100 Days Journey

Day 23: Worst and Most Dangerous Road Trip Ever

I learned that there is only one bus that goes to Aurora via Maddela per day; scheduled to leave 7:00am from Maddela. I don’t want to miss that trip so I woke up early and Sir Jun arranged for someone to pick me up at the place where I stayed the night before. We left half an hour pass 5 o’clock. The sky was violet and orange, The Sierra Madre mountain was glorious from the dirt road we were traversing. The road that I journeyed yesterday was new and unfamiliar to me and today I will traverse a new road again. The fields of rice and corns was an amazing addition to the provincial effect. The sun beginning to peep out of the clouds and mountains, my mind half-awake but I know that this day would offer new experiences. Reminds me of what Garland said in his famous book “The Beach,”

“For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar… and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your  mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”

That was indeed what happened on the 5-hour non-AC bus trip from Quirino to Aurora then capping it off at Manila making the series of bus trips 24-hour less than 3 hours. It was scenic, yes, but it was tiring and ‘dugyot‘-ing (dugyot is a Tagalog word for dirty). I keep on saying to myself as Kerouac said, “the road is life.” I have to take this trip as I need to be in Manila the morning of February 24 for the sponsored trip to Cebu (see Day 7). The mountainous road of Quirino and Aurora Provinces is not for everyone. If you are familiar with the area these provinces are hardly reached because roads were either rough or muddy or both. Add also that this area faces the Pacific Ocean so weather is unforgiving making the progress difficult and on-and-off. I can easily reroute and try the paved route but I chose this so as to see the conditions of the roads. A friend of mine asked me why I have to do this, I said, “so I can answer people when asked.” Simplistic answer but really, I want to be able to answer anything asked about my country. But more than that I want to experience what locals feel and have to go through every single day. I stopped being a tourist and promised myself to travel deeper, feel the local vibe and as much as possible do what locals do.

The first hours were a breeze through rolling hills until we crossed Aurora Province. Aurora is known for illegal logging and when there is logging expect it to be in the news because of landslides during typhoon seasons of June-December. As soon as we crossed the bridge that connects Aurora to Qurino the road condition became harder. To say that the road was bumpy and muddy is an understatement- its close to no road at all. Add the sight of “raped” and denuded mountains, it was depressing. I wonder whose in-charge of this open crimes to nature. Who to blame? DENR? LGU? Logged trees just sitting by the road side, I wanted to just make a shut-eye to feel better but the thought that this will continue until we change the politicians manning the posts was strong. I learned that the route sometimes takes 5-7 hours especially when it’s raining. I met a local who told me that there was a time when they were stuck for 2 days on the road because of the bad weather and road conditions.

Quirino - Aurora Road

Cut logs and denuded hills along Quirino-Aurora Road

By 11:00am we arrived at Dinadiawan, Dipaculao, Aurora. This little baranggay is a stop-over for lunch after that grueling roadtrip. A fork-road, to the left is Casiguran and to the right going to Baler, the capital town. Dinadiawan has a vey nice stretch of cream and white sand. No one was swimming when I checked it out but I saw some resorts being developed in the area. I wanted to take a quick swim but was too tired I chose to eat lunch first.

Dinadiawan Aurora

Without any tourist. Dinadiawan Beach at Dipaculao, Aurora

After lunch, I waited for another 2.5 hours for a van going to Baler. Transportation is limited in this part of the Philippines. I think this is the longest waiting time I did during the entire trip. I was bored to death and all I wanted was to get back home, take a hot shower, drink a cold beer and watch DVD until I fall asleep.

If I would to describe myself at that moment it would be, “sticky, dirty, stinky, tired, wasted and haggard.” I also lose a considerable weight as my cheeks were already showing my bones. So if you want to lose weight, try backpacking. By 2:30pm I finally boarded a van to Baler. After about two hours, I finally saw Sabang, Baler.

Sabang Baler

One of my favorite surf spots- Sabang, Baler, Aurora

Baler is a surfers paradise in the country because of the long stretch of surfable waves that caters to both beginners and pros. Choose your break- Sabang beach, river mouth (Secret Spot) or reef (Cobra), they have it all. I really wanted to paddle out but tiredness swept in and all I can do is watch the surfers cut-back and fly over the waves. I’m always fascinated by surfing and surfers because of the sheer patience they have. During that time, I haven’t really put much effort on learning surfing, I considered myself a newbie. After some minutes I decided to go back to the bus terminal to catch the last trip to San Jose, Nueva Ecija so I can reach Manila by nightfall. I thought the trip would be easier this time but I was wrong. I arrived in San Jose at 8:30pm more tired I can’t even decide what to eat so I settled for a hot lugaw (rice soup) before I finally hailed an air-conditioned bus to Manila.

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Fact Box: Surigao Noventa– most depressing road trip in the Philippines. (A republication of my previous blog dated August 2012).

I was welcomed by Surigao with a red-carpet, I mean red road. Damn! Passing by the towns of Surigao del Norte and del Sur is the most saddest road trip I ever experienced in my entire Philippine travels. They are raping nature like crazy.

I love long bus/van rides because of the changing landscapes especially in the Visayas and Mindanao but this time it was f*cking different. It was alarming, disturbing, heart-breaking. I was cursing the mining companies as I sit inside a crammed non-working air-conditioned van. Oh yes, I was asking the locals seated beside me of what they thought about it.

I don’t have a special training on nature. But I learned something from grade school that when you kill a tree, it affects the mountains, when you kill the mountain, you kill the rivers and eventually the sea too. And its doesn’t stop there, the people who get food from the mountains and the sea will eventually die. And I think everyone on his/her right mind can understand this very well. We are all connected.

I cannot take looking on the van window seeing the denuded mountains, dead rivers, red dusty air, brownish ocean and huge cargo ships full of iron-rich soil. Placer, Taganito, Bacuag, Gigaquit and Carrascal (and maybe more towns) are heavily being mined up till now. Actually the road trip was more than an hour view of fucked mountains, rivers and seas located on the boundary of Surigao del Norte and del Sur (Noventa). Really really depressing.

You can read the whole article here: Surigao Nature F*ck.

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Ending this long chapter with an American Indian Proverb,

Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

Route: Maddela, Quirino – Dinadiawan, Dipaculao – Baler, Aurora – San Jose, Nueva Ecija

Expenses for today: Php 593

2- bubble gum
150- maddela to dinadiawan, dipaculao, aurora bus 3.5hrs travel time
83- lunch
100- dipaculao to baler, van 1.5hours travel time
23- tricycle to beach RT
35- water
30- burger
140- baler to san jose, bus 2 hours
30- lugaw (rice soup)
Php 593


Day 23: Worst and Most Dangerous Road Trip Ever

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Day 23: Worst and Most Dangerous Road Trip Ever February 17, 2015