Tabada: ‘Bulalakaw’

FLUX one expects in journeys. Moving from place to place, we seek what is pleasurable and shun the distressing.

In human terms, life is fleeting when we are happy; agony slows it to a crawl.

What would be the standpoint of a meteor (“bulalakaw”)?

Traveling at 72 kilometers per second, a shooting star may perhaps regard flux not as discrete turning points but, literally, as one unimpeded flow, “flux” being derived from “fluere,” which, in Latin, means “to flow.”

For three days and two nights, our family traveled from Cavite to Cebu, taking four crossings on the Road Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) Terminal System (RRTS): from the Port of Batangas to Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro; Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro-Caticlan, Aklan; Iloilo City-Dumangas, Bacolod; and San Carlos City, Negros Occidental-Toledo City, Eastern Cebu.

Also known as the Philippine Nautical Highway System, the RoRo implies, by the sound of the contraction, a continuous streaming through a network of highways and ferries connecting our many islands.

Not quite. Although Google and Waze yielded ferry schedules and destinations, the reality on the ground was seldom in sync with virtuality. Heading for the Port of Roxas, we discovered that driving at night through the eight towns or so lying between Calapan and Roxas demanded also dodging motorists and bicyclists perversely driving without lights in the dark.

Our nerves were not at their best when we reached Roxas. The port was a scene cut-and-pasted from rush-hour Edsa: a stagnant stream of vehicles, flashing red lights and spewing a fog of carbon monoxide.

No one knew if trips were leaving for Aklan that night. No one knew how to get in those outbound ferries.

Sleeping in the car, waiting, like everyone, for a ferry or answers to emerge from the dark, I remembered how purgatory is also depicted as waiting.

Hungry but too scared of the public toilets to eat or drink; sleepy but too anxious to close one’s eyes. Waiting can be a foretaste of purgatory.

More than 48 hours and two islands later, our family drove under the canopy of towering pine trees thriving in the Municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto in the Negros Ecotourism Highway.

Stretching for nearly two kilometers, the grove is man-made and maintained by the community.

Travelers relish ephemerally the pine-scented chill. Dwellers from Barangay Igmayaan to the Poblacion drink deep and long, though, from the perpetually renewing cornucopia yielded by their foresight and patience to plant and nurture trees.

The RoRo experience is harsh on the seat and travel expectations. For those who want to live, just once, as a “bulalakaw,” go RoRo.
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