Tuesday, December 13, 2011

RORO Touchdown, Calbayog City

What a lovely morning as we arrived at the Maguino-o Port of Calbayog City! The moon was just about to settle beyond the silhouettes of probably Masbate and Samar's nearby little islands out in the western horizon, while the lush forests of Samar was already highlighted, outlined by an orange-bright morning sun still inching up behind the mountains. With a gentle cool breeze from land, ah a picturesque scene that cannot be easily recorded on any camera as the ship maneuvered to dock. Happy I took this trip for the experience. Happier still that I had such a fantastic panicky funny wake-up call! How did these things happen and why am I brokering that it was fantastic?!

Well, I went to sleep about midnight last night having had enough of the smooth and slow sailing speed of M/V Filipinas Dinagat. I slept? Come to think of it, yes! If I have not ever been able to sleep on any of my transpacific and trans-atlantic flights on various classes of service in the past (including the now gone concorde) I was able to sleep on a non-airocnditioned economy class of a RORO. Maybe because I had such wonderfully monotonous moonlit views to lull me a slumber. Last thing I remember of last night, I was looking at yellow lights of some resort on Cebu’s mainland (probably Alegre Beach Resort). Plus there were multi-colored smaller lights flickering and pulsating. That must have been a wonderful party on the beach. And zzzzzzz…. ngork!

Then all of a sudden, the loud alarm, a chorus, a cacophony! I almost literally jumped out of the bed at that sound that roused me to a semi-panic. Not the boat’s horn, we were still a bit far from land. It was the multitude of roosters, yes chicken, yes cocks, yes manok manok MANOK! And I smiled at the realization that they do crow in the mornings wherever they are on earth! In fact that got me a bit nostalgic. When was the last time we have heard cocks crowing at early dawn? Not in my part of Quezon City. Definitely not at The Fort and not even that much in my part of Banilad. Wow! And they do crow repeatedly as if doing their own musical counterpoint prayer song! Noisy but wonderful! They even roused the cutie infant sleeping with her mother and aunt on two beds next to mine. I wondered a bit what time they settled on those beds for I swear I did not see them last night hehe.

It was exactly 5:03AM when those cocks started their cock-a-doodle-doo thing. Okay, thats "tik-tila-ok" in Tagalog and since my boat was approaching Samar, it should more appropriately be “tok-toga-ok”! Yep, that's how Warays call a cock's crow... "toga-ok"! Ah they kept doing that for some minutes, but the views reckoned… and that’s what I just said in the first paragraph above! We were still far from land actually, and the boat slowly maneuvered to dock at the pier. There were not so many folks milling around. Not even many vehicles to meet passengers or cargoes from a ship as is common everywhere. There were even just a dozen porters (wearing blue shirts) that eagerly jumped unto the ship even before it could be properly docked.

The young seaman, who escorted me to my bed last night, came by only to point to me two buses waiting at the pier. He told me those were the free shuttles to the city proper. I thanked him for that prompt information. And he disappeared amidst the sea of zombie-like people inching their way to the gangplank. Yes hehe, all looking just roused from their comfortable sleep. I mused at the sudden sight of a lot of people on this ship. I thought there were not as many when I boarded and roamed around this ship last night. Then again, 30 folks with their bags and cargoes in tow crowding a narrow stairway towards the gangplank – even before the boat actually docks – is a crowd enough for me!

Well, what do you know?! I joined the line – since it was rather awkward seeing all of them looking at me as they passed by or waited for their turn to approach the stairs. And from previous experiences, like in Liloan, Abra De Ilog, Tubigon, Cebu’s piers, etc., all these folks have reason to squeeze themselves in and be first to jump out the boat. You already know that, right? To get their choice seats on a bus, cab, trike or jeep that they must take after the boat, whether a regular commuter ride or (most especially) a free shuttle service to city center. The lone foreigner I got to briefly talk with last night, also came to join the line and ask me that in front of us was not yet Calbayog City. I said yes, and pointed to the free shuttle service. Funny that tightly squeezed as we already were, the porters were still able to make their way in the opposite direction, inviting every passenger to ‘use them’ – their porterage services I mean hehe.

I got on the bus while it was still half-full though I managed to grab a seat (aisle) behind the driver. And it was not without being a bit purposely brusque! There was this balding man (about my age or a year or two younger) already settled on that two-seater area. And he was obviously spreading his legs, and he placed his ‘dunkin donuts’ on the extra space – really just as if to say to everyone “don’t sit here”! I looked him straight in the eye, making sure I was not in a ‘pleading mode’ and told him to remove his things and sit properly for I will sit beside him. Obviously reluctant, he did budge but not completely. Ah, I already have a master’s degree on these situations hehe. Seated, everytime someone else would pass by me, I would act as if making way for them but a bit more forcefully bumping the balding man’s hips so he’d move further left and sit properly. Well done hahaha! Successful!

Our bus easily got full while the second bus was quickly filling. Aside from the aging driver, there is a helper who takes heavier luggage and cargoes of passengers but his favorite place to dump everything in, seems to be the front of the bus just beside the driver’s gear stick. Probably because this was not a long ride anyway. But OMG he also asked some passengers to stand there. A man who looked like manager of these free shuttles came to tell him to move some bags to the inner aisle and ask some passengers to do the same. He/They did and we finally left. Oh, remember the teachers and the two nuns? My dinner-mates last night?! I saw them as my bus departed! There they were on the side of the pier waiting for their ride – which I remember they told me – is supposed to be a van driven by a person they refer to as “brother”. Can’t blame him… I took this pic at 5:29AM and our expected arrival in this pier was 7AM hehe!

Off we were to Calbayog City centre on this rickety bus where the windows, walls, floors and ceilings were creaking louder than the engine itself. And, take note, I was seated front hehehe. Yes, above the engine! But OMG, dilapidated as this bus may be, and old the bus driver may be (he’s probably 60s to 70s but not that rickety or dilapidated hehe) we were flying real fast especially when we got on the Maharlika Highway. I just told myself this old man was probably a Philtranco driver in the past or his past life hahaha! We had two near-misses… one with a tricycle (the big ones, Calbayog style), and another with a group of early morning bikers. People reacted but our lolo of a driver seemed unperturbed. I do suspect he saw those near-accidents since people both on the road and in the bus reacted. But he went on flying on this fine highway this fine morning hehe.
Btw, Maguino-o Port is probably some 20 or so kilometers north of the Calbayog City proper. It’s not near. But…

What a trip! Yes, I can do this again!

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