Sleepless on the road to Davao, via Bukidnon
Walter I. Balane / 13 November 2004Last part
DAVAO CITY — After the brief bus stop at sleepy Alae, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon for the “quarantinas” foot bath, the night trip to Davao City starts.Early on in the first part of the 7-hour trip, you could already see passengers taking their best positions to grab sleep, or trying to get one.As a commuter of a non-air-conditioned bus, you will find both amusement and irritation inside the vehicle — and outside it.Manolo Fortich, supposed to be a good part of the trip, if done on daytime, is a view of Bukidnon’s imposing canyons and other sceneries. The most picturesque is the Mangima area, source of Mangima stones.Mangima, just right after Manolo Fortich poblacion, is Bukidnon’s version of Kennon road in the Mountain Province. You would know when you are there because the bus takes on a winding course, and if most of the chevron directional highway signs are still there (stolen months ago) you could also spot a signage with the warning “Watch out for falling rocks ahead.”Of course, at night, you would rely on your faith and forget about the rocks. Indeed, a simple trip at night could turn you into an extreme game buff thinking of that risk.Sometimes, the bus stops at the DPWH “Rest Area”, just before Dalirig, near Bukidnon’s famous caves. Then it takes another winding course through accident-prone Damay pass en route to San Vicente, Sumilao.It would be hard for you to doze off because you’ll have to negotiate your balance at almost every curve.With all these, a passenger who sat beside me, on his first time along the route, had the temerity to ask which part of the trip was the “long bridge of Otogan.” He was actually looking for Atugan bridge, between Sumilao and Impasug-ong towns. We had gone past the famous bridge by then and so he could not see why it is considered the highest bridge in the country.That’s another cost for night trips. The scenery is good, but you would still need to use your imagination.Malaybalay CityThe air, if it gets through the bus, starting in Dalwangan, signals the arrival in Malaybalay City, dubbed Northern Mindanao’s summer capital.Dalwangan, where cattle are milked and poultry farms have sprouted, remains among the coldest parts of Malaybalay. If the city government’s claims that Malaybalay is “a city within a forest,” one could take the cold air for evidence.Eight-one kilometers from Puerto, Malaybalay is of course asleep by the time you pass by it at midnight. But quick stopovers in three areas along the city’s main road, enable you take a sample of air blowing from pine hills.Valencia CityAfter 30 minutes, the next stop is the busier city of Valencia. Most passengers go down here to take a leak in the city’s pay toilets. One thing you would notice when in this city at night is the boarding of travelers to Davao City.Being Bukidnon’s agricultural and commercial center, Valencia also hosts the province’s itinerant professionals and businessmen.When in Valencia, depending on the day, the bus either gets half-empty or packed.MaramagShortly after Valencia is the sprawling Central Mindanao University campus in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon. On daytime, travelers could ask the driver to stop at the Philippine Carabao Center for carabao milk and some Bukidnon delicacies. However, that remains a privilege not for commuters.The best stopover, however, for both the driver and the passengers is in Dologon, Maramag, Bukidnon. A 24-hour “carenderia” owned by an Ilonggo family offers everyone a variety of services.Aside from public toilets, coffee, cable TV, fresh air and open space for stretching, the food stop also serves hot “balbacua” soup (beef skin and ox feet).Of course, for a commuter’s cold travel there is no better treat than that.Quezon-MarilogThe next part of the trip does not make an informed passenger sleep. From Salawagan, Quezon to Davao’s Marilog district, such passenger could complete a novena for a safe travel. The area, as reported by MindaNews recently, has “disasters waiting to happen.”On daytime, it could be a lot better because the green and majestic scenery would overshadow the risk. In fact one area, the “Quezon overview,” used to be a stopover for travelers (even commuters).The overview, still popular among those traveling in private vehicles is a “must” drop-by place. There, expect to see Bukidnon and Cotabato in panorama and as far as the eyes can see. But, of course, only when the sun shines.Around a curve or two further however from the overview is the now famous Kipolot area. In July this year, a portion of the highway in the area slid and blocked vehicles coming from Davao and Cagayan de Oro. The fact that it killed people and fell vehicles is enough pre-caution.Now the vehicles pass through a temporary road made of sand and gravel.The, incident, which was triggered by heavy rains, has made travelers conscious of the value of the Bukidnon Davao highway. Some even went around Cotabato to get across. That was surely a longer and more expensive trip, though.For a traveler, however, who needs a bus ride “beyond the sunset” the goal is clear and simple: just get to the destination.That is why, further into the night, along Bukidnon’s oftentimes dangerous roads, engulfed in darkness, irked by the mess inside the bus, the hazards of the trip and the fears in the mind, is an anticipation of sunlight and hope to arrive safely and in peace.
