco town, I saw dark wall of clouds and heavy rains across Limasawa Island. I thought that if it caught us, those squalls can be with us for an hour and then it’s over and clear again. Half an hour later, that bad weather hit us. The heavy rains whipped strong winds, big waves and almost zero visibility keeping everyone busy to maintain course. An hour passed and we were still hammered by inclement weather. This got me thinking that this was no ordinary squall. I called Surigao Disaster and Rescue Center asking for the whereabouts of typhoon Urduja. The answer was not very encouraging. We were at the tail end of Urduja who was still very much in the area after changing direction from Northwest to Northeast. We were somewhere in Molimono still a distance from Jabonga, my alternate destination if we could not reached Cabadbaran that day.. To our good fortune, a motorized banca from Surigao Disaster and Rescue Center appeared and caught up with us in Molimono after it was sent to provide escort assistance up to Jabonga. But the weather was deteriorating fast. I asked Surigao Center if there is a place I can seek shelter or anchor until the raging storm pass by. Again, the answer was negative. The long stretch of shorelines of Agusan del Norte had no cove for shelter. If ever we got lucky and reached Cabadbaran or Agusan River neither can serve as safe havens because the rivers were all flooded spilling logging debris after two weeks of continuous heavy rains in Northeastern Mindanao. Getting close to the shore was not the best idea either because the big waves that break near the shoreline will smash Diwata to pieces. Abdul the remaining Badjao sailor with us advised me to keep away from getting closer to shore. The only option left then was to change course and return to Surigao Port. I was reluctant after 4 hours of sailing in stormy weather towards Cabadbaran but I had no choice. Turning back, we were practically sailing against the wind. Luckily, there was a motorized banca travelling with us. Without the assistance of Surigao Disaster and Rescue Center we would be forced to seek shelter somewhere with all the attendant risks to Diwata and her crew. An hour after we turned back, the outrigger of the motorized banca got broken after continuous pounding from big waves. Repairs were hastily done in the middle of the stormy seas, and the motorized banca limped safely back together with Diwata at Surigao Port by 3PM of November 25. I cannot help but made this remark in jest, “this is a local fight among princess that almost got us into serious trouble -Typhoon Princess Urduja is doing everything to block the return of Princess Diwata to her ancestral home.” 

It was quite a long day for me but thankful to the Almighty for keeping everyone safely back on port.

Now, we have to wait for better weather condition before continuing our travel schedules.

Indeed, Nature is the best teacher to impart the virtue of patience. 


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