Sunday, July 27, 2008

Roaming Ilocos: Laoag To Vigan

How long did you say it takes? Two hours? One and a half? One hour? Well, my trip took just a little over 3 hours. Yes, three hours and a few more minutes. But am not complaining. I enjoyed this “eventful” trip, if for the experience!

9:30AM, I was already at the bus terminal for ride that goes Laoag to Vigan. These are non-airconditioned buses that the ‘normal’ riding public take. So-so, if you can call them that. Some are mini-buses, some are the real size buses but way far from your De Luxe classes that ply the route to Manila. Those premier buses are options when going to Vigan, of course. But for this trip, I wanted to take the rides that the common lakay, manong, manang, ading, baket, balasang, kabsat, kasinsin, ubing, etc etc would usually take. And there I was at a claustrophobic bus sation where everyone was perspiring while the bus waited for more passengers. And when the engine was started, all inhalations were of course emissions from the tambutso! I had to ask my seatmate to ‘save’ my seat and stayed out on the road until it was time to go.

Off we were at exactly 10:14AM and all passengers seem to have breathed a sigh of relief. Well, if you can see the clock on that picture, it says 10:15AM, just a minute ahead of my phone’s. By the way, do you see the lola in white? No she’s not a passenger. She’s a passerby waiting for our bus to finally scram so she could continue her walk along that street. Probably on the way to church? Probably. But it was past 10AM. Anyway, I liked her ‘attire’. It’s the laced-type kind of clothing worn by Filipinas of yesteryears (kimona?). And that white cloth over her shoulders? Its not a ‘good morning’ towel, mind you! It’s a big lace-all-over piece of cloth, probably a mantilla (veil?). Lovely!

Oh the bus ride. Well, they actually go fast. Probably as fast as the big ones that go to Manila. However, they can also stop just as fast hehe. They stop at the sight of human beings along the road (left or right) even if they abviously were not waiting for a ride. Then conductor starts shouting “Laoag Laoag” at those people. Just like everywhere else in this country really. But when the road is clear (meaning no probably passengers) they’d zoom through as if the bus was on a take off roll, you’d have to hold at anything you can hold on to hehe. Again, just like everywhere else, right? Still I enjoyed it just the same!

Some minutes after Batac, we were ‘flying’ amidst farm fields, then we heard a thud somewhere at the back portion of th bus. I thought that was some cargo or bag that fell from either the overhead bin or a seat to the floor. But the driver started to decelerate and eventually stopped the bus. Both him and conductor immediately went down and walked towards the 'behind' of our bus. I thought both were just rushing to relieve their bladders. So did other passengers. But it took longer than usual, and some male passengers have already gone down too and headed back there. Hmm, I wanted to check and turned back as I was just a few rows from last. Argh, this was one of the many buses where the whole rear glass windows are painted with advertisements so you cant anymore see through it. I went down instead.

Voila! We just figured in a road accident! Wheh? That ‘thud’ was already an accident? I could not believe, but well, there it was, a car behind our bus with a dented hood. It apparently decided to mow the back portion of our bus for whatever reason there might have been hehe. But we were moving very fast at probably more than a hundred kph! Then that car was probably flying even faster than us for there it was, the proof, its bent hood hehe. And I thought that car’s driver was either drunk or just a true blue idiot. But it was not even noontime yet. So I ruled out the ‘drunk’ part. Thus, the ‘idiot’ portion remained hehe. Whatever it was on his mind, he hit the right side back portion of our bus. Where the hell did he come from and where the hell did he think he was going? Anyway…

I was happy to note that there were no heated arguments, no trash talk, no blaming as I often see in Metro Manila’s roads during such incidents. They were just there talking a bit and examining what might have been damaged. Nothing much on the part of the bus. I asked what everyone was waiting for. Conductor said “police”. And no sooner, they were there! I wondered how they got to the scene almost as fast as the time that took me to decide to go down and check. Hmm, maybe someone with a cellular phone called! While one officer attended to the drivers, another immediately started took charge of directing traffic flow as there was immediately a jam on both sides of the road. Why so? Uzizeros! Each vehicle passing by would usually go veeeery slow, not so as to avoid anything but to take a look at what just happened. Some would even stop to ask what happened – as if it mattered to them. Mga atrevida! Good that the policeman was there to drive them away fast.

