I DON’T usually react to a p.r. but this one about the launching soon of a water taxi or WaterBus in Cebu is an exception. After all, I have written a column or two in the past about the need for us to utilize the sea for our short travels.
When I wrote the book, “The History of Tudela” about Tudela, one of my hometowns in the Camotes group of islands, I was intrigued by the setup in the archipelago that we now call the Philippines before the coming of the Spaniards. William Henry Scott’s “Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society” did describe Visayas communities of old as mostly coastal.
Here’s Scott: “With the exception of sparse populations inhabiting the interior mountain ranges, all sixteenth-century Filipinos lived on the seacoast or the banks of navigable lakes and streams. Their only means of transportation were boats: there is no evidence of wheeled vehicles or draft animals.
“Traders and raiders, friends and foes crossed from one side of a river to the other by boat, from island to island, and between distant ports on the same island. Communities were connected, not separated, by water: it was by water that they exchanged foodstuffs, manufactured wares, and foreign imports.
“The eventual clearing off of interior forests and the opening of new land to the plow and population expansion may be seen as an emancipation from the limitations of the older boat culture. But the new economy was dependent, and still is, on an overland road system periodically interrupted by the destruction of bridges across waterways that were once the arteries of Filipino culture, channels for the movement of people, goods, and ideas, not obstacles to it.”
I got a glimpse of this when I was teenager vacationing in Tudela. Camotes at that time only had very few motorcycles and World War II era vehicles. I once walked from Tudela proper to reach the neighboring Poro town, the birthplace of my mother, and that’s about eight kilometers away. But my uncle owned both a baroto and a bicycle. We would usually go from Tudela proper to a village around four kilometers away using the baroto. The travels were smooth on good days.
Thus at one time I wrote my misgivings about how our leaders have so forgotten about our affinity for water they have destroyed most of our shores and rivers and failed to develop their potentials for at least alternative passage, especially considering the kind of traffic gridlocks we frequently encounter in land-based routes. One can’t yet be caught in traffic jams in sea routes.
Since I wrote that column, some cities and towns like Naga have built ports, although these are mostly for outbound vessels, or those going to nearby islands and not for provincial traffic. But there was no impetus to go internal because boats that ply provincial routes are virtually non-existent. Thus I find the plan of Maxboat Marine Corp. to setup the WaterBus that would ferry passengers from Cebu City to towns and other cities within the province as a most welcome development.
I would like, for example, to ride the water taxi from, say, Cebu City to Carcar, bypassing problematic routes in Talisay, Minglanilla and San Fernando.