A Weekend at Apo Island, Philippines I: Getting There
Apo Island is just a few miles off the east coast of Negros, south of Dumaguete City. A fast ferry ordinarily runs from Cebu City to Dumaguete, but it was pressed into aid for victims of Typhoon Haiyan when we were there. The other ferry to Dumaguete, from the southern tip of Cebu, lies at the end of the road, 85 miles south of Cebu City. Google maps says its 2 hours, 10 minutes away. Our driver, procured by our hotel for around $90, said 3 and a half. He was right.
It is impossible to describe the controlled chaos that is driving in the Philippines. I can’t imagine ever doing it. The mix of vehicle sizes and speeds leads to a constant dance of weaving, passing, stops and starts, and gentle taps on the horn (for information, like “on your left…” or “you almost hit me there…”). Buses, trucks, jeepneys, habal-habals (motorcycles with sidecars—carrying up to 6 people), motorcycles, with and without passengers, bicycle-powered vehicles, pedestrians—all are using the one main road down the edge of the island. Outside of towns, an almost constant stream of small stalls selling everything (often food) lines the side of the road wherever there’s a gap between houses. Occasionally, a rice paddy or fishpond interrupts the constructed landscape.
After three hours and twenty minutes, we reach the ferry terminal, ten minutes to spare. This is not a sightseeing ferry, this is a functional ferry, with everyone (mostly locals) sitting inside. After a twenty minute crossing, we are met by a driver from our lodging. The traffic is fierce (shocking!), and it is nearly dark when we reach our transport to Apo Island. The wooden bankga (outrigger vessel) is waiting. We arrive just at last light, about 6 pm.