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 made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

In the Philippines, you can't escape the ferries when you want to move from one island to another. For long trips, it's 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 a somewhat deserted quay area, not very engaging, bristling with grates and fences, between hangars and containers. It stops in front of a building defended by a new fence, behind which I see people queuing up with bags and suitcases. Several imposing ferries are moored to 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)

"Already have your ticket? " 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, that's to buy the platform ticket. Then you can go straight to check-in. » 

I'm getting ready to embark on a night ferry, the St. Anthony of Padua the company 2Go Travelone 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.

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

I booked my ticket myself via their website...from France before I left. I received my e-ticket by e-mail. As easy and practical as a plane resa ! My route: Batangas-Romblon. Departure at 10pm, arrival at 6am the next morning.

This is the ferry ride from Batangas to Romblon. The crossing lasts 8 hours. (Map: Rome2Rio.com)
This is the ferry route from Batangas to Romblon. The crossing takes 8 hours. (Map: Rome2Rio.com)
Despite the crowd, the wait is not long and the registration is quickly dispatched. (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)
Despite the crowd, the wait is not long and the registration is quickly dispatched. (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)

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 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, the platform ticket and check-in, it's just like the driver said. No surprises and no worries. Filipinos are extremely disciplined when it comes to queuing in front of a counter and the check-in is well organized. Despite the crowds, things are moving fast, so I can quickly get on the platform to board.

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.

Of course, when you're here for a vacation and you spend your time underwater, you don't think much about it. Yet drug trafficking in the Philippines has been in the 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 2014on the dock in Playa del Carmen, when I boarded the ferry to the island of Cozumel. I don't think I mentioned it in my posts at the time, but I found these two pictures I had taken on the sly (I remember one of the Mexican soldiers signaled me to put the camera away):

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

The lady next to me, a Filipino woman, sometimes utters little worried exclamations. I remember that I have a packet of cookies in my little carry-on bag among the others. I'm a bit afraid that the dog might stop right in front of it, by the smell of the Oreo's... Then I think to myself that I shouldn't be the only one lugging food around for the crossing. That he's basically been trained not to be distracted by biscuits, 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 porters, without any control. The porter was thus able to go directly inside the ferry, in order to drop my bag in front of my cabin, without going through the sniffer dog stage.

welcome aboard

After a few minutes, which seem interminable, the guys in black signal us to go. And the dog hasn't stopped 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 are finally allowed to ship! (Batangas, Philippines, March 2017)

On board, the reception is much nicer. Hostesses and stewards in pink and blue polo shirts, courteous and smiling, inform the passengers. A young woman leads 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 below, four-berth cabins with bathroom and private cabins.

I am in a stateroom by four. And I'm a bit scared when I come in: it's super cold with the air-conditioning in fridge mode, the TV is on full blast and among my roommates, apart from two potential snorers, there's a middle-aged lady with a tiny child, apparently not calm at all... ???? I exchange polite smiles with each other, take possession of my bunk downstairs and quickly go out to explore the ship before departure.

I discover a restaurant close to my cabin and, at the top of a staircase, the deck of the cheap dormitory, with, at the very end, the thunderous, unbearable music of the inevitable karaoke bar. Two girls on the tiny stage are getting ready to do the entertainment. Around the tables, beers are being brewed. The cruise is 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 dormitory more cheap, without the air conditioning, within earshot 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'm going back to my cabin. The whiny little boy seems to be traveling with his father and grandmother. One by one, they take him outside when he gets a little too excited. The fourth occupant is a young man who gives me a contrite smile and disappears silently behind the curtain of his bunk.

The ship 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 always at full blast and the ceiling light... The little boy has ended up huddled with the lady I suppose to be his grandmother in the bunk opposite mine. Everybody drew their curtains. I pull out the ultimate parade, the earplugs, put on my fleece, wrap myself up in my sarong Indonesian multifunctional, pulls the blanket over it and, wedged into the pillow, I fall asleep immediately...

The Good Samaritan

I was afraid I wouldn't sleep, so I 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! " a guy in a white shirt, a ferryman or a harbor worker, yells at me. He explains to me that we have to get off quickly. The boat will take on board some passengers and leave for the next island. The lady and the little boy are still there, staring at me with round eyes. It's 6:40 a.m. It's almost three-quarters of an hour since we arrived in Romblon.

