Midnight Bus to Batangas

Trip Start Aug 26, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2009

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Flag of Philippines  , Baguio,
Friday, October 23, 2009

If the journey travelling the steep winding road, up the mountain side to Baguio City, was an ordeal within itself, then the descent at midnight at twice the speed, could only be described as even more so. 
As from my previous entry, there  may be no prizes for guessing,  that the reader may discern ,that I am not really a fan of high places. Especially when they involve twists and turns, with sheer drops of around 4000 feet. Even worse, when experienced in the driving monsoonal rain and on foggy narrow road, I was inclined to think that our bus driver may have been placing his passengers in just  the slightest possibility of danger.

Dave and I had agreed, before we began our long journey, that we would both move on when the time came, as our travel itinerary was very demanding. If we were to see all the places there were to see, then travelling at unusual hours may be necessary .
We had booked a bus that was due to leave from Baguio at midnight ,which was bound south for Manila and was scheduled to arrive  five hours later. From Manila, there was a further two hours, again southward journey to the port of Batangas.  Batangas is located on the southern tip of the island of Luzon. It was the beginning of this bus journey that made our trip most memorable indeed.

Before boarding our comfortable looking bus, I was needing to use the toilet facilities at the bus terminal. However there wasn't really time, and I had been told that the bus had a functioning toilet on board. I began to relax at first, as I thought the bus driver was bound to take it easy, seeing as the weather had really been rainy and visibility due to fog was very low. Boy was I mistaken. Instead the driver drove that bus, as if he was "Micheal Shoemaker" hotting up for pole position in a National Grand Prix.
On our descent, the driver seemed to find every perilous bend at which he took at speed and this I did not at all feel comfortable with. We began passing slower moving vehicles as the teeming rain poured down. Sometimes the torrential rain had begun flooding parts of our steep windy mountain pass. I hung on to the seat in front of me as our midnight bus made its way at speed, overtaking other buses and slower trucks on hairpin bends.
       To make things seem even more frightening, the passengers were being buffeted around in their seats, but strangely enough all seemed to be fast asleep and oblivious to what was happening. Surely no one could sleep with this seemingly mad man at the controls of their bus?  Or had everyone fainted in their seats?.. I wasn't sure, but at this point of our journey, I needed badly to use the downstairs toilet, but was confronted by the fact that not even the world's most skilled acrobat, would attempt to sit on a bus toilet seat,especially with the driver accelerating quickly one moment and then suddenly breaking the next. All this before attempting the next sharp turn at speed.
   Our bus was by now winding its way down the steep mountain pass and at times I wasn't sure we would make the next sudden corner that was looming ahead, but the bus seemed to find its way around and through these steep declines.  All the time with the driver using  the road as if it were his to do so.
  I was amazed that we were still on the road, as the darkened vegetation flew past us, and the occasional tree branch scraping the side of the speeding bus. I was even more amazed, that we had taken just taken 40 minutes to descend the mountain pass. It had taken an hour to ascend it on our way to Baguio City. I had calculated, that we had driven down the mountain side almost twice as fast as we had coming up.
