Bilbo-ing

or How I Saved on Airfare, but I’d like to call it Bilbo-ing in honor of my favorite hobbit Bilbo. I believe almost everyone is familiar with him now, what with the successful The Hobbit trilogy that came out starring the handsome Richard Armitage and Orlando Bloom.

Here I’ll talk about my adventures and misadventures trying to look for the cheapest way home during the Christmas season 2014. It was like home alone plus a few hobbit-like tricks on certain people with a little bit of luck and a lot of help from friends and family.

So last December 2014 was supposed to be my last chance to be able to spend Christmas at home and so I scoured the websites of Cebu Pacific and PAL for promo fares almost everyday, but as any constant traveler would know, it is always futile to get a cheap flight at peak seasons like this. I almost was going to take a boat! You know, those old school Super Ferry (“sakay na!”) that would take me about 2 days and 2 nights to reach home, but thank God I had a godmother who loves me like her own child. I honestly didn’t have money anymore, I used all of it drinking unlimited amounts of coffee so I’ll pass all my examinations before Christmas vacation. My ninang was going to go to Cebu with her nephew and so she volunteered to buy my tickets for me and just pay her later on (which in other words would mean, whenever I can). So my plan now was to fly Manila to Cebu then take a ferry ride to Dapitan City (the town where Rizal was shot), then take a tricycle home. It was a great plan, I was sure of it.

Little did I know, as I was waiting there at the Manila Domestic Airport for the now Cebu Pacific-owned TigerAir planes, that my plan would suffer a setback. It was my first time in Cebu, and I was an excited child. When we reached the arrival area, the amazing voices of carolers welcomed us. Also, it was very noticeable that a lot of foreign visitors were arriving from Manila. I was almost sure they were going to spend Christmas in the many breathtaking beaches of the Cebu province (which I will all visit one day, hopefully).

I spent my first night at the home of my godmother’s brother and his family. The next day, my ninang accompanied me to the ticketing office to book for my ferry ride to Dapitan but there were no more available ferries for that day, or the next day, or the day after that. I felt weak. I asked all the available ferries and they were all fully-booked for 3 days. I didn’t know what to do!

I texted all of my high school classmates who had regularly been to Cebu and I learned that it is almost always impossible to book a ticket during the Christmas break. You’d have to reserve 1-2 months ahead. They told me I could try being a “chance passenger” but I had no idea how to do it so I went back to the house I stayed at and tried to think.

I learned, from all my previous misadventures, that at times like these you just have to keep thinking and to have creative ideas, eventually something’s bound to happen that could get you what you need. My father called me up (all the way from another continent beyond the Pacific Ocean) and he said a relative of ours can pick me up and I can stay there for a while. I haven’t met that uncle of mine before so it was a chance to know him too. I spent Christmas Eve with my uncle’s family. It was nice, they were very kind to me, but I still wanted to get home. I was getting tired too and lost my knack for adventures but before I slept I made a decision. I was going to take a bus ride from Cordova, Cebu up to the town at very end of the province, then cross the sea by barge and get to Dumaguete City where I’ll ride a ferry that would then take me to Dapitan, and finally to Dipolog City.

The following day, about lunch time, my uncle and his wife took me to the bus station. I was happy to have met them and couldn’t be more thankful for receiving me during Christmas Eve. It felt like a nativity scene, but I wasn’t in labor and I had no husband. I was inexplicably excited to start with this adventure. I always have that certain euphoric feeling everytime I go to some place I haven’t been to and discover it in a very unconventional way. The ride wasn’t at all boring, I had the window seat and no seatmate. I also had with me a copy of “Fools Rush In” which I delightedly watched on the road.

I reached Dumaguete around 11pm. The city proper was still around a 5-min tricycle ride from the bus terminal. My friends already gave me names of lodges and hotels I can stay at so I just told the driver. The first one I went to had no more available standard rooms. I wanted the cheapest one possible (with the premise that it is reputable and not a motel) since I would just stay for 6 hours. I told the driver to take me to Harold’s Mansion near Silliman University and I got a room there. It was neat and the price was right. It was what I can call a backpacker’s place. I showered, oh how heavenly it felt to be clean, and rested for the night.

When I woke up and looked at my phone it was 5:30! My mind said F****. I was supposed to go to the ticketing office 5am to catch the 6am ferry ride. I packed at a record time, ran down, threw my keys to the guy at the front desk and waited for a tricycle. When I got to the port I was so nervous.

There at the ticketing area was a line of passengers that curved like the Amazon River. However, when it became apparent that no tickets were going to be sold for that day, everyone forced themselves to the window and to the door. Everyone tried to beg and bargain. I knew I had no chances there so I left the crowd. I tried to think again. I was so desperate, so I did the first thing that came to my mind.

I walked to the gate of the port. I looked straight towards the guard and called to him. I said my story, then my eyes started to get teary. I wiped a little then looked down. I kept talking to him and tried to maintain eye contact. He listened. He swallowed, I saw his thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple) move. Then he opened the gate and called at one of those fixers who can illegally get a ticket for me.

Apparently, when the say “fully booked”, they hide 2-3 tickets they can sell at a higher price. However, I had to wait until everyone gets on board. The captain of the ship or whoever is the boss, won’t let me in cause technically it’s full but when he’s gone they can smuggle me in and I have a ticket to show for inspection later.

So to make this very long story short, I got home – tired and with only P20 in my wallet. My sister and my grandmother picked me up at the port in Dapitan City and I have never been so happy to be home.

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