Friday, April 16, 2010

Marinduque: Taking Chances

Of all my previous travels, (which are not really too many), only Marinduque has managed to shake a total of five emotions in me - happiness, hate, fear, sadness, love. With all the sub-categories and grey areas. With all emotions bursting at the seams, the kind that can be life-changing, with a thousand and one lessons along the way. This series will highlight my travel learnings and fears conquered, starting with the travel going there. Oh yes, Marinduque changed my life!

Chill at the Bus
I was working on a deadline hours before the trip I hit send at 1:30 am which allowed me very few hours to pack my things. I arrived around 4:30 am at Jam Liner in Kamuning.

The bus left at about ten minutes to five in the morning. The assumed two hour ride turned five hours! What would one expect during Maundy Thursday? The fee is 227.50 for the trip to the port of Dalahican, past Lucena.

My first travel mistake while on the road was that I sat at the aisle seat. I was crushed by passengers that hopped from Laguna going to Lucena. Especially the old lady who staked a claim on my armrest. I was like, "Hey that's my armrest!". But the old lady actually sat down comfortably, pushing me further towards my friend Elaine. Crushing me, which in turn crushed Elaine who is very frail. OK this was a dilemma moment: Will I be bitchy and tell the old lady off? Or will I just make snide, suggestive movements like maybe squirming like a worm uncomfortably, looking at her direction contemptuously and hope for the best? I did the squirming thing and a little polite "Can you move a little...." And good thing she got it.

At Dalahican Port.
After five hours bus travel, we landed in Dalahican port in Lucena, Quezon. This was where the second turning point kicked in. The first one was the prelude to a dilemma, like a foreshadowing but this, this set the tone of the whole trip.

The night before the trip, I scavenged along the terminals in Edsa for an advanced booking of either bus or roro. If you plan to visit Marinduque during Holy Week, I advice you to plan way ahead of time.Book the roro months before as they get fully booked in a snap.

Why do I advice you to take the roro? It's because it assures you guaranteed seats. And you won't belong to the gazillion people falling in line for a chance (yes, chance) to ride the ferry to this little island.

I had no experience with the roro means of travel going here,  but some accounts have their own hell stories, like enduring twelve hours of waiting from the port just to get to Marinduque. The peak season, which is the Holy Week season apparently transforms the otherwise sleepy transportation system into mayhem.

At the port, we saw throngs of people in line. When asked, some people told me that tey were already at the queue as early as 3:00 am and were still standing there, still waiting for the ticket counters to open! And it was already 10 o clock in the morning. I just had to shake my head to that. Unbelievable.

The lines were cut off without you knowing it. We had Boac or Gasan as our first stop in our island backpacking trip, so we had to choose Balanacan port in Mogpog as our port of choice (according to Lonely Planet, two ports operate at the Dalahican Port the Sta Cruz port and the Balanacan port, it was only when we were in Marinduque already that we realized there were other ports - Buyabod and Cawit)

But seeing the situation, it doesn't matter anymore if we arrive in Balanacan or in Sta Cruz port - just as long as we arrive to Marinduque! Scarcity can somehow lead one with no choice. Beggars can't be choosers.

Later on the ticket booth to Balanacan port opened. I fell in line and so are the hundred and more so people who have been waiting there earlier than me. Some travelers can be brash, with attempts to cut the line. In fact I was so, so close to buying the tickets when the person manning the ticket counter decided that the ferry was already full and can only accommodate 20 more passengers. OK, hell broke lose. And I was driven further away from the ticket lady.

I was thisclose to abandoning Marinduque altogether. I was thinking of  just staying overnight in Lucena to, I don't know, sleep or eat or whatever I can do in Lucena. But like a mirage on a desert, a man on a blue shirt approached me and offered a ferry to Marinduque.  The man started carrying the luggage and was already walking ahead! Where was he leading me? If random blue-clad men were offering ferries to Marinduque, then why were all these people still in line?What? Why? Things went by fast and obviously this was not a moment to ponder and dilly-dally. Off I went!

Turned out...

He was leading me to a car ferry. Where properly ticketed passengers were on top of the ship, safe and snuggly in their air-conditioned chambers and comfortable cushioned seats. Whereas I sat down on a monoblock chair making friends with automobiles.

But the thing was, the weird thing was, throughout the journey, I didn't feel scared or uncomfortable at all. While I sat on a monoblock, other passengers had only last week's paper to sit on. The ride was four hours long but it was smooth.

The ride couldn't be more perfect, because I was more than happy and excited to reach Marinduque whatever it takes. And that took Courage? check. Determination? check. Sense of adventure? check. Because even if there was no insurance, or that the ticket cost about 250+. (the same amount if we got into the air-conditioned chamber). I jumped in without thinking of the consequences.

I hadn't landed in Marinduque yet but I was already starting to see and appreciate the good things, the happy chances and blessings rather than sulking and dwelling on the bad things. I was also able to conquer my being too safe and my fear of water. Good start. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Jam Liner in Kamuning  - 227.50 one way bus bound to Lucena/Dalahican. Dalahican is the last stop of the bus. 

MV Torrijos car ferry - 250 one way to Sta Cruz port.

The Jac liner in Kamuning has roro service for P500. During peak season, the roro service is booked months before. So for passengers who don't have reservations for roro,  and those like us who will bravely get off from Dalahican in Lucena and undergo the challenge of getting tickets and actually boarding a ferry to Marinduque, prepare for  unmanageable crowds, very long queues and waiting hours. There's nothing to do but to keep your cool. Reserve the bitching and the useless comments on how inefficient the transport system is later on after you get to the destination. Be quick-witted.

Mobilize and Strategize. If there are two or more of you traveling, you and your buddies can fall in line on different booths, and pay for the others whoeever gets to the ticket lady first, to be able to save time and effort. That's what traveling with buddies are for. 

I should say that our experience of getting on the MV Torrijos car ferry was because of fate and a touch of luck. Because our ride was a safe, enjoyable one.


  1. dangerous yan! make sure to sign the attendance/manifesto for the insurance. kasi pag nagka-accident wala kang habol. but it's good that you were safe. by the way i saw your site from the link on your facebook. cute and informative website. have fun with your travels, God bless -- tita jenny

  2. hahahah thank you po!oo nga eh pero safe naman po yung ship! i know, nung nakasakay ako naiisip ko na it might be risky pero i just enjoyed the ride and prayed. but one thing i learned is to plan ahead and get organized whenever going to a certain place.take care po and regards=))