Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Memorable Sibulan Experience

Check-out from Harold’s Mansion was without any fanfare. The lady who processed my bill even told me I could take a tricycle to the town of Sibulan instead of taking a jeep/multicab so as to avoid the long wait until it gets full. Having recalled that the airport is actually in the town of Sibulan, and that it did not take me long from there to the city, then I deduced that Sibulan is just near to Dumaguete. So I opted to take a trike ride… and right in front of Harold’s Mansion!

Hailed the first empty tricycle to pass by and the manong greeted me with “good morning ser, where to?”. Yep, in English! And I liked the “where to?” part of his question. Told him I am not foreigner and wanted to go to Sibulan Plaza in front of the church and the city hall. He agreed, but although I instinctively felt this man won’t fool me with an exorbitant fare, I still asked him “how much”. At first I heard the usual “ikaw bahala sir”, but I insisted on an amount. He did tell me an amount – which I can’t recall as of now – but which was definitely agreeable to me. Okay, I will edit this sentence if I come to remember that, though I guess it was somewhere between P30 and P35.

This was a rather quick trip. I even almost missed the spot that divides Dumaguete City and the town of Sibulan, Negros Oriental. It’s about a few seconds away from the beautiful campus of St. Paul’s. And it is very easy to miss if you don’t keep alert as there are not too many a landmark that will announce the boundaries. If the concrete signage will be our basis, that even means there is a red-walled house that is half in Sibulan and half in Dumaguete hehe! What a cute situation!

As the trike cruised going north of the city, I requested the driver to please do a passing roundabout at the airport, just for me really to take another glance at how is the Dumaguete Airport from the outside. On hearing that, manong driver pulled over and I naturally asked him why. He answered without looking at me that he must wear his shoes since no driver is allowed at the airport vicinity wearing slippers. That he said as he reluctantly reached for and wear a dripping worn out sneakers. I concernedly told him that his sneakers were wet, but with a smile he told me it was okay since he won’t be wearing it for long. As he put those on, he even explained that the thing got really wet from last nights heavy downpour (as if I did not know hehe).

Alright, we made a u-turn at the airport’s farthest end and we returned to the national road. And yes, when we passed by the guards at the airport road entrance, the two military men did glance at manong’s feet without saying anything. That made me happy knowing that Dumaguete is at least trying to make an impression. Whoa, the national road that is awash with a lot of motorbikes (divers have no helmet), tricycles, mini-buses, big buses like Ceres, trucks, cars and all sorts of vehicles pass by and have a good view of the runway’s west end! I think that would be a nice place to stay for a “steel-bird watching”!

In no time, we arrived at Sibulan's town center. Manong driver advised me that he can only drop me at the plaza and not go anywhere else in town as his is a Dumaguete-registered tricycle and not allowed to convey passengers in Sibulan. So I hopped out and paid him the agreed fare. As we were in a friendly conversation all throughout the short trip, I saw it fitting to take a photo of his tricycle with him on board it. Never did I imagine that that picture would have been a very important part of my morning (just read on for this).
As I was on the other end of the plaza, I crossed it towards the Municipal Hall passing via an ugly pile of stinking trash, two empty trash cans and old tires with their hollow centers cemented (am not sure what those are for). Also took a picture the gazebo in the middle of the plaza that seems to be a favored resting place of the townsfolk. It better be as it is always amidst cool breezes with big trees surrounding the plaza.

On the side of the plaza facing the city hall taking pictures, for some reason I felt the urge of lighting up a cigarette and reached for my pack. As I did so, something felt wrong. So I groped all over the many pockets of my shorts. It was not there. OMG, my phone was gone and missing. I was sure it was not in my backpack as I never put it there (except during x-rays at airports). There was a natural surge of panic… but breathing in, I told myself to calm down. I had reason to believe it was not snatched nor stolen from me since I do not remember having been too near much less brushing along anyone since I rode the tricycle.

I quickly scanned the area for a tricycle preferably a jeep or car that I can hire to re-trace my way back to Dumaguete and perhaps catch Manong Tricycle Driver as I was almost sure of two things – 1) that I accidentally dropped or left the phone on his cab, and; 2) that he was on his way back to Dumaguete since he told me he was not allowed in Sibulan. No vacant jeeps nor cars, instead I saw a policeman (or is that traffic aide) wearing a uniform similar to that of MMDA officers in the metropolis. Quickly walked up to him and asked for help to get a quick ride so I can catch the trike (yes, I was hoping he’d have access to some kind of a police or government car). His calm answer was “mag-abang nalang tayo ng mga dumadaan na sasakyan” (let’s just wait for passing vehicles). I said okay, but I was anxious.

