My flight was changed twice then delayed once and now I’ve finally touched down in Cebu City; the biggest city on the island of the same name. I was originally bound for Dumaguete, a small airport located on an adjacent island to the south. Oslob, being my final destination, is located a short one hour from the airport. An adventure which would include a bus and a barge has been enhanced to accommodate the aviation changes and will instead come jam-packed with a city bus ride, jeepney, and a three-hour long-distance bus. The excitement on my face can’t be contained. I’m back in the swing of backpacking after two months and it feels liberating.
Making my way out of the airport I follow the instructions I’ve gathered from the owner of my accommodation and new friends who have made the same journey day(s) ahead of me. Heading in the direction of the city bus pick up, I quickly re-verify my route with the security guard directing car traffic. With his blessing, I pay my bus fare and board the bus. The woman I sit next to is covering her mouth and nose with a cloth. Another pinches her nostrils shut. I chuckle because I get it, it stinks in this city. It’s not long before the bus reaches its final destination and I prepare for the next step of my journey.
I’m obviously a tourist as I stand looking around for a Jeepney, the cheapest method of transport to the bus terminal where I’m to board an air-conditioned bus. Taxi drivers do what the do best and crowd me. All shouting and vying for my attention (money really). One friendly face stands out so I address him only asking where the waiting area for a Jeepney ride is. He hesitates a moment before asking me my final destination. I oblige him, but immediately regret it as he begins to tell me why I should take his taxi instead. He’ll give me “the good price” I volley by asking why the price isn’t set to begin with, pointing out he is taking advantage of tourists with this racket—a serious pet peeve.
He straightens his posture and pleads with me explaining that he’s telling the truth and that there aren’t any jeepneys here. I explain that four people from the airport have instructed me of the opposite and sour my face at his dishonesty. I wave them all off and start walking towards the mall; trusting my instincts that someone will help me. The Filipino people are kind and hospitable, but poverty and tourism (especially during the slow season) have corrupted those who panhandle or hustle tourist to make a living. I notice a man wearing a polo shirt with the logo of the city bus company and flag him down.
“Excuse me Kuya, but can you please help me? I need a Jeepney to the south bus terminal to catch a bus to Oslob. The taxi men behind me say there are no jeepneys here, but I don’t believe them.” Shaking his head while turning his back to the group of taxi men. Not only explains to me exactly where to go (a five-minute walk), but also tells me what number Jeepney to wave down and how much it should cost me. I extend my hand for a shake in gratitude and say, “Maraming salamat, po!” We part ways and I can’t help but be grateful for those two years of Tagalog in high school and the many nights spent in the households of my childhood friends, most of which are first generation Filipino-Americans.
Standing on the corner opposite the Jeepney stop, I wipe the sweat from my forehead. The men selling chicharrones (fried pork skin) stare at my bare legs and dark skin and blow kisses at me. I ignore them and wait for the red light to flip to green queuing me to cross. I’m searching for the numbers the kind man instructed me to look out for and notice several jeepneys with the number lined cleanly in a row on the other side of the street. I crack a smile; step two, done.
Standing at the back the bulky vehicle, I eyeball the right space and begin to push my way on and towards an empty space big enough for my toosh, and take a seat. Three older women watch me with smiles plastered on their faces. They shuffle down, making more space for me to maneuver my pack in between my legs. Their eyes naturally follow the movement and notice the flags on my pack. I watch as the questions written in their eyes grow swell and then they spill over into actual words as they grill me about who I am, where I’m from and what I’m doing and where I’ve visited/visiting in their country. I, in turn, ask them how long until I reach the bus terminal and what to expect along the way.
When I crawl out from the back of the vehicle the driver barely gives me enough time to get my pack on before he begins to pull away. One of the ladies who had held my hat and bag of snacks (gifts for the staff and friends I’m reuniting with at my final destination) while I was doing so, leans far out of the car to toss them both to me as the Jeepney sputters out of sight. This makes me laugh as I’m sure to onlookers the action was a hilarious as it felt. Crossing the street now into the terminal people queue for the toilet. I eyeball it and decide against it, but purchase some ice cold calamansi (Philippine lime) juice and some flavored fries. I ask another security guard where I can find the bus bound for Oslob, overheard by the men anxiously waiting for passengers just beyond the doorway. The security guard smiles and points to a bus just out of sight.
The word Air Con is plastered on the windshield and a small sign in the lower left corner says Oslob. The kind man takes my pack and places it under the bus and ushers me inside. I place my things in one of two seats against the window, but I don’t sit down. I’m too amped and want to relish the excitement of the emotion so I pace the empty walkway a few times instead. When it’s time to be on our way, I sit. The seafoam green curtains are all drawn shut to keep out the sun and by default the heat. The bus ride is bumpy and the driver makes frequent quick stops letting people off and on or narrowly missing the motorbikes and other vehicles in front of him. I exhale and take out my phone to entertain myself with a flick for the journey. It’s not long before I am shaken awake by the ticket taker alerting me that we have arrived at my stop. I smile at him and thank him, gather my things and step off of the bus directly across the street from my accommodation.
Cebu City —> Oslob
From Mactan International Airport baggage claim, exit the building and go to your right. Straight ahead is the MyBus stop. Purchase a ticket for 40 php ($.75) and ride the bus to its final stop, SM Mall.
Disembark the bus (don’t forget anything) and exit the terminal the way the bus entered (the mall will be on your slightly behind you and on your left). Turn left at the exit and walk parallel to the mall along the main street.
***There are taxis all around who will offer you a “good price” of 3k-5k php ($57-$94 USD) to Oslob and if it’s in your budget then go for it. But you’ll kick yourself for it later when you realize the savings of traveling like a local could’ve been applied to your accommodations or the adventure tour you came to this island to enjoy***
Keep walking until the next corner (which should also be the end of the mall) From that corner, straight ahead of you (at the time of my travels there was a billboard for Sun Gold on this corner) you will see the Jeepney trucks picking up passengers. Stay the course and cross the street, then cross it again to get yourself to the other side of the street. Keeping in the same direction (parallel to what was the mall and is now a busy street full of side vendors) look for/wait to locate the Jeepney with the number 01K. This Jeepney will take you to the South Bus Terminal for only 8 php ($.15). It’s about a fifteen-minute ride to the terminal.
Once there, grab you pack (stuff) and cross the street into the terminal. It’s quite small and not overtly obvious, but plenty of locals speak English as do the Police (Polis/MP) standing around the area.
Once inside the terminal stay straight towards the buses. A few people by now would’ve asked you where you’re going in an attempt to get you in their bus. Say Oslob and that you want the air-conditioned bus. They will oblige and guide you to the correct bus, which has a sign in the front window with the destination or tell you a door (platform) number.
Put your luggage under the bus and grab a seat. The bus isn’t fancy, but is in no way disgusting. The best part, it will cost you 150 php ($2.83) for the entire three hours plus journey.
All-in-all you would’ve paid the equivalent of $3.45USD in the local currency, the Filipino Peso (PHP). Who doesn’t love the sound of that?
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