My trip to Bantayan was memorable to say the least. I began my travel at 8am from Stu’s house in Boljoon and arrived at the School of the SEAs in Bantayan around 3:30pm. In the over 7 hour commute I learned a few very valuable lessons.
From the bus station in Cebu City, my overstuffed suitcase was whisked away onto the nearest bus. I followed along after it, paying the man 20 pesos when he looked at me expectantly. This would become a common theme of the trip. Lesson 1: Travel light.
On the bus, I sat down across from a man wearing a USA t-shirt and tried to start a conversation. I quickly learned that just because someone is wearing a USA shirt, does not mean that person is an America. The conversation was short to say the least. When the bus person came to collect my bus ticket, my smallest bill was P10o0 for a P108 bus ticket fair. I thought about explaining I had just taken money from an ATM but “Typical Rich Foreigner” was already stamped on my forehead. He told me I would get change at the end of the trip but I worried all the way to the bus rest stop. At which time, I took it upon myself to get change for Php1000…by buying approx. Php200 worth of bread. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Hi. So I really need change, and the bus might leave soon. And I’m kind of hungry so I need to buy some bread. How about P100? Or P200? Because I only have a P1000. Is that ok? Can I buy some rolls?
Confused Bakery Woman: “Umm (giggle) I can give change.”
Me: “Really? Ok great. So I’ll take one of those and two of those. And, are those good? Wait, doesn’t matter it looks like chocolate. Give me two of those. How much is that?”
CBW: “About P35.”
Me: “Ok, I’m gonna need a lot of more…”
At the end of the conversation, I ended up with 7 kinds of bread pastries/rolls, 1 pineapple juice, and 1 banana. I hopped back on the bus beaming with my new small bills and presented them to the bus man. I’m sure he wondered about my large purchase but didn’t ask questions. Lesson 2: Always have small change.
My boss called and asked where I was. When I was unable to pronounce the current town name, I handed the phone to a scared 16 year old girl to correctly pronounce the name. It was largely unsuccessful but I communicated my ETA and took the next boat when I arrived at the port. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I glanced up to see another man running a suitcase, my suitcase, toward the ferry platform. 20 pesos.
I sat on the ferry, leaning protectively on my suitcase, when a young man approached me. “Are you staying in Bantayan for long?” he asked and smiled. I relaxed knowing he could not whisk away my suitcase, and started a conversation. I was then introduced to his 4 friends and found out all of them worked on the ferry. “It’s a one year commitment,” they explained “We have to spend the entire time on the boat waking up each day about 2 or 3 in the morning. Hopefully, when we’re all done we can get good jobs on large international ships.” Tough life. Just some of the amazing people I have met in this country. Lesson 3: Make friends whenever possible.
When I got off the ferry, my bag was gone again, placed on the back of a bicycle and ready to go. 20 pesos. And so, when I finally arrived at the School of the SEAs, I had stories to tell. Many of the people I had not met before but I launched into my adventure anyway acting out the taking of my bag, the bus passengers, the ferry men and more. The people, complete strangers at the time, laughed and laughed while they munched on their bread rolls and stared at the excited, rain-soaked newcomer. Did I mention it had begun to rain?
Lesson 4: When you have a story to tell, always bring food. That way even if your story is uninteresting, at least your listeners have something to eat.