This entry will be different from most others written in this blog because it will include places outside Bohol.
You can’t call a vacation a vacation if you can’t get away from it all. If you keep answering urgent texts, and emails and incessant questions about your arrival it’s not a vacation. So to borrow from a friend, I sometimes look for a state of enforced relaxation. A time when no one can rush you including yourself even if you wanted to.
So on my last vacation to Manila I rode of Bohol, the longest and most scenic way possible, by bus. It’s 36 hours of green fields, blue seas and time to catch up on sleep, go on a sound trip or have long conversations with family or significant other. But for this trip I went alone.
My trip began in Tagbilaran city, the locale of your ticketing office is where your pick up point is. I took the Megabus Line and they pick up at the Plaza Rizal near the St. Joseph Cathedral at 0400H. I waited at the 24 Hour Dunkin Donuts for the option of coffee. From there you travel the long way around and through the island, picking up passengers from different points. From the towns like Jagna, Carmen, Alicia, and finally Ubay.
There will be bathroom breaks and meal stops over the course of the entire trip, but as I would not want my meal times in the mercy of someone else’s schedule I came prepared and packed like a camper.
In Ubay you get there by late morning where you wait till midday for your RORO (Roll-on Roll-off barge). You may want to walk around and do some last minute obligatory Bohol souvenir shopping of peanut kisses, calamay, or “I love Bohol” shirts, around nearby stores. Or try your luck to buy a jacket if you havent packed one because the trip as you would have learned at this point is cold, very cold.
The first of two ROROs of the trip takes you out of Bohol via the port of Ubay. From there it’s about a 2-3 hours till you arrive around sunset in the town of Bato, a southern of Leyte about three hours drive to Tacloban, a town that made headlines in 2013 as the worst hit area of the Philippines by typhoon Haiyan.
My regret on this trip is that arriving in Northern Leyte at night. This means going through the Philippine’s Longest bridge, the San Juanico Bridge in the dark! But at least this trip also tells me places I should go visit.
If you keep your ears open during the trip, you will notice how the language changes around you. Bohol and Southern Leyte use Bisaya/Cebuano. But Northern Leyte and Samar use Waray. If you know zero Waray, Tagalog serves better here than Bisaya as I’ve come to understand in my former trip to Tacloban.
Shortly after crossing from Tacloban Leyte to Catbalogan Samar is a food stop for dinner and learned that from here onwards to Manila, every bathroom break you take starts at ₱5 no matter what the facilities.
Here is where it get’s interesting for you language buffs out there. If you keep your ears open during the trip, you will notice how the language changes around you. Bohol and Southern Leyte use Bisaya/Cebuano. But Northern Leyte and Samar use Waray. If you know zero Waray, Tagalog serves better here than Bisaya as I’ve come to understand in my former trip to Tacloban.
After dinner, it’s time to get some shuteye because the second RORO comes during the wee hours of the morning around 0100 to 0300 for boarding and another three hours for the boat ride.
On the inbound to Sorsogon, the southern most tip of the Northern Island of Luzon. I begin to appreciate how many container trucks are on this barge. I have just witnessed a part of the commercial distribution chain that makes up the backbone of the Philippine Economy.
0400H before the break of dawn and on the top deck of the boat at sea was very cold. But I stood my ground and was rewarded by the sunrise that welcomed me to Luzon.
So finally Luzon, but another 16 hours to Manila and off to see my reason for this road/sea trip, Mayon Volcano. Bicol was endless scenes of green and long, long roads.
My final adventure after Mayon was in Camarines Sur, also known as CamSur, also known as Philippine water sports paradise. As the trip didn’t allow for that I decided to have a learning experience. Bicol is known for its delicacy known as the pili nut usually sold coated in caramel sugar. They are pretty good. But it so happens that they also sold an old childhood favorite. One of the many incarnations of the treat called Panocha. As I have learned, spanish sounding foods have very different renditions if they were made in the Philippines, Mexico or Spain. Adobo and Menudo will look and taste so different from all these. So for the sake of clarity, by panocha I mean this solid plate of sugar, totally encrusted with peanuts.
So this being Luzon I tried Tagalog and asked for how much the panocha was. The vendor gave me a puzzled look. Oh dear. I can’t speak Bicolano so I gave my Bisaya a try, “piniato”. Even more puzzled. So I pick it up and asked, what was it called in Bicol. Konserba I was told. Imagine that.
So after passing through Bicol, Calabarzon was familiar territory and was content to watch the onboard movies till I got to Malibay, Pasay City where we disembarked.
So, what do you say? Take the long way to Bohol.