Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Hellish Boat Ride to Tagbilaran, Bohol

From Singapore, we flew to Cebu, Philippines with Cebu Pacific Air, and because this is a budget flight with a budget airline, everything was budget in standards (maybe never next time?), i.e., the terminal is located in Singapore’s very budget terminal, the flying hours truly budgetised – 12:30AM, and as expected, the flight schedule was delayed for 1 hour while the Manila flight was 2 hours delayed. {sigh}

We arrived 4:30AM in Mactan Cebu International Airport and my family was already (eagerly) waiting outside for us. Aw, poor them, they had to wake up so early to receive us.

So fast forward, after the family stuff, it was finally time for our little 5-day vacation. I picked Negros Oriental to holiday mainly because of its proximity to Cebu, only 3+ hours boat ride to its capital, Dumaguete City. The place also seems nice with many things to see and do, and moreover, we haven’t been to this island yet. So, off we go!

Hellish boat ride: Cebu-Tagbilaran-Dumaguete

Ocean Jet is the fast boat that fords the Cebu – Tagbilaran (Bohol) - Dumaguete (Negros Oriental) – Dipolog (Zamboanga del Norte) route daily. We picked our tickets at Letty Drug, a ticketing outlet, in Osmena Boulevard near Fuente Circle just beside Rizal Museum Library.

That day we heard about typhoon warnings in the Luzon area (northern region of the Philippines) but heard nothing in the Visayas (central region) where we are. To get to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, we had to go via Tagbiliran, Bohol

Me with Ocean Jet in a preggy style (I am not pregnant, lol!) and Chinese-collar inspired cotton tunic I bought in Ayala Mall in Cebu.

My favorite foto: Visayan sunset. Taken from the upperdeck of Ocean Jet on our way back to Tagbilaran, Bohol - Cebu from Dumaguete.

Nevertheless, halfway through the journey to our first stop Tagbilaran, Bohol the boat experienced forceful wave struggles from the sea. Turbulent waters saddled the boat, jagged waves as high as a house engulfed us! Oh dear me, an unruly storm is cooking outside and I hate the fact that we are trapped inside this boat. We thought it was just a temporary turbulent wave episode but little did we know that this unsuspecting boat ride will turn into one hellish adventure.

In the next hour, and for every 5-10 minutes, we were sent flying into mid-air and crashing roughly back to the sea. Every time this happens, the very frightened women who are already crying buckets of tears would scream in high pitch chorus. Know what, it just makes the whole setting so grim. Then suddenly, the weather just got worse. We are not only flying mid-air but ferocious claps of 2-metre waves and strong currents of angry winds hit us mercilessly from both sides of the boat. Bam. Blag. Clap. Swoosh. Are we drowning yet? ARGH. I know sarcastic but I am seriously starting to get worried...

There is a middle aged woman laying unconscious in the front row. The young woman sitting a seat away in front of us was crying and shouting at the top of her voice, “God help us!!!”. A steward had to personally calm her down. Another woman towards our left already took the orange life saver vest under her seat. She had it ready on her lap! OMG, we are really going to drown?! My heart is thumping fast now, real fast.

Meanwhile, the crew were dutifully doing their rounds, albeit calmly, and giving menthol candies, a sniff of whiteflower (strong menthol liniment), and small black plastic bags to passengers as many are nauseous and are experiencing the vomit rush.

This is after the big startling clap of wave that sent everyone screaming like a bunch of terrified chickens trapped in a cage. You can see in the video passengers being evacuated because water leaked into the boat.

This is a shot when another wave hit us, but not as strong as the latter. We were already sailing at the lowest speed, even then the waves rocked the boat as seen on film. The videos were not as spectacular as the live one though!

Then I saw water leaking from the roof of the boat, on the left hand side. OH DEAR NO. A few passengers were evacuated to the back and the real worry began to sink into my system. Are we going to drown? Can you say my spine went cold? I am starting to feel really petrified now!

The boat continued to rock us, and everytime, I stop breathing. My chest just felt so horribly tight. I am clenching my fists and my muscles are tense. You see I am imagining the end of my world already, lol. My teeth were chattering and my hands trembling, clasped to the edges of my seat, I kept thinking out loudly and arguing with myself – Why did I ever make the decision to go to Negros? Why? Why? Why? *sob* OMG, we will drown, we will all be dead! Then my conscience is chanting at the back of my head: DO NOT PANIC. DO NOT PANIC. It is a chaos inside my head!

The local guy beside me was not much of help as he only had the doomsday scenario in his mind. He said that the Tagbiliran to Dumaguete leg is worse than Cebu to Taglibaran due to the fact that the wave currents in the area are stronger. GRRR, I want to stitch his lips!

Secretly though, I thought of getting off the first stop in Tagbilaran and canceling the trip to Dumaguete.

On the other hand, the Dutchman was calm (I ignored him for a while as I was so preoccupied with my day of reckoning) and he filmed a few shots of the treacherous ordeal. They were not that spectacular than the live version though. He confessed after that he was worried as well and was already eyeing the exit doors. He even mentally devised a plan on how to quickly snatch the life saver vests under our seats, grab me, and then leap over the row of seats towards the exit doors. It would be tough as the boat was packed.

Yes, it was THAT scary. Well, as you can see I am still alive and blogging.

We reached our first stop, Tagbilaran, Bohol very much delayed but safely. Many frightened passengers canceled their Dumaguete leg. Due to the perilous journey to Tagbilaran, we had to wait for the coastguard to clear the onward trip to Dumaguete.

Dutchman consoled me a bit saying, “I have a feeling that the pass to Dumaguete will fare well, don’t worry.” We also moved towards the back of the boat. The stewards said there is less oscillation from the back. And indeed, the sail from Tagbilaran, Bohol to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental was way, waaay better! Hallelujah.

On other news that same day: A similar fast boat going to Lucena City (in Luzon, northern Philippines) capsized. Many people were feared dead. I know. Scary.

Travel Period: July 2007
Destination: Tagbilaran, Bohol | Dumaguete, Negros Oriental

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