That's it, we are finally allowed to embark! (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)
That's it, we are finally allowed to embark! (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)

How to sleep well on a Philippine night ferry

  Philippines: Anilao + Romblon - March 2017

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

In the Philippines, it is impossible to escape from the ferries, when you want to move from one island to another. For long trips, 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 south of Manila, on the island of Luzon. We have just crossed an area of docks a little deserted, not very engaging, bristling with gates and fences, between sheds and containers.

It stops in front of a building defended by a new gate, behind which I see people queuing with bags and suitcases. Several large ferries are moored at the surrounding docks.

View of the other ferries docked from the deck of my ferry. (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)
View of the other ferries docked from the deck of my ferry. (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)

"Do you have your ticket yet?", my driver asks me when he pulls my big bag out of the trunk. That's right, that's right. "So just stand in line there with the people, it's to buy the platform ticket. Then you can go straight to check-in." 

I am about to embark on a night ferry, the St. Anthony of Padua the company 2Go Travelone of the biggest shipping companies in the Philippines. I left Anilao (where I spent a week diving and photographing nudibranchs) for the island of Romblon.

See my previous post → Diving into another world in the Philippines

I booked my own ticket, via their websitefrom France, before leaving. I received my e-ticket by e-mail. As easy and convenient as a plane reservation! My trip: Batangas-Romblon. Departure at 10pm, arrival at 6am the next day.

This is the ferry ride from Batangas to Romblon. The crossing lasts 8 hours. (Map:
This is the ferry route from Batangas to Romblon. The crossing takes 8 hours. (Map:
Despite the crowd, the wait is not long and the registration is quickly dispatched. (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)
Despite the crowds, the wait is not long and the check-in is quickly dispatched. (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)

It is not the first time I take a ferry in the Philippines. As soon as we want to move in the archipelago, it is almost inevitable! During my previous stay in 2008, I had embarked several times in big bancas (the traditional rocker boat) for short links, like the crossing from Leyte to Bohol...and I had also taken the big Cebu-Bato night ferry to reach Sogod Bay, the bay of the whale sharks ...

For the queue, platform ticket and check-in, it's all as the driver said. No surprises and no worries. Filipinos are extremely disciplined when it comes to queuing in front of a counter and check-in is well organized. Despite the crowds, it goes fast and I can quickly get to the platform to board.

The drug sniffer dog

This is where the tourist diver 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 you're there for a vacation and spend your time underwater, you hardly think about it. However, drug trafficking in the Philippines has been making headlines around the world since the summer of 2016, with President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug policy...

The presence of this drug-sniffing dog on the wharf in Batangas reminds me of an identical scene, during my trip to Mexico in 2014I was on the dock in Playa del Carmen, when I boarded the ferry to Cozumel Island. I don't think I mentioned it in my posts of the time, but I found these two pictures that I had taken on the sly (I remember that one of the Mexican soldiers had made me put the camera away):

At Batangas, guys wearing reflective safety vests make us drop our bags, in line, then move back a few steps, with injunction to keep our distance and stay in line too, supervised by another one, who is wearing the mention "Vessel Escort" on his back. Once in the line, I discreetly film with my iPhone for 30 seconds... There is music on the platform. To relax people?

The lady next to me, a Filipina, makes little worried exclamations. I remember that I have a package of cookies in my little carry-on bag, placed among the others. I'm a bit afraid that the dog will stop right in front of it, by the smell of the Oreo... Then I think that I must not be the only one to carry food in anticipation of the crossing. That he has been trained not to be distracted by cookies, this dog...

What amazes me the most is that just before, I was allowed to entrust the 28kg of my big bag with wheels to one of the official port carriers, without any control. The carrier was able to go directly inside the ferry, to deposit my bag in front of my cabin, without going through the sniffer dog stage...

welcome aboard

After a few minutes, which seemed endless, the guys in black waved us on. And the dog didn't stop in front of the Oreos at the bottom of my little bag. This time, it's good! I can finally discover the huge ferry that will be my home for the night.

That's it, we are finally allowed to embark! (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)
That's it, we're finally cleared for boarding! (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)

On board, the welcome is much nicer. Stewardesses and stewards in pink and blue polo shirts, courteous and smiling, inform the passengers. A young woman leads me to my berth for the night. There are several categories: the dormitory without air-conditioning on the upper deck, the dormitory with air-conditioning below, the four-berth cabins with bathroom and the private cabins.

