Thursday, April 26, 2012

Puerto Galera Part 1: FERRY BOATS

On Getting There (Manila to Mindoro)

We met at JAM bus station in Buendia where we bought some last minute supplies. It is easy to spot the bus that will take you to the port where you can board Mindoro bound ferries. Just look for one with a Pier (or Batangas Pier) signboard. Our bus departed at around 9:00AM. The three-hour ride was not yet enduring as our spirits were still enthusiastic towards the experiences in store for us for three days and two nights. It was noon when we reached Batangas Pier. There were minor mishaps prior to entering the port: our fresh meat and butane might not make it inside after inspection. We were assisted by the staff. Though I was apprehensive, they were able to bring in our meat and butane. I did not want to think that all of it was a fraud so I just shrugged off all the negativities and focused on the day ahead. We opted to take our lunch inside the port after checking in.

Arriving at Batangas Port
York, Weng, Marion, Angel, Feigh and Paul

There are several ferry boats that can transport you from Batangas to the island of Mindoro. Unluckily for us, we chose FSL (Father & Son Lines). Because it was already jam-packed when we entered, we were seated at the front portion of the boat. If I were to review our experiences at this ferry during the round trip service, I would rate it a negative ten, it was very unacceptable.

As of April 2012,
--> Bus from Buendia to Batangas Pier via Jam Transit costs 166.50Php one way

--> A roundtrip fare from Batangas to Mindoro costs 580Php inclusive of a terminal fee and an environmental fee.

Boarding the boat

BP couple Ivan and Angel, front seat @ FSL

Enduring the long boat ride, made longer because of the undisclosed stops

WHAT'S BAD - Father & Son Lines

1. DOMESTIC FRAUD. I asked the FSL staff before purchasing tickets if the next boat would be going straight to White Beach, I got a clear 'Yes'. I clarified it again if it will go STRAIGHT to White Beach without any other stops, I got a reply which is something like this, "Opo didiretso na sa White Beach yan". Guess what? It did NOT go straight to White Beach. White Beach was the third stop.

2. INTERNATIONAL FRAUD. The first stop was at Sandbar, then Mulle. A foreigner stormed over one of the FSL staff and with so much animosity he told the staff: "Hey, I asked you if the boat will go straight to Mulle, and you said yes. You told me it will go straight to Mulle. WHY did we not go straight to Mulle?! Why?! Oh c'mon this is ridiculous!" I can feel the disappointment of the disgruntled tourist, because we were also promised the same thing earlier. Ours was even worse!

3. DISORGANIZED. The procedure in registering people to board the boat was such a mess that it caused the fifth problem: OVERLOADING. As an evidence, I overheard a worried FSL staff saying to another staff: "110 na ang laman ah. Ay bahala kayo jan ha!"

4. FRAUD, AGAIN AND AGAIN. Day three when it was time to go back to Manila. We arrived at the boat and it was already full. York and I sat by the plank (so that we're closer to our companions). We were told by one of the staff to move to the back portion of the boat because we might block the way because PEOPLE AT THE BACK END OF THE BOAT WILL BE ALIGHTING OR COMING OUT OF THE BOAT AT THE FIRST STOP (Yes, it was not going straight to Batangas Pier!) So there came the first stop, and I was anxiously waiting for some people to alight the boat. Guess what? No one went out of the boat. People were actually boarding and coming inside the boat! And we were already overloaded!

The overloaded FSL ferry
5. OVERLOADING. I do not need to be part of the marines to know that 110 (initial passengers at White Beach) plus 15 (passengers who boarded in Mulle) is a flawed equation for that day's boat ride. I do not even need to know the numbers, I just need to roll my eyes around and witness the jam-packed passengers inside the boat.

The purpose of this section is not to purely rant because of the horrible experiences we had in the ferry. We are rather hoping that this will serve as a wake up call for the shipping lines personnel and officers to provide service in the safest way possible.

Remember three years ago, one of the boat carriers, Commando, sank while its on its way from Batangas to Puerto Galera because of overloading. When we were on our way back to Batangas, the weather became bad. The boat was being roughly hurdled by strong waves. I was alarmed when one staff started to hand out lifevests to the children on the boat. It was a good thing I was seated just below the container of the lifevests. If something happened, I was ready to grab six lifevests for me and my friends, and maybe some for other persons. We were overloaded and the effect could have been disastrous. I just hope, not only for FSL, that all carriers who ply the Batangas Pier - Puerto Galera route would be more responsible considering the risks involved in their line of business.

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