Almost Drowning and Other Delightful Summer Tales

I'm excavating blog posts I wrote in previous years for other blogs. Here is a summer-appropriate one that I inexplicably wrote in the dead of winter for the now defunct StoryBlog in February, 2012. 

On the white sand island Boracay in 1986

Holidays were few and far between when I was growing up in the Philippines – and when my family did go on the rare vacation, we tended to seek cooler weather in higher altitudes.

It was only when I became a journalist and met my first Westerners that I realized ‘taking a holiday’ was an expectation, not a rare event. Especially the foreign correspondents who all seemed desperate to go away all the time – and always to somewhere by the sea.

Don’t get me wrong, the Philippines is good at oceanside relaxation.

But though I was quite proud of our white sandy beaches, I really only began to spend any time there when I hooked up with an Englishman. You know that thing people say about Englishmen and their castles? The Englishman and his seaside holiday was definitely a cultural leap for me. It was a strange and exotic thing.

I joined my Englishman on a working trip to South Korea, and of course he immediately announced that he needed to take a break and go to the seaside.

We went to a beach near Incheon, just West of Seoul. I think it was Sagot Beach in Baengnyeong, but I’m not sure anymore, it was 25 years ago.

The beach seemed HUGE. Miles and miles of sand. I immediately felt slight inferior. The beaches I’d been to in the Philippines had fine white sand, yes. But they didn’t go for miles.

You see, because the Philippines is so near the equator, I’d never really been aware of tides before.
Oh I’d read about it but I assumed that it was like the kind of tidal movement we had at home … the beach only lost and gained a few feet.

I’d never been this far north of the equator, where the sea slid far far away from the shore.

It reminded me of one of my favourite childhood picture books – The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop - in which the first Chinese brother could swallow the sea … and when he did, his head swelled up like a giant balloon!

Click on the image to enlarge

I drew a cartoon on the Korean beach with an umbrella (why was I carrying an umbrella? I don’t remember). Here is an old, scratchy picture from that day.

After that picture was taken, my future husband and I decided to take a walk across that huge, huge beach to a lump of land. We sat there for a while before deciding to head back.

When we turned round, the beach was gone!

The sea was rushing in, fast!

In The Five Chinese Brothers, the first Chinese brother couldn’t hold the sea in any longer and had to let it rush back into the seabed.

‘Come on!’ Future Husband said. ‘We can get back to the shore if we’re quick. It’s very shallow!’

It was ankle-high as we began wading towards the shore. But the sea was sweeping in, rising alarmingly higher and higher.

We could see people playing and walking on the beach and, realizing that we were in a sticky situation, began to shout for help.

But nobody seemed to hear us. Nobody so much as looked up.

We were quite close to the shore when it became so deep I couldn’t stay on my feet. There was a swirling, sucking feeling too, and I couldn’t keep my head above water. I remember as I gasped and went under, wondering if this was it, this was the end.

Much later, I asked Future Husband what he was thinking at that moment. He replied, ‘I realized that I had to make a choice. Save the camera? Or save Candy?’

Luckily, he decided to save me. He grabbed me and held me high – and managed to save the camera too, which is why the photo of me on the beach survives. Then, struggling against the powerful undertow on tippy toes he got us safely back to dry land.

It still makes us shiver to think of it – we were almost taken by the horrible Under Toad!

The umbrella didn’t make it.

After we were married, we moved to England and I discovered the joys of the English seaside. Only then did the Englishman’s obsession with sunny beach holidays make perfect sense.

We’re All Going On a Summer Holiday. If it doesn't play here you can go watch it on YouTube