TRAVELING THROUGH SOUTH ROAD
To be considered a highly skilled driver, one must undergo some kind of initiation. One of them is driving from kilometer zero, Luneta, up to the farthest one can get, preferably Mindanao. In my case, I have made the trip almost three times already (six years apart), from Luzon to Mindanao, specifically from Manila to Davao and vice versa, a good 1, 500 kilometer trek for one way. It was an exhilarating experience that for me it has achieved the status of a ritual already. Passing through almost all major provinces in the country, the route of South Road, was for me like a pathway to adventure, a passageway from juvenile wiles to maturity. It was very educational and if one intends to be a rebel someday, the immersion is the principal step! One becomes frustrated how local governments manage the provinces one would pass through.
When I first tried using motorbike (Canadian model Yamaha Verago, 1100cc) as medium, it was a man versus machine proposition. The distance can be covered in 48 hours without rest. I spent 4 days however. Of course when one is using a two-wheel vehicle, one must take into consideration the weather, the time and the road condition. Well, not much about road condition since a biker can just whizz through a paved portion of a damaged road without sacrificing speed. The disadvantage however is when the sun is up or when there is rain or just a drizzle. One must hurry to seek the comforts of a waiting shed or something that looks like one along the road. The gas station was, for my purpose, the perfect place since one can have a hot coffee while waiting for the right timing. The trip was very wholesome since I have to make a stop over in every major marketplace to savour the specialty of the province. Just for the journey alone, I gained five pounds already.
The second time, I set aside my big bike and drove a van. Getting older does not augur well for driving on two wheels unless one is in a group. I packed my spacious vehicle with enough provisions for a two to three day tour. I thought of dozing off in the van whenever I would catch a relaxing sleep but the dangers of street violence and all those roaming predators were enough to convince me to stay in a hostel or inn along the way. Worst, on the entire stretch I have as yet to see a patrol car or the confident building presence of law enforcement except in check or choke points which were merely sheds of waving officers.
The roads, while admittedly a national one, were all class B. There were stretches of good and properly maintained roads but on the whole, the highway was just as fledging. I was even surprised to squeeze through what I thought was an alley, too narrow to be called a street, but it was indeed part of the national highway somewhere in Samar, probably forgotten by the contractors of the fabled Maharlika Highway of strongman Marcos. And then I trod on a series of zigzagging roads leading to pock mocked ones. And they were aplenty. To a certain extent, the crudely paved roads make a driver alert always. He might get ditched if unaware.
My third outing had a common denominator with my first two travels. It was the thrilling, suspenseful and well, horrifying exposure of boarding a ferry, once in Sorsogon en route to Samar and another at Leyte onwards to Mindanao. One must instantly believe in a Supreme Being to have the confidence of reaching one’s destination standing and well. The ferry boat was indeed dilapidated. I agreed wholeheartedly when someone joked that it was a steel coffin. There was no government at all in its supervision and maintenance. If at all there was government, then it is worthy of being overthrown. Everything depended on luck whenever one must have to use it. And one does not have any choice either. Boarding a rusted, decrepit and ramshackled boat was never audacious at all. It was more desperate.
Well, I have been through a lot of dangers, a lot of sacrifices, a lot of challenges on the road and specially while being ferried by boat, and everything was considerably fair. Until, one day, a good quarter of the year after, I heard that the ferry boat I was fearful of boarding but which I always boarded nonetheless, and quite accomplished exiting from its rotten planks, not only jolted and floated aimlessly in the open sea, but sunk!
I was right all along. I had near misses but I never realized that for quite sometime while traversing south road I was not only reckless but suicidal too!