Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Mystery of the Ferry

What's the big mystery with the ferries?! Huh? They obviously do have a schedule - cos 15 minutes before the boat leaves all the Filipinos turn up - so THEY obviously know where it's going and at what time - why won't anyone tell ME?!

Asking someone about a ferry elicits the same response as asking an intimate detail about their sexual preferences: blushes, embarrassed giggles, shuffling of feet whilst looking at the floor and, sometimes, blind shock.

Last week in Romblon I had a hell of a time trying to get details about the boat to Sibuyan. I thought it would be easy! I asked a Tricycle driver - he gave a hearty laugh [in the style of a Bond Villain] and drove away chuckling to himself. I asked the two woman who ran the guesthouse: they giggled nervously and looked at the floor. Right! I thought. Go to source of the problem - no messing around. I jumped on Jeepney and headed for the Port.

At the gate was a Ticket-Seller:
"Hello, do you know about the boat to Sibuyan?"
"Yes, Damsel Boat" he said and pointed at the last jetty. I looked over and saw a small Banca with 'Damsel Lines' stencilled on the side.
"Great!" I said "What time does it leave?"
"Oh!" He looked shocked and slightly offended, then he shrugged.
"Information?" I asked.
"Oh yes" he said cheerfully "Information" and pointed to the impressive looking Port Authority building.

I went in, there's a glass fronted office. It says Romblon Town Port Authority and underneath that it says INFORMATION in big black capitals. Surely I am in the right place?
There's a smartly-dressed woman, who stands up to greet me as I enter. She smiles and says
"Can I help you?"
"Yes please" I say "I want to get the ferry to Sibuyan." She nods and points out the window,
"Damsel Boat" she replies.
"Great! What time does it leave?"
"What time?"
"Yes, what time does the boat leave?" Nothing. A blank face
"Depart? What hour does it go?" She looks embarrassed and shrugs a little.
"This boat, Sibuyan, when? [sigh] At what hour does this boat leave"
She shuffles her feet and starts blushing. I try a change of tactic:
"What time does the boat arrive in Sibuyan?"
"Arrive!" she says, surprised "Where?"
"Where?" now it's my turn to be surprised "In Sibuyan!"
"Where in Sibuyan?"
Aaaaah "Port Fernando?"
"No" she says.
"No boat to Port Fernando"
"Oh. Then..." I consult my map "Magdiwang? What time in Magdiwang?"
"Magdiwang!" She is shocked, apparently she's never heard of the place - or maybe it's a naughty word. She is slightly stern -
"No!" she says "No boat to Magdiwang"
"Right." I consult my map. There are only 3 villages on Sibuyan. Two are on this side of the island, the third, Cajidiocan, is on the far side."Cajidiocan?" I say doubtfully. She smirks, a ridiculous question!
"No," she smiles "No boat to Cajidiocan"
"Right" I say "Where in Sibuyan does the boat go?"
"Sibuyan?!" She looks startled, as if I've just changed the subject.
"Yes," I point outside "this boat, Damsel Boat, where?"
"Aaaah" she says "Abra!" I consult the map, I already know there's no Abra. I show her the map.
"Where is Abra?" She giggles nervously, shuffles her feet and looks at the floor
"I don't know" she says.
"Oh" Sigh "What time does it arrive in Abra?" She jumps, takes a step back and looks at me as if I have just asked her to mimic the mating dance of one of those baboons with a red bum.
"I don't know!" she says primly.
I have a moment of inspiration!
"This boat" I say pointing "is like a jeepney boat - it leaves when it is full?"
"Oh no!" She says, offended now "this is a scheduled boat"
"A-ha!" I say gleefully. I have her now! "A scheduled boat?"
"Oh yes" she says, nodding authoritatively.
"Where is the schedule?"
"Schedule?" She says doubtfully.
"The schedule is here?" I make a point of looking around the room, there is a notice board and her desk. She follows my gaze, looking at her desk as if there might be something fierce behind it.
"Sked-doool?" She says slowly, as if the word might be familiar to her... I know what this is. It's the Parisian Method and it has no known defence.

On the way out I ask if there is a Tourist Information Office. I am directed down the street. I find it, it's boarded up. There are two Filipino gentleman sat outside.
"Closed" says one of them helpfully.
"Yes" I say, "will it open?" They both shrug in unison.
"Maybe at 10" says the second one. I'm not convinced. "I can help you?" he asks with a friendly smile. I smile back sadly and take a deep breath.
"I want to ask" he smiles expectantly "the time. Of the Ferry. To Sibuyan"
"Aaaah" he says and they both nod sympathetically.

Tomorrow I want to move on. But first I have to find out when and where the boats go from [sigh]. I've asked Travel Agents, Tourist Information offices, Trike drivers and anyone I've met in the bar! [grin] So far the response has been:

1. There is a weekly ferry from Kabilo to Cebu City - day and time unknown.
2. There is a daily ferry from Roxas to Cebu City - time unknown.
3. There is no boat from Kabilo, Roxas or anywhere else to anywhere. Get on a jeepney and learn to love it - cos you're gonna be on there for a long time.
4. Cebu City? That's a place? Boat? 'Fairrrrr-reeee' - that's a familiar sounding word... but... no. I have no idea what you're asking me.
5. Cebu City? Is that something to do with baboons? How dare you ask a respectable person a question like that?

So I reckon I'll head south and see what happens...


Anonymous said...

Hehehe... This reminds me of the experiences a certain Matthew Parris wrote about, while travelling in Peru. Being quite an intrepid tourist back in the day, he was frequently hitching rides on the back of lorries; full in the knowledge that the locals used them like we use buses.

Almost every time though, his efforts to learn precisley in advance which transport might take him to which destination met with amusement, mystification, derision and/or obfuscation!

Most times, he just clambered on board and hoped for the best... And was joined by locals who were either equally happy go lucky, or who were instead party to the great big secret as to where the truck was headed!!

Red Pirates said...

Love this blog Jane. Keep it coming!

Anonymous said...

Hahaha.. Cebu is another city/island in the Philippines.. and there are also lots of nice beaches there.

Maybe the people you asked were not too comfortable in using the English language.. Feel free to ask me during your next trip/s to our country.. :D