The Craziest Travel Day of My Life in the Philippines

From early January to late February of 2014, I went on a backpacking trip around SouthEast Asia.  The Philippines was my first country on the journey, and the trip was already going incredible thus far. At the time, I was traveling with just one friend.  It was our last day in the Philippines and we had to catch a 8PM flight from Cebu City to Brunei that night.

We were on Siquijor Island and we needed to get to Cebu City.  If all the ferries and buses were on schedule, then we should have arrived in Cebu City at 6PM which was a perfect time to catch our 8PM flight.

But of course, there was a problem.

IMG_8426We woke up at 5AM and rode our motorbikes to the boat port where there was supposed to be a 6AM ferry across.  Unfortunately, the ferry wasn’t running on schedule because the “ocean current” wasn’t normal that day.  So, we were stuck on Siquijor Island- an island that was hours south from Cebu City.

In a slight panic mode, I realized that we NEEDED to get across the small ocean passage from Siquijor to Dumaguete City, or else we would be stranded and miss our flight.  It was our only option.

So, we took a tuk tuk (mini 3-wheel taxi) around the island to look for private boat driver to take us over the ocean.  The tuk tuk driver was friendly and took us through some back roads until he found someone.  Finally, some guy with a cigarette dangling from his lips and and no shirt on greeted us, and asked how much we would pay to get across the sea.  I bargained him down from $30USD to $12 total on his “private boat.”

Some other Filipinos also wanted to get across to Dumaguete City, so they tagged along for the ride.

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I was expecting the boat to be a big-ish boat, but it sure as hell wasn’t.  It was a TINY kayak made 100% from bamboo and about 9 people squeezed onto it. We barely had enough room to store our luggage in the little compartment under the seat.  There was a half-ass motor on the back, that seemed about as old as World War 2.  The photo that you see above is the exact boat that 10 people squeezed onto.

The boat driver dude originally told us it would take 45 min to get across…

But after 45 minutes into the ride, all I could see was ocean in all directions.

My friend and I, along with 9 Filipinos, were straddling the boat with our toes nearly dipping in the warm ocean water.  It was about 90 degrees (33 Celsius) outside and the sun was blazing down on us.

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The start of the journey was going well- the wind was calm, ocean was smooth and we were cruising away (slowly). About 20 minutes in, the wind picked up, clouds rolled in and we started rocking left and right. But it wasn’t too bad. A little ocean mist would hit us here and there and it felt refreshing.

Until…

The waves got heavier and starting SMASHING on the side of the boat.  I was holding on to the bamboo sides of the boat for dear life, while pivoting myself against the waves.

An hour passed and we were out in the open ocean with no land in sight.  We weren’t even half way there. The waves got bigger and bigger and I starting getting soaked.  I could anticipate each wave crashing in, so I did my best to dogde them, but I ended up getting destroyed by every wave until I could taste the salty ocean water.

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2 hours later, we arrived and it looked like I just went scuba diving in my street clothes.  I was wearing a backpack on my back the entire ride, and LUCKILY it was waterproof, so my iPhone and iPad didn’t get destroyed.

Of course, the guy took us to the wrong port at our destination, so we had to pay another guy off to drive us in a tuk tuk to get to the correct port in Dumaguete City.

Then, in literally soaking wet ocean clothes, we proceeded to take another ferry to the main island (Cebu Island), a bus then a 3 hour bus to Cebu City.  We ended up getting to the airport 45 minutes before our flight took off.

So to wrap it up, here are all the forms of transportation that I took to make this flight:
– 3 tuk tuk rides
– 1 motorbike ride
– 1 ferry
– 1 bamboo boat
– 2 airplanes
– 1 taxi bus in Brunei

That was by far, the craziest travel day of my life.

17 thoughts on “The Craziest Travel Day of My Life in the Philippines

  1. Really crazy experience! You would have experienced something more outrageous had you travelled farther north to the tip of Luzon where gigantic waves are a normal occurence hopping from one island to the next. But the destinations there are always worth the ride. Lol!

  2. I am a big fan of your travels! Reading this story made my feet and palm wet. I had he craziest most bivid imagination of your near-bangka crash experience! That was extreme!

  3. Glad you made it alive!

    Remembered taking a similar boat goin to another island, though ours had some waterproofed canvass (tarp) for a roof. it was just a short trip from one island to another -around 30 minutes- but the sea was especially rough that morning. there were 6 of us friends (all girls, 4 americans and 2 filipinas) + 2 teenage-looking boat crew? in that wee bamboo boat… it started out okay, then the waves got bigger when we reached the open waters. wind got stronger as well accompanied by ominously dark clouds. The waves got bigger and bigger even as high as 2 meters or probably a bit more. the waters started to fill our tiny boat and the crew had to scoop seawater out of the vessel. Our boat tilted to almost a 60-degree angle as it tried to weather the rough sea. It would go up and down, up and down, as it tried to surmount the enormous waves. since most of us are girls, we were rather a hysterical bunch- laughing and screaming while the salty water slapped our faces. but deep inside we were scared to death!! we were holding on for dear life as well. it got worse that the boatmen even had to stop the engine for a while.
    after about 25 grueling minutes of killer waves and violent winds we reached the white sand beach our destination. we couldn’t wait to get off the boat. i don’t think i’ve ever been so relieved to touch solid ground ever!
    Boat ride/ island hopping >>>more fun in the Philippines.

    good thing the trip back was easier.

    1. OMG sounds like a crazy experience that you had too!! I’m glad that everything was safe 🙂 Hope to visit the Philippines again soon!

  4. What you did was really crazy! Hahahah! I grew in Siquijor and I will never dare do that!

    You’re brave! That’s an experience worth to remember!

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