I’m a frugal traveler. If I have spare money to do so, on my own, I take the cheapest alternative.
When my sister-in-law invited me to come with them to Siquijor, I didn’t think twice. I booked a ticket and expected the worst.
I was prepared to lose some sleep while floating for 9 hours with M/V Siquijor, but I was not prepared nor was I expecting to lose so much sleep and at the same time break my ear drums.
It was my first trip on a boat in such a long time. I was up in excitement in spite of the fact that I quit my writing job a few hours earlier to get a much-deserved break in my dream island – Siquijor. I was ready to live on the edge – jobless, traveling, depressed, broke and uncertain of what will become of my life’s major battles.
When I got to the pier, I was surprised at the order, the cleanliness and the strict nautical regulations (as far as I observed). There were x-ray machines for luggage and passengers that I thought was appropriate only for flights. I was amused passing through each of the ‘check points’ smiling to myself. In other words, I underestimated the nautical capabilities of my own country. And underestimate I did, because this boat trip has turned out into a crazy 9-hour ordeal.
So I have here five lessons learned which may be of help to make your future M/V Siquijor trip comfortable. Otherwise, get another liner.
Lesson Learned #1. Book Ticket Early or Charm the Crew
The boat was M/V Siquijor by OR Lines. It was small and old – forty years old according to the crew. I was late in booking my ticket so I ended up in an air-conditioned room and paid 700+ pesos instead of my 600-peso budget . I checked into Salagdoong room, named after a beach in Siquijor. My companions who bought a cheaper ticket checked into the same room with me.
While I snubbed anyone who gets a little extra friendlier, they charmed the crew smartly. Their social intelligence will come out really helpful for us later.
Lesson Learned #2: Bring Food and Water
We ate dinner at a private deck accessible only by the crews. They allowed us to climb the bridge and passed through it to our desired location with the best view. That was how charming my companions were. We were left to the three of us with the view of Iligan Bay blurring behind while the crew – some of them, were stealing stealthy looks obviously not on our food but on us. They were salivating. I didn’t care much but I was ready to push people off the water just in case.
Our meal bought at Tita Fannies was great, I wanted more but there can only be enough. Then we realized we have no water. So we shared the little bottle of mineral water my companion managed to bring for herself. There was no convenience store in that old wee boat. The crew offered water from their kitchen. I declined. I am cautious about strangers. I have a sensitive stomach. I am afraid of getting potioned or poisoned. I am paranoid.
Lesson Learned #3: Traveling Does Not Give You A License to Disregard Hygiene
So we were deprived of drinking water for 9 hours. There was even nothing to brush my teeth with. The trouble with me is that I can’t sleep without my hygiene rituals. Despite the antiquity of the boat, their bathroom and toilet is impressively clean and smelling nice. There was much water. I assumed the water to be clean and safe and prayed I would not contract any bacteria and spoil my dream Siquijor trip. So I cleaned and soaped myself up and brushed my teeth. I thought to myself, “Not having drank water after dinner may be a blessing in disguise because that would mean, I need not go to the toilet every so often.” I was ready to grab just enough sleep. But I was disappointed.
Lesson Learned #4. Be assertive, otherwise, be a bitch
Disappointed actually is an understatement because I was really pissed. I am used to sleeping in deafening silence. That’s the comfort I get from living in a rural area. But the boat was an absolute hellhole of loud deafening sound from the television with a broken volume control. This noise competed with the loud humming of the turbines and the loud music of the crew sleeping at the bunk right next to me. I preferred the music. In fact, I was singing along with it to mute the noise from the television. But it wasn’t enough to get me to even doze off.
Nobody complained but me. It looked like I was the only one susceptible to the 120-decibel noise. I climb down my bunk to hit and poke through the volume control using a metal rod while mouthing expletives. I did not bother with the people watching. They understand I assumed. I was pissed off. My attempt failed.
So I climbed back to my bunk totally exasperated. It was almost midnight and the air conditioning unit was failing. Some opened the windows to let in air that was even warmer and humid bringing in rain inside the room. I could not stand anymore the elements. I climbed down my bunk again and switched off the television. The man who was watching it did not argue with me. I was ready to fight rather than break my eardrums. I tried to sleep but it was already too late.
Lesson Learned #5. It’s Really Better to be Friendly.
I managed to catch a little sleep before the boat docked at Lazi, Siquijor. It was 2 am, we left Iligan City at 5 pm. We have no place to stay in Lazi and we did not intend to rent a place for a few hours just to grab sleep. The crew allowed us to sleep in the room until 430 in the morning, then we decided to start walking. We did not know where we were going. I wanted to get to an ATM machine. There was one but it was offline. I wanted to drink hot water and eat warm bread, they wanted hot coffee but there were none yet available. So we bought bottled drinking water instead and walked to the church in the middle of the dark and empty street. There were drivers of motor-bikes following us from the pier and luring us into renting their units for 1,000 pesos around the island. We did not take the bait and declined them nicely. It was still dark. The church was sitting on the hill surrounded by very old and huge acacia trees. It was our first destination and it was beautiful.