a Siquijor escapade

Published in The Freeman (Philippine Star), Mar. 29, 2012

There was a time I would have entirely relished the idea without a thought. Travelling was always my weakness in my younger days. But work tends to tie us up to our desks nowadays. Or to some meetings here and there, even Manila, where time wasted in the streets is more than the time spent on meaningful discussions. So when I learned that the next RDC meeting would be in Siquijor, I thought, how was I supposed to go there? The meeting should be over in 3 hours, tops. The going there and coming back will probably take 10 times longer. Or more!

I started to recall how to get there. Before, there was an overnight ferryboat from Cebu to Siquijor. It’s no longer there, they say. The other option is to go via Dumaguete, in fact the preferred one back then. Probably why the direct option disappeared. Cebu to Dumaguete has 3 options – a land trip to Oslob, then fastcraft to Dumaguete; one via Santander; and an overnight ferry direct to Dumaguete. The land trips takes longer, so I decided on the ferryboat, planning to take the land trip via Santander on the way back. Dumaguete to Siquijor fastcraft has 4 trips and 4 coming back, starting at 6 AM so that should be a breeze. The ferryboat to Dumaguete is, well, … the same “Love Boat” I used to ride in my college days! Some things don’t change as fast, if at all.

Before leaving Cebu, the NEDA forward party texted us that the 6 AM fastcraft was cancelled. For repairs. The next departure is 9 – that should move the meeting 2 hours, have it fast in order to catch the 3 pm trip back, then take the land trip to reach Cebu before midnight. Upon reaching Dumaguete they told us the 6 AM fastcraft is already OK. That was fast, I thought. Fast indeed that in the middle of trip, the engine faltered. We were slowlly chugging, when smoke came out of the engine room, followed by catches of tiny flames. I should have taken the 9 AM, I thought, but we’re there halfway. The crew controlled the flames and we reached the meeting in time, luckily not wet!

But oh lucky me, before the meeting started, former Congressman Raul del Mar arrived with friends. Surprised, I asked how they got to Siquijor. Ah, of course, by private plane. What can I say, that’s a 30 minute flight. And yes, as if by design, they have an extra seat free for me on the way back. Ha ha, I was at my office by 3 PM. Air travel is still the fastest. Time travel still doesn’t exist.

But the truth of the matter is, how I wished I had enough time to spend there. From the time we approached the island from the sea, our eyes feasting on the scenery of pristine coastlines and crystalline blue-green waters, taking an easy ride on rugged but clean concrete roads without any hint of traffic congestion whatsoever, to the receding imagery of an enchanting pacific island-province as we took off from Cang-alwang, Siquijor is a sight to behold, a paradise to live in. Or maybe, a place to retire to after a productive lifetime in the rat race. It’s ironic to realize that society is convinced that urbanism is the future and people will eventually end up in cities, yet will see shangri-la in the countryside. But the trend is irreversible so we have to prepare our cities and make them more livable. By eliminating traffic jams on our streets. You see, the joy of travelling is not on the trip itself, but on what we do at both ends – where we came from and our destination. The goal of transportation is to minimize travel time so that we can enjoy life a little longer. But how?     (Email: streetlife@villarete.com)


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