Monday, December 2, 2013

Rush-Hour Rush: Cebu to (Ormoc) Hilongos

As said in the previous story, I learned at noontime of an opportunity to see many of the Yolanda-stricken places in Eastern Visayas. Can’t let this occasion pass-by just like that, so I got myself ready for an immediate departure – most practical was tonight, so I could rendezvous (in Tacloban) with a friend (from Catbalogan) going to Hernani, Eastern Samar with another friend (in Tacloban) who offered to drive her going there and back! It’s like this: friend from Catbalogan goes to Tacloban, friend in Tacloban has a vehicle, me the kibitzer will come from Cebu to join them!

Error: I should have already gone out to buy a ticket for tonight’s departure. I did not, and told myself I would just grab that ticket already on my way to my chosen craft tonight. I opted for the (overnight) RORO from Cebu to Ormoc as taking the fastcrafts would deliver me there too fast that I would end up staying overnight in Ormoc or Tacloban where hotels are all fully booked, thanks to the so many good souls offering their voluntary help to the victims. Roble Shipping’s RORO leaves Cebu at 10PM for a 4 to 5 hour trip to Ormoc. Lovely plan, right? I would arrive at Ormoc about 3AM, take a 2 to 3 hour van ride to Tacloban, so I would be there for an early morning view of how the city has been so far. Then I would be just-in-time for whatever time in the morning my friends plan to depart for Hernani.

Now now, at 7PM of Friday, 29NOV2013, I was at SM City Cebu thinking I was early to purchase my ticket, then probably grab dinner anywhere in the mall so I will still have a grand time until my 10PM departure from Pier 3 where I know all Roble ships depart from. Alas, SM’s Travel Lounge told me they don’t sell those tickets. So, I went out to hail a taxi going to Pier 4. No empty cabs! Mal Viaje! Rush hour! ARgh! I walked to the street hoping to ride a 10G, 10H, 10I or 10J jeep so I get off at pier 4. None available! All were full! Double triple argh!

I started walking, passing via Sugbutel and the Kokaliong offices. Reaching pier 4, I learned Roble Shipping’s ticket offices already transferred somewhere else. The helpful guard told me to walk to Pier 3 and buy my ticket there as Roble does have a little ticket booth there, plus that’s where people board anyway. Oh my my my, it was not a “little” walk after all. Not when you start to think it is already getting late. That was just about 2.003 miles or 3.22kms of a walk anyway! Hah!

Only to find out that the Cebu-Ormoc RORO was already fully booked, while the Cebu-Baybay RORO only had “standing only” tickets still available. Even at such a rush (it was already about 8PM) I still had the nerve to debate the lady there selling tickets! I said “ows? is that allowed? isn’t that overloading?”! She said no it was not and it was standard for them to do so. Gosh! Passengers standing or walking around a boat for a 4 to 5-hour midnight trip? Anyway, this same lady told me that if I really wanted a bed, I can still buy tickets for the Cebu-Hilongos trip leaving at 9PM. I said “yes, I will”. She cautioned me that all available were just tourist class tickets (air-conditioned section) as the cheaper class was already sold out.

I said “I have no better choice, right?” And she said “ingon gyud ko, sir”! So I grabbed a tourist-class ticket (P385) and rushed towards the terminal building. Before that though, she smilingly told me that there are at least 3 groups of travelers also going Tacloban or Ormoc that are taking this same boat to Hilongos due to lack of space on the other boats. And I do still remember I jokingly (though sarcastically) said “so ano makiki-hitch ako sa kanila?” for which she said “why not coconut, sir? they are good people going to Leyte for their Yolanda mission”. Laughing a bit I said “tse!” but actually, I did consider the idea – especially if push comes to shove later in the morning, I thought!

Alright, 10-peso terminal fee paid after a long line, perspiring bucketfuls, I was done with the x-ray check to step (yes, literally just about 3 steps) unto another line of thousands of people inside Pier 3’s boarding lounges. OhMyGee I was near freaking point! There was a constant push or brush from so many folks passing by or squirming their way unto the “many” lines. The public address was blaring a woman’s voice that told us Hilongos and Baybay passengers were to board at Gate 9, etc., etc. But the buses (yes, all are bused to their respective boats) were coming too few in between and the wait was excruciating in this oven-like terminal.

Hey, you decide if I was being a Good Samaritan or I was being a smart bastard: I saw behind me a fragile old lady with what seemed like a heavy bag, towing the line with her granddaughter (probably just 10 or 12 years old) who also was lugging heavy things. I felt sorry for them, so, with my weekend backpack securely tucked to my shoulders, I grabbed the old lady’s bag and one of those that the young girl was carrying then started gently pushing and shoving our way saying “excuse me po, senior citizen po, please give way! Da! The old lady and the girl AND OF COURSE ME, got to the front of the line. An aide there even let us out the steel gate and closed it behind me. So, when the next bus arrived, we three were one of the first few to board with those folks in wheelchairs or carrying infants! My soul won’t burn in hell for this, right? Please say yes, please!!!

Am not done…

When the “Gate 9” gate was opened for the rest in that throng of humanity, it was like hell was suddenly on earth – I mean, Pier 3’s Gate 9! Anyway, the bus got quickly full and we left (while others had to wait for the next bus to come in probably the next decade hehe). But… BUT… it was still a perspiringly hot wait since our bus had to make very slow maneuvers amidst mountain-like bales of cargo and vehicles being boarded to so many ships. I forgot the old lady and her granddaughter, followed what others were doing, by getting off the bus instead, to walk a few more meters towards our RORO’s entrance plank. Hah! What a relief to climb the “Joyful Stars”. And what a relief I took an air-conditioned section even if more expensive. Entering the pier until reaching the boat is HELL to the nth degree!

My soul won’t burn in hell for my actions in the last two paragraphs, right?!

Lessons I learned:
Never the RORO or similar ships on a Friday.
Always get tickets ahead if it must be a Friday.
Arrive and board early – on a Friday
(Especially, in the aftermath of another Yolanda – simba ko)!

Let’s describe the RORO next! It’s a wonderfully new 'something' - to me, at least!

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


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