It was a three-day, two-night Agusan River cruise aboard a bamboo raft from the river town of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur to Butuan City, anchoring at PPA’s wharf.
We started late Friday afternoon with full anticipation but slightly apprehensive of what’s waiting ahead. The evening was dark, the summer sky devoid of stars, the river so quiet and even the ripples mute as it touches the raft holding a dozen of people. I was thrilled.
We called ourselves Panaw-Balanghai Trek and Dive, an outdoor group organized and led by young lawyer Gluce Jayma and scuba-diver Francis “Charlie” Uy. That was mid-’90s and the first ever daring river expedition by Butuan-based then young professionals who wanted to, as the saying goes, “see the world and explore the world.”
As we came on board and began to sail we cautiously checked the darkness and encountered strange sounds from afar. I was tempted to say,”maybe we should go back?” and ended up laughing at myself. I know for long each of us dream and wishing for this-the idea of doing what everyone think its dangerous and impossible.
Of course there were lots of things to think about and consider before and during this river trek. What if armed men of both sides interfere along the way? Has anyone thought of crocodiles? We have had not even consider security but only faith in the spirit of adventure and challenges.
Towards midnight, after hours of smooth sail, we anchored in a craggy corner. We may have anticipated human interference but naively didn’t thought of wild dogs roaming and threatening us. I saw less than 10, their hostile eyes glaring at the flashlights. As a rule, we need to be extra careful and took turns to watch-over. I dozed off easily on a hard bamboo surface, the water below was warm.
The next day, a Saturday turned out a productive fun day. We negotiated shallow and deep sections of the seemingly winding river ahead. A few so very shallow we have to push the raft and some very deep portions pale green and hot and cold we succumbed to the temptation of diving and swim.
The heat was intense, this was at the prime of El Nino. Evening fell and we were exhausted but all attended our responsibilities. Always following rule number one: refrain from making noise to attract intruders or the plain curios.
In the morning on the third and last day, we spent it again in the water-along with carabaos bathing and gamely watching us and perhaps wondering. We passed by one or two small villages, rice and corn fields where friendly and kind farmers offered and brought us produce. We had a charming interaction and sailed forth again.
For a while we were nearing the town of Las Nieves in Agusan del Norte and heading towards the city’s territory. The river has become thick yellow and its expanse a mighty wide, we finally noted.
In what seem to be a final turn, we then saw Magsaysay Bridge from the distance. We hailed in excitement and success and rewarded ourselves with one last refreshing swim.