  Finally the ground below our feet seemed to be levelling out. The steep winding bends were now behind us. I could now see the twinkle of farm house lights, which to my relief suggested we were probably near the bottom of the pass. Thank God we had come through the worst part unscathed. I breathed a sigh of relief as we now headed southward past, small farm yards, towns and roadside stalls, which incidentally, were still open for business at nearly 1:30 a.m.
The two way traffic was heavy and it never seemed to stop coming toward us. Cowboy truck drivers, now seemed to be attempting to overtake  us and just making it back in time, to their side of the road, before involving us in a near head on collision. This was to become a common occurrence during our road journey south, and there were many near misses involving our bus and on coming traffic.  Filipino drivers use the opposite side of the road to Australian drivers. 
     It was 5:00 a.m. in the morning, when we finally reached the outer suburbs of Manila. We were another hour just sitting at a traffic round about, and  that added more frustration to this leg of our southbound Journey. This and not to mention the fact, that I still needed to find and use a toilet. The inner city traffic was very congested and that was the major factor that had slowed our bus down. Finally, we reached the Manila bus terminal, and  saw the other bus about to leave Manila for Batangas,... but seeing as we were delayed, it was a case of climbing straight onto the other bus without even being able to look for a toilet. There just was not enough time. I boarded the second bus, hoping that there would be some toilet on board, but to my painful disappointment, there was no toilet. This second bus ride, turned out to be a direct trip, with no stop along the way. I resigned myself  to the fact that I must use every bit of will power and self control, for this middle leg of our journey. 
As our bus rolled out onto the highway, and facing into what seemed to be a glorious sunrise,  the loudspeaker above my head suddenly blurted to life, with a sound of a modern rock band called "Simply Red". Next came the words to a song singing . "Holding back the tears"......I'll keep holding on,....  "I'll keep holding on"... Well, how absolutely bloody ironic, as "I myself had begun turning simply red," and I had been holding on since Baguio City.... I needed to find a toilet and fast.
Upon our arrival at the Batangas Sea Ferry Terminal, Dave and I had both realized that our timing was uncanny to say the least. We were rushed to buy our tickets as the ferry was about to leave for the island of Mindoro.  Fortunately Dave had queried the type and size of the boat we were to sail in.  The first boat, was a small vessel known as an outrigger. Dave said he had travelled in one such boat before, but we would definitely not this time as sea conditions, especially this wind from the cyclone, off the east coast, were making the ocean just a bit too rough.  We then decided we would sail on a 5 ton car ferry instead. Never-the- less
, we suddenly had our hearts in our mouths, when we viewed the first boat as a rusty old sea bucket moored at the pier. Fortunately, this was not our fate as this was really not our boat, but the "Aria Winona"was hidden behind just out of our view. This was a magnificent vessel but alas also had a dysfunctional toilet, in as much as, I would have had to squat down at an angle that I could just not have maintained upon the High Philippines Sea. 
Shortly afterwards, we were seaward and headed for 'Port of Galleons', who's pronunciation in Spanish, I could never seem to master. This all seemed to be much to the delight of the Filipino passengers on board, who would roll with raucous laughter, as  they appeared to observe me holding my lower abdomen, with crossed legs and from behind clenched teeth, trying so hard to pronounce the Spanish named sea port. "Puerto Galera".."Puerto Galera".." mate, get it right" "Puerto Galera". Dave, would say. He who also seemed amused at my mispronunciation,  had began repeating over and over again to me, as if he were master of  all things named by Spaniards.

