Jeepney, Motorcycle and Ferry Tales: Sibuyan to Looc

Sunday, May 26, 2013Ryan Mach

HAVING WOKEN UP QUITE EARLY the day before, getting up right after the break of dawn the next day had become a relatively easy affair for most of us. No one whined as we packed our stuff and hit the shower one by one (two toilets for the eight of us, no hot water). Jarold, the jeepney that took us to San Fernando two days ago, was going to fetch us from the resort and transport us to the town of Magdiwang where we would be taking a ferry bound for Tablas - our next destination.

It's Day 4 of our Romblon Backpacking Trip and it was going to be a long day. A two-hour jeepney ride to the port of Magdiwang, another 3 hours aboard a ferry to Tablas and almost two hours on motorcycle to Looc. We were hoping to be in Looc before 4pm.
Bags packed, fresh from the shower, we left our small rooms and waited for breakfast by the river. We savored the fresh air and observed the country's cleanest river where the water was as clear as ever.

In the distance, the jumping ledge seemed to taunt me, beckoned me to come back and conquer it. Someday, someday, I said to the river gods that didn't exist. The river looked timeless and tranquil.  There was no goodbye, only see you later, Sibuyan. Besides, there was no one we needed to say goodbye to. Except for Dhie, our tour guide. But before the imminent journey, breakfast first.

Breakfast was very basic - dried and super crispy tuyo and a bowl of hot ginataang champorado. For someone who's lactose intolerant, milk didn't seem like a good idea when you have a long trip ahead but the brown champorado looked enticing.


THE TRIP TO MAGDIWANG WAS UNEVENTFUL. Jarold hardly met vehicles along the way but it stopped every now and then to drop and collect passengers. While my companions dozed off, I kept myself occupied by taking photos of the scenery we passed by - rolling plains, the breathtaking Mt. Guiting-Guiting covered in mist, people harvesting in the field... The state of the road made the ride too bumpy, it was impossible to take a photo that wasn't blurry.
[Not as crowded as the previous ride]

It was a two-hour ride to Magdiwang. The road was mostly unpaved with bends and turns that lie precariously near the cliff - huge boulders and surging waves below. Unlike last time, the jeepney didn't have to unload passengers  before passing through old bridges, which made the trip much quicker than anticipated.
We arrived at the port a few minutes past 8. M/V Matilde wasn't going to arrive before 10. Two hours felt too long when you've got nothing to do. This is one major problem we see with the transportation system in Sibuyan as far as ferry and jeepney schedules are concerned - there's only one schedule a day and there's nothing you can do about it.


SINCE WE HAD TWO HOURS TO SPARE, we almost ran out of things to do to while the time away. We realized that the best thing to forget about the time is to sleep it off. But sleep we hardly did at the terminal. I was beginning to get bored and when I get bored, I observe people and I imagine what they do for a living. More people came and occupied the benches, making the temperature much hotter. The wall fans scattered around hardly sufficed. It became much harder to doze off. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" was playing on a small TV set on the wall. It provided a much needed distraction.
[View of Mt. Guiting-Guiting from the wharf in Magdiwang]

A few people stood up and taking their stuff with them, they moved out. We followed suit and joined the queue near the gates. At long last, Matilde had arrived - a little behind the schedule but at least it arrived. That alone was a reason to be happy.
[Nothing to do but sleep]

Matilde lingered at the dock for several minutes. Feeling impatient, I asked one of the crews what time we were leaving. The crew didn't take it too well and answered me with a rather rude: "Malapit na." I shrugged, went back to my seat and tried to sleep but the unbearable heat inside hindered me to lose consciousness even for a few seconds. My seat mates made my space more cramped than it already was.
[My travel companion looks like she's getting impatient of the long trip]

For the first half of the trip, I busied myself taking photos of the sea from the veranda. I simply couldn't stay at my seat. We were approaching Romblon Port when I finally spotted a vacant bench near the door. Its occupant was busy doing a selfie outside. I stifled the urge to laugh when I realized that he's a police man. He did a series of selfie shots, probably trying to achieve the best angle.

He, along with other passengers, alighted the ferry when Matilde moored alongside the wharf. I happily took my stuff from my original seat and transferred them to the one across, which was now unoccupied.
[The fly]

Hawkers climbed up the ship and offered passengers broiled corn and freshly-baked bibingka. Mean while, at the ferry stationed at the same wharf barely a few inches from Matilde, a group of young boys were flying from the top deck to the water below. We watched them with amazement as they climbed the ship, Spider-man style and dove headfirst.

[Approaching San Agustin in Tablas]

FROM THE PORT OF ROMBLON, MATILDE FERRIED its way to San Agustin in Tablas for around 45 minutes. As we were nearing the wharf, I told my companions to stand by the door at the lowest deck so we could easily get out once the ship touched the ground. The plank had been lowered and in haste, we scurried frantically and in pairs, hopped in a random motorcycle.

"Tell the driver to take you to the jeepney bound for Looc," I advised my peers as the motorcycles revved up and sped away.

On the way to the terminal, I did a mental note of the time it would take us to get to Looc if we took a jeepney. We wouldn't make it at 4, for sure. Looc Sanctuary as advised by my cousin was closing at 4:30PM. I asked the motorcycle driver how much it would cost us to travel to Looc via a motorcycle. The initial offer was 600 but we managed to make it to 500. It was expensive, but it was the only way to get to Looc faster.
We did the negotiations near the jeepney terminal. The jeepney driver went ballistic and prevented us from taking the motorcycles (we commissioned 4). He argued that technically we should take the jeepney instead. Thanks but no thanks.

As if on a convoy, four motorcycles engaged in a race down a long and winding road to Looc. Unfortunately, the one we took encountered a few bumps, we ended up changing a motorcycle altogether. Our companions who were several kilometers ahead of us had to halt and wait for us. They were worried and wondered what took us so long.
[We pulled over by the side of the road to fill up gas. These kids gamely posed for the camera]

It was my third time to traverse this part of Tablas. The roads have obviously improved. They are now paved, although some parts are still under construction. It's three towns before Looc, around 40 kilometers. The ride was exciting at first but eventually it took its toll on us. When we hopped down from the motorcycle two hours later, we were limping.

We were able to make it to Looc Sanctuary though, and that's what mattered most.

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