The ferry pitched and swayed somewhat like a pendulum as I lay on a second level bed. There were like a hundred others cramped on the economy deck of the Trisha Kristen, all bound for Bongao, Tawi Tawi. When we set sail from Zamboanga at 5.30pm, the sea was well-behaved. But nearing midnight, the sea turned unruly, tossing our vessel from side to side -- one moment i see the minute lights of bancas on the water, the next moment all i can see was the cloud-filled sky.Our trip aboard the slow craft was one of the few making the crossing following Christmas day. It would take nearly 17 hours. We tried booking for the faster Weesam craft but because of the holidays, trips were put on hold. We also tried booking for the airconditioned cabin of this, the Trisha Kristen, but it was booked solid. We wanted to make the crossing to Bongao as soon as we can so off to this trip we went. But taking the slow craft in the cramped, often smoky quarters, gave us the opportunity to experience what a lot of Tawi Tawi locals go through -- squat toilets, cup noodle snacks and all. For wasn't it Paul Theroux who said that if you're not having trip difficulties, you're just having a vacation?
Hours past midnight, a squall came and sprayed our deck with moisture. Tarps came down and sleepy deck hands went back to dreamland. Welcome fresh breezes fan us in our humid beds (what a relief). People stirred in their sleep. Snores continued. Our ship sailed on.
Tourist info: Aleson Shipping ply the Zamboanga-Bongao route on MWF; fare is P1,000 (economy)/P1,100 (aircon cabin) • Good alternative transport is weesam fastcraft: Zamboanga-Bongao fares: adults (eco) P1,200; (first class) P1,400; students (P1,190/P1,360); senior citizens (P1,120/P1,280); children (P600/P700) • Weesam ticketing: (Zamboanga) (062) 992.3986/9923756; 0922.8998499 • (Jolo) 0905.8402540; 0926.8736976 • (Bongao) 0917.7997733 • (Sandakan) 0006089-212872 • SKEDS: Mon/Thu/Sat