Crossing Cebu to Iloilo by Nautical Highway, the Unconventional Way

I’m experiencing problems with my life in Cebu during these times. At times like these, I just wanted to get out of everything, therefore I went home, to Iloilo. The sudden decision that I made affected the schedule of my whole week for I wanted to escape the urban jungle the soonest time possible, under the cover of the night. Crossing the seas and the mountains in the cover of the night and the shade of morning dew. In less than 12 hours.

For the faint-hearted and non-risk takers, this is not for you. For cash-strapped and the adventurous, this is one hell of a risking cutting trip to Iloilo from Cebu!

Cebu Leg

I was supposed to take the last trip to Bacolod City via Ceres Lines passing thru Tabuelan. At first I got confused whether it’ll be in the North Terminal or South Terminal. By the time I was in the former, the dispatcher told me that all Bacolod Ceres trips are at the Southern Terminus. Manong Taxi Driver rushed as if my soul was left somewhere down the road, by the time we reached there, the bus just left. I wasn’t discouraged, it motivated me more. It was 11PM.

I asked the dispatchers at the terminal, they told me that the last trip to Dumanjug, a town 70 kilometers south of the Queen City was headed for a port and the passengers are heading to Guinhulngan, Negros Oriental. I was curious yet hesitant at first. I might risk my life with a floating wooden coffin in Tañon Strait. But the dispatcher convinced me it was seaworthy. It will be my first time breaking the Barili limit, it will be my first time in Negros Oriental, it will be my first time crossing Tañon Strait.

The fare was P70 with a high-speed bus built to fly from Cebu to the southern towns. But in fairness, we reached thr rugged southwestern Cebu in just an hour and a half, after crossing the historic Carcar and breaking my Barili limit.

Midnight Sailing: Crossing Tañon Strait

We reached the port of Dumanjug at precisely 12:45AM. The ferry will leave at 1:30AM. I ate a hot noodle soup and listened to the screaming videoke singers and chikadoras who are having their own graveyard shifts.

The fare is P150 and it would last for an hour and a half to Guinhulngan, a town in Negros Oriental 3 hours away from its capital Dumaguete under the cover of the night.

MV Leonor 2 looks seaworthy though, for a calm day. The sea was calm, I’m freakingly tired. 48 hours of no sleep and no rest after my last duty. I tried my very best to go asleep but it was futile. The volume of the TV was to the nth decibel and it was warm. Thank goodness it was not raining that night. The sea was very calm. It was perfect. I wonder where are the famous Bais dolphins were doing during those times?

Ringing Bells: Guingulngan, Negros Oriental

I reached the northern town of Guinhulngan in Negros Island, this time the eastern side! Yipee!! The first time I reached the eastern soil of the Sugar Island! Finally! Yet I asked, how far is Dunaguete from here? “3 hours pa dong!” Yikes! Ang layo! But anyway, it was exiting, even though the town is blanketed in slumber with its own Rizal Boulevard well lit. So I head to the bus terminal. It was dark, there were only a few people, the first trip was 4:15AM to San Carlos City! Dang! I have to wait for an hour and 15 minutes in darkness. Good thing the dispatcher was there too.

I noticed that whenever the locals speak Bisaya, they speak it gentler than their Cebuano counterparts. They have a slightly different accent. And yes, the dispatcher and I exchanged ideas for an hour.

Different Negros: To San Carlos City

I’m very oriented about Western Negros. Sprawling plains with sugar plantations everywhere. Yet I was quite shocked that the topography of NegOr was different. Literally, the mountains meet the sea. All the way towards the border of San Carlos City. It was an hour and a half ride in the winding and narrow road. The bus driver was a Lucifer! Good at first, quite slow then driving madly when he was already in Vallehermoso, where the road is at the edge of the mountain and the sea! Yikes! Look how he drives!

I noticed old rail tracks crossing the field as we approach the border of San Carlos, and vast tracks of sugarcane plantations with a very Ilocos-like topography. Canlaon’s peak watches over the plains, watches over the Visayan Islands as his face is lit with the morning twilight.

I have a short time with the port and plantation city of San Carlos as I’ve stepped out the bus from NegOr and headed towards the airconditioned bus bound for Bacolod City through the mountains.

Crossing the almost Impenetrable Border

Known for decades as the bailiwick of communist guerillas and almost impassable terrain, in early 2000 the provincial government of Negros Occidental opened finally a road that will cut the travel time from San Carlos City to only 1 hour and 45 minute ride.

