Thursday, November 17, 2011


I AM A PASSENGER OF M/V Georich tonight, May 30, 2011, travelling to the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte. The boat is quite small by today's standards and, I think, it's my first time to ride this relic. I have an errand to make and I have to retrieve a package inside Dakak Beach Resort and then bring it back to Cebu.

Oh, the boat cabin is full and I have to make do with a cot on a higher level leaving me no space to place my bag. Besides that, the alleys are blocked with bags and personal cargoes; my feet protrude beyond the cot I'm sleeping on; and the fluorescent light is just a few feet away from my face.

Well, what do you know, M/V Georich is such a small passenger boat. I have to reposition myself and move away from the light. The bag I have to hang on the boat's ceiling with a carabiner. However, the cabin is cool for it is airconditioned. I sleep before the boat depart and wake up at 4:00 AM, the following day. The cabin crowd is silent and, probably, we're still far away. I continue sleeping.

At 7:00 AM, I step on the Port of Pulauan, Dapitan City; after retrieving my deposited blades from the ship's first mate. I need to go to Sicayab, Dipolog City, to secure transport papers for my package. It is a police camp located on a beach and I'm rather too early to transact business so I have to make a little exploration outside and look for something to fill my empty tummy somewhere along the highway.

I found one tended by one elderly woman and feasted on chicken curry, a dish of local pasta and two servings of rice. I just paid all these for 25 pesos. Cheap! Now, back to the seaside camp, I make my intentions clear and I am instructed by a policeman to pay the fees to a government bank in Dipolog City and then come back to the camp in the afternoon and present the receipt as proof of payment.

I have been here in Dipolog a couple of times: the first one in September 2005 and the last time in June 2009. I retrace the location of the restaurant where I eat breakfast with cousin Patrick and aunt Lourdes during my first trip and found it. It is located right across the public market and the food are cooked well. Besides that, a respectful sentry stand guard at the entrance giving you a bit of security.

After taking my lunch, I walk across the market and look for certain food ingredients which I plan to bring to Cebu. I need not look far for it is very common here. I am talking about the “tabon-tabon” (sp. Atuna racemosa) and the “biasong” (sp. Hystrix macroptera). These two when mixed with raw fish makes the latter taste heavenly. Trust my wife. She knows. I buy five pairs.

Just one more thing. I have to look for a cheap place to stay! Not far from the city center and not too close. I found one along Bonifacio Street and it's only 500 pesos; with toilet and bath, cable TV and with an airconditioner. It is of walking distance to the public market yet quite invisible from there. Perfect. I rest for an hour before I make ready to go back to Sicayab to continue my processing.

I am given the run around and told to come back in the morning. Oh, well, that's how bureaucracy works here in far-out places. I go back to Dipolog instead and take a tour of its urban landmarks like the city hall, the monuments and its Catholic church – the Holy Rosary Cathedral. I bring the camera and fired at will.

I return to my room when it becomes already too hot and decide to watch cable TV instead. The travel have strung me out and I sleep, only to find that it is already 7:00 PM when I wake up. Need to look for another out-of-the-way restaurant that might offer local delicacies. Sadly, almost all the shops and stores are already closed and I have to make do with a corner eatery but, still, it is cheap!

In the morning of June 2, I return to Sicayab full of optimism but I got out with opposite feelings. It had not been processed yet. Why not go to Dakak Beach Resort instead? The most difficult process might be the easiest, who knows? I rely so much on getting my way around the camp but found it a bastion of age-old habits that refused to change despite computerization. I have to improvise and race myself to Dapitan City.

I have bad memories of that pebbled road to Dakak. The motorcycle I rode on took a spill there in 2009 that left me with bloody arms and the driver in much worse condition. However, today, it is fully concreted but it is never cheap to travel there on a hired motorcycle. I don't care. As long as my package is with me and damn that transport papers.

After waiting almost an hour, I have now the package in my possession. I need to go back to my room in Dipolog fast and gather my things for departure. For the third time, I miss the chance to take a good tour of this city and take pictures of its most famous landmark – the Jose Rizal National Park. Someday, I will with wife and kids for a whole week. Book me!

I leave Dipolog City and pass by Sicayab just for the heck of it. Expecting the worst, it turn out better this time and I get hold of the transport papers. It is 2:00 PM and my expected departure for Cebu would be 7:00 PM. I decide to go early to Pulauan Port and wait for the departure time.

Good thing that I went early there for I discovered that the 7:00 PM schedule had been cancelled and another boat from a competitor would, instead, leave at 4:00 PM for Dumaguete before steaming on for Cebu. What good timing! I take the beeline to buy my ticket for, I discovered, the returning boat is a bigger one. Ah, good. That means it has much wider alleys and wider cots.

I am at a section near the stern and I found it so damn hot! The windows are wide and open but I can't feel no air or breeze coming in even when it is moving. I willed my eyes to sleep only to be awakened by a crew asking for my boat ticket. Damn! It is really hot and most of the passengers decide to loiter at the port and starboard sides gasping for cool air.

The nearest airconditioned place is the galley but it is full of shrieking people trying to outdo each other on a videoke machine. I while my time at the portside gunwale but I found it disturbing that candy wrappers thrown by passengers from the higher level of the boat find its way and dropping near me. I don't want to get caught by something wet and sticky and I immediately leave the open area. Maybe my cot is a little cooler now?

The hot iron tub arrive at the Port of Dumaguete at 11:00 PM and disgorged itself some of its passengers and cargoes. That left many cots vacant and I chose the middlemost for it is cooler. I slept for an hour, maybe, enjoying a slight change in temperature when another crew shook me awake and asked for my boat ticket. Not again? This boat is insanely designed and full of insane crews. Worse, I am made to vacate this commandeered bed space!

I waited for dawn, half-awake and sweating on the hot leatherette cot, listening to the built-in MP3 of my cellphone. I may have slept, after all, for I discovered the horizon harboring now a paler shade of darkness. A tell-tale sign of light, bluish and dark crimson, streaked out from a flat dark blob. I look at the starboard side and see a dark mass of land five leagues away. It is Cebu, alright, but, still quite far to the harbor.

Meantime, the heat have not dissipated despite dawn's caress. I wished this hot iron tub could travel faster so I could free myself from its dank stranglehold. I spend the rest of dawn outside of the sleeping cabin facing a slight headwind, which is consolation enough. Yonder is the familiar skyline of Dalaguete; the bright power plants of Naga; the seaward point pf land of Talisay City; the racing lights at the SRP; before the slow boat enter the Mactan Channel ready to flush me and the rest into the asphalt jungles of this queen city of the south.

Document done in Libre Office 3

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