Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could gave been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:
In the Philippines, you can not escape ferries when you want to move from one island to another. For long journeys, it is often a night ferry ...
The port of Batangas
March 10, 2017. 20h. My Filipino driver drops me off at the port of Batangas. We have just crossed an area of quays a little deserted, not very engaging, bristling with grills and fences, between sheds and containers. He stops in front of a building defended by a new gate, behind which I see people lining up with bags and suitcases. Several imposing ferries are moored to the surrounding docks.
"Already have your ticket? " my driver asks me, taking my big bag out of the trunk. Absolutely. "So just stand in line, there with the people, it's to buy the quay ticket. After you can go directly to the recording. "
I'm getting ready to embark on a night ferry, the St. Anthony of Padua the company 2Go Travel, one of the largest shipping companies in the Philippines. I leave Anilao (where I spent a week diving and photographing nudibranchs) for the island of Romblon.
I booked my ticket myself via their website, from France, before leaving. I received my e-ticket by e-mail. As easy and convenient as a plane ticket! My trip: Batangas-Romblon. Departure at 22h, arrival at 6am the next morning.
This is not the first time I have taken a ferry to the Philippines. As soon as you want to move in the archipelago, it's almost inevitable! During my previous stay in 2008, I had boarded several times in big banca (the traditional rocker boat) for short links, as the crossing from Leyte to Bohol, and I had also taken the big Cebu-Bato night ferry to Sogod Bay, the bay of the whale sharks ...
For the queue, the quay ticket and the check-in, it's just like the driver said. No surprises and no worries. Filipinos are extremely disciplined when it comes to lining up at a counter and check-in is well organized. Despite the affluence, it moves quickly and I can quickly pass on the platform to embark.
The drug sniffer dog
This is where the diving tourist that I am is reminded of another reality of the Philippines ... Men in black are in front of the bridge, with a dog, specially trained to sniff the luggage and detect the presence of drugs.
Obviously, when we are there for holidays and we spend our time under water, we do not think much about it. The narcotrafic in the Philippines is however the headline of the media worldwide since the summer of 2016, with the bloody drug policy of President Rodrigo Duterte…
The presence of this drug-sniffing dog on the pier in Batangas reminds me of an identical scene, during my trip to Mexico in 2014, on the pier in Playa del Carmen, when I boarded the ferry to Cozumel Island. I do not think I mentioned it in my posts at the time, but I found these two photos that I had taken in secret (I remember that one of the Mexican soldiers had signaled me to put away the device):
In Batangas, guys wearing reflective safety vests have us drop our bags online, then back a few steps, with the injunction to keep our distance and stay aligned too, supervised by another, with the words "Vessel Escort 'in the back. Once in the queue, I film discreetly with my iPhone for 30 short seconds ... There is music on the platform. To relax people?
The lady next to me, a Filipina, at times makes little worried exclamations. I remember that I have a packet of cookies in my little cabin bag, deposited among the others. I'm a little afraid that the dog does not stop in front, by the smell of Oreo allure ... Then I tell myself that I must not be the only one to lug food in anticipation of the crossing. That it was in principle drawn up not to be distracted by biscuits, this dog ...
What surprises me most is that just before, I was allowed to entrust the 28kg of my big bag with wheels to one of the official carriers of the port, without any control. The carrier was able to go directly inside the ferry, to drop my bag in front of my cabin, without going through the step of the dog sniffer, him ...
After a few minutes, seemingly endless, black guys are waving us to go. And the dog did not mark the stop in front of the Oreo at the bottom of my little bag. This time, it's good! I can finally discover the huge ferry that will be my house for the night.
On board, the reception is much more friendly. Stewardesses and stewards in pink and blue polos, courteous and smiling, inform the passengers. A young woman drives me to my bunk for the night. There are several categories: the dormitory without air conditioning on the upper deck, the dormitory with air conditioning underneath, the cabins with four berths with bathroom and private cabins.
I am in a stateroom four. And I'm a little scared when I get in: it's really cold with the air conditioner in the fridge mode, the TV is hot and among my roommates, besides two potential snoring gents, there is a mature lady with a very small child, apparently not at all calm ... 😱 I exchange polite smiles with each other, take possession of my bunk at the bottom and come out to quickly explore the ship before departure.
I discovered a restaurant near my cabin and, at the top of a staircase, the cheap dormitory deck, with, at the end, the loud, unbearable music of the inevitable karaoke bar. Two girls on the tiny stage are preparing to do the animation. Around the tables, we lock the beers. The cruise has fun, Filipino version ... 😁
I'm going back to my cabin. The crying boy seems to be traveling with his father and grandmother. In turn, they take him outside when he gets angry a little too much. The fourth occupant is a young man who gives me a contrite smile and disappears silently behind the curtain of his bunk.
The boat left the dock. The roll is imperceptible. After a while, seeing that everyone seems to be trying to sleep, I extinguish the TV always thoroughly and the light from the ceiling ... The boy ended up staying snuggled with the lady that I suppose to be his grandmother in the bunk in front of mine. Everyone drew his curtains. I leave the ultimate parade, the earplugs, I put my fleece, wraps myself in my sarong Indonesian multifunctional, pulls the blanket over and, well stuck in the pillow, I fall asleep immediately ...
The Good Samaritan
I, who feared not to sleep, slept like a baby. " Mrs ! Mrs ! " An unknown voice, far away. The curtain flutters, there is light, a face leaning towards me ...
Huh? What? I tear off my earplugs, resurface. " Mrs ! Mrs ! Romblon! " shouted a guy in a white shirt, a ferry or port employee. He explains to me that it is necessary to go down quickly. The boat will re-embark passengers, leave for the next island. The lady and the little boy are still there, they look at me with round eyes. It is 6:40. It's been almost three quarters of an hour since we arrived in Romblon.
Ouch. The man grabs my big bag. It is he who is responsible for stuck the 28kg in the stairs of the ship almost desert. I am, eyes still glued, hair in shambles. What are we sleeping on on the Philippine ferries!
On the platform, I can not believe it. The tricycle driver (pronounced "traille-si-keule") who was to pick me up at 6am, sent by the diving center The Three P, is always there to welcome me. He is relieved. He wondered if I was in the ferry. He introduces himself: Arnold.
I'm sorry, I explain. I slept ... He burst out laughing. "As I did not see you coming, I went to ask the port office, he told me. I gave them your name. To check if you were on board. They had the corresponding berth number, but I'm not allowed to ride, so they sent someone ... "
I thank Arnold for ending it. Without him, I would have missed Romblon. I would have woken up somewhere else, at sea or on another island! 😱 The good Samaritan sets my big bag in the back of his beautiful tricycle all yellow with the decor inspired by New York taxis. I will shoot the portrait a week later, because I will again use his services to visit the island (I'll talk about it in a future post).
I am so happy with his welcome on this first day, like the ride he will make me do on the last day, that I promised to advertise him. So here it is: his full name is Arnold Mendez, he lives and works in Romblon, he is a great tricycle driver, reliable and cautious, he speaks English, he is very friendly, punctual, available at any time and reachable at 0928 416 2999 (local mobile number).
During the ten minutes, I continue to laugh at my morning misadventure. Arnold too. At 7 o'clock, I arrived. I have breakfast time, let my camera and my lens glazed by the air-conditioned and misty get warm to room temperature, then lock them up in the waterproof case, before jumping into the first dive boat of the day at 9am! With such a successful arrival, I already know that I'm going to love Romblon ... 😎