Roaming Around Romblon Romblon

Romblon | Toploading in Sibuyan

Thursday, May 02, 2013Ryan Mach

Precariously perched atop a crowded jeepney on a beautiful Saturday morning, we traversed our way from the sleepy town of Cantingas to the scenic village of Espana in Sibuyan, Romblon toploading style.

[Local teenager helping my friends to get on top]

Getting to the roof of the vehicle already full to the brim, so to speak, was no mean feat as we had to scramble our way up, dodging passengers whose heads and arms peeked outside the window and ultimately settling our butts in on the hard metal, sharing cramped space with local passengers, bags and sacks of fruits and vegetables. When the engine started to rev up, we anticipated a bumpy yet exhilarating ride while holding on for our dear lives.

[Excited for the ride!]

When I devised the itinerary for our 6-day backpacking trip around Romblon, I didn't include toploading as one of the things we might be doing because I knew for sure that such an activity isn't allowed in the province. Apparently, I was wrong. In the remote town of San Fernando, Romblon, toploading is still practiced by locals. I surmise that this is due to the fact that jeepneys plying around far-flung towns away from the island's center hardly come by. There's just no other option for people who wish to go to other towns but to take the fastest mode of transportation available.
But an average size jeepney like Jarold (every jeepney in Romblon has a name) can only accommodate too many. When it stopped for us in the middle of the bridge in Catingas, where we had been hanging out and goofing around for half an hour, it's already loaded with people and cargoes.
[Hanging out on the bridge while waiting for the jeepney]

There was no other jeepney that would pass by anytime soon so we didn't really have a choice but to get on board.

[Trees ahead, prepare to duck]

Being on top of a speeding jeepney, traversing through dirt roads and narrow bridges was quite an experience.
[The vehicle has to unload passengers before passing over small and old bridges]

At first, we were kind of scared about how this dangerous stunt would pan out. Eventually, we got the hang of it, well, sort of. Instinct told us that we had to plant our hands and feet firmly on any secure hold. We also needed to watch out for low-hanging branches jutting out beside the road and duck if necessary. Meanwhile, a local teenager seated beside me was taking the trip in cool stride, never even bothering to hold. Slick!

[Some of the views we got to see beside the road]

The draw of toploading has something to do with the fun it provides especially for first-timers who are not used to doing this type of ride. The danger it entails also adds to the thrill, making the experience fun and unforgettable.
[Time to get off. Read Marj's take on toploading.]

Despite the roughness of the road, the vehicle trod on with steady grace, occasionally pulling over to pick up and drop off passengers beside the road and  finally fording on a small stream before it turned right and came to a halt. We arrived in our destination in one piece, with a great experience in tow.

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