What about my trip? This was taking too much time and I could see that our bus would not be moving with us anytime soon. So I asked the conductor, as did other passengers. At first he told us that in a few more minutes the policeman would have been done with his “report” so we could go. But I saw other passengers getting their belongings and hopping on to other buses. Ah, I decided to do the same. Eh, the car even already left and turned back to wherever In hell he came from hehe, but our bus was not yet moving. Our driver was still in serious conversation with the police officer. And a Maria De Leon bus bound for Manila came by so I hailed it. So on with my trip to Vigan! Looking at my phone’s clock, we had been standing doing nothing on that road for about 43 minutes. Gosh!

“Can I sit here?”, and I said that in English (I don’t know why). Driver answered “sure, just wear the seatbelt”. And he said that too in English! Ah but I know why… he just answered in the language I used hehe. That was the ‘conductor’s seat’ just beside the door, by the stairs of the Maria de Leon bus. I was happy but wondered why this driver allowed me to sit there - they usually don’t. But when I looked inside the rest of the bus interiors, I understood why I was given the privilege of the conductor’s seat. Bus was already full and conductor was seated at seat number 3 beside a sexy lady on seat number 4. He did join the conversation saying “later we exchange, okay?” but I answered with “ah okay lang, hanggang Vigan lang ako”! As he click-click-clicked his gadget to issue me a ticket I heard him say “ah, akala ko nose bleed”. I exclaimed “haan” and we laughed together with the driver and passengers in front.

A merry ride on Maria De Leon, and for a time there, I thought I wanted to become a bus conductor. They have the best seats for the views! Only during day time and only when you’re not sleepy though hehe. While camera could not cope, my eyes and mind savored to the max what the Ilocos country side had to offer for a view as we zoomed though. I have long noted btw, that Ilocos is the best for a countryside tour if you plan of just running through without making any stops. Stops? Did I just say that? Well, 30 minutes into my joy ride, our bus pulled over at a seemingly desolate part of the highway and on to a little store cum restaurant. I observed what for, and readily noticed it was supposed to be a lunch stop. Driver, conductor and a handful of passengers got off and ate lunch while many remained in their seats. Me? I just went around the restaurant and the bus to check the place out. I could not find a sign that would tell me where we were hehe. But I suppressed the tummy dear’s feelings so I could binge at whatever restaurant I find inviting in Vigan.

Onwards more, another 30 minutes of a fantastic zooming through the fine Ilocos highway and the bus stopped by a manang and 2 other women furiously waving from the shade of a tree. I thought she was going to take the ride and I even already readied to offer my seat (this was a full bus, remember?) since I knew Vigan must have already been somewhere near. OMG, she hailed a De Luxe Bus so they could load cargoes! Which cargo? Look at the picture, all of those! Whaaaa! Well, instead of frowning disappointed like the rest of the passengers, I got off the bus and watched them do the loading. I even got to exchange a few words with the busy woman. Those veggies were just destined for Tarlac. It is most of the time better to load your stuff on these premier buses as you’re almost sure there are not a lot of cargoes and they are fast. Only her produce take this ride and a colleague (the buyer) would fetch them at the Tarlac bus stop. If she took the ride, that would have been extra expense. Bright! She added that the aircon bus crews are not too preoccupied with so many things to attend to like in ordinary buses. That is added assurance that her produce would be accorded proper care and attention. See?! I learned something again!

A minute or two after we took off with Manang’s talong and string beans, we entered and just zoomed through the town of San Juan. Then Magsingal, Sto. Domingo and San Ildefonso. Hmm, that was just thirty minutes from the time we took off with the vegetables! Ah yes, we were zooming through the roads on a trafficless noontime, and there we were, negotiating the roads of Bantay… and I was in Vigan! Finally and yehey! Time check, 1:27PM, and I was hungry. Veery hungry! But that’s my next story!

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