I am in a stateroom of four. And I'm a little scared as I enter: it's super cold with the air conditioning on fridge mode, the TV is on full blast and among my roommates, besides two potential snoring gentlemen, there's a middle-aged lady with a very small child, apparently not calm at all... 😱 I exchange polite smiles with one another, take possession of my bunk downstairs and get out to quickly explore the ship before departure.

I discover a restaurant near my cabin and, at the top of a staircase, the deck of the cheap dormitory, with, at the very end, the thundering, unbearable music of the inevitable karaoke bar. Two girls on the tiny stage prepare to do the animation. Around the tables, beers are being poured. The cruise has fun, Filipino version... 😁

The dormitory is air-conditioned. There is a small wicket in each dorm, where employees are present all night. (Batangas-Romblon Ferry, Philippines, March 2017)
The dormitory is air-conditioned. There is a small wicket in each dorm, where employees are present all night. (Batangas-Romblon Ferry, Philippines, March 2017)
The dormitory more cheap, without the air conditioning. People are already settled for the night. (Batangas-Romblon Ferry, Philippines, March 2017)
The cheaper dorm, without air conditioning, within earshot of the karaoke. People are already settled for the night (Batangas-Romblon Ferry, Philippines, March 2017).
The karaoke bar. (Batangas-Romblon Ferry, Philippines, March 2017)
The karaoke bar. (Batangas-Romblon Ferry, Philippines, March 2017)

I return to my cabin. The whiny little boy seems to be traveling with his father and grandmother. They take turns taking him outside when he gets a little too excited. The fourth occupant is a young man who gives me a contrite smile and silently disappears behind the curtain of his bunk.

The boat has left the dock. The roll is imperceptible. After a while, seeing that everyone seems to be trying to sleep, I turn off the TV still on full blast and the overhead light... The little boy ended up staying snuggled up with the lady I assume to be his grandmother in the bunk opposite mine. Everyone has drawn their curtains. I pull out the ultimate parade, the earplugs, put on my fleece, wrap myself in my sarong Indonesian multifunctional, pulls the blanket over and, well wedged in the pillow, I fall asleep immediately...

The Good Samaritan

I was afraid I wouldn't sleep a wink, but I slept like a baby. "Ma'am! Ma'am!" An unknown voice, far away. The curtain moves, there is light, a face leaning towards me...

What? What? I rip out my earplugs, resurface. "Madam! Madam! Romblon!" shouts a guy in a white shirt, an employee of the ferry or the port. He explains to me that we have to get off quickly. The boat is going to take on passengers and leave for the next island. The lady and the little boy are still there, and contemplate me with round eyes. It is 6:40 am. It's been almost three quarters of an hour since we arrived in Romblon.

Ouch. The man grabs my big bag. He's the one who's in charge of carrying the 28kg up the stairs of the almost deserted ship. I follow him, my eyes still glued, my hair a mess. How well we sleep on the Philippine ferries!

On the platform, I can't believe it. The tricycle driver (pronounced "traille-si-keule") who was supposed to pick me up at 6am, sent by the diving center The Three PHe is always there to welcome me. He is relieved. He was wondering if I was on the ferry. He introduces himself: Arnold.

Arnold poses in front of his tricycle in the colors of New York taxis. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Arnold poses in front of his tricycle in the colors of New York taxis. (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

I apologize, I explain. I was sleeping... He bursts out laughing. "When I didn't see you coming, I went to ask at the port office, he told me. I gave them your name. So they could check if you were on board. They had the corresponding bunk number, but I'm not allowed on, so they sent someone..."

I thank Arnold endlessly. Without him, I would have missed Romblon. I would have woken up somewhere else, at sea or on another island! 😱 The good samaritan fixes my big bag on the back of his magnificent all-yellow tricycle with a decoration inspired by New York cabs. I'll shoot him a week later, as I'll be using his services again to visit the island (I'll talk about that in a future post).

Still awake awake, here I am on my way to the diving center in Arnold's tricycle! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Still not awake, here I am on my way to the dive center in Arnold's tricycle! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

I am so happy with his welcome on this first day, as well as with the walk he will make me do on the last day, that I promised to advertise him. So here it is: his full name is Arnold MendezHe lives and works in Romblon, he is a great tricycle driver, reliable and careful, he speaks English, he is very nice, punctual, available at any time and reachable at 0928 416 2999 (local mobile number).