All the angels and saints were probably smiling at me that morning. No sooner than the policeman said “let’s just wait…” we had to move a bit to the side of the road as there was a multicab trying to make a u-turn at the corner where we were standing so he can start getting passengers going back to the city. The manong police immediately talked to the driver and I was in the background almost pleading. Without saying anymore than “a, ma-o ba?” (a, is that so?) the driver asked me to quickly hop in so we could speed through the road going back to Dumaguete. Manong police said he might as well take the ride at least up to where we would reach since he was going the same way. As the multicab driver sped us through, they were asking me of the tricycle color, if it had a four-digit or three-digit number on its body. I said it was orange, cant’ remember the number but remembers the driver’s face. Then I reviewed the pictures on my camera and showed it to them. Not long enough, we found the tricycle ambling its way back to Dumaguete, this time full of passengers. The multicab driver blew his horn as the police called out to the trike driver and we pulled over blocking it. Gosh, on hind sight, it was as if we were on a car chase for some fugitive. Y’know, those that we often see on movies, hehe!

We all alighted and I calmly approached the tricycle telling driver I must have dropped my phone on his vehicle. Looking alarmed, he said he did not see nor hear anything. Then the multicab driver asked him if he had passengers after me that already alighted. He said “none”. The policeman was just about asking the trike passengers to disembark when the person seated front-side pointed to the crevice between the seat upholstery and the trike’s wall. He said “ito, ito” pointing to my phone. We helped each other trying to pluck the damn gadget from where it was silently wedged. Shame on me, really!

I said sorry to the passengers and trike driver for bothering them with my carelessness. I also thanked the police and multicab driver (I expected they’d leave me there) so I can find my way back to Sibulan. But the multicab driver said he had to go back to Sibulan to take passengers so I better just ride with him. Mr. Policeman said he would just take his way from where we were. So multicab returned to Sibulan with just me and my backpack for a load.

On arriving at the spot where we took the multicab “emergency ride”, I thanked the driver and asked how much would have it been for my bothering him. The ultra-surprising reply was “wag na po sir, malapit lang naman” (don’t bother sir, it was just near anyway). Then a barker whom I still don’t know why he knew what happened came near us and joined the driver saying “no need to pay, we are happy to help, sir” (in English). But I insisted, so I pulled out a P100 bill, tossed it into the driver’s dashboard (where the coins are placed) and said I will not take that money back! Diver smiled and said thank you. He even pointed to me the way to the jetty – as if I told him I was going there. So I was more than thankful enough.

There is a clearer picture of this manong tricycle driver above

If anyone reading this knows the mayors of Dumaguete and Sibulan, please convey my sincerest commendation to three of their citizens. I wasn’t able to get their names but their pictures are posted above. I salute them as it is now seldom to find truly honest and helpful Filipinos – especially when the topic is all about cellular phones!

My lowly phone is nothing great really. It costs just about P1,200, I think. But the full memories (both SIM and Phone) of contact numbers is too valuable to me and would have been very hard to re-construct. That is why the combined noble acts of manong tricycle driver, manong policeman and most especially manong multicab driver IS a memory that will be hard to erase from my heart and mind. I thank them not only for the helping me, but for proving to me, that in these trying times, humanitarian values still exist - at least in Sibulan and Dumaguete!

I proceeded to the church (which was part of my itinerary anyway) and did some shots as I intended to. But you guessed it right, I prayed a true and sincere thanks, prayed for my three heroes, for the blessing that I just received.

Then, as if nothing happened, I went on touring the beautiful church. Being a weekday, I saw children coming out of the beautiful pink and maroon church. One was happily walking the concrete cement without any footwear. Also saw a little girl by the side of the church peeking at me, but when I attempted to take a shot, she hid behind the wall. Later she was peeking again, and we smiled at each other. Also saw three little girls in their green school uniform seemingly fervently at prayer amongst the last pews. When I attempted to take a pic though, one of them covered her face with a notebook – which meant a big no. So I did not insist - even if that was such a lovely shot - little girls at prayer without anyone asking them to.

Hey, the ropes used to ring the church bells run from way high up there down to near the last pew. Of course my hands were itching to playfully pull on them, but that would probably have meant trouble for me! Besides, nearby the ropes was a little boy who was just sitting and looking at the altar – I couldn’t make out if he was alone and at prayer or waiting for his mother (or relative) as I did not see any adult inside the church at that time. Much as I wanted to, couldn't be naughty this time! Yep, outside the church are a lot of saints where families (generally with little children) go to visit, kiss the saint, light a candle and pray.

Sibulan just captured my heart. I know there will be payback time, and I will gladly await for that opportunity. Promise!

For a chronology of stories on this trip, click the following article numbers:
01   02   03   04   05   06   07   08   09   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18
19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35


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