Sunday, November 20, 2005

Manila-Mindoro-Iloilo, 2003

Below is my account of my first land trip to Iloilo and Panay island via roll-on roll-off (RORO) bus, December 2003:

I left Manila Dec. 23 (2003) evening, took the Bachelor-Rural Transit bus in Cubao, Quezon City, bound for Iloilo via "Strong Republic Nautical Highway", just curious to see again Mindoro Oriental south of Calapan, the facilities in Batangas & Calapan ports, Roxas (Mindoro) & Caticlan (Aklan) ports. Man, what a monstrous traffic at the South Expressway that Dec. 23 evening! No need to elaborate :-) Btway, bus + boat fare from Cubao to Caticlan, air-con, is around P740 forBachelor-Rural transit. Around P820 for Philtranco air-con bus, i'm not sure.

Our bus driver asked his conductor to text the Phil. Ports Authority (PPA) inBatan gas to have one RORO boat wait for us and the other buses trapped in heavy traffic at the S. expressway. The RORO ship, Montenegro Lines, between Batangas and Calapan (capital of Or. Mindoro) was pathetic. Overloaded with vehicles and people, some passengers remained standing between 3am to 5:30 am during the trip because seats were limited and there were too many passengers. The trip should have been at 1am but due to the delays, the ship left 3am.

Around 6am, our bus driver and us passengers still groggy from lack of sleep, the bus moved again for the approx. 125 kms. road trip from Calapan to Roxas, at the southern tip of Mindoro island fronting Panay island. Nice observations here.

The Mindoro folks see big buses only those plying the Cubao-Iloilo route. Five or six buses (4 from Cubao -- 2 Bachelor-Rural Transit + 2 Philtranco, and1 or 2 from Pasay, Philtranco) pass this route everyday and they travel one after the other since they take the same RORO ship from Batangas. A number of rural Mindoro folks seem to be awed by these bus drivers and their passengers since these people endure the long bus-boat rides from Manila to the Visayas. The Nautical highway was opened only about last April 2003, I think. So, some jeepney and mini-bus drivers honk with hand-salute to our bus driver. And the bus driver grins from ear to ear like a politician, he he he. Tricycle drivers are either scared or respect these buses and they readily give way to let the buses pass easily. Unlike many tricycle drivers in Luzon mainland. The road network several kms. south of Calapan is rather bad, plenty of potholes. Roads approaching Roxas are better -- paved, fewer potholes, fewer curves.

The RORO ship Maharlike Lines, between Roxas and Caticlan, is big, has plentier and more comfortable seats for the passengers. Boat ride between the two points is about 5 hours. The boats are imported 2nd hand from Japan. How do I know? Japanese signs and labels inside the boat, hehe.

Caticlan, aaahhh, Boracay! About 15 minutes boat ride to Station 3, around 25 minutes to station 1. Fare is P17.50 per person. No need to elaborate about Boracay, constantly in the "world's 10 bestbeaches" every year.

Caticlan to Iloilo is about 200 kms, but travel time by private car is around 4 1/2 hours. Bad road network in Aklan and Capiz, except in areas near the provincial capitals -- Kalibo and Roxas City, respectively. Kalibo Ati-atihan is held every January and is considered among the most famous festivals in this country. The roads in Iloilo province are good, few potholes, straight roads. Iloilo city is very big.

A former classmate from PDE, UPSE, Ingie Bautista, brought me to UP Visayas, Miag-ao campus. Miag-ao is 3 towns south-west of Iloilo city, and just 1 or 2 towns before Antique province. UP has a big campus there, specialization in Fisheries, Marine Science research and related disciplines. The buildings are new but look less "hardy" compared to the buildings in UP Diliman, Manila and Los BaƱos campuses.

Iloilo City to Bacolod City is just an hour away by Supercat, Aboitiz Lines, fare P290 per person. Negros Navigation I think doesn't have Supercat boats. Those super catamarans or "supercats", btway, are already manufactured in thecountry, at West Cebu Industrial Park, a private industrial zone in Balamban,Cebu. I saw the plant some 2 years ago. Meanwhile, Guimaras island-province can be seen from Iloilo port.

Negros Occidental, my province. The land of coconut and sugarcane, rice and sugarcane, fishery and sugarcane, fruit orchards and sugarcane, Onyok Velasco and sugarcane, Canlaon volcano and sugarcane, sugarmills and sugarcane...:-) I have been to all 80 provinces of this country except 10 or 12 perhaps, and I always observe land utilization in these places. I can boldly say that my hypothesis (I formulated this more than a decade ago) is correct: In terms of optimal land use (ie, very little idle lands), no province can beatNegros Occ.!

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