Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oriental Mindoro to Caticlan, Aklan

We left White Beach, Puerto Galera (PG), last December 22, Tricycle ride to PG town proper is P150 per trip. Jeeps and air-con vans going to Calapan, the provincial capital of Oriental Mindoro, share the same terminal. Fare to Calapan is P80 for jeeps, P100 per head for aircon vans, P80 for seated children. 

From PG to Calapan is a scenic ride, lots of zigzag and rolling hills, the sea on the left and forested mountains on the right. Good road too, ideal for road bike riding. At Baco  town, roads become flat and generally straight. Travel time of the van is about 1+ hour.

Calapan is bursting with many tricycles, cars and structures. Our van from PG stopped at a terminal near the public market. Aircon vans going to Roxas and other towns south of the province are also in the same terminal.

Fare for aircon vans from Calapan to Roxas port is P180/head, 3 hours travel time. This is the port going to Caticlan, Aklan, near Boracay island.

We reached Roxas port before 5pm, December 22. There were so many passengers, buses, cars and trucks waiting for a ride to Caticlan. There are three shipping lines plying the Roxas-Caticlan route, Montenegro, Star Lite and Super Shuttle. 

It was very difficult to get a ticket as the ticket offices of Montenegro and Starlite were already swarmed with people, queuing perhaps as early as 2 pm, or even earlier. They don't issue tickets until about 6pm. Super Shuttle has a sign in its office that it is fully booked already for the trip that night.

Montenegro's boat is supposed to leave Roxas around 8pm, the boat arrived before 7pm. The ticket office opened before 6pm, I joined the fray. Lots of pushing but no fights, some shouts, some laughter, some expression of disgust and disappointment. I persisted and stayed. Just when I was in front of the lady giving the tickets, around 7pm, she closed the window and entertained the bus conductors, each bus would have 50+ passengers, so the counting  of tickets and  money was time consuming.

After she gave tickets to  the bus conductors, about 8-10 of them, she kept the window closed. I showed the ID of my 4 yrs old daughter Bien hoping that she would open the window and give me tickets, she did not. Other passengers were getting angry because she and other staff of Montenegro inside were not responding if they would still issue more tickets or not. I kept calm and did not utter bad words. Until we have boarded a boat, I would not say bad words towards them despite my anger and disappointment. I left the ticket office before 8pm, yes, almost 2 hours standing and pushing, and have no ticket yet.

I talked to the port guard and asked for the name/s of any high official of Montenegro in the area. The guard gave me his name, I looked for him, I went back to the ticket office, but I went to the back door. The door opened, I entered and I saw the lady issuing the tickets, she just finished her dinner. I talked to  her and begged that I have two girls with me, 4 and 8 years old. She immediately recognized me and  said yes, then I gave her the money. I waited outside, after a few minutes she went out and gave me four tickets, 2 for adults and 2 for children. I was very happy and  gave her a tip; she refused to take it but I pushed it in  her hand, she laughed and  said thank you.

Whew, it was really good that I did not say bad words towards her or other staff of the boat earlier despite my anger and disappointment. Patience and good human relations pays.

The Montenegro boat scheduled to leave 8pm finally left before 10pm. Only the passengers of buses, cars and some trucks were allowed to board. I learned later that some of those buses have been there by 6am, 4am, or even earlier.

Another boat came around 10:30pm. By 11:30pm, we boarded it. People were rushing and walking fast, hoping to get good seats as it is a free seating boat. We got good seats, with a long table. The boat finally left Roxas port around 2am. Some buses and their passengers also came. The passengers said their bus from Manila going to Iloilo arrived Roxas port around 6am of December 22, and the boat left Or. Mindoro 2am of December 23, wow.

It was a good ride, some big waves were encountered but it's a big boat so we were fine. Our boat arrived Caticlan port shortly before 7am. The two girls were still sleeping, they slept almost 2am, playing and talking inside the boat.

Finally we were in Panay island (composed of  four provinces -- Aklan, Capiz, Antique and  Iloilo). Then we went to the ticket office for a short boat ride to Boracay, our 2nd destination.

The last time I took the bus-RORO ride from Manila to Iloilo was about five years ago. I traveled alone as it was also a Christmas season, my wife and lone daughter that time, Elle Marie, went home to Iloilo earlier on a plane.

There is a boat plying the Batangas-Caticlan route (hence, no more land trip in Mindoro island), 2GO (, about 8-9 hours travel time.

The three shipping lines plying the Roxas-Caticlan route (4 hours) are:

Montenegro Shipping Lines, 4 AM, 10 AM and 8 PM
Tel. Nos. (043) 722-18-73,  043-723-89-89, 723-89-89

Starlite Ferries, Inc.  2 AM, 11 AM and 2 PM
Tel. (043) 722-01-62

Super Shuttle Ferry (AMTC), 12am and 12pm
Tel. 6219519, 6210519, 6431507

See also:
Manila-Mindoro-Iloilo, 2003, November 20, 2005
Going to Boracay, January 16, 2008
Roxas Port, Oriental Mindoro, April 17, 2009

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