To be greeted by the tangeringe color with its warmth while ascending the Negros cordilleras, the San Carlos side of the mountains are quite steep, similar to those in Talisay in Batangas, and then a plateau with the majestic Canlaon Volcano looming above with vegie patches in its foothills.

Negros has also its own “Chocolate Hills” somewhere in San Carlos Highlands. The cliffs and the verdant scenes were stunning enough to make me awake while listening to Steps’ soundtracks in the bus.

After DSB (Don Salvador Benedicto), we made a descend towards Murcia. Then, I saw the familiar Negros that I know eversince I first stepped here. Sugarcane plantations in gently sloping hills. And the language that has been familiar to me as it was part of me. Finally, I’m closer to home. Oh, its already the City of Smiles, Bacolod City.

Smiles and Warmfelt Love: Last leg from Bacolod to Iloilo

I know Bacolod City streets by heart since for me it was my extention of my hometown: Iloilo. I hailed manong driver to stop at Libertad Market and followed the sign towards Jolibee. My bladder was about to explode and i’m very hungry! Waahh!!! Jolibee’s quite far! And finally I’m there. Ate voraciously and peed as if there are tons of urine that needs to be exreted.

I don’t have the luxury of time staying in Bacolod so I zoomed in to the port where the newly opened and airport-inspired SM City is.

The sidecar driver kicked the pedal and rushed towards the fastcraft terminal. I thought I will be late, I was wrong. I made it! And after giving P10 to the sidecar driver, I went to the ticketing and flashed my expired student ID and paid P210 for the fare going to my hometown. The ferry was jampacked, I never minded it. And as the ferry whisked itself at Guimaras Strait, I felt asleep. I’m tired and I know I’m near home after an hour.

As the ferry slowed down, I woke up and saw the old scenes. The Muelle and the Aduana. I’m home.

To as much adventurism that I wanted to, it was this risk that I took. I wish I took a morning trip to see the beauty of the Visayas. But I was in a hurry. I wanted to go home and seek the comforts of it. I compared my life with the path I took. Risky but hopefully will be rewarding. As I took the risk, it took me to new destinations and new people, of the other side of Cebu and of Negros. I’ll do this thing again!

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  • krys

    love your blog.. very well written and beautifully described.. thanks!

  • rye

    ei! when i went to bacolod from cebu, i took the 4am ceres bus via DSB. men! it was a great experience. i wished i brought a decent camera that time to take pictures of the beatiful landscapes we passed. and yes i also saw the chocolate hills version of negros, the tall waterfalls, the rice terraces of negros, the sugarcane plantation. the 8-hour trip was really worthwhile. we also went to mambukal resort and had a long dip in their sulfur pool with the giant flying foxes just above you. ill definitely go back to bacolod.

  • kit

    hei bro thanx for the blogs i enjoy read it.. had been read it twice. me and my friends planning to tour in bacolod and iloilo before going to bora… mag landtrip mi because we want more adventures… i think around lunch time will arrive in bacolod city.. wel stay there in one night cause we plan to visit at mt. mambukal resort…so how far is city to resort? hope our trip in bac wl have more pleasure than we expected..

  • my brother domark is always on travel .. from cebu to negros to iloilo .. he was trying to trace the places using google earth ..

  • Dex

    beautiful pics…been to Cebu but not in this place so far. My friend here ask if were you onboard a Ceres Bus Liner?

  • habagatcentral


    Yeah, I’ve slept along the trip. I was so tired at that time. I’ll be crossing Negros more often nowadays.

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  • burgosrp

    I am from San Carlos and your descriptions of my homeplace pique me. You are right in saying that communist guerrillas used to patrol the mountain fastnesses of the Negros cordillera. You are correct in pointing out that we have something like the chocolate hills of Bohol on the slopes before DSB (but you missed to mention our version the rice terraces so I surmise sleep took over that portion of the landscape)…Isn’t nice to be home? I once crossed Tanon Strait from Toledo on a frail motorized banca after the last big boat left. Under cover of the night and skimming through a placid sea, our banca’s motor sputters and eventually dies mid-sea, announcing the beginning of a harrowing experience that I want to blog about another time. We did manage to get to the port city of San Carlos and to the warm embrace of family and friends before light, and I tell you, that experience made coming home an acutely wonderful event. You are welcome to explore San Carlos in broad daylight…