A Bangka to Bohol: Adventures in Philippine Travel

The small picket boat sat almost motionless on the glassy sea, the photo voltaic beating down insistently amidst the sudden silence that was almost overwhelming after prolonged hours of the roar of the boat engine.  The alternative passengers and I sat prepared patiently whereas the boatman refueled the engine.  He leaned over the engine pouring gasoline out of a jerry can, his lit cigarette hanging precariously above the fumes wafting from the gasoline tank.  After making it this far, I sat there prepared for the tip to return again in a fiery blast of engine elements, strangers’ dirty clothes, and random fishing gear.  To not level out my fellow vacationers.

Boats at the Pier

We had arrived on the ferry terminal earlier that day after spending various days on the small Philippine island of Camiguin, merely off the north coast of Mindanao.  The morning was sunny with vibrant blue skies and calm winds, always a delightful bonus when endeavor a hour ferry journey over open seas.  My journey companion Andre and I’ve been headed north to the island of Bohol the place now we have been to catch a airplane once more to Manila the next day.  We had loaded up on munchies and snacks, bought our tickets, and boarded the vessel.  The vessel appeared low-cost seaworthy, although one can certainly not inform for sure until catastrophe strikes.  We’d found seats on the coated nevertheless open air deck and sat proper all the way down to munch on tropical fruits whereas we waited to depart.  And waited, and waited.

Points usually switch at a slower tempo in elements of the Philippines.  Typically they don’t switch the least bit. This was a form of situations.  We sat there for hour after the scheduled departure – most certainly not all that unhealthy by means of wait situations – sooner than they lastly let everyone know that we weren’t going anyplace that day.  I consider the earlier standby excuse of “engine hassle” was given.  In reality, always larger safe than sorry, nevertheless you’re type of left questioning if really it’s merely that the fellows down inside the engine room hottest to play taking part in playing cards that day.

As we filed off the boat with the rest of the passengers, Andre and I discussed what now we have been going to do.  There weren’t numerous totally different decisions for attending to Bohol from Camiguin.  None, actually.  None a minimum of that didn’t comprise going once more to city of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, the improper method.  But it surely certainly appeared as if that’s prone to be our best chance, and hoping that after we purchased there we might get our flight modified.  In reality, that was if the ferry from Camiguin to Mindanao decided to run that day.  One certainly not is conscious of.

Getting throughout the Philippines can sometimes be a tough prospect, even for Filipinos.  The nation consists of seven,107 islands, and infrastructure sometimes leaves loads to be desired.  From Manila, low-cost, dependable flights can be found to many dwelling areas, fanning out to the outlying elements of the nation like spokes on a wheel.  Nonetheless, for individuals who’re off one in all many ‘spokes’, or attempting to get from one ‘spoke’ to a special, your decisions are typically restricted.  Cebu is fast turning right into a regional center, and there are some flights to various cities obtainable from there, along with various worldwide areas.  Cross-island journey is commonly by bus, and from one island to a special, your solely chance for individuals who can’t fly is by boat.  In case your trip spot is various islands away, it is attainable you may find yourself hopscotching from one island to the next.  On this case, it is perhaps worth considering flying once more by means of Manila, considerably if you happen to’re wanting time.

It will all be fairly tough.  Nonetheless for individuals who’re affected particular person and have a humorousness, it could even be one in all many charms of touring inside the Philippines.  And if you happen to’re open to prospects, you certainly not know what fascinating journey may come your method.

As I waited exterior the ferry terminal sustaining a tally of our bags, Andre went once more in to get our refund.  When he bought right here once more out, he requested me, “Do you must take a bangka to Bohol?”  Whereas he was inside prepared for the refund he had overheard just a few of the totally different stranded passengers discussing one other for attending to Bohol, which could primarily entail chartering various small boats to make the crossing.

“How loads would not it’s?” I requested, always the fiscally conscious one.

“5 hundred pesos each.” Spherical twelve .  Pretty a bit costlier than the ferry, nevertheless then the ferry wasn’t going anyplace and the bangka is prone to be.

“You assume it may very well be safe? It’s a long way all through.”