Ouch. Man grabs my big bag. He's the one who's stuck the 80-pound bag in the stairwell of the near-desert ship. I am, eyes still glued together, hair in a mess. How well one sleeps on Filipino ferries!

On the dock, I can't believe it. The tricycle driver (pronounced "traille-si-keule") who was supposed to pick me up at 6 am, 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.

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'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. So they could check to see if you were on board. They had the corresponding bunk number, but I'm not allowed to get on, so they sent someone... "

I thank Arnold endlessly. Without him, I'd have missed Romblon. I would have woken up somewhere else, at sea or on another island! ???? The Good Samaritan is staring at my big bag on the back of his magnificent yellow tricycle with a decoration inspired by New York taxis. I'll shoot him a week later, because I'll use his services again to visit the island (I'll talk about it 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 awake awake, here I am on my way to the diving center in Arnold's tricycle! (Romblon, Philippines, March 2017)

I am so happy with his welcome on this first day, as well as the walk he will take me 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-minute ride, I continue to laugh at my morning misadventure. So does Arnold. At 7:00 a.m. sharp, I arrived. I have time to have breakfast, let my camera and lens, which are iced by the air conditioning and covered in mist, cool down to room temperature, and then lock them away. 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 as we go next year and Anilao -Romblon is on my wish list. BUT I have a small fear for having lived there, there does not seem to be a porthole in the ferry and I'm claustrophobic (and yes, a claustrophobic diver!) Can you choose your berth at the time of the booking and is there a maritime 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 I suppose in private cabins. But they do not open I think ... I chose, online, the type of cabin that I wanted: but at the time of my reservation, the private cabins were not available or displayed, I had three choices between a berth in a cabin of four, or a berth in one of the two dormitories, air conditioned, or not.

      For the dorms, I found that those of this ferry were really good, clean, large, rather reassuring, it pleasantly surprised me. I did not pay attention to the portholes in the air-conditioned dormitory (not sure that there is, in fact), however the dormitory without air conditioning is on the upper deck and overlooks the outside.

      Finally, to reach Romblon Palawan, I do not know if there is a practical sea link, it would surprise me, it should seek (looks on the website of Travel 2GO), but I think the fastest and the least Complicated will be to fly (as I did back), from the nearby island of Tablas (about an hour crossing from Romblon) where there is an airport. I returned to Manila in just one hour of flight. I imagine that after Manila there are flights to Palawan ...

      Thank you 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 not wait to read the rest of your trip!

  2. Super testimonial Corinne and thank you for your great reports. I love the Philippines but I have not taken the ferry yet. My wife (native of the phils) does not want to take the ferry for a night crossing because there have been in the past a lot of accidents and a lot of victims. I imagine there has been progress in fact.
    Good continuation

    1. @Patrice: Yes, there have been dramatic shipwrecks, the Philippines are sadly famous 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, both in terms of the organization and management of passengers, and the apparent condition of the ship... I imagine (I hope) that Philippine companies are making progress in terms of safety standards and compliance with regulations over the years... Thank you 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 "siesta masters" sleeping on a banister in a ferry while we were wiping the tail of a typhoon... kind of lying on a 20cm wide surface inclined at 35° ... a kind of "siesta panda" 8th dan dodo. He could've put Chuck Norris to sleep. 😀

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

    1. @Ludovic : yes, I no longer travel in Asia without my survival kit "fleece + sarong + earplugs". I am well aware that I am still only a little beetle facing the great masters of the typhoon-tailed siesta, but I have nevertheless developed over the years a very honourable ability to adapt... 😀

      Otherwise, I 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: booking online or directly on site, both are possible, I guess, but booking a ticket on the site in advance can be quiet. It is at the time of check-in before boarding, that we provide the agent at the ticket office the photocopies requested (passport and front of the payment card), it allows them to validate the transaction made online and to avoid fraud, I guess. I do not know if it can help you, but I took the time to rummage through 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

      IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT WE WILL NOT ALLOW BOARDING IF ANY OF THE ABOVE REQUIREMENTS IS NOT PRESENTED AND SUBMITTED TO OUR BOARDING TEAM. FURTHERMORE, OUR ETICKET FACILITATORS MIGHT GET IN TOUCH WITH THE CARD HOLDER FOR VERIFICATION AND VALIDATION OF THE TRANSACTION.

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