Sleepless on the road to Davao, via Bukidnon
By Walter I. Balane / 12 November 20041st of 2 parts
DAVAO CITY - “Pinoy Balot! Balot mo diha!”
The voice of a vendor of steamed duck egg delicacy echoes in the area. At 10 p.m., Cagayan de Oro’s Agora bus terminal, one of the busiest in Northern Mindanao, is a silent, gloomy and eerie place.
Three buses — those they call not “sleeping” or not staying for the night at the terminal — were preparing to go. Filled with sleepy and tired passengers, the lighted buses barely provided energy to the sleepy terminal.
The older bus, with a signboard “Wao” (Lanao del Sur) had the least number of passengers; followed by another one bound for Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat and the bigger and newer one for Davao City.
I was in the third bus. Tired from a meeting earlier, I had to endure sleepiness and the heat inside a non-airconditioned vehicle. Buses ply the Cagayan de Oro-Davao route even at night, when nobody wants to travel at all, or so I thought.
The air inside the vehicle was all but fresh. With the glass windows down and the passengers crowding around me, I was about to alight and forego my trip.
I knew I couldn’t do that. There was only one bus line plying the route, so you didn’t have many choices actually. At least, these days, they now have buses leaving on a round-the-clock schedule.
As the driver turned the engine on, everyone else scattered in and out of the bus, quickly took their places; then the bus steward went around issuing tickets and collecting fares, I.D.’s and passes.
This is normally the scenario every time I travel at night on a long distance trip. Either I am coming from home, Malaybalay City, or straight from coverage in the “city of Golden Friendship,” there is always the hassle. At night, airconditioned buses are rare in the Bukidnon-Davao highway.
But one thing you could be thankful about night bus trips, however, is that sometimes not all the seats are taken and you can actually sit and relax.
The bus is normally full when it leaves Agora terminal and is empty by the time it reaches Ecoland terminal seven hours later.
Since it is going to be too cold to let any window open, only the one at the driver’s side is giving air to at least 50 passengers. So you could just imagine how it feels to breath, add to that smokers and arm pit vultures.
To be able to slide those windows up in some stopovers and take some fresh air is really a relief. Even with the conditions in the bus, the trip could also be comforting.
Along this almost 300-kilometer stretch of the Bukidnon-Davao highway, you can find yourself nocturnal.
At night, Puerto (this is Cagayan de Oro’s version of Ulas) is surprisingly still full of vendors. Sometimes they sell you pineapple slices from Del Monte’s Camp Philips plantations (they
claim, but I doubt) and boiled bananas.
You would know when you’re in Puerto at night, around 15 minutes away from Agora because after this place, the bus starts its climb through Carmen Hills and go up Bukidnon’s mountainous terrain.
In the initial ascent from Puerto, you could catch a view of Cagayan de Oro by night. With harbor lights, sea vessels leaving the Macajalar port and the sparkling street lights, Cagayan de Oro’s view from the top is a delight to any traveler.
For someone too sleepy to appreciate it, the scene is like a candlelight about to be put off — into the darkness.
Indeed, after the lights and sounds of Cagayan de Oro, the trip would be engulfed in darkness through the lonely and contemplative highway between Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.
The next stop is something only loyal people from Bukidnon could yield to. In this border barangay between Cagayan de Oro and Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, one needs to go down to take a footbath.
Alae is known for this stopover, placed by the provincial government of Bukidnon “to protect its animals from food and mouth diseases.” This is supposed to be a heroic thing to do for Mindanao’s livestock industry; if only everybody is into it.
Whether you would go down or not, expect to be awakened from your trip to dreamland. Someone will board the bus and announce what is going on. The harder part is the bus departs even if only a tenth of the passengers heeded the call.
It is irritating to look at that, but that is only the beginning.
The idea of a long trip ahead takes these nuances at the sideline. The image of a safe arrival comes to mind as a motivation for a tired passenger of long uncertain hours.
One has to decide to be light-hearted, to trust the one at the steering wheel and to contend with “Boy Scout antics.”
In Alae, at least, is one stopover where you can buy food and drinks, take a leak at a pay toilet and — take a deep breath for the longer part of the trip. (To be continued)