Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ride Of A Lifetime: Pilar to Merida to Ormoc

So the boat came with a smiling boatman… OMG, I wanted to die that instant! Give me that boat to cross even just a river and I would think ten times before I ride in it. But this was a desperate time. I asked if that tiny little thing has already ever crossed from Pilar to anywhere mainland Leyte. Nita said “many times” since the owner uses it for many errands and emergencies, including helping in their Bantay Dagat operations. I asked what its capacity was - since I could see that it looked already “full” with just the boatman on board. Another in the now crowding group of folks said it can take two passengers but ideally only 1 plus the boatman. Duh!

I had no choice, I had to keep saying “yes, yes, yes” to whatever anybody said to me in terms of assuring me that I could reach mainland Leyte safely. I think I was like a zombie that time, numb in the brain, just following instructions anybody told me. I do think now, even my fingernails must have secretly been trembling at the thought of riding in that little boat across the Camotes Sea to Leyte. Hello Apo Island, hello Zamboanguita, here I go again! Arrrrgh!

Come to think of it, I even had the nerve (or is that presence of mind?) to take a picture of that tower (lookout, whatever) as the little blue boat pushed back with just me and the “driver”! Hahaha, I think I was trying to record the last thing I saw, and was hoping my camera’s EXIF data would tell what time I departed from Pilar before my death hahaha! I wondered though, can data from a camera’s memory card still be recovered after being submerged in salty seas? Well, probably, and I think I dearly hoped so!

A voice cut through my ‘hallucinations’ and it said “sir, akina ang camera mo, cellphone, wallet, buong belt bag”! A bit alarmed, I turned to face the boatman. And really, I thought it was a hold-up! But we were just meters from the pier where Nita and the remaining folks (others already dispersed) could still see and hear us. So I said “bakit, mababasa ba tayo”? His reply was a grinning “basang-basang-basa” sir! That as he stowed my belt bag under and inside the engine compartment. OMG Zamboanguita-Apo Island, here I go again! I was like screaming inside me protesting why the hell was I so talkative I did not pay attention on JunMar when I am so meticulous with gates and boarding times at airports - always. I was also protesting silently why the hell does there have to be seas or oceans, why not just land everywhere. A basta, lahat na sinisi ko hehehe!

I however had the lucidity (social graces never fade) to thank and wave my goodbyes at everyone still on shore. Some were saying “good luck”, some were shouting “enjoy your trip”, others were saying “see you again” and one said “God Bless”. I think I kind of winced at that “God Bless” thing hehe, It tickled my mind to relate the greeting with “I was going to join my creator”! But I still smiled at them and let them see I made the sign of the cross. Honestly, I even said “¡Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida” hahaha!

“Marunong ka ba lumangoy sir?” So I heard the boatman asking me. And I think my balls jumped to the top of my skull hearing that question, the instinctive reply that came from my mouth was “putangina, bakit me chances bang lumubog ang bangkang ito?” Believe me, that was a half-giggle and half-real-panic expression that came off me! Boatman said “’wag naman sana sir, ang ibig ko lang sabihin, since mababasa ka na, puwede ka pa rin mag-swimming dun sa pantalan ng Merida pagka-dating natin”! And I answered that with a laughing “ah okay”! He told me to put my shades on, and I immediately did so as I already knew what that meant (from my Apo Island experience).

So off we flew!

Flew? Ahhhhhhhh yes! Seemed like all my fright and apprehensions immediately drowned in the seas once the boat started “flying”! The little boat’s engine is probably for big ships it was going so strong and we were (I think) literally flying over the water. Whohooooooooa! Yeah yea yey! It felt like I was on some carnival ride I caught myself cheering so loud. Boatman even cautioned me to stay silent as the spirits of the sea might not like my noise and do something bad to us. So, okay, I controlled myself hehe, And I limited my childlike excitement by whacking the seawater with my bare hands as little waves came to the edge of our boat – or as we cut through them.

However, without the boatman asking again, I actually fell silent when we were in the very middle of the run. The waves were a bit bigger (for our little boat, that is) and I could see that the water current was so strong. There were even whirlpools on some parts. Okay, prim & proper again, on the verge of being frightened back hahaha! It felt a bit worrisome when the boatman would slow the engine down as we forded bigger waves. It even felt scarier that we seemed to be getting off our target destination due to the very strong water current.

But Mr. Boatman is an expert, we reached the Merida pier in no time.
Boatman gave me instructions on where to clamber up to the pavement PLUS some tips on where I should swim and splash if I wanted to. Then he departed back for Pilar, just like that, and alone in his boat (of course).

