Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Was It A ‘Good Morning Hilongos’?

About 30 minutes before the boat docked, passengers were already lined up with their luggage big or small towards the exit area of the ship. I think there are two stairs (both sides), but obviously, only one is used for disembarkation – the one from which we all entered. By the way, another first for me, this RORO’s exit stairs are outside of the main hull! Yeah, so drop anything or yourself while on those steps and everyone will surely hear something (someone) splashing down to sea! But these staircases are cordoned off once the boat starts moving.

Anyway, when the line reached the door of our ‘Tourist A’, I thought that was too long enough, so I joined in. And most everyone already did so. Note: the boat was still even maneuvering towards the pier. I checked the time, it was 5:24AM! We all had to keep inching our way. Many times I was not even moving yet but I was being pushed! There were so many lines from all directions gunning for that single exit stairs, although the bulk of humanity was from that which I was in. This only means, those other lines were made by ‘cutters’, ‘cheaters’, ‘assholes’! The many who came down from upstairs would even walk far to join the end of my line, yet those “other lines” were made by people who came from the same floor as us. I was not too pissed since some of them looked aged or had too many luggage.

Thud! We were all jolted by one quick bump and that meant the ship already positioned itself on its final docking position, I think. Then there came a stream of rushing sanggano-looking guys in uniform, some wore hard-hats, others didn’t. They came from the stairs at the other side of the RORO where no passengers were lining-up to exit. They were all shouting “baggage”, “porter” repeatedly. Some passengers were calling on them, others they approached to ‘transact’. But I was so aghast at the next thing these porters did. They would lift all those things entrusted to them big or small AND immediately make their way towards front of the line bumping and shoving passengers away!

Some had the nerve to shout “excuse me, eeekskyuuus” but in my mind I was saying “putanginang mga ito, what gives them the right to break the line and go forth up front?”. That was just not fair to others like me who were already in line for something like 15 minutes. Worse, those who availed of their services would usually cling behind them, thus jumping the line, getting ahead of others. I did observe that these porters have no care about bumping and hurting people. As if their “ekskyuuuuus” was authority enough for them to shove anyone. I saw not just two or three, but many of them who even use the boxes or luggage they were carrying to bump people aside. Otherwise they use their elbows. Tangina talaga!

Anyway, as if to appease myself (lumabas pagka war-freak hehe), when two of them passed both sides of me (together), I quickly and forcibly turned so my backpack struck the one passing on my left. He fell to the wall and looked at me with fiery eyes, but I slightly bowed and told him “sorry, he pushed me” pointing at his colleague to my right. Hahaha, I heard some of my co-passengers teasing them to argue with me in English. That quickly, he smiled and said to me “es okay sir, ekskyus me ples”, then he moved forward again. Some 3 or 4 persons away and front of me, that same porter exclaimed “ataya nose bleed”! I was fine with that since it made everyone laughing in the perspiringly hot pile of humanity trying to disembark!

Not long after, another “ekskyuuus me” passed by us, as if really they were licensed to overtake everyone. The more irritating part was that the owner of that box was closely following him to jump the line. I imagined these idiot passengers are like motorists who tail a rushing ambulance to get away from traffic. Hmm, aminin mo Ariel, isa ka sa mga yun! But my equally asshole of an attitude was all already awake. When that fat lady-owner of the box was already some inches front of me, I stretched my right foot out to tangle with hers. Tumba! The next thing we heard was the same ‘tabachoy kulot-salot’ of a business woman exclaiming “aguy, anay anay”! And some passengers helped her up, then she proceeded to follow her porter.

My “lady-guard”, I did not notice, was towing the line to my right. And she saw what I did. Smiling, she whisperingly told me “sir, ka-bad nimo oy”. With a wink I said “she deserved it”! And one of her companions said “mayo unta sa hagdan to nahug”! Am sure some others with us in the line heard that. But why did I seem to feel proud? Hmm, I might be jolly and might be kind, but there are mornings I get violently naughty hehehe. Anyway… Ordeal done. At 5:46AM, I was finally down at the pavement looking back at M/V Joyful Stars as other passengers were still streaming down and out of the ship, 22 minutes of pushing and shoving!

I went finding my Bus No. 2, which was not hard to do as them buses park very near where passengers emerge. Found my Seat No 20 at 4th row and sat there with my backpack on the lap (there are no overhead bins). Noticed that Bus No. 1 beside us is bigger and had more passengers. Other passengers also came up to find their respective seats AND it seemed only I did not have a seating conflict! Those 5 ladies and a talkative jolly Japanese old man front of me did not have reservations. Every time passengers came up to claim their seats, members of this group being evicted would go to the back and find a seat there. Until in the end all of them were (again) seated together back there!

Some women passengers wouldn’t sit on their assigned/reserved seats and opted to stand by the aisle instead, claiming they won’t fit! Actually also my concern since mine was on a 3-seater that won’t comfortably fit 3 adults. On top of that already cramped situation, luggage and boxes were being tossed to the aisle without a care if any passenger would be buried under them. Some couples walked out of this bus saying they’ll find something else. The din was unbearable with too many seating conflicts. I learned later that seats 26 down were supposed to be unreserved so the conductor have rightfully been inviting others to take the ride. But those who came did not listen and they just took seats wherever they wanted, ahead of those who had reservations.

Oh I forgot in the previous story, there is an “Information Counter” at M/V Joyful Stars. Some kind of a front desk – and that is where prominent signs of this bus company were displayed where passengers reserved their seats to many places from Hilongos like northwards to Ormoc, Palo, Tacloban or southwards to Bato, Maasin, Mahaplag, Macrohon, etc., I did not know about this until I just happened to have peeped at it why many people were lined up at that counter last night!

Finally, when all seemed settled, conductor started collecting fares – Tacloban was P180++, Baybay P70 (I was told on board it was P78). No tickets, he just collected our cash! Passengers were all wildly exclaiming that we already start moving since everyone expected were already aboard and that the bus was already in fact full with some standing on the aisle. Conductor reasoned in his loudest voice that bus can only move after he collected fares as he must leave all those money behind. He said “kay ibilin ni” to those who were egging driver to already move forward.

I sat there silently, avoiding any unnecessary movements as I was already drench soaked in my own perspiration. Plus, any kind of movement would cause me to fall to the aisle (too narrow seats). The cool morning breeze couldn’t enter as the sliding glass windows were stuck!

At 6:33AM, bus finally moved – exactly 47 minutes after I sat foot on Hilongos!

As our bus slowly maneuvered out of that parking area, I saw the yuppy group being loaded on two army trucks. They were still giggly noisy I even heard a girl say "diha ta sakay? asa ang armalite and machine gun?"! Whatever them rowdy 20-somethings were doing anywhere, am sure Leyte would have nothing but thank them for the volunteer work - if at all they did hehe. The stuff being loaded on the 2nd truck looked like important equipment!

Uneventful ride to Baybay on very fine roads and a beautiful countryside. Views were even grander from the town of Hindang onwards as we could see the calm seas to our left. So I don't know what to feel now, was it a good morning or was it not? The disembarking and the bus thing were really irritating, otherwise, it was such a fine day to arrive at Hilongos.

But my Baybay to Ormoc trip was different... let's do that next...


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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