THE nineteen buses carrying the Baguio delegation for the Cordillera Administrative Region Athletic Association (Caraa) started to leave for Apayao at 7 p.m., last Sunday. I was with bus number 5 with the football and futsal delegation since head coach Ariston Bocalan tapped me as a trainer for the team. I was asked to be a life coach for the team and helping them in any way I can seems a noble job. It was a busy night.
There were too many cars on the road, perhaps because of the Panagbenga festivities over the weekend. Inside the bus, 30 athletes and a group of coaching staff were trying to figure what to think as they take the road to Apayao, the venue for this year’s Caraa.
The traffic jam along Kisad Road denied us from a smooth road send-off. Traffic moved very slowly and the line of parked cars on both sides of the street kept our driver in low gear. Surprisingly, the road going up to the city hall was free and it allowed our ride to gain some speed. But we have to endure the slow traffic as we approach Naguilian Road.
The coaching staff was in a jovial mood. Conversations were filled with humor. The athletes were feeling the excitement of a night trip with the idea of representing the city in the regional meet. Most of the buses went ahead of us. Some were lingering behind enduring the inconvenience of traffic jam in the city.
As our bus continue to gain momentum, conversations started to die down with the exception of seatmates chatting about their plans. I dozed off as the bus traversed down the winding road.
I woke up around 9 p.m. on our first comfort room stop over. We were at San Fernando, La Union. The athletes and coaches wrapped in jackets and shoals stepped down to feel the warmth of the lowland air since the bus air conditioning was too much for those who did not have much to cover themselves. Some had to cover the air conditioning outlet with the bus’ curtains along the long journey. The television on the bus did not work so the Ilocano music accompanied us until our destination.
I remember there were a lot of stop-overs. I could not count how many. Every time we had one, we cannot help but talk with the co-coaches from the other buses. Everyone had their own story to tell. At 1 a.m., all buses including ours stopped at Laoag to gas up.
I think the owner of the bus company has his/her own refilling station so we have to wait for our turn to fill up. We waited for an hour and a half before we left the place. The athletes, I think, were still not comfortable with the chilly temperature but they were not complaining. The driver told us we cannot turn off the air conditioning.
During bus stops, all arise from their slumbers, have some chats with the other passengers and crack some laugh at times. Coaches start conversations which abruptly stop after the engine revs up signaling the continuation of the journey.
We left Ilocos Norte through Pagudpud and passed through Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan Valley for another cross-provincial trip. I knew I had slept after a couple of minutes because by the time we had our last stop over at 4 a.m., we already at Claveria, a coastal town in the north area of Cagayan Valley. Every one took off. The air was still cold. I was expecting the warmth of the lowland but at that time, the dawn still was as cold as the air conditioning inside the bus.
Others had some snacks taking cup noodles to warm themselves. For my part, I have talked to the bus conductor about the route we have taken. I went back to sleep again sometime after we left our last stop over and at 6:00 in the morning, the sun light of Apayao was welcoming us with arms wide open.
The travel to Apayao was generally smooth and comfortable except for some little entertainments. Our bus driver and conductor, with their deep Ilocano accent, could not stop conversing. I understand it was a disturbance for those who wanted to sleep but it was also good because the driver had to be fully awake in the entire trip.
At one time, the driver had to honk several times while the conductor had to shout in the phone while calling the other conductor on the bus ahead of us because one of the bus’ stirrups was opened. It was very dangerous for approaching vehicles if they hit the stirrup. The honks and shout from the conductor created a little panic. We were all relieved after the other bus stopped and fix the problem.
The trip to Apayao was an eleven-hour trip. It was a long journey but an exciting and fulfilling one because it strengthened our bond as a team. It was thrilling because we were headed to a place where we can compete and represent the city of Pines. The travel helped us know the team better.