Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The RORO Ride To Hilongos

Continuing my 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!

First I got curious about was this “canteen” just outside the door to our ‘Tourist A’ Section. Of course I was hungry. It was already about 9PM (departure time) and I spent a whole lot of energy doing what I did since 7PM, right?! I asked the staff if they were serving 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!

Hey, the tables and chairs are well-appointed enough – at least for me. I mean it was the first time I saw this kind of a gig on a local boat. Not just plastic seats or stools like at Cokaliong’s, nor too simple like the Roble ship I took to Catbalogan. Real furniture! But the mind was probably already too spent for the day or I probably was thinking of so many other things or there were probably too many people that I forgot (or hesitated) to take pictures at this “restaurant”. There was fried chicken, fried pork chops, some other viands and this kind of sautéed little beef strips that most everyone ordered, so I followed suit! With “double-rice” that I was not able to finish.

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!

But I did not enter the bar, so what was my view from out on the railings? Well, a seated grand view of cargoes being loaded and passengers boarding my boat or the smaller ROROs bound for Ormoc and Baybay. My goodness the volume of things being loaded. It was like Cebu was being transferred to three destinations! And how touching that most of those we saw being loaded were relief goods or equipment bound for Yolanda-stricken places. Markings were very clear, and I heard from those smoking beside me that these days, all relief/recovery-related things are given priority on any ship sailing out of Cebu. All are a must-ride they say. Nice of them ship owners ‘no?!

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.

Ready to sleep? Yes very much. Alas, there were too many sounds around that kept my pea of a brain too occupied to doze off. There was one man who was on the phone with (probably) his wife talking about domestic matters we could all hear him say the 8,000 pesos for their child’s midterm tuition he initially used to buy repair materials and food saying “kay maiha pa man ito mag-abre ira klase”! How I wish (again) those “unlicall” services would stop. That man stayed too long on his phone, many times he or the other party would stop, probably thinking on what else to talk about. Aside from the ‘tuition’ talk’, anything else they discussed were useless like “aw mag-asawa iton hira?” or “an ak manok, isinirong mo?”. And his voice was reverberating in the entire section of 168 (or more) beds.

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.

And then there was this group of some 20 to probably 30 yuppies. I am definite they were not students. If they were, they probably were medical or law students. But I sensed (from their looks, and the fashion statements of some) they are new or fairly new employees of somewhere. Happy to note that they were on their way to help out in Leyte. But they somehow forgot they were on a ship with so many people where most would have wanted to sleep. I enjoyed their banter and the cheers when their “Bangon Leyte” shirts were distributed. I even smiled when they talked about “how not to puke on a boat ride” or “how it is living in a Yolanda devastated place without a CR”, and so on. But, the body wanted some sleep!

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?!

Back at my bed, I whipped out the toothbrush and went to the comfort rooms “For Tourist Class Passengers Only”. Yep, we have our own, though I have been to that one near the Karaoke Bar which was just as clean anyway. Done with the CR I attempted sleep. No can do. I thought I might as well play some games or write blog articles or even visit facebook. Naah, to let out the notebook in this crowd would have attracted ‘y’know’. So maintain the low key gusgusin traveler stance! Thus, it required another can of red horse! Believe me, it tastes funny ugly when the Colgate flavor still lingers in your mouth hahaha!

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!

Next thing I know, a male voice was already croaking on the ship’s PA, advising all passengers to check their belongings before disembarking as we were about to dock. I got up and looked out from the railings of the open-air class. The coast was still way faaaar, I thought it would still be an hour before we actually docked. Hmp! So I continued snoozing and woke up about 30mins later when just about every soul around me were already as noisy as they were last night. It was a bright morning anyway!

Let’s do the disembarkation and my bus ride next. It’s crazy!

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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