Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cars, Trains and Automobiles - Oh My!

Hey Pinoy Jeep Bloggers,

I want to spend a few minutes with you on the different modes of transportation we used on our tour. We experienced an interesting array of them that I thought are worthy of blogging about, especially for those not used to traveling in this part of the world.

First is the airplane. I know everybody's familiar with airplanes but taking our first domestic flight from Manila to Bohol was quite an experience. We were booked at a barebones, economy flight with Cebu-Pacific Airlines where nothing is free, even the peanuts. But do you know what's interesting? Once we're in the air and settled, they hold a quiz show! The first one to answer the questions (I believe there are three questions) gets a prize! During our first ride I was not sure what was going on so I just observed and did not participate. I think one of the questions was about title of a song, another was who could show a one dollar bill first, and the third was about a 500 peso bill. For this flight, they gave out toys as prizes.

On our next airplane ride from Bicol to Manila, we decided to join the fun. Since it was the start of the rainy season in the Philippines, the topic of the quiz was - what's the name for Chinese porridge popular in the Philippines? My dad raised his hand even before the question was finished just to get a head start. The answer to the question was congee, which he answered correctly, so I got to have a luggage tag courtesy of Cebu-Pacific Airlines. "It's More Fun Flying in the Philippines!"  (well, until it's time to get down...through the stairs).

The IP Rondalla crew walking on the tarmac with musical instruments in tow after arriving at Bohol Airport.

We rode the bus for most of our stay in the country. Nothing new here, except for the third seat that opens up in the middle of the aisle. You don't see that in the U.S., and most IP parents prefer to sit on it because you can recline and raise your feet at the same time. Perfect for snoozing on long bus rides. And very convenient especially when everybody's packed like sardines together with our rondalla instruments and garment bags. How I marvel at the driving skills of our bus drivers. It seems they can fit those large buses even on very narrow streets with only an inch to spare on both sides...and this is while backing up! He even made a U-turn on a main highway in Manila! Gosh, he knows how to drive.

Our first tour bus while in Metro-Manila.

Hey, you're asking, give me something unique to the Philippines...something you don't see stateside. Well, how about the ubiquitous (drum roll please)....JEEPNEYS! They're  not only all over the Philippines, they're also a unique adaptation of the "jeeps" that the U.S. Army left after the liberation of the country during World War II. To reiterate, the Japanese brought everything they could to Japan during the war, so the Filipinos have to improvise on a mass transportation system after the war was over. My dad said they basically converted the four-seater army jeeps into a 17 or more (depending on how many people wanted to squish in) seater public transport vehicle. Everything's hand-crafted from the chasis, body, seats, etc., especially the beautiful artwork and paint job, except for the recycled engines that are currently imported from...guess where? - Japan. And they come in different designs, shapes and sizes.

The IP Rondalla kids had a blast riding the jeepneys. Karina mentioned that we rented one at the University of the Philippines - Diliman that took us on a short inner "IKOT" (circle) route around campus. PPP also had a pink colored school transport jeepney for their students. While we were in Bohol, Nathan rode the jeepney like a native -- standing up by the back entrance while hanging on to dear life. What a pro! Reyna was so enamored of her IKOT jeepney ride that she wrote about it (see Sierra's earlier blog containing her interview of Reyna). So, if you're ever in the Philippines, don't miss out on the jeepney ride.

Talk about texting and driving. You should see how the Filipino jeepney drivers weave through traffic, while watching out for J-walking pedestrians, eating snacks, and handing out change to passengers seated in the backseat, all at the same time.

UP Diliman College of Music

Paaralang Pagibig at Pagasa, San Pablo City

Loboc, Bohol

Loboc, Bohol

UP Diliman College of Music

Loboc, Bohol

Loboc, Bohol

UP Los Banos

Some interesting trivia: You might have noticed the jeepney shot with Nathan showing the roof of a building at the same level as the road. Well, it's not actually a road but a bridge - Loboc, Bohol's version of Alaska's "bridge to nowhere." Our tour guide told us that the engineers were supposed to connect the bridge to the main road. However, doing so meant destroying the old historic Loboc church that's blocking the way. The town-folks decided in favor of the church, and so the bridge never got connected to the road on that side of the river. I say, good decision but poor engineering planning.

What else is unique and ubiquitous in the Philippines? Tricycles! And they also come in different shapes and sizes depending on the locality. Here's a sampling of some of them.

Remember Reyna's and Aaron's blog where they talk about getting their fast food delivered at the COA dorm? There's a "motorbike" for that!

How about a boat ride? Well, we got to ride the fast ferry (a double hulled katamaran) from Bohol to Cebu City. We boarded in the morning and had a smooth, relaxing ride through the channel while eating our sack breakfast. It was an uneventful, fun ride. Didn't find a need for those barf bags.

When we arrived in Cebu, we also saw a small outrigger boat carrying a family into the docks. I'm glad it's not our ride, else, I would really need that barf bag. 

Now, talk about boats...weird boats. While driving along the road towards the famed Chocolate Hlls of Bohol, lo and behold we saw - a ship! Wait a minute, a ship on land? Hey that's not a ship, it's a, a, a, a house? A SHIPHAUS! We were told by our tour guide that a local ship captain retired in the area. He loved the sea and his ship so much that he decided to build a ship house complete with a bridge, flying bridge and a sailor on a watch for...chocolate ice bergs?

Hmmm. I wonder what other unique and interesting things are in store for us? Well, after our nice sojourn into the lair of the GIANT TARSIERS (ha, ha, ha, they're actually the smallest monkeys in the world standing at 3 inches tall but with big, bulging eyes, but Marisa can tell you more) and trek up the 214 stepped viewing deck to see the chocolate hills...we're famished. Our tour guide took us next to a sumptuous buffet lunch -- on a river boat, complete with a live band! It's actually a double-hulled katamaran pushed by a small motorized boat attached at the stern (for all of you landlubbers, that's the nautical term for the back of the boat).  

They served us seaweed salad, barbecue, crabs, menudo, kare-kare, stir-fried shrimp, etc. and lots and lots of native desserts. Thank you Philippine Department of Tourism and Bohol Province for this this wonderful treat. Y'all Rock!

You think you've seen it all? See my next blog. To be continued...

Sierra Jamir & Mi Papa Tom

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