He chewed on the once more of his fingers for a second after which replied, “Should be.”

That sounded convincing.  I appeared out on the water, judging the conditions and doing my very personal safety evaluation of the proposition.  The water was as clear as silk, pretty a bit fully totally different than the sooner week all through which the in every other case sunny local weather was marred solely by unusually sturdy winds that roiled the ocean for days. Nonetheless now the winds have been gone and the waves with it, along with numerous the perceived hazard.

I shrugged and talked about “What the heck. Let’s give it a shot.”


With loads of totally different adventurous souls we crowded into the once more of a jeepney – the ever-present Filipino mini bus – and have been off to satisfy the model new boats. I found it very good how shortly this all appeared to return again collectively. It was most certainly decrease than an hour since being evicted from the ferry that we arrived at our new transport. Social connections inside the Philippines are fast, even when the transportation methods might not be.  The boats have been already prepared for us as soon as we arrived, about ten kilometers away from the ferry, tied up alongside a rocky a part of shoreline subsequent to a dilapidated concrete building.  As we began dragging our bags down the rocks to the water’s edge, delicate waves lapped the shore whereas loads of people milled about, ostensibly in preparation for the journey, but it surely certainly was laborious to tell for sure.

Points appeared to decelerate as soon as extra at this stage.  It didn’t actually appear that numerous one thing was occurring, nevertheless as far as we might inform, they’ve been attempting to learn the way best to distribute everyone between the two bangkas that shall be making the journey to Bohol.  Bangka is the Filipino, or Tagalog, phrase for boat,but it surely certainly sometimes refers to a particular mannequin of boat frequent to the Philippine archipelago. Normally fashioned like a canoe with outriggers on either side, they are going to fluctuate in measurement from a one-person paddle boat as a lot as a fifty passenger vessel or greater.  The bangka is the workhorse of the Philippines’ sea. Although primarily used for fishing, they’re sometimes called into service as school buses to carry children to classes, transporting vacationers on diving or snorkeling adventures, ferries for passengers and freight, or any number of totally different chores.  Just about all are open-air, nevertheless the place often used for carrying passengers they will sometimes be coated to supply some security from the photo voltaic and rain. Our chartered boats did not have this luxury.

Loading the Boat

After climbing rigorously aboard alongside slim planks positioned between the rocking boat and the shore, we found seats among the many many piles of baggage and have been rapidly underway. As we left the shores of Camiguin, our distant trip spot couldn’t be seen on the horizon.  I do not know the way Filipino boatmen are able to navigate with no apparent navigational devices nevertheless they appeared to know the place they’ve been going.  The journey was prolonged nevertheless largely uneventful.  We even somehow averted disaster and being blown to bits all through our mid-trip refueling. The ocean remained calm nevertheless the tropical photo voltaic was relentless, and the noise from the un-muffled engine rattled our brains.  Numerous situations now we have been visited by school of dolphins which saved us agency for a time, swimming playfully alongside as our boats glided by means of the water.

After various hours cramped inside the boat with our backpacks and the mounds of baggage from a half dozen totally different passengers, we lastly arrived at what gave the impression to be a random location on the southern coast of Bohol.  The boat was not able to pull as a lot because the seashore because of the shallow water, so now we have been left to wade ashore with our packs on our heads.  Trudging up the seashore, our journey for the day wasn’t over however. We nonetheless wanted to get to Tagbilaran Metropolis so we might catch our flight the next day.  We flagged down a neighborhood bus and bounced alongside on picket plank seats for an extra hour or two, stopping constantly to decide on up or let off passengers.  We arrived in Tagbilaran Metropolis drained and hungry just because it was getting darkish.


By means of “precise journey,” our journey from Camiguin to Bohol most certainly doesn’t rely for heaps. Nonetheless, it really added somewhat little bit of sudden choice to our trip and illustrates the serendipitous moments that will occur for individuals who keep versatile and open to the possibilities of journey.

Darin Rogers is a contract photographer, creator, and part-time engineer.  Initially from the US, he is at current based in Darwin, Australia.  You may even see additional of his work at www.darinrogers.web.

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