Rooftop Rides on Jeepneys


Well as often is the case, this blog is going to start out with one of my favorite topics, public transportation. To a traveler, it’s a question we face everyday; where we’re going and how we’re getting there. These are a constant. We never stay too long, always looking for the next adventure.

After a bit of research, we decided to take an air-conditioned bus to Pilar, where we would catch a ferry to the island of Ticao, and then to the beach resort where I could sort out my blog, and start the art part of it. So these mini-vans sit around at the bus terminal till they fill with 12 to 14 very squashed people, and then they head out. But only, I say, only WHEN they fill up. When we got out of our tricycle at the terminal a van had just left. Now we were in a bit of a sticky predicament, we had a van with just us and one other, and we had a ferry leaving at noon. It’s a two hour drive, and it’s 9:30 a.m. So we sit under Mt. Mayon, starring at the wispy clouds covering its peak. Then get some cokes, bathroom, street food, ok, that was 10 minutes and still no new passengers. I’m looking at the time, and in my head we have a thirty minute window. We already got screwed by having too big of bags, so we had to buy an extra seat for the bags. Now I know how Kevin Smith feels when he got kicked off the southwest flight for being too fat. Half-hour goes by, three more people. The driver agrees to leave if 5 more people show up. I know there has to be a time when it leaves empty, but who knows when that is.

Now we have only 15 minutes left in our window. Tick, tick, tick. Shit! Ahhh, one more passenger. This is a moment where you have to decide….do you bust the budget and pay for the seats, or miss the ferry? The additional total for three seats is like ten bucks, but every penny counts when traveling.

Five more minutes go by and I determine just to suck up my pride and buy the rest of the seats. So with a loud “Lets Go and you all owe me a beer” to the other passengers we head out of the terminal. Of course not one person does, not even a thanks.

We pull into the port with five minutes to spare. The van leaves us in a cloud of dust and ten guys are on us in seconds; “where you go?”, “you need ride?”, “what you doing?”.

“Ummmmm, where’s the ferry?”

“Ohh, ferry no run, typhoon”. “Whhhhhattttt?” Shit, the coast guard locked it down. No ferry, and there had not been a ferry for over a week.

Well Pilar was a major dump, just a port. We had all these guys bugging us about this room to rent, or hey, charter a boat for a thousand dollars, or hey, wanna buy some junk. Ughhhh! Everyone was in our faces, so we decided we just needed to not be in Pilar to wait for the ferry. Donsol was just a half hour away, so with some confusion, and the help of some nice people, we found the proper jeepney. The only problem is that it’s full. “No problem, Joe!” Bags go on the roof. Ok, sounds good. Up goes are bags, umm, still no room. So up goes us!


Yep, so bumping along on a bunch of bamboo, various boxes, our bags, and Mike and Yvonne, riding on the roof over some very twisty hilly roads. Ducking under tree branches and palm fronds, trying not to bounce off and take pictures at the same time. You can’t get a better ride on a roller coaster. And the funny thing is, all the town was laughing at the gringos riding on the top of a jeepney. The kids were giggling and pointing at us as we passed their huts. It was so much fun. We arrived safe and sound with only a very sore bum and stayed in a diving resort called Giddy’s Place. It had a nice pool, clean rooms, and a great restaurant. Not a bad place to be stuck.

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So Donsol is a small fishing village that became a famous tourist destination in the 1990’s, when Whale Sharks were discovered. Whale Sharks are the biggest fish and shark in the world, measuring the size of one of our school buses. They are gentle giants though, swimming through the water eating plankton. The amazing thing with these fish is that they swim so slow that a you can swim along side of them. It is beyond words how amazing this is. You are like an ant to a human to this fish. The colors are grayish blue with white spots all long the side. With the reflection of the sun along his lenght, its beyond words. And to swim along side him is one of the most awe inspiring experiances in my life, or would have been, if it was the right season. Yep completely wrong season.

No whale sharks. So no whale sharks means no tourists. Which means we were the only westerners in town. Everywhere we went kids were like “Hey mister, hey mam, where you going?” Everyone in fact asked this, because it was just so weird for us to be here at this time.

The most exciting event in town was a cock fight. So I gave most of my money to Yvonne, who wanted to chill out for a while, and went out to find the fight. Cock fighting is one of the Philippines favorite pastimes, and they take it very seriously. Numourous yards we passed had dozens of beautiful roosters chained up under little houses.

Well I thought it was in town, so when I hopped on the tricycle, I had no idea it was so far out of town. I pulled up in front of the arena and there was a bunch of shady looking guys gambling on the ground and drinking beer. Not a very safe environment. One guy invited me over and even though I was not sure at what point I might be robbed, I decided to chance it. Well after a few beers and few drawings, we were all the best of friends. It was not till I pulled the drawing tablet out and started taking request on drawings did I really feel safe. Now who knows if there were ever any real ill intentions planned for me, but in situations like this it can go either way. A few beers after that and we were all the best of friends with plans to stay at each others houses. In the end there was no cock fight and I lost some money playing a coin game in the dirt. But my new friend gave me a ride home on the back of his motorcycle.

It’s moments like this, where you meet real local people, not other travelers, that I live for.

We left after three days, well relaxed and with the realization that we would be flying out instead of taking the ferry, seeing how there was a typhoon in the Philippines that was going no where. So we packed into a minivan (14 people) and rode back to Legazpi. We made it with plenty of time to the airport where there was normal confusion. Turns out thry overbooked the flight, and Cebu Pacific airlines asked us to give up our tickets and receive a free flight anywhere in the Philippines, and a room at a four star hotel. Aparently two people with huge back packs don’t look like they need to get any where quick. Hhmmmmm, tough decision. Done! They were right. Its not like we have any time restraints; no people to meet, no tenants to please, no neurotic coworkers demanding unrealistic deadlines. Whats a day mean to us. A night out at the movies with street food was a great way to spend an extra night. So bring on Judge Dredd in 3D.


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