I was supposed to go up Mt. Pulag January 6th but begged off upon learning that it’s a four-day hike. I can’t afford to be out of the house (and out of the business) for that long this early in the year. It made me sad, though, because I really wanted to climb the third highest mountain in the country (and the highest in Luzon). So I planned a trip to cheer myself up while the team I was supposed to go with were having fun at the summit.
While contemplating on where to go, it so happened that I saw an old friend on Facebook and added him up. He’s now a policeman stationed in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. That fact made it easier for me to plan on where to spend my Saturday.
Leaving the house at 12:30 AM Saturday, my target was to catch the 4 AM RoRo leaving for Calapan from the Batangas Port. There was an air conditioned bus in front of Star Mall Alabang but since I travel on a budget, I always opt for non-aircon ones, so I headed to Alabang Bus Terminal to have my option. But unluckily for me, there was no bus bound for Batangas Pier (aircon or non-aircon) at that time at the terminal. I was told by the person manning the terminal that a bus would soon come and leave by 2:30 AM. I was sure, though, that I wouldn’t be able to make it for the 4 AM RoRo if I would leave Alabang at 2:30.
A young woman sitting at the bus terminal was obviously waiting for something and asked her if she’s headed for the pier. She said yes and she’s also bound for Calapan City. Since a person used to going there is better to ask than the internet, I asked her about the travel time and stuff, and if we would make it to the pier by 4 AM if we leave Alabang by 2:30. She said probably not, so I told her about the aircon bus I saw in front of Star Mall. To make the story short, we boarded the aircon bus and left Alabang at 1:30 AM.
We were already buying tickets at 3:30 AM for the RoRo that would leave at 4 AM. We were first made to sit at the waiting area where you can also buy snacks and stuff.
There weren’t much passengers waiting and I was kinda happy that there would be no case of overcrowding. LoL! After a while, a voice coming out of horrendous-sounding speakers told us that Maria Ursula (that’s the name of the vessel we’re boarding) passengers could now go inside the ship. Okay so we walked down a set of stairs towards the ship where a bunch of trucks and delivery vans were waiting to board.
Jonah, the young woman I travelled from Alabang with, said it would be better to sit inside the air conditioned part of the RoRo. I wanted to sit in the plastic benches outside but I made it up to her since she’s the one used to going to and fro Calapan.
There were about like 6 persons inside the air conditioned area when we got in. It actually doubled before the ship left Batangas but it was still just a small portion of what that aircon area could accommodate.
People had enough room to lie down and catch some sleep. Just like Jonah who immediately fell asleep after having a cup of instant noodles she bought at the ship’s canteen.
But I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. It was my time to roam around.
The sea was calm and the ship was steady. The first level of the ship was full of cargo vehicles and I didn’t go there anymore. After all, there were no windows or anything down there so I just walked around the second level where the air conditioned area was as well as the plastic benches in the open area.
There wasn’t much to see, really. I wished it was daytime but then traveling at night (or early morning for that matter) gives me more day time to roam around my destination. More day time means having enough time to go to the places you intend to visit, therefore eliminating the need to stay overnight. And that has always been my game plan (or in this case, travel plan).
The third level of the ship, the deck, was actually what I wanted to see. But since it was dark, all I could see of the sea was the white foamy water at the side of ship. It was so dark I felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Even the deck itself was dimly lighted, and to top it off, there was no one there aside from me. It felt a little creepy, actually. Good thing two men also went up the deck after a few minutes to take pictures. It wasn’t too creepy when I wasn’t alone.
Travel time was two hours, and by that time, we were already an hour into the trip. The sea became rough by then and I couldn’t walk without an effort to balance. The two men decided to go back to the lower level leaving me all alone again at the deck. After a few more pics, I also went back to the second level myself. The ship was so swaying I couldn’t walk without holding on to something.
Jonah was still asleep that time, and looking at her made me want to take a nap. I was awakened after a few minutes when the ship blew its horn. We were near the Calapan Port! I scrambled up with my camera to the open area where the sea was already visible. It was almost daylight! I hoped to get a glimpse of sunrise but the sun rises on the other side, I guess.
The ship was still swaying, though less this time. The islets of Calapan City were already visible you could almost see the trees in the not-yet-so-bright morning light.
A few minutes later, we were already at the Calapan Port. People started going down to the first level of the ship, preparing to get out. I texted Nazis, my policeman friend stationed at Calapan City, that I was almost at the pier. Then Jonah and I decided to go down to the first level as well, where the cargo vehicles were. And boy, did we regret it!
The trucks and vans started their engines as soon as they saw the plank went down, emitting fumes that was so harsh to the nose and throat. And of course it would still take some time to fit the plank onto the pier, and we were trapped inside the first level with all that vehicle fumes which made most of us start coughing. It was quite impossible to get back up the second level because the small way back (which was actually just a space between the vehicles) was already filled with passengers wanting to go out. Honestly, these RoRo ships should have a separate entrance/exit for passengers rather than using the same one used by the cargo vehicles.
Anyway, we were able to get out of the ship alive and I thanked Jonah for being my guide up to that point. Honestly, Batangas Pier was a little confusing and I really thanked God for giving me a company who knows the way around.
I texted Nazis again that I was already in Calapan. But after waiting for like 10 minutes of no reply, I decided to move alone from there. I’ve gathered enough info from Jonah that I knew I only had to take a tricycle from the pier if I wanted to go to the town proper of Calapan. And what’s the best way to start going around than to visit the town’s church?
What I like most about the provinces (at least those that I’ve been to) is that everything can be found at the town proper or what they call bayan. The church, municipal hall, market, hotels, and even the jail.
So I rode a tricycle for 20 pesos and got off in front of Citimart which was a little past the church. I did that because I wanted to walk and have a feel of the place.
The Sto. Niño Cathedral didn’t have the look of an old church, what with its freshly-painted look and the lack of old architectural flare one who has seen enough old churches is accustomed to.
It was constructed in 1959 and it has a long aisle, which was being decorated when I got there. Asking the people inside, I learned that someone’s getting married at 9 o’clock that morning. It would have been great to watch the bride walk down the long aisle but it was only 7 AM that time. I couldn’t possibly wait and waste 2 hours of my time to watch a wedding.
The church houses a magnificent pipe organ (behind me on the above pic) which is its equivalent of the bamboo organ of Las Piñas.
I was almost about to leave the church when my phone (yes, the pink Torque you see in the pic) rang. It was Nazis, and he’s at the pier! Anyway, he met me at the church and we had coffee in a nearby karinderia.
My itinerary included Harka Piloto and Tamaraw Falls and a peek of Puerto Gallera if possible. There’s also an optional visit to relatives in Victoria if time would permit. I asked Nazis if all of that were possible (including the relatives thing) on a daytrip and he said yes. He said Harka Piloto is just a boat ride away, after which we could hop on a jeepney for Tamaraw Falls (which was along the road to Puerto Gallera) and then head straight to Puerto. He also told me I didn’t have to go back to Calapan because I could go back to Batangas via the boats in Puerto Gallera. It sounded okay to me so off we went to Victoria for the relatives my Nanay wanted me to visit. Honestly, I had never seen most of them and most of them didn’t know me prior to this visit.
(To be continued…)