Thursday, February 10, 2011

Steve's trip to Balanga

6:00 A.M. Fill backpack with bottles of water, carrying bags for groceries, and rain jacket (just in case.) Marcia has decided to attack the heap of laundry this morning, rather than both of us going shopping.

6:55 Board banca with helper Roy and boatmen Menard and Freddie.

7:02 Get underway following several attempts by Menard to start the engine. Could have gone with Edmund but his engine seems to be more reliable, taking some of the suspense out the trip. Freddie gives me an umbrella to lay in front of my legs in an attempt to keep me from getting soaked with spray from the high waves.

7:10 Menard stops banca so Freddie can remove plastic bags that are wrapped around the propeller. Wind is from the north, right into our faces, and front of banca is cutting through. Grateful for umbrella.

7:35 Enjoying ride, seeing several speed fishing bancas heading the other way. They seem to have jet engines compared to the progress we are making.

7:56 Pull into Cabcaben after 54 minute ride.

8:00 Board tricycle for ride to bus stop.

8:05 Arrive at highway simultaneously with bus, quickly give tricycle driver extra money but no time to collect change, get aboard bus with Roy as it is pulling away. Go to back of the bus, the only seat where anyone over 5’6” can fit, me being 6’5”. My legs are in the center aisle. Bus is already fairly full, wonder how many more will board along the way. Also notice that more and more of the windows are being closed. This is the first time that I have ridden in one of these buses when all of the windows were not open. Then again, it is February, and the temperature is probably no more that 72 Fahrenheit right now.

8:08 First stop. Several students, probably college age (16-20 in the Philippines) board. Things are getting crowded. I am sitting in the back row, my legs between the two seats in front of me on either side. Two of the students crowd past my legs and sit to my left. The bus is designed so that three small people (typical Filipinos) can sit on the left and two on the right of the aisle. See that no one is getting off. Wonder again how many more will board along the way.

8:20 Have made several more quick stops, bus is now full. It appears that I am correct – these are college students who will not get off until the outskirts of Balanga. By now one more has squeezed to my left, and two to my right. I can’t feel the right half of my butt, but must still have some feeling in my right leg, as I can sense the leg of the student crammed next to me.

8:24 A few more get on, one gets off. The bus attendant has now inserted a bridge seat directly in front of me, and I must find another place to put my legs. Somehow I find some space, but now my entire butt’s numb.

8:37 More get on. More bridge seats are in place, blocking the whole aisle. Others are standing in the aisle, and the doorway in the middle of the bus is crammed with standing riders, at least one hanging partway out the bus. Wonder if it is possible to get any more riders on board without stacking people horizontally. Can’t take picture with camera phone because all I’d get is someone’s back.

8:52 Mercifully a few riders get off at a school called “Bataan Heroes Memorial College.” Some relief, at least the windows aren’t bulging anymore. Realize that I am the only passenger older than Roy’s 22, and that I am the only one without jet-black hair.

8:59 Don’t know what college we’re at now, but most of the passengers depart. Yeah!!

9:02 Get off at the Balanga bus terminal, get in line for one of the tricycles to take us into town. A cute, very young boy is sitting on the motorcycle driver’s lap. He looks over at me and I try several times to take his picture with my cell phone.

9:13 Arrive at Mercury Drug. Get a slightly better picture of the young boy. Pay the driver and give the boy a little extra money. Approach the drugstore window and say to the pharmacist, “I would like 50 pieces of Robitussin.” Pronounce it roe-bit-TUSS-en as we would in America. The pharmacist asks me to spell it. I try again, pronouncing it like I’ve heard Menard do when I’ve asked him to buy some for me. “Fifty pieces roe-BEET-uh-seen.” I can see the light go on, and he gets my order.

10:35 Checking out of Elizabeth’s Bodega after filling the shopping cart with everything on the shopping list. Probably bought more sweets than Marcia would approve, but it sure looked good on the shelves.

11:01 Back at the bus terminal and on board in my favorite (and only) seat. To my right I’ve placed the backpack and bags of groceries, and it looks like I will have plenty of room. Now a small cargo door opens on my right – I was completely unaware of it, as each bus is different – and I move my bags as a man plops in two 50-kilo bags of fertilizer. Still appears I will have enough room. A few minutes later we are underway.

11:14 Back by the college area, but only a few students board. I must look friendly because now the space left of me is taken by a man and his son and two women with their daughters. So the row now has six people, four shopping bags, and 100 kilos of fertilizer. Still no problem, my knees are in the aisle.

11:16 A rather heavy woman takes the open half of the seat in front of me. Temporarily her left butt is resting on my right knee. Might be okay for her, but I decide she’s going to have to find some other way to stay balanced on her seat, so I relocate my knee (where, I still can’t figure out). Lady almost falls into aisle, jams herself against passenger on her right.

11:30 Lady exits, is replaced by smaller (typical sized) passenger, I get a chance to restore feeling in my legs.

12:00 P.M. Roy and I depart the bus with our groceries and catch a tricycle to the pier. Always thought tricycles were crowded until today.

12:56 Back on Corregidor after a 36-minute return ride. Rode with the wind and waves, had two ocean freighters pass in front of us, adding to the thrill of the ride. Both times we hit their wakes, Menard yelled, “Ye-Haw!!!”

1:15 Groceries aboard our jeep and heading up the hill, run out of fuel on the steepest part. Have to coast backward about a quarter of a mile on the steep, winding road with the cliff on one side and drainage ditch on the other. And live to tell about it. “Ye-Haw!!!”

P.S. We received the following self-explanatory request. We encourage readers who qualify to participate if interested. S & M

Good day! We're students from UP Diliman and we're currently working on our thesis regarding the motivations of repeat visitors of Corregidor. We chose the island for our study because of its uniqueness. We're looking for people who have been to the island at least twice. Maybe, you could help us with this matter. We would really appreciate it.

You may contact us at this email address:

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