Well, still no reply from Pandan. We didn’t have much time now, so we headed to the airport after a quick breakfast. No bananas for the banana pancakes sadly. We had just enough pesos for the bus to the airport and no more.
At the airport we went to buy our tickets but the guy at the Air Phil Express counter wasn’t there. Talking to the Cebu Pacific guy we were told you buy tickets inside. Inside however the Air Phil Express person says you buy them outside, and the cheapest tickets were 5000p! When I had checked last night they were 1350p! Seriously you can’t wait till the last minute like I thought, or like we had in Manila to get out to Coron. Talking to the Cebu Pacific people they told us the two tickets would be 7200p, cheaper than what Air Phil was now quoting but still highway robbery. We said ok and started the process and when I went to hand the guy my card he said they didn’t take credit card. What? Really? You’re expecting people to walk around with thousands of pesos to buy their tickets not knowing what the actual cost will be? I asked if there was an ATM but no, no ATM. Luckily the guy behind us was this amazing early 30s Filipino man from Chicago named Jim who saw our plight and that we didn’t have pesos to even get back to town to hit up the bank. He happened to have 8000 pesos in cash on him. So we scrounged around and every last US dollar we had made exactly $200 which at the going exchange rate was 8000 pesos. We traded bills and thanked him profusely. He saved our day. I wish I could thank him again, but he’s off to Cebu for the holidays.
On the plane we were gratefully to be on our way out of Coron and onto our next leg of our journey. We still didn’t have a destination but that could wait for now.
In Manila our bags were out quickly and we looked for a place to eat that took credit card and Shakey’s Pizza won. I’m not a fan of pizza, and especially not of Shakey’s , but really we didn’t have a ton of options. I also hit an ATM for my max withdrawal of 8000p.
From here we tried to log on the free airport wifi and check email and were eventually successful. We received a broken message from Pandan and gave them a call and they had vacancy so we started looking at flights. Only there were no flights going to San Jose, the only other option to get to Sablayan, the changeover point out to Pandan Island was a 9 hour bus from Manila leaving 3 times a day which we likely already missed. We looked at Puerto Princesa, but the tickets were nearly $200 one way! And with how hard it would be to get to El Nido we ruled that out. Heck we even looked at a jaunt over to Siam Reap in Cambodia, but no flights were available on the days we needed. So we looked at just taking a bus to Puerto Galera, and that seemed like a win. It would take 2hrs by bus, and 1hr by ferry it said. We needed to meet Oly there in a few days and it’s just been such a bear getting around in the Philippines. By far this has been the worst place I’ve visited for getting around.
So we collected our things and headed down to the arrivals section. We asked around electing to ask security guards as they seem to be the only reliable source of information as they don’t have an agenda to push and eventually found there was a bus that could take us to the LRT station (train) but then we would need to take a jeepney from there to the bus station. Not wanting any more hassle we found where the airport metered taxis were. They’re a little more expensive but the ease and time would be worth it. Waiting in line we had a middle aged man try to cut in front of us. We’ve had this happen a few times this trip and have gotten better about just blocking the way. Our taxi took us for a bit of a ride, I watched which turns he made and he made an unnecessary loop going down to one of the major thoroughfares for a few blocks instead of turning right on Taft to get to Gil Puyat. I’m getting wise to this BS, but that doesn’t mean I want to do anything about it anymore. He didn’t get a tip for his 100p worth of shenanigans but it was still worth it for him. We were where we needed to be. Hopping on the bus we waited for it to roll out which took a good 30 min, but then we were on our way!
If you’re keeping track at home, we’re now up to a van, a plane, a taxi and a bus.
We got to see the one main highway of the Philippines trundling along in a bus with worn out dampers zigzagging its way past slower traffic. It’s really better not to look sometimes. Jenn and I read a chapter of Cloud Atlas together.
Arriving at Batangas pier we got off and looked for a ferry not sure any left this late expecting we might be backtracking to try to find a hotel nearby. Lonely planet recommended Traveler’s Inn in walking distance but provided no map. Immediately people were trying to sell us a private bangka across the strait but we wanted none of that after our problems in Banaue. We found that the last ferry to Sabang or White Beach left at 5pm, and found though that there would be one last car ferry to Puerto Galera at 8pm and we could buy our tickets at 7pm. We set up shop again to do some more reading, foot on backpack straps. 7 rolled around and we bought our tickets, 170p each, so very cheap! We then checked in, paid our port fee again having to keep someone from cutting in line, and got some drinks and snacks at the 7-11 inside the port terminal.
After a short wait we board our ferry and were on our way. This wasn’t a high speed passenger catamaran that makes the trip in under an hour; this was a cheap slow one that does it in just over 2hrs. We apparently didn’t make it to the pier the sign said either, but one outside of town. So here we were, closer to 11pm, miles away from the closest hotel. There were plenty of trikes all looking for our business circling like vultures. Jenn told me she was worried we would get kidnapped. We had no choice but to take one. I wasn’t too worried because at this time of night there are no jeepneys or drivers usually, just trikes and very few, so there wasn’t much to run into, and no friend’s stores to make us visit. But still, they’re a motorcycle with a sidecar barely big enough for the both of us with our luggage strapped precariously on top. They are similar to a tuk tuk but smaller still. We were told 250p for the 45 min ride to Sabang Beach where most of the hotels were.
We took off into the night crammed in this tiny little sidecar and immediately the driver makes a right when Sabang is to the left but before we could freak out he made a u-turn having gone right to avoid a giant pothole. The vehicle was so low to the ground ridges in the road would cause the sidecar to bottom out on a skid pad. Not great for the nerves. We had the road mostly to ourselves, and Puerto was lit up with Christmas lights all along the way. The drive was actually a ton of fun, and our driver would check in on us from time to time. We got to the main part of Puerto but knowing only 1 hotel that didn’t interest us much, and feeling confident he would get us where we were going we told him to go on to Sabang. He said ok but we had to put Jenn’s bag in with us, the road was bumpy. So now even more like sardines we made our way slowly up and down a steep hill with a torn up road, bouncing off the ground every so often. It’s hard not to feel alive in moments like this. My risk adverse coworker Ben would have a heart attack doing this. I remember on my last trip remarking that the adventure seemed gone that trip until a tough day hiking in Dominica, but here it’s all around it seems. I can’t help but laugh thinking about what I just wrote since these trikes aren’t some kind of adventure sport but a daily means of getting around for a lot of Filipinos, not something abnormal or scary. We’re lucky to be so well protected back home.
The ride was really pretty and we arrive without incident paying and tipping the guy. We asked where Capt’n Greggs was; a dive hotel recommended by lonely planet and we were pointed to the beach and to the left. We found it pretty quickly and asked if there was a front desk and got a bit of a look of surprise. Here we were at about midnight looking to check in. But sure enough they had a nice room on the top floor for us for 1700p, a pretty solid rate for as nice of a room. We showered and got ready for bed. What a long day considering we only went from one island to the next island over.
So the final count was a van, plane, taxi, bus, ferry, and trike. All we were missing was a train and a real jeepney.