THE FATE OF BOATS IN OPEN SEAS
I am not a swimmer, neither I am fond of the seas (only beach resorts) ; but if you are travelling by land and perchance necessary to cross islands through ferry or barge, you are definitely at the mercy of the elements. It definitely pays to have dexterity in swimming because at the first call of emergency as throwing oneself on the waters because your vessel is sinking, the skill may extend the possibility of staying afloat for a time or being rescued alive, never mind your car, precious personal belongings or cargoes.
Traveling from north to south via the Pan- Philiippine Highway, that is from Manila in Luzon to Davao in Mindanao the traveler must have to skip islands, one from the southern tip of Luzon, in (Matnog) Sorsogon for a barge ride, a two-hour (28.2 kilometer) suspenseful floatation from a rusted decommissioned ship to another island, (Allen) Samar. The exposure would surely get the adrenaline going. Just imagine you are in a trapeze a hundred meters (approximately 25 floors in a building) up in the air, without safety nets below, while you are strung above with only your teeth clinging to dear rope for two hours! That was how I felt.
One wonders how the corroded iron tonnage could still managed to negotiate smoothly in an otherwise unpredictable, shark infested, swirling body of waters—- the spot where Pacific Ocean meets the West Philippine Sea (formerly China Sea), the infamous San Bernardino Strait, the exact equivalent of Bermuda Triangle. The experience was worth more than a decade in the convent because one becomes spiritual in just a couple of hours.
That was not the end of the adventurous albeit perilous trip. There was another barge ride up ahead. And the requirements were even greater. If one became spiritual as a result of the first boat ride in Sorsogon-Samar, in the succeeding phase, he must be a subscriber of miracles once he takes a ride in (Liloan) Leyte onwards to (Lipata) Surigao, the first town one lands on in Mindanao.
If the first boat ride in Sorsogon was competitive enough, over in Leyte, one must be contented with just one rusted ridden, congested and mechanically challenged ferry. There were three dilapidated servicing boats in the area but only one was running; the rest were almost decommissioned for a month.
Just to drive my vehicle and squeeze it through the barge along with delivery trucks and all kinds of vehicles, in a manner as if the only margin between vehicles is its paint, I had to summon my knowledge for 47 years as a driver.
But that was not the thrilling part. It was in leaving the vehicle below and being seated on the mezzanine to hear how the engine roared with difficulty and tried to tame the tidal waves. Like the earlier sea encounter where Pacific Ocean met China Sea, there was another consideration.
The 4 hour ride was on a strip of 72.5 kilometer-waters a few knots away from the third deepest part of the sea in the world called the Philippine trench. And the waves one meets were almost like a rolling surge of skyscrapers! And this situation was aggravated with sound bytes of cracking metals as if the entire ferry was disintegrating by the minute!
Well, it’s kinda exhilarating actually but when one realizes that the ferry is rusted from top to bottom, one’s luck is actually dependent on his star and fate. I survived that trip but lo and behold! after a month, I heard that it sank eventually!
That day, I immediately went to all chapels, temples, churches, monasteries and mosques to pay my respects to the universe. Luckily, I was not listed among those in the manifest who were due to arrive in Heaven.
A decade ago, I was one of those ecstatic people travelling by sea. I have done it several times. Well, it was cheaper and economical than by air on top of being practical. But it was more on the feeling of isolation, to be marooned in open sea for several days, that makes sea going something interesting, something that dares the instinct, something that draws inner courage.
Not until I would hear that most sea going inter island vessels would be wrecked and majority of its passengers would perish through drowning, almost yearly, that I got discouraged to travel by sea. Journey is one, suicide is another.
It is really a pity.
Travelling by land and eventually through the seas by barge may have been the most educational experience one gets considering the country is archipelagic, but it is no longer an inviting proposition unless one is already desperate and looking for avenues to end his stint on earth.
Such is the fate of our local boats are waiting in open seas. It’s a shame actually because we happen to have the longest aggregate shoreline in the world but we have poor navigational capability, something we failed to imbibe from galleon traders, Arab sea merchants, Chinese junk who once grazed our lands.
The seas, indeed, should be a part of government concern.