Looking back, the most remarkable part of our sea journey was,  not frolicking on the waves, but having to purchase 3 separate tickets from 3 windows inside the Ferry terminal. This was necessary before we boarded our boat. You may say they saw us coming, as sometimes they will try and demand more money from foreigners, especially if you are in a hurry and not really sure of where you are or are supposed to be going. ( this was a common scenario during our trip and occurred in several different countries. ). Despite all these happenings, and the now lower abdo-colonic pain I experienced, the rest of the ocean journey was a wonderful experience.  This fact seemed to make all the other annoying happenings trivial by comparison.
Once underway,the journey past the small tropical islands, studded with palm trees and hidden alcoves was really as you would expect to see in the scene of a movie. The ocean took on a vivid light blue colour and seemed almost crystal clear.  The gentle sea breeze had not yet shown any signs of the cyclonic winds that were later to bring devastating heavy rains to the islands and mainland. 
The other passengers, on board seemed more content to watch the video nasties such as "Rambo in Action",all guns a blazing  and with the sound turned way up, so that you could hardly make out what the passenger seated next to you may be saying, or not saying for that matter.Finally after having sailed for two hours or, so, we began to be blasted out of our seats by even noisier video volume as the sound appeared to increase with the function and passage of time.
Whilst sailing along upon the Philippines Sea,  It occurred to me that I may be eligible for consideration for entry into the Guinness Book of Records,... as the man who suffered the longest interval without ever finding a toilet to use. I had been holding it in ever since Baguio City and was by now probably of celebrity status amongst my new found, salty sailing Filipino friends.
  After sailing on the high seas, which were not that high at that time, we began to approach our longed for  sea port, on the Isle of Mindoro and then gradually the shore line began to take on clear images of many people waiting at the pier, for our boat to moor along side, and unload its passengers.
Finally our ship began to dock at the wharf and the gang plank lowered to the awaited ferry pier. I could wait no longer and jumped the cue, desperately pushing past several indignant passengers who were more or less in front of me. I ran down the gang plank and onto the wharf delirious with an urge too painful to describe. I began to shout out to the natives standing around me," toilet.. toilet,..toilet...emergency...where in this place is there a toilet?" . A man with a halfway grin pointed to a number of demountable buildings that were just a few yards ahead of where I was running, with me all the time groaning and clutching my swollen abdomen.  A middle aged Filipino man, dressed in a stiffly starched uniform with, what resembled a Colt 45 pistol strapped to his hip and an  official  looking shoulder badge, suddenly appeared then.. beckoned me, toward him. He waved to me with a motion as if he were about to begin directing traffic. He then pointed to a sign that lead to a small cubical behind his office.
Finally I'd found my 'Eldorado'..a toilet at last. Yes, I'd found what had seemed such a rare commodity in the Philippines..a toilet, with a roll of toilet paper. Suddenly I shuddered and let out  a huge  sigh of physical relief. It must have been so loud that I'm convinced citizens must of heard  my ecstasy as far away as Manila.!!!
 Not long after this event, I became aware that I had abandoned Dave,. He had been holding onto my back pack, and had now made his way up the wharf and was calling out to me and asking me where had I disappeared to?.  I was tempted to yell back and say "come and find me,".. but then thought better of it, as we still had a lot of travelling to do together, so I wasn't about to begin..tempting fate. Dave is a good brother, travel guide and companion but it wouldn't have taken much to annoy him as he also had experienced a hard time, getting to this point of our journey.  This  seemed understandable, as the heat and humidity just seemed to make the going unpleasant to say the least.
But as fate would have it, dramas had not yet ceased,as the toilet belonging to the kindly, uniformed gentleman with 45 pistol strapped to his hip, would just not flush. No!... try as I might..., I just could not get that toilet to flush.  So finally after much deliberation, I decided to "Just leave it", as it was:... absolutely full to the brim!!!.  There was really nothing I could do,. and the thought of having to explain why I had left this gentleman's toilet in such a state in an attempted broken Filipino language was just not going to work.
 I walked outside to see Dave and the kindly uniformed man exchanging greetings, when I noticed the sign above the office door that said in large letters... PULIS...Police in their local dialect.
 "Oh Shit,... we are dead,!!!" I gasped under my breath ,as I began to run towards the main road and avoid  what I thought may be coming next, a bullet or worse.  I was convinced as I began running, that any second now, I would hear the frantic blowing of a whistle. Thus, I shuddered, further to think, what accusation of ingratitude the friendly and courteous owner of the Colt 45, would now express after he had discovered what I had left for him to clean up.
 That night as I lay in my hotel bed,.I mulled over in my mind images of, ' Wanted Posters' , strung up upon every toilet wall in the Philippines, featuring Dave and myself, with the words boldly typed underneath our photo, saying " REWARD, LEADING  TO ARREST OF 2 GRINGOS. WANTED FOR THE NON-FLUSHING of "POLICE OFFICER'S TOILET". WANTED DEAD or ALIVE.... But thank god,  it never came to that, nor did we see or  feel the nooses around our necks.
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