This past Christmas season has been highlighted by so many horror stories of air travellers experiencing flight delays, bump-offs, and other inconveniences brought about by airlines which lacked the foresight to staff up given the hectic holiday season. Much noted was the chaos which took place at NAIA Terminal 3 when multiple counters were unable to open owing to staff who simply may have taken the day off. (Read : Chaos and Anarchy at NAIA 3).
Naturally, this brought frustration to many Negrenses who wished to simply go home and experience provincial bliss after a quick one hour flight to the New Bacolod-Silay Airport. Instead, the yearned rest turned to stress as booked passengers agonized having to wait and be hassled with gate transfers and crowded pre-departure areas.
As a solution, this 2015, I would like to make this friendly recommendation to Talonggo readers. That is, revive the lost art of taking the boat to Bacolod. In the heydays of the sugar boom in the 70s, everyone took the boat to Manila. Negros Navigation was of course the household name synonymous to the default method of transport to link the Luzon, Negros, and Panay. And while Philippine Airlines and Air Manila International (AMI) were there as alternatives, air transport was merely a backdrop to the laid back travel lifestyle of Negrenses for which a 20-hour journey seemed to fit in perfectly.
To take you briefly down memory lane, we recall the time when families would book cabins in the popular vessels of NN such as the Don Julio, Dona Florentina, and the more luxurious Dona Monserrat. Of course, it is unavoidable that the ill-fated Don Juan be mentioned. Nevertheless, despite that blip of a dismal event, the main idea is really to experience the journey.
Negrense families then even had their own "suki" porters (both in Manila and in Bacolod) as well as their favorite "camareros" or Cabin Attendants. They were known by full name as they were regularly called upon. Our family favorite on the Dona Florentina was an attendant by the name of Ernesto Sarabia. I wouldn't even be surprised if some of you reading this would recall his memory with fondness. Cabin attendants such as Ernesto would deliver meals to the cabin as a butler would - with a white pressed napkin over his forearm.
Even prior to sailing, there is also that sideshow of seeing cars loaded up by the ship's booms. Another Mercedes-Benz for delivery by Monfort Motors in Bacolod is skillfully laid on the deck by the boom operators. If not a Benz, then a Toyota which rolls off straight to Mageco.
These are just one of the many colorful occurences which take place when riding a boat to Bacolod. It is far from being on a luxury cruise or liner in ages past like Cunard's Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth 2, but it makes for a better show than all the drama and heartbreak air travellers experience at NAIA 3 flying on a budget airline.
As a child, I would recount following the sequence of events from the time the ship was to depart, with the captain's voice over the public address system requesting visitors to go ashore, to the removal of the gangplank, and to waving to those who sent you off as they remained portside. With 20 hours to go into the journey, many more pocket events would take place in between, all until the time one dresses up to prepare for arrival and docking.
Some might think, "I do not have the time to lose on a boat ride. 20 hours is too much". Well, think of it as "slow down therapy". Think of it as a staycation at sea. Downtime to relax, reflect, and catch up on missed work...or missed sleep. After all, you are in the middle of the sea with no cellphone signal and no internet to distract you.
Try it this year, 2015. It makes for a pleasant alternative to the chaos at our world famous (or infamous) NAIA. Then you can arrive in Bacolod (or Manila) with a more refreshed and sunny disposition and, with better stories to tell of going a bit retro.