Published: May 7th 2012May 7th 2012
The last time I wrote I had seen enough of Cebu City and was headed for the bus station and the southwest coast of Cebu Island. The bus system in the Philippines is really good. The air-conditioned buses are very comfortable, with some dvds showing (if you can hear them). I’ve calculate that most bus journeys cost about €1 for an hour or travelling.So if you are told that the trip will be three hours long, count on a fare of about €3. The journey was uneventful but I love taking photos of the homes and people as we drive by. I like to see them working, playing, eating together, shopping, etc.
My original plan had been to go to Oslob where, it was said, one could swim with the whale sharks and dolphins. The woman in the Cebu Tourist Office had given me the details of her colleague Elizabeth in Oslob who arranges for people to go out in boats at the two feeding times, 6:30am and 2:00pm. I can’t tell you how many times I have been given erroneous information, wrong schedules and prices, etc. etc. You really have to ask the same question of at least
three different, unrelated people. Then you might have a glimmer of the truth.
In this case I decided not to get off at Oslob because having been driven around uptown Cebu in a taxi for an hour, I would have arrived in Oslob too late. I thought the last trip out was 2:00pm but I later learned that you have to go early and wait to be assigned a seat in a boat going out to the dolphins. That can take some hours. So I decided to keep going on the bus and head for Santander on the southern tip of the island and maybe get a ferry to Negros Island. If there wasn’t a ferry soon, the next day I would take a bus up the west coast of Cebu Island.
By the way, the next time I come I’m going to bring my old Irish mobile phone and buy a SIM card as soon as I arrive for 40p/80cent. Then I can add 100peso credit and be able to ring hostels and other places. That would be handy.
Did I mention that €1 = 55pesos and $1 = 42pesos?
The next thing I knew,
nipa hut on stilts
an icon of Philippine culture
we weren’t in a town but everyone was getting off the bus. So I did too. Then I saw that everyone was lining up to buy tickets for a boat to Dumaguete on Negros Island. The next one was at 4:00pm, less than an hour away. I got talking to an older man who had been on the same bus as me. He was persuading me to go to Dumaguete, “the City of Gentle People”, that is famous for its universities, one of which is ranked in the world’s top 100 universities. That must be Silliman University built in 1901by American Protestant missionaries and the first American university in the Philippines. It has good examples of period architecture. He made is sound so interesting I figured, “What the heck, I’ll go for it.”
Then it struck me, “Where’s my suitcase??!” I had sort-of thought that we were at the endpoint on the bus route and that the bus conductor would unload all the baggage, including mine. There were yellow buses there in the small yard so I figured one was ours. Not. Actually, I hadn’t thought about my case at all. Doh!
For some strange reason I wasn’t
at all stressed about our bus having left about 15 minutes before, with my suitcase on board. In less than two minutes the security guard had found out the number of the bus I had arrived on. He whistled down the road to a motorcyclist to come. With my red schoolbag on my bag and my shopping bag of extras hanging off my arm, I climbed onto the back of the motorbike and we took off down the road in the direction the bus had gone. I was delighted because I love riding on the back of a motorbike, wind in my hair and all that as the landscape flies by. I could have circled Cebu Island like that.
Alas, after about 3km we arrived at the bus which was turned around, ready to return to Cebu City, with my wheelie suitcase sitting up on the front seat with the best view of all. I had figured they would be going back past the dock, but my only concern was they might take a lunch break and not return before the boat sailed. Somehow we got the case onto the motorbike and back we went. I was sorry when
my delightful spin ended
The driver, Renaldo, was telling me that when I came back from Negros Island he would bring me to Oslob. He said the trips out start at 6am and only two people can go in each boat so you could be waiting a long time to go out to the dolphins and whale sharks. They stop going out at 2pm and if you haven’t had your trip, too bad. Well, that was a different story again.
He charged me an over-the-top fee for the motorcycle ride, 150 pesos/€3, but he had been there for me when I needed him so I paid up. After chatting to him about maybe going with him to Oslob it occurred to me that I had given him 250pesos by mistake, an extra 100peso note. He had it scrunched in his hand and, not even feigning surprise, he opened up to show the extra note. The crook knew darn well I’d made a mistake and was only hoping I’d go off on the boat without realising it. In my limited experience that is unusual for Filipinos who are very honest. You meet all kinds. I had been starving on the bus
ride from Cebu so I was pleased to be able to buy some cold fried chicken at the cafe in the waiting room before the boat left.
While we were sailing across to Dumaguete I was chatting to the same older man as at the dock. When I asked him how many children they have he gave the usual wistful Filipino reply, “Only 8.” He said, “I hope you remember to show your senior citizen card to get your discounts.” What was this? He said that all people over 62 just have to show any ID with their date-of-birth and they can get up to 20% off hotel rooms, restaurant meals, ferryboats, bus rides, etc. Although it would have been nice to know before I arrived in the Philippines this was only Day 3 so I was lucky I met him when I did.
Sail on! Sheila
There are more photos below