During the ten-minute drive, I continue to laugh about my morning misadventure. So does Arnold. At 7am sharp, I arrived. I have time to have breakfast, to let my air-conditioned and fogged camera and lens get back to room temperature, and to lock them up in the waterproof housingbefore jumping into the first dive boat of the day at 9:00 a.m.! With such a successful arrival, I already know I'm going to love Romblon... 😎

Youpi, we go diving! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)
Youpi, we go diving! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

  Philippines: Anilao + Romblon - March 2017

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  1. THANK YOU Corinne, I love your blog, especially since we are going next year and Anilao -Romblon is on my wish list. BUT I have a little fear for having experienced it; there seems to be no porthole in the ferry and I am claustrophobic (and yes, a claustrophobic diver!) Can you choose your berth when booking and is there a sea connection to Palawan from Romblon?
    Thanks again for sharing with us your fabulous diving adventures!

    1. @Louise: There was a window in my cabin of four. There must be some in the private cabins too I guess. But they don't open I think... I chose, online, the type of cabin I wanted: but at the time of my booking, the private cabins were not available or displayed, I had three choices between a berth in a four berth cabin, or a berth in one of the two dormitories, air-conditioned, or not.

      As for the dormitories, I found that those of this ferry were really good, clean, large, rather safe, that surprised me pleasantly. I didn't pay attention to the windows in the air-conditioned dormitory (not sure if there are any, indeed), on the other hand the dormitory without air-conditioning is on the upper deck and gives onto the outside.

      Finally, to get from Romblon to Palawan, I don't know if there is a convenient sea link, I doubt it, I would have to look for it (check the Travel 2GO website), but I think the fastest and least complicated way would be to fly (as I did on my return trip), from the neighboring island of Tablas (about an hour crossing from Romblon) where there is an airport. I flew back to Manila in just one hour. I guess that afterwards, from Manila, there are air connections to Palawan...

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a little message 🙂

    2. And you thank you for this information so useful in planning our trip and thank you for the speed of your response.
      I can't wait to read the rest of your trip!

  2. Great testimony Corinne and thank you for your great reports. I love the Philippines but I have not yet taken the ferry. My wife (originally from the Philippines) doesn't want to take the ferry to make a night crossing because there have been a lot of accidents in the past and many victims. I guess there has been some progress made.
    Good continuation

    1. @Patrice: Yes, there have been dramatic shipwrecks, the Philippines are infamous for their maritime disasters... (And Indonesia too, by the way...) The ferry on which I embarked for this Batangas-Romblon crossing made a good impression on me, as much in terms of organization and management of the passengers, as in terms of the apparent state of the ship... I guess (I hope) that Filipino companies are making progress in terms of safety standards and compliance with regulations over the years... Thanks for your message! 🙂

  3. Ha yes ... the Philippine ferries.
    We take sleep classes, so it seems that you have studied well and do your homework conscientiously.
    One day I saw one of those Filipino "nap masters" sleeping on a stair railing in a ferry while wiping a typhoon tail.... kind of lying on a 20cm wide surface inclined at 35° ....a kind of "siesta panda" 8th dan of sleeping. He could have put Chuck Norris to sleep 😀

    (Mmmh ... about these melibe ...?)

    1. @Ludovic : Yes, I don't travel in Asia without my "fleece + sarong + earplugs" survival kit. I am well aware that I am still a little beetle compared to the great masters of the nap on a staircase under the tail of a typhoon, but I have nevertheless developed over the years a quite honorable ability to adapt... 😀

      Otherwise, I do believe that the coming weekend will be the right one to seriously tackle the Melibe file... 😉

  4. Hello

    I am currently in the Philippines and I wish to take the ferry from Batangas to Caticlan. I wanted to buy my tickets on 2go travel, but they ask for photocopies of credit card document. I do not know if I have to order the tickets on the website or directly at the port. Knowing that the boat will leave January 8 at 21h. Thanking you.

    Regards lydie

    1. @Lydie: online booking or directly on the spot, both are possible, I guess, but booking your ticket on the website in advance allows you to be at ease. It is at the time of the check-in before boarding, that we provide the agent at the counter with the photocopies requested (passport and front of the payment card), that allows them to validate the transaction made online and to avoid frauds, I suppose. I don't know if this can help you, but I took the time to dig into my old e-mails, and here is the content of the confirmation e-mail I received:

      Please be reminded that the Credit Card Owner must sign the eTicket Itinerary Receipt.

      The following documents must be presented before boarding at our terminal:

      • 2 copies of the Originally Signed eTicket Itinerary Receipts (signed by the Credit Card Holder and the Passenger / s)
      • Photocopy of the credit card holders valid ID
      • Photocopy of the credit card (front copy only)
      - Passenger's valid ID