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Across the National Sunka Highway

A crowded van (or vhire) from Allen in Northern Samar to Tacloban City in Leyte.

theLOOP samar - leyte This is the 7th installment of the Luzon – Visayas – Luzon Loop series. Click the image on the right to check out the rest of the posts.

See the photo above? That’s me at the extreme left with only my left ear visible still taking this shot. If you noticed, thank you, the row I’m at is already full while I was given the kiddie seat just beside the sliding door of the van. It was small for my 5’10” frame. Really. To give me a semblance of comfort and spare me less of a sore butt, they had these wooden stool, around 4 inches in width propped up beside the kiddie seat that is removed whenever the door is opened as it might fall. I was seated there and used my 5 year old North Face jacket as a cushion. For 8 hours.

Now just think of how the Samar road network looks like. From San Isidro near Allen in Northern Samar to Calbiga in Western Samar, around 5 – 6 hours of countless potholes and craters, probably the worst national road system in the country. It might even be called as the National Sunka* Highway. With apologies to this once popular game.

That’s what you get when you don’t buy your tickets earlier than the usual. When you get to decide, come hell or high waters, you need to be in Ormoc City in time for the last boat bound for Cebu at 0000H that night.

The great whale disgorging its Jonahs

At the port of Allen, Northern Samar, the Santa Clara roro (roll on/roll off) ferry was quite loaded with passengers, buses and vehicles that it took time for me to go down considering I was also carrying my things. From here, people are mostly bound to other parts of Samar, southward to Leyte and probably a good percentage, for Mindanao where the passenger buses stops at Davao.

Maybe an overly excited passenger who can’t wait to get to his seat?

Its a mad scramble to the buses as passengers were all very tired and just want to get home as soon as possible. As for me, all buses were full and I didn’t have any other option but to ride to Tacloban City on a van. Very much crowded, very much agonizing a trip.

From the roro to the waiting buses.

Not all buses are legal. I heard sad stories of passