By ATTY. GREGORIO LARRAZABAL
“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.”
– Tony Robbins
With that quote in mind, last week, I took the first of many road trips around the Philippines two weekends ago. As I gave a preview of what to expect in my last week’s column, the first leg was a 23-hour drive from Manila all the way to my hotel in Iloilo City. For those asking, I usually drive between 50 and 80 kmh when doing road trips. Remember, life’s an adventure, not a race. Drive safely at all times.
I left Makati City at about 11:05 p.m. on a relatively quiet Thursday evening. I passed by the gasoline station before leaving Metro Manila to make sure the tire pressure on all tires was okay. Traffic cleared as soon as I entered the Skyway and was pretty smooth all the way to the Batangas City port. I was scheduled to be on the 2:30 a.m. ro-ro trip to Calapan on board the Fastcat. Whenever I take the ro-ro, I prefer to use the fastcat vessels. They provide for advance on-line booking and they’re always on-time in their departure schedules. Unlike when I use to drive to the Visayas over 20 years ago, where boat schedules were erratic. You could not book on-line, and you didn’t know how the vessels would be. So people who take the ro-ro now are in a much better situation. Having pre-paid the fare for both trips, all I had to do was pay for the arrastre services at the pier.
There are about 8 ro-ro trips scheduled daily to and from Calapan. It’s a 1-1/2 hour boat ride, and the accommodations on the vessel are good. There are economy seats (which on the top deck and open air), premium economy which is airconditioned and business class, which is right in front of the premium economy seats, separated by a curtain. Honestly, riding business class makes little sense. Premium economy seats are more than enough, plus it’s closer to the food stall (always a consideration).
There are, ferries which depart Batangas City in the evening and arrive in Caticlan in the morning, but where is the fun in that, right? Part of overlanding and road trips is the sense of adventure itself. Otherwise, just take a plane direct to the destination.
So, if you’re driving to Panay, there is something which you must consider when departing Batangas City. There are only two ro-ro trips from Bulalacao (which is a 4-hour drive from Calapan) to Caticlan. 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. So, if you plan to take the 10 a.m. trip to Caticlan, you have to be in Calapan by at least 4 a.m. So that leaves you the option of taking either the 12 midnight or 2:30 a.m. trip. Otherwise, you’ll miss the boat ride.
When I arrived in Calapan at 4 a.m., it was easy to get off the vessel. It’s off-peak season now, so there aren’t too many passengers.The crew I spoke with told me that during Holy Week, it gets really crazy due to the huge number of people who travel. So, remember that when you travel, get to the pier early. When you drive across Calapan, you’ll notice several 24-hour gasoline stations. I suggest putting a full take of gas, just to be sure. Also, there are 24-hour Jollibee and McDonalds (right beside each other) before you leave the city. Good time to take a bathroom break or eat a bit. It’s a 4-hour drive ahead.
The roads in Mindoro Oriental are nice and smooth. When I got to Himalayan, Mindoro, I decided to take a quick break, and take a nap. Remember, if you feel tired or groggy, don’t push it. Pull over, set a timer on your phone, and rest a bit (I slept 15 mins). Lower your window a bit though. You don’t want to suffocate.
We departed at exactly 10 a.m. from Bulalacao. After an almost 4-hour boat trip (it was slow because of the waves – but I got to sleep an hour during the trip), I got in Caticlan. I drove to Banga to meet a good friend, Rep. Lito Marquez (formerly the governor of Aklan). It was a good time to chat about what has been happening in Aklan, and the continuous efforts they’ve been taking to help those affected by Typhoon Ursula. Until now, some have not been able to get back on their feet, and there’s a continuous effort to help them by both the private sector and the government.
I left Banga shortly and met some friends in Capiz, then drove to Iloilo province. There’s a couple of new diversion roads that were built and are being built now, which allows people to skip towns and make the drive safer and faster. I got in Iloilo City at around 8:50 p.m. but had to eat outside the city, because at that time, the festivities in the city had already started. There was a Parade of Lights and fireworks in the city that night.
I was supposed to stay till Sunday, for the Dinagyang Festival. However, due to demands of work, I had to fly back to Manila immediately the following morning. I left the vehicle in a safe place and headed straight to the airport. I would suggest for those flying out of Iloilo City, to go early to the airport. There’s a really good restaurant right before you enter the airport, Tatoy’s. They serve excellent Filipino food! To miss eating in that restaurant if you pass Iloilo City would make your trip incomplete.
So, the next planned trip is for me to fly back to Iloilo City this Feb., then drive around Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Antique. I’ll then hop on a pump boat and ride a mountain bike around Guimaras. Should be fun! If you have any suggestions on where to go to and where to eat in Panay Island, please feel free to send messages, comments and suggestions to:
Disclaimer: I don’t have any interests in the places I stay, eat, and visit. I do not have sponsors that pay for or subsidize the trip’s/activities. I make suggestions, comments, and/or recommendations based on my own assessment. If there is a company, hotel, restaurant, or business establishment which will sponsor any activity, I will mention it. To ensure transparency.
Note: The news last week was that at least one patient in the Philippines had already tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It’s important to:
- Not to panic.
- Read updates from the WHO and other credible sources.
- Boost your immune system.
- Wash your hands frequently/use alcohol often.
- Using a proper face mask correctly can help, especially in public places.