Pier? Well, wharf whatever! There is only one thing I am very sure of, there was no other boat, no other living thing on that wharf when we arrived. I was up at the pavement in no time, and he was right in suggesting I swim a bit in this area. Why? Because it felt awkward that many parts of me was dripping wet while the back of my head and back of my shoulders were dry. So I dipped and waded a bit.

It did seem a bit foolish with just me, myself and I swimming in that pier. So I did not stay long and started walking towards center of town to hail a ride to Ormoc. There is however a “floating restaurant” at the mouth of the pier and I felt thirsty so I hopped in for a bottle of water. Didn’t work, I asked for another! Still didn’t feel quite alright, so I asked for some biscuits and soft drinks. As I sat at a bench munching while looking out to the sea and where I just came from. I knew a group of college students at one table (some in uniform, some not) were curious and wondering who I was and why was I there dripping wet.

I somehow expected this… soon the most outspoken of the students, a giggly gay asked “sir, are you a ghost, why did you appear”? Everyone laughed at that question and I almost choked on my soda laughing with them, though I could not think of a reply. He followed that with “I mean did you came (sic) from the sea? did the boat is sinking”? Everyone was all the more laughing. Problem with me is, if you talk to me I always instinctively respond in the language you used. Thus, I said “from Pilar... swimming”. All eyes grew big and all heads turned to the sea hehehe. I knew what they were thinking!

Then pointing to Pilar, this jolly bright bayot said “from there? alone? how dare you!” I was laughing loud with his companions and the restaurant’s cashier as I paid, and he still followed that with “I mean sir, yes, how dare you, hala oy, grabeh”! The other students were now silent and in various expressions of wonder and disbelief. I knew they were discussing what circumstances led to my sudden appearance in this place  hehe, and my wicked brain told me to just let them be. I was sure the cashier and her companion in the store did not also see (or hear) how I came into this place. I left all of them wondering that way hehehe hehe!

Out of that restaurant, I continued walking out to main road bustling with a lot of people, mainly students. There is probably a college or university nearby. But I was still dripping all over, so I opted to cross the highway and check out what looked like the town’s church. It was/is, with a big loan all around it, but the gate was closed - as in padlocked! There was even a dear old lady standing by the gate probably also wondering why it was padlocked on a Friday afternoon!

Anyway, I looked in the direction of their municipal hall, but too many people were emerging from it. I thought it wouldn’t have been practical going there for a photo or two since I was still very wet. So I was back at the road and asked a woman what would be the best ride from this place back to Ormoc. After looking at me head to toe, she told me the last bus should be passing this way in a while. True enough, it did not take very long and there came a bus, so I hopped in with some folks.

I opted to just stand on the aisle along with 3 or 4 others even if the conductor who was up front was shouting “atrasi lang atrasi, lingkuri lang lingkuri”! Soon he came near us and he motioned for everyone to sit at available vacant seats. When he was in front of me, he looked at me head to toe too, looked for available space, pointed to it and said “sir, sitting down”! I said “basa” pointing to my shirt and board shorts. He said “es okay boss”, so I went to that seat on the very last row, left window side. Telling him I was wet, the student seated beside said “no problem”.

No problem? I realized I had a problem hehe. When I opened my wallet, there were only 2 thousand-peso bills. I knew the conductor would have been irritated if I used any of these to pay. He could also interpret that as I was being boastful. Ayayay! The last thing I want to happen during my travels in this country is to be branded as such. That invites unscrupulous minds to think of something untoward y’know. Argh and double ARGH! I thought of getting off but remembered this was supposed to be the last bus. I asked the student beside me how much would the fare be to Ormoc and he told me P25. I searched for some loose coins at all compartments of my belt bag, and voila! I was able to fish exactly 5 pieces of 5-peso coins. Whew!

About an hour later, bus arrived at Ormoc, I hurriedly walked to Sugarland Suites, took a shower, dressed up and at exactly 7:03PM, I was already entering Sabin Resort for my dinner meeting!

Hah! Whatta day! Let’s go to Biliran next?!



To read the chronology of stories on this Pilar Camotes trip, click the following numbers:
01   02   03   04   05   06

ISSN 2515141.25-1554



    that was one helluva adventure, swimming from pilar to merida! how dare you! bwahahahaha

  2. yun ang travel adventure! ikaw na sir! pang-cover-story!


  3. I love this... Adventure ala romancing the stone.

  4. nice experience when i read your post i was really impress and it has a little bit smile in my face. hahahaha very childish and every detail you put it there. i enjoy reading your blog po. Thanks