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The alternate Pilar – Masbate water route to Cebu

A pumpboat already loaded with passengers even before the sun has risen.

The M/B Gloria 8 already loaded with passengers even before the sun has risen.

“…in a crowded public transport, once you leave your seat, another person is just too eager to take your place…” Masbate has been a total unknown to me. The closest that I have anything to do with the island was that I had a classmate back in high school who was from that place. So when an opportunity to go home early this year presented itself to me, I grabbed at the chance to visit this place*.

Instead of hopping on a plane and get home via the shortest way, I decided to take the Pilar (Sorsogon) – Masbate – Cebu route. The Matnog – Allen trip via Samar and Leyte is also another possibility but I’ve already passed there before. Of course, its an opportunity to mark off the white areas in my travel history and go the longer way which I always like.

Just before the break of dawn, these pumpboats are already teeming with passengers bound for Masbate

Just before the break of dawn, these pumpboats are already teeming with passengers bound for Masbate

A night’s bus trip from the Philtranco Pasay terminal starts my journey to Pilar Sorsogon. As there’s always the possibility that seats might not be available if one just goes there at a whim, it is advisable to get the ticket a few days before. If it’s not passenger season, earlier in the day of the trip itself is okay. It cost me P800 for a 12 hour bus ride to the Sorsogon wharf.

A passenger walks a series of wooden pathways across another boat to board her vessel.

A passenger walks a series of wooden pathways, crossing another boat to board her vessel. A man assists her as the planks can get wobbly at times.

Like all my bus trips before, I wasn’t able to sleep well due to the constant stops, bumps and outside noise that when I got down in Pilar, Sorsogon a little past 4 AM, I was still sleepy. The town, by the way, is just next to Donsol, whale watching capital of the country. When I reached the port, I was taken aback that even at this early, the various pumpboats and fast seacrafts were already crowded. Alas, the tickets for the latter were already sold out and the next trip is still four hours away.

A man found a seat atop the pumpboat while other vessels are starting to sail to other islands near Masbate

A man found a seat atop the vessel while other boats are starting to sail to other islands near Masbate

Inside the vessel, passengers are crowded with their things seated comfortably on wooden benches.

Inside the vessel, its a crowded place where people compete with their things. It does shelter one from the heat of the sun and a little bit comfortable.

I opted to take the slower but cheaper pumpboats. I reasoned that despite the inconvenience and long travel time, it affords me a better view of the sea. Fastcrafts on the other hand traverse the Pilar – Masbate route in two hours compared to the minimum five when taking the former costing a few pesos below P200.

Pilar is one of the vital piers in Bicol that serves primarily the outlying areas. It is an important gateway to Masbate and destinations at the other two major islands as well as various islets. Coming from Manila, one can also take the ship direct to the island province.

At the forward part of the ship, the cargo hull is where most baggages are put

At the forward part of the ship, the cargo hull is where most baggages are put

The vessel that I was to take was almost full when I arrived at the assigned boat. Inside, no seats were available as it was really crowded. I did find one at the exposed top where several plastic chairs were set up. Fortunately, the weather was good as any kind of precipitation can be a disaster. The elevated position also shielded the passengers from the occasional sea spray.

One of the disadvantages of a crowded public transport is that once you leave your seat, another person is just too eager to take your place even if your things are there. In my case, I was walking around the vessel to take photos of the seascapes that when I returned, a woman was sheepishly smiling at me. Well, I just let it pass and went to another area where I had a more spectacular view of the sea and islands. By 9 AM, I started to feel the heat of the sun beating down on me.

A man stands authoritatively while scanning the horizons in the direction of Masbate Is. which is still several hours away.

A man stands authoritatively while scanning the horizon in the direction of Masbate Is. which is still several hours away.

After taking more than a hundred shots, the scenery just becomes boring especially if the sun is already way up and becoming hot. The quality of light is already not good that later, instead of taking photos of islands, I trained my lens on the people who were at first conscious but later eased up.

A man seated at one of the wooden benches inside the vessel

A man seated at one of the wooden benches inside the vessel

Boat trips like these can be taxing and uncomfortable but for the jaded adventurer, the scenery is rewarding and eases all inconveniences. Travel time might be long but its way cheaper.

*Nina’s post on Donsol included important information for an alternate route to Cebu.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

18 Comments

  1. donG hO
    October 5, 2008 @ 8:25

    astig ka talaga! pwede ka na sa national geographic or sa mga documentaries. na try ko na rin ang ganyang byahe nung papunta namin ng sibuyan island. gabi din tapos ang lalaki ng alon.

  2. nina
    October 5, 2008 @ 21:38

    Kaloka naman yang double deck boat na yan!

  3. kouji
    October 6, 2008 @ 10:36

    i love these shots. 🙂 i was also reminded that i do miss donsol.

  4. richard
    October 9, 2008 @ 12:07

    ayos ah.. gusto ko makaexperience sumakay dyan.. hehe

  5. daryl
    May 5, 2009 @ 14:40

    yang sasakyang na yan kung may bagyo malulunod yan

  6. dodong flores
    June 4, 2009 @ 20:41

    Yay! I was trying to dig up such kind of information here in your site and this is it…
    I used to ride these boats before when I was based in Iloilo. It was quite an experience…

  7. Churva Ness
    July 8, 2009 @ 12:50

    Magkano lahat magastos taking this route?

  8. Nicelee
    November 12, 2009 @ 18:34

    Hi, we are planning to go on land triop from Sorsogon going back home to Cebu. But Im kinda finding it hard to look for roro vessels going there. So now I’m wondering if there’s really that Sorsogon-Masbate-Cebu route. Most of the blogs i found usually suggest the Sorsogon-Samar, etc route. We’re bringing our own vehicle. Anyone please advice. We’re trying to do budget on time and money. Thanks!

  9. estan
    November 13, 2009 @ 7:48

    Nicelee, for the roro route, you should do this:

    Bulan (Sorsogon) – Masbate City (then you travel by road to Cawayan in the south)
    Cawayan (Masbate) – Bogo (Cebu)

    I’m not sure if the Pilar (Sorsogon) – Aroroy (Masbate) route is already working but I’m sure that the Cawayan – Bogo route is already existing as I’ve already seen banners advertising this route in Cebu.

  10. Nicelee
    November 13, 2009 @ 8:03

    Estan, thank you so much for this info. it’s a great help. Do you know of any roro vessels in these ports that we can contact? BTW, i love your photos–showcases real life!

  11. estan
    November 13, 2009 @ 8:36

    nicelee, thanx.

    re roro contact, i don’t have any

  12. Gerry Gok-Ong
    March 14, 2010 @ 23:45

    What are the necessary paper requirement if you travel your vehicle via RORO?

  13. Marlo Perez
    March 30, 2011 @ 15:19

    I missed my childhood years when we used to ride this motorized banca in order to be in the city. We call it “motor” and it was really fun sailing though minsan malakas ang alon..We passed through the famous “matuco” point near verde island just to get in our barrio in Barangay Ilijan, Batangas City.

    Thanks for featuring this kind of blogs..really loved to read your blogs! keep on writing!

  14. rubz
    May 4, 2011 @ 20:55

    hi we’re from legazpi city.hmm we’ll be going to masbate next week and we’re also planning to go to cebu.we just would like to know how much the fare is if we are going there with our motorcycle with us?from legazpi to masbate and from masbate to cebu?how much is the charge for the motorcycle if we ride in a roro?please help us..thank you.

  15. estan
    May 4, 2011 @ 23:41

    uhmm, rubz, i really don’t have any idea

  16. » Nine hours in Masbate City | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    January 19, 2012 @ 21:14

    […] with my senses barraged with stunning seascapes off Ticao, I finally arrived in Masbate City from Pilar, Sorsogon. Its terra firma and its the first time that I’ve been here. What can I expect? Are there old […]

  17. » The rugged seascape off Ticao Island | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    February 4, 2012 @ 11:57

    […] the sea between Pilar, Sorsogon and Masbate on a pumpboat instead of a fastcraft has its own rewards: on a fine day, the rugged coastlines of Ticao and its […]

  18. Lanigernan
    March 25, 2012 @ 2:42

    hi taga cebu po ako plano ko pong pupunta sa bulan, sorsogon ano pong biyahe ang gagawin ko? di ko kasi alam kung anong rota po…kung pwede paki reply po agad…salamat po…god bless…

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