Monday, November 28, 2011

Muelle Osmeña and the River Buses

Do you know about that? Good if you do! I asked many friends who are longtime residents of Cebu, Mandaue and/or Lapu-lapu about it, all of them just wondered what I was talking about. One even asked if it was a new facility or gimmick of any of the cities mentioned. That gave me a good laugh! Proof of what I always say, you don’t really care what’s on your very own backyard cuz your busier looking at others’ hehehe! The place is also called “Opon Pier” or “Opon Wharf” – Opon being the old name of Lapu-lapu City and is now the name of its central Barangay. The muelle or port is supposed to be historic in that it has been there since the early 1900s. The boats are usually referred by the media nowadays as “Metro Ferry” but most have that “River Bus” signage on the sides, so I call them River Buses!

I realized I have been to this place (actually, hehe) and rode a ‘river bus’ long time ago while on official assignment in the city. A big typhoon caused some ship or barge to ram the then lone Mactan Bridge, breaking it on some parts and rendering it impassable – for vehicles and humans alike. Must have been in the late 80s or early 90s. People rode these boats, and vehicles rode barges to be able to reach the airport and elsewhere in Mactan while that bridge was being repaired. But I, obviously others too, thought it was just a temporary conveyance that would have been stopped after the bridge was up again. And now there are even two such bridges from mainland Cebu to Mactan. But the river buses are still alive! And why on earth was I there? Its like this…

After roaming Cordova and Hilutongan, on my way back to the city, I thought of passing by the Virgen De Regla Church at Lapu-lapu. Yeah, that church where the fluvial procession of Sto. Ninño visits after departing from the St. Joseph Church in Mandaue during Sinulog festivities. Since I was in the area, I thought of hopping by just to see the church again, and the many aquarium fishes in plastic bags being sold by the side of the street. Outside the church, I saw a throng of people coming up from the wharf and an almost equal number of folks going down there. The atrevida in me kicked in and I said “hmm, what goes?” so I went down there to check. And yeah, the boats! So I went in to take the ride. I actually never imagined it was going to any of the Cebu City piers. I was thinking it would go Liloan to the north ot Talisay to the south – would have been more fantastic hehe!

“Twelve pesos” said the ticket clerk “plus one peso for terminal fee”. Oh alright, so I paid P13. While inside the “waiting area”, I asked one employee (busy sweeping the floor) where the boat would bring me and he replied “pier 3”. Ah, I know that pier, so I was fine. I know there are many cabs outside of that pier’s gate and I can even take a jeep ride going the way to SM or other way to Colon and beyond. But the wait, and the asking was short-lived since a new boat arrived, passengers got off quickly and my fellow waiting passengers boarded. Of course my royal highness also boarded lest I be left behind. Wonderful old cranky boat, probably made the time I was born hehe. But it looked safe enough!

Hey some passengers don’t pass by the ticket booth but instead just dart for the boat and take their seats especially when the boat is about to depart! Ah, I realized there is a “conductor” on board who goes around countless times asking everyone to show their tickets and get the corresponding fare for those who don’t have them yet. Wonderful! Just like in a non-airconditioned commuter bus in this country. And mind you, the boat has that atmosphere of such buses – meaning usually full during rush hour! I asked the conductor how long this trip takes and he said “twenty minutes”. I also asked for the frequency and he still replied “twenty minutes”. Thinking he did not get my second question, I asked again. And probably a little irked he said in English “boats depart every twenty minutes from both piers”. Da! I got my answer hahaha! Although the passenger beside me clarified that saying they actually leave without waiting for twenty minutes when the boats become full.

Nice views and nice way of crossing the Mactan Channel. No traffic! In those days, I never got to observe intently for it was a stormy season. But now, or at least during my ride, I had a ball watching the big ships anchored at Cebu’s many piers, the Supercat and other fast crafts zooming through causing big waves in their wake, the ships that seem to have been abandoned and just floating uselessly idle. Hey, what was then the Delta Philippine Dream Floating Hotel & Casino is still floating after all. But sad to say, I think it is not anymore in use. Ah memories, I checked-in and enjoyed my stays on that ship many a times during its heydays while docked near Anton’s Restaurant. Nice views of the cranes and other equipment at work in the piers. Even nice looking at those two bridges in the afternoon wash of the sun. Than ford the crawling traffic, especially at the old bridge, this is quite an alternative!

Well, what do you know, in just 18 minutes I was already at Cebu’s pier 3 walking to find a jeep that would take me to SM! Wonderful ride!

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