The recent rampage of Typhoon Juaning in the northern part of the country forced me to travel 1 day ahead of schedule. I packed my backpack and my pasalubong bag (I travel light) for a long land travel back to Cebu for a much needed one week break. Flight tickets for July travel were long gone as early as May.
From Boracay I boarded the boat for mainland in Caticlan, unfortunately I forgot my ATM cards in my closet so I have to go back all the way and cross the raging seas again. I never knew that mistake would cost me a lot. It delayed my bus travel for Ilo-ilo for about an hour and my Cybershot broke down because it was accidentally soaked up (so no travel pictures here guys). The bus travel from Caticlan to Ilo-ilo City usually takes up to 6 hours. I arrived in Caticlan past 12 at noon, the Trans-Asia ship that will take me straight to Cebu for a 12 hour voyage was scheduled at 6pm. I was left at the mercy of the Ceres bus driver if I had to make it on time for the ship. Unfortunately that goddamn bus traveled painfully slow, and for to my disgust it catered for short distance travel for townspeople as if it were a city jeepney!
I arrived in Ilo-ilo City 30 minutes to go before the ships depart. It took the taxi 15 minutes to take me from the bus terminal to the Ilo-ilo Port. I saw the ship, it hasn’t departed yet. I thought I was saved. I rush for the ticket booth. But I found it closed. I run for the ship. But the guards told me there’s little hope that I could board the ship since that goddam both was closed already. To make things worse, they let me see the ship closed its tarmac in slow motion glory. My God I was minutes, a few minutes short, from boarding that ship. I was left behind. Oh great no camera, no travel, and no text message from her, it really was my lucky day.
If only I didnt forget my ATM card. If only the bus driver was a little reckless. If only the townspeople of Panay stayed in there home. I would have made it safely inside the ship.
I have no friends and acquaintances I know who is in Ilo-ilo and with no place to go my wallet is doomed to spend a night inside a motel. But like an angel sent from above I found I was not the only one who was left behind, I met Alex, a resident of Barotac Nuevo of Ilo-ilo province (the home town of three Azkals). He was also bound for Cebu that fateful afternoon. Without hesitation he took me under his wings and suggested if its OK with me to stay at his Aunt’s house in Molo. With reckless donation of trust in the name of adventure I allowed myself go with a complete stranger in a city I never stayed before.
Alex told he was going to Cebu to look for a job. Work in Ilo-ilo are hard to find nowadays. I didn’t have the courage to tell him jobs in Cebu is also hard to find nowadays – took me four months to find mine. But nonetheless we have an easy talk and he seemed to be a nice guy, no questions needed, I trusted him my night’s stay. He became my friend with no conditions.
We stayed at his Aunt’s house. But much to my i-should-not-have-come-with-this-guy I found that his aunt’s place was deep in the heart of the slum area in Ilo-ilo. The area was regrettable and there’s always bad odor. The poverty was everywhere. The houses were built mostly by makeshift bamboos and woods. Below the houses are esteros, probably a stream or a riverbed, muddled with garbage, black mud and human feces. It was like Tondo and those ugly sights near Pasig River. It’s my first time to be in a slum area and I have to spend the night in there with an imminent treat of a typhoon.
My stay with Alex’s extended family went OK at least. They welcome me like a visiting relative. They prepared me dinner, even drank a bottle of beer afterwards. The food was nice; I bought in the nearby carenderia. We watched TV to keep up with the weather news and like most Filipino families they are raving mad for teleseryes. Life in the slums, though clouded in poverty, remains to be simple. I could see that their familial bond remains strong and everyone in the community are willing to help their neighbors, especially during that storm.
We decided to call it a day after the last teleserye. I forced myself to watch those shows and it seems like I went back to childhood back when our family still watch teleseryes at night. Teleseryes are no longer a part of my limited TV viewing its just waste of time because of its mindless twists and pathetic story telling. I really wonder how come millions still follow these kinds of shows. But the way they watch them I think I knew why. That’s part of Filipino cultures.
The night went by fast and uncomfortable either due to the place or the fear of the storm coming. I slept nonetheless. I woke at 4 am for the Super Cat that will take me to Bacolod for a land travel to Cebu, I decided not to wait for that 6pm ship since I can’t stay longer in the slum. I will only be a walking expense and nuisance to them hehe. Alex decided to stay and wait for that 6pm Ship.
I am very glad I met him that day. Eventhough staying in a motel was the better option but its good to realize that there are people out who will help others in need, by giving a place to stay for the stranded people, offering them meals even though they could hardly put food at the table, and lay there beds to a complete stranger. It means a lot and that is Filipino hospitality at its basic.
“There will always be help at Hogwarts for those who deserve it.” – Professor McGonagall