Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Sipaway?!

My Negros Oriental Tour: Sipaway Island, San Carlos City, NegOcc
This was still my second morning in San Carlos City, but why did it seem I was already doing the rounds of Negros Occidental? At this point, I wasn’t yet done with Oriental, right? Yesterday I backtracked to as far as La Libertad, but had yet to see Jimalalud, Tayasan and Ayungon. Ah, the impulsive roamer in me reasoned that I could do them later in the day. So to Sipaway I must go haha! Hey looking at my pictures, I was back at YM from my early morning stroll, 6:31AM. So it only took 4 minutes for me to decide about Sipaway and ride a trike to the pier as at exactly 6:35AM, I already got a picture of the San Carlos Port! And at 6:43AM I was having breakfast at a place called “D’Van’s Grill & Refreshment” with the antics of the jolly gay proprietor and his equally gay assistant as entertainment. This, as I waited for the 7AM boat trip to Sipaway. Wohoo! And I did not even know anything about this island yet.

6:59AM, the boat started to push back from the port though it held back and let its nose touch the stairs of the pier again to accommodate 3 more students trying to catch the ride. Students? Yeah, most of my co-passengers on that boat crossing from San Carlos City proper to Sipaway Island were students and even 3 teachers. Fact is, I think there were only 4 or 5 of us non-students or non-teachers. I was a bit disturbed at what I was seeing. Has my world turned upside-down? I am used to children and other folks from islands or barrios afar going towards the city center to attend school or work. How come I was on a boat full of students (and 3 teachers) going away from San Carlos to Sipaway Island? And they all looked fresh and clean raring to attend school! What is this island anyway, a university island?

My lowly brain itched to know so I dared interrupt the bantering of some students seated to my left (they were nearer the engine). Confirmed! They attend high school at Sipaway Island. I asked why. One said it’s cheaper. Another said they could not be accommodated at any of the public schools in the city. Unbelieving, I half-objected and half-protested saying “that’s impossible!”. But the kids turned serious and told me they were not joking. Then a woman beside me butted-in and said “its true”. There was some kind of pain in her eyes and her voice when she told me there are only 2 public high schools in the city with one being already far from center, and there are about 4 or 5 private (therefore expensive) institutions that offer high school education. In total, they are not enough.

I literally muttered “Oh My God” loudly, and it seemed like everyone nodded and felt silent for a bit. As I punched notes about the ‘unbelievable’ realization into my omnia, ah the kids went back to their jolly bantering. I turned to the woman as she was still eager to talk about the topic. She continued that she herself was too surprised to have realized that when her eldest entered high school. She said she knows that in many cities almost every barangay have at least a nearby high school. As a businesswoman she told me she has lived in many other cities on Luzon and Mindanao – where a public high school was always within reach – at times even more than two. And that she was just too disappointed that San Carlos, a big city, has a dearth of such institutions. Hmmm, I thought that was serious. Which city ever have I gone to, where there were only two public high schools? I can’t recall. She continued her rant saying that owners or administrators of the private high schools in the city are very close to the politicians and so on and on. I think she had a point and all I could say was... grabe! Oh, she had the last word saying “grabe talaga”!

During the conversation, I asked if she lives in the city proper or Sipaway. She said she has a house in the city but has some business (store) in the island. I asked where her eldest is studying and she named one of the private high schools. I was grinning and she understood what I was thinking, so she clarified saying she and her husband are just fortunate enough to have extra money to afford the private school. “But there are many people here – even with both parents working, who can’t afford those private schools” she said.

My my… I had to be on a boat to Sipaway to learn such a valid (and serious) predicament!

Okay, we arrived at the Sipaway pier after just about 10 minutes of travel on very calm waters. The dock is actually still far from mainland but there were habal-habal and tricycles waiting for anyone who may have wanted a ride. I saw that some students walked, the teachers were fetched by habal-habals (probably pre-arranged), so were some of the girl students, while the woman stayed on to watch for her cargoes unloaded and transferred to a waiting tricycle. You guessed it, I followed the students in their jolly, sometimes even boisterous walk to school. Of course I kept a bit of distance lest they suspect me for a stalking pedophile whahehehe!

As the rather long walk progressed, many a habal-habal driver asked if I wanted a ride and I smilingly shook my head. But, when I sensed it was getting to be some distance, (I was already on the other shore of the island OMG), I talked to the next habal-habal that came to ask if I needed a ride. I think my walk following the children was from half to even a full kilometer. Fine and easy by my roamer standards, but if you were a kid getting to school, that should be too distant! And my habal-habal driver told me they knew I would be taking a ride soonest... it was just a matter of 'where' - reason why many of them kept passing by!

Let's go to my tour of Sipaway in the next entry...

If you want to read the chronology of all stories on this tour, click the following:
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
36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65


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