Friday, October 28, 2011

The Sabang ‘Port’ Hullabaloo

We arrived at 9:08AM to find that there was no boat! There is even no port nor pier nor wharf! What the…!

But amidst the exasperated comments from many of my co-passengers, I kept an unusual calm, tried to assess the situation, decide what next to do and just enjoy whatever was there that wasn’t life threatening hehe. I am lately discovering odd things about myself hehe. When everyone else is happy and gay, I usually find a reason to bitch around, but when most are complaining, wailing or themselves bitchin’ around, then I stay composed and pragmatic about everything. Gosh! Yeah yeah, don’t say it anymore… I know there’s a word for it… WEIRD! Well, that’s just me hehe!

What did I find out here? Ah, many things!

There was no boat. Did it leave without us? Obviously! Would there be any more boats for the rest of the day? The answers, I found out, were complicated! Like? The first boat left at about 8AM. Way too early for us to have ever caught and way too late for a ‘first trip’ on a Friday in Sabang. Whew! There is supposed to be an 11AM schedule but no one was telling if that boat was available. A boatman told us he just txtd and one of their boats was nearly arriving but no boat was leaving. As if on cue, a ‘porter’ said “mag-charter nalang kayo”. I think that was scripted. The group of young vacationers finally agreed and said “all passengers who go aboard must pay the regular fare to them and not the boatmen”. Boatman disagreed. We, the other passengers, and even other locals watching, insisted that he was being unfair. He still clung to his “offer” - P4,000 charter by the group and all others like me must pay to him the regular fare, not to the group. Gago!

One of the girls started calling up Rex Inn for options. Appraently Rex himself called the boat owner for help. Owner, and resident in the area (also a barangay officer I learned) came, not too many words were spoken, the boatman suddenly budged! In total there were 16 passengers. I paid the regular fare of P120 to the girls while we were still all huddled under the shade of a small coconut tree! Mind you, at 9AM, the sun could already be scorching hot on this beach!

Beach? I was on a beach? Well yes, a lovely unadulterated one even! And this is what they call the Sabang port that is the take-off and landing point to Caramoan. There is no structure whatsoever that you might call a port or wharf or pier. Its just a pretty stretch of grayish brownish sand where the boats are beached as near to the shore as can be, then passengers get off via some plank to the waters that could be sometimes sheen-deep or chest-deep, depending on the tide and up to where the boat can push aground. More of like Boracay 3 decades ago or some parts of Puerto Galera’s white beach. Those who don’t want to get wet may avail of the ‘luxurious’ “human ride” for ten pesos. And it’s the same price for each bag you ask them to carry. Boarding is nothing different. If you don’t want to get wet yet, you ride on the shoulder of one of those thugs for the same price!

There actually is a more formal port with a structure that people can use to safely board and unboard a boat without getting themselves wet – so Mr. ATM-dude told me. But its on another side of this barrio and boatmen are not keen on using it. the claim is ‘they only use it during high tide’ because the waters there are also shallow and that it is purportedly harder to push their boats back to deep waters from there. And miraculously, continues the ATM-dude, everytime these boats arrive and depart, they always say it is low-tide. A woman who was our fellow passenger and resident of Caramoan said she only got to use the said wharf once – when a local government official came to ride. And boatmen said it was high tide and lucky for the government official. She doubts it!

Woman and other frequent riders on these boats have another version (and I think more believable). How is it? Ganito: those men that carry you and/or your bags to/from the boats earn a living just by doing so. And they seem to have suddenly unanimously run out of any other livelihood opportunities than carrying people and luggage to and from these boats. They do not anymore know things like farming or fishing because this is easy money here. They have even organized themselves – with uniforms – a separate group to carry you during arrivals (red-shirts) and another group during departures (black-shirts). These frequent travelers claim that the men have sought cooperation of the boat operators not to use the wharf for they’d lose the opportunity from carrying people and luggage. Thus, the wharf that never gets used. I like what Mr. ATM-Dude said “kung gusto, maraming paraan, kung ayaw, maraming dahilan”!

Btw, when I was roaming the place earlier while waiting for the boat, I chanced upon this brightly colored hotel just a few steps from where the vans terminate. I did not notice this earlier probably in the excitement to get to the beach and find a boat. I went to see the place. New and good enough. Even better than many small hotels I have stayed. Yes, definitely even better than Sampaguita Inn over at Naga! So there is a place to stay after all, if and when you get to this place late in the afternoon and miss the boats! I talked to one of the crews there (I think she was owner or big boss of the hotel). I remarked that they must have a steady inflow of guests due to the erratic van schedules from Naga and the similarly erratic schedules of the boats. She told me yes it is so, but only while the road to Caramoan is not yet completely widened.

Ha? I didn’t know about that! Did you? do you?! Well, I learned here that Caramoan is not an island. It is really part of the main island of Luzon, only that, the road going there via some mountains is still unpassable for regular city vehicles but is continuously being widened and repaired to accommodate all kinds of land transportation. The hotel woman told me there are now jeeps that sometimes dare to ford that mountain trail and with one or two breakdowns or tire-changes, they do get through all the way to Naga! She further informed me that a lot of motorcycle-riding residents in Caramoan have already started using the said road – instead of the boats. I asked how long it takes. She says she heard that its also about the time the boats travel – 2 hours – only because the road is still being repaired. Wow, what a learning!

Oh well, let’s go on my boat ride in the next story, shall we?!

For a chronology of this trip's stories, click these 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

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