post-Yolanda stories…, there I was perched on Bed No. 61, the ‘Tourist A’ section of Roble Shipping’s M/V Joyful Stars. Yes, I was bound for Ormoc, but, this was the only ride I could take that evening – I would just connect via land transpo to Ormoc all the way to Tacloban. Hey, sitting on my bed (upper part of a double-decker), my head reached the ceiling making me bend my neck forever. And,I knew this boat was not about to leave anytime soon as there were still hundreds of passengers left at the terminal waiting for their bus ride coming here. And I saw there were still mountains of cargoes, plus a platoon of vehicles big and small, also waiting for their time to be loaded.
So, I found a way to move about this ship sans my backpack. How? Ahem, charm! Caught a banter of 3 dear ladies. Two of them across the aisle were teasing their companion who was assigned a bed beside mine. Teasing about what? Well, about me! So, patay-malisya, I talked to my ‘beloved neighbor’ about just about anything to get acquainted. I learned they were part of a group bound for somewhere in Leyte on a weekend of volunteer work to help Yolanda victims. Good guys, right?! Ah huh, after a few more small talk, I entrusted watch over my backpack to this kind lady hehe! And I roamed around the ship. Yeah!rice-meals (as experienced sometime ago with Cokaliong to Calbayog. The reply surprised me. One of the girls said “not here sir, but at our restaurant”. Whoah! There’s a restaurant! And the girl started describing the way up there. So I went up there. Yeah, a level up from where I was.
It is a restaurant alright! Quite similar to restaurants/canteens at office buildings where you line up with a tray to point and receive what you want, then move on to the end where a cashier receives your payments. Good enough and a clean type of a facility except that I wanted to slap the girl serving as cashier. Not with me, but with the customers before me, she was very obviously pouting and banging things when someone would give her a big (500 or 1000) bill or when some would change minds about the ‘softdrinks’ that was not that cold. Good she behaved properly on me, and good that the coke-in-can I ordered was chilled enough. Otherwise, I was getting ready to make a scene and put her on the spot. Ah, apprentices – sarap kuyumusin ng mukha! Attitude! Customer Service! Hello!
Done with my quick-meal, I asked one crew where on this boat could I smoke. He said downstairs at the rear section just outside the Karaoke Bar. Whoa! There is a Karaoke Bar?! I went there fast, and as I smoked, I peeped inside the Karaoke Bar which is even better than many I have seen on land. Small yes, with just about 5 or 6 tables, but clean and well appointed. The bar is long, taking the entire length of the room, and the big flat-screen TV makes the room look all the more smaller. From time to time there was croaking, but mostly, the folks in there were just drinking beer or bantering. Except for 2 who were busy tinkering with their tablets. Hello, In a noisy bar?! Papansin lang am sure!
Back at my bed, the ‘dear healthy girl’ beside already laid, though still awake and watching over my backpack! She was all wrapped in a blanket with only her face seen. I noticed the blanket had the ship’s name printed. I looked around and saw that all blankets were same type and color. Looked further and noticed there was signange saying “blankets here”. So I went there – by the wall dividing our section from the “private cabins” / “suites” – and realized blankets are availed free, you only have to give an ID. So I joined the line. They give you a number just like at supermarket baggage counters. On arrival, you return the blanket and the number, then they give you back your ID. Coolness! I learned this was a Tourist Class Only amenity, and I remembered on my Catbalogan trip I had to pay P20.
Ah, since the man’s voice was too loud, everyone (it seemed) had to also raise their volumes to properly hear each other. Two women below me were talking about the time loading would take for the so many cargoes, one said this ship would probably be able to leave only by 11PM. Two boys probably 9 and 7 were loudly at war! Yeah, they were playing some war game on a laptop. I heard their father (a young man who looked like just a college student to me) said to the older kid “kuya, tama na ito, pangaturog na kamo” and the wife said “10 minutes na la ha, parungon ko na iton”, then she continued reminding the boys that there was no electricity at home so they have to conserve the laptop’s battery.
Ah, I walked to the canteen unconcerned if my backpack’s ‘lady-guard’ was still awake or not (I was almost sure she still was!) and looked at the array of beer-in-cans they were selling. Voila! I spotted the strongest that could probably knock me to sleep amid the noise – RED HORSE! Fifty pesos per can, so I got one and walked to the smoking area for a view of how the loading went on as I consumed the beer and puffed cigarettes. Hey, the chubby guy and a lady who both seemed leaders of the yuppy group were down at the boat’s entrance coordinating the loading of those boxes they brought. Nice to see really, that private citizens do so much to hassle themselves just to help. Hello BS Aquino, hain ka?!
Da! After that second can, I guess I either slithered or crawled to my bed hehe. All I now remember is I laid on my back, raised both legs atop my backpack, draped blanket over forehead and eyes then drifted to who-knows-where hehe. I think I sailed to Cloud 9 way ahead of Joyful Stars pushing back from Pier 3! And I could not care less if I snored as loud as that man who was earlier on his cellphone – I am certain I did so, and very definitely as loud or even louder. Hehehe, that must have been my turn to bother all in my section! Yes, I forgot about the plan to take pictures by 12MN when most everyone would have been asleep!
Let’s do the disembarkation and my bus ride next. It’s crazy!
For a chronology of this trip's stories, click these numbers: