Sunday, March 17, 2013

Port Barton: Watch Out For This Man

by Shawi Cortez

We watched as the oversized jeepney that plies from Roxas to Port Barton pass by in front of us.

A scary thought occurred: "Did I just let that jeep leave with all my bags inside? Laptop included?!"
My heart was pounding faster by the minute, and worry overcame me as the time ticked by so slowly.


Few minutes before I stood in front of the jeepney, Dong, the local I talked to earlier said, "Ma'm, don't worry, they're just gonna gas up. They can't leave us, because I'm going to Port Barton as well."

"OK," I smiled back. Our conversation revolved around travelers coming from El Nido, and how the RORO bus drivers are trying to deceive them into getting off at San Jose, instead of in Roxas.

"It's good that you decided to get off here. If you followed the drivers' advice, there are no jeepneys that stop there. You will be forced to take a motorcycle and pay a minimum of P600 just to bring you to Barton," he added.

"This fellow sounds like a nice guy. He's looking after the travelers' sake," I thought.


The moment I reached Roxas at 10am, after the 4-hour bus ride from El Nido, I instantly ran to the canteen in the terminal where the Port Barton jeepney usually parks.

get off at Roxas, not San Jose

It only took a few minutes until it arrived and unloaded the passengers. When I confirmed with the conductor about the departure time for Barton, he replied, "Around 11:30, so you still have enough time to take your lunch."

Immediately, and almost in a whisper, he asked if I already had a place to stay.

"None, and I plan to ask around when I get there," I responded .

"I know a place around P500, are you interested?"

"Sure," I said, thinking that it's already cheaper than the P600 I paid for in El Nido.

I took my time eating my brunch, knowing that the jeep's not yet leaving soon. Later on, the conductor came back and asked if I have an itinerary already. Same answer. None.

Soon after eating, he introduced me to Dong, another local who also happens to be a boatman. I asked about the rates and the destinations. He mentioned an amount and left me to think.

He also asked about my lodging. I said, "Oh, the conductor said he knows a P500 place, but actually it's a bit expensive for me as I am looking for a cheaper accommodation. In Coron, I found a room that's only P350, and it's located in the center."

Also in a whisper, he said, "I know a place that charges P350, in Itaytay Inn. It's near my house."

With that, I almost leaped! Woohooe! Is this my day or not? But of course I didn't show my elation, even if I was already jumping for joy inside.

"OK, I'll take a look at it first." He seemed to be helpful and honest.

After that conversation, he took his lunch, together with the driver and the conductor.
Soon as they finished, the other two started to get up, while Dong gulped his glass of water.


waiting for this larger than usual jeepney to arrive

Fast forward to where I was left standing, looking at my watch by the minute, I was at the point of panicking.

Almost in a complaint, I blurted out, "Why is it taking them so long. Is the gasoline station so far away?"

What if they already left for Port Barton, and it was just a ploy to make me take the expensive motorcycle?! What if they steal my stuff and sell my laptop?!
Not wanting to let my anxiety show, I began to remind myself:

"I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe in the kindness of strangers."

Dong is a kind man, he will not take advantage of me.
Dong is a kind man, he will not take advantage of me.
Dong is a kind man, he will not take advantage of me.

Thirty minutes.

I let out a sigh of relief the moment I saw the familiar jeep park in front of me.
Thank You God!

So the local people are real. And kind. I'm just the skeptic and paranoid traveler. I hope they remain the same and not be tainted, should the tourism industry in Barton booms.

That's just the beginning of a beautiful time in Port Barton.

inside the jeepney to Port Barton

Why should you watch out for Dong?

He happens to be most helpful, and based on experience, he's making an honest living out of serving the travelers, and he does not take advantage of us by overpricing.

Dong or Johnny

Contact him here: 09302872146


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