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Monday, October 15, 2007

Romblon Chronicles - Part 1: A bitter-sweet rendezvous with RO-RO

Finally, I am able to sit down and write what I have gone through almost two weeks ago. A week after I went to Batanes for a work-related trip which I blogged here, here, here, and here, I went to Romblon last October 4 for a consulting work with the Peace and Equity Foundation.

I was both excited and anxious about my trip to Romblon. Had it not for the consulting fee (lolz!) and the important social mission I have to accomplish (I will blog about it later.), I would not go to Romblon.

First, I was full of apprehension, because it was my first time to take a RO-RO cruise for more than 7 hours, and at the same time I felt excited to see for myself what a RO-RO (Roll On-Roll Off) is all about and why PGMA is boasting and taking pride of the nautical highway. The longest boat ride I had to take was the trip to Lebak, Sultan Kudarat where we had to pass by the Celebes Sea (another fearsome adventure!) from Cotabato City.

Second, I fear the sea. Yes, I love the beach, but not crossing the sea especially at this time of the year when the Southwest monsoon (habagat) is at its peak. More importantly, I have not gotten rid of my fear after I almost drowned in Illana Bay in Pagadian City during one of my official trips 2 years ago--and this boat below almost killed me! The propeller was detached from the boat which caused it to sink. Had it not been for a woman who went out of their house located near the shore, and who saw us waving in distress, I would not have been blogging now. (And good thing we were only at least 1,500 meters away from the shore.)

Cruising for more than 7 hours from Batangas pier to Odiongan, Romblon was just a part of service and commitment ro poverty alleviation. Certainly, it gave me the creeps because we had to sail at night! Then in Pagadian, we only sailed for less than 5 minutes and our boat sank! It was a relief, however, that I had to ride a huge ferry that can carry at most 20 fully-loaded ten-wheeler trucks!

Wow! I thought it was cool, but not until I boarded the ship. Although I trust the crew not to overload, I was still paranoid because these ferries have the tendency to overload. We have witnessed disasters in the past! As the first instinct, immediately after boarding, I had to look for the exits and find out where the life vests are stored. I was just being cautious and preparing for any eventuality. Who knows?

I got a ticket for an "air con" accomodation, which I learned later that it was the section with double-decker beds. However, I did not use it except for one hour at around 1AM when my body could no longer stand the physical strain. Why? The room was emitting odor of human sweat and human heat because apparently, the air conditioning is not enough to cool the entire room. Rather, I stayed on the deck where it is colder. Because there are no seats on the deck, I had to endure more than 7 hours of walking, standing, sitting on railings and on any available flat surface so that I could rest my wobbly and cramped legs. The trip would have been a complete disaster, save for the people I chatted with, and bland instant coffee to keep me awake.

Reflecting on this, the government should look into this matter. The management should ensure the comfort of the passengers, as well. I would not mind cruising for long hours to go places like Romblon--if I were comfortable. Perhaps the ferry management is not aware of the plight of the common people who only rely on this kind of transportation, or perhaps, they simply have become insensitive and callous of the travelling conditions. Because PGMA is lauding their contribution to the transport of produce to and from the provinces, they may have the notion that they are doing perfectly well. Also, no one is complaining.

So here I am ranting that:

  1. The customer service is bad; some crew members are even impolite (that I had to force myself to lower my expectations--after all, it is not a plane);
  2. The service crew members are nowhere to be found near the passenger area, especially during the wee hours. (What if? Just what if....? There would be no one to guide us all.).
  3. The passenger areas are humid and hot.
  4. The "bed area" is too cramped, which would be aggravating emergency situations
  5. Exit passageways are blocked by passengers' luggage; One exit is even closed, and
  6. The comfort rooms are dirty and stinky (This I could not tolerate!)

There may be more but these are the only major observations I noted.

When I arrived in Odiongan at 4:00 AM, I felt so wasted that I immediately checked in the small hotel near the pier and dozed off until 7AM. At 8AM I was again on my way to Calatrava, where another boat ride going to Simara Island was waiting for me!

Not again!

(Watch out for the sequel!)

6 people have commented. Leave your comments too!:

Hi, Karla here of PinoyCentric. Thanks for leaving a comment at our site. To claim your tickets to the Thank You Day concert, please contact Alma Buenviaje at 0917.5344624 or 8128828/9199.

Thanks, Karla! I have already contacted her.

stay the course and pack patience ad infinitum =] safe journeys always!

salamat at may mga katulad mo pa =] mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

I think what sustained me is constant praying during this time. Thanks!

i've had the displeasure of riding a ro-ro myself but only for a short trip, to mindoro for a convention 2 years ago. creepy. like you i am not that comfortable at sea, specially here in our beloved country where sea vessels aren't that worthy.

You are right, monaco. We still have a long way to go before we could actually enjoy better transportation.

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