Saturday, April 23, 2011

To Dumaguete

ALLEGIANCE seems always reduced to choice. My affection for Dumaguete is not so much a matter of choice but of incidence and accident.

Although my father’s fears aborted my high school dream of studying Literature at Silliman University, I still found myself in Dumaguete, either on job-related trips to nearby Siquijor, Bacolod or certain towns of Negros Oriental, or on personal pursuits where I explored the city by foot.

Whatever the objective, the trips always ended on afternotes of pleasure, which are conducive for remembrance and affection.

Secondly, residing in Cebu, I consider Dumaguete as falling within the sweep of “just across,” as easy to spot, squinting from the shores of Santander in the southern tip of Cebu, as to cross by pumpboat or fastcraft from the port of Liloan in Santander.

In the 1990s, the land trip from Cebu to Dumaguete was punishing. The poor roads, the dust, the unreliable buses and the mad dash for a seat on the ferry or the bus turned many into unwilling converts of the overnight passage by slow boat and later, the more costly day trips via fastcraft.

Happily, things are much saner these days. For less than P200, an air-conditioned bus, no longer creaking and endangered but tuned-up and efficient, will take the traveler from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City to Liloan, Santander within three hours.

This route also throws in a scenic run past arguably the best vistas in the province: the green corridor of Perrelos’ century-old trees, the pretty plaza of Sibonga with its flowering cherry blossoms, Boljoon’s breathtaking Eli curve and its grand approach to the heritage landmark, the Nuestra SeƱora del Patrocinio Church, the bright splotches of bougainvillea rioting along Oslob’s undulating ribbon of a road.

Unaltered for nearly 20 years, the duration of my travels through these parts, is Liloan’s pristine waters. Despite hosting two ports, several residences and resorts, the water is still pure and clear, allowing anyone with even poor eyesight to watch the dense schools of fish darting and hovering above a bed of fine sand. That they don’t seem to be afraid of humans is a credit to the people of Liloan.

Not to neglect the bladder, use the restroom at these points: at the South Bus Terminal (secure a seat first, inform the driver so they will wait for you, and flush by “bubo (pouring a pail of water)” as the toilets don’t flush); midway in the trip (somewhere in Argao or Dalaguete, still inform the driver, and still flush by “bubo”); and at Liloan (the fastcraft port CRs have flowing water; those at the port serving the pumpboats are best used without looking down the hole).

If you’re traveling with children or a lot of baggage and cannot rush to the queue, you might miss your seat in the departing fastcraft. If you don’t want to wait an hour for the next trip, walk for five minutes along the coastal households to reach the pumpboats, which depart 30 minutes earlier than the next fastcraft. Ticket and terminal fee total less than P50; the Coast Guard regulates the loading of passengers.

By pumpboat, it’s about 15 minutes across the sea. The jitney in Sibulan will take you to the common unloading site of PNB in the heart of Dumaguete for P11; a tricycle will take you to any destination within the city for P8 per passenger. The entire land trip from Cebu City to Dumaguete is from four to five hours: departing at past six in the morning, we were in Dumaguete before lunch.

A faster alternative is by plane or land trip via private vehicle. One can leave one’s vehicle for a fee at a Liloan carpark or ferry this across on a roll on-roll off barge (RoRo). The cost of the last option is about ten times more the land trip by bus.

While having its advantages, private travel is the poorer without chance encounters of piquant personalities and out-of-body experiences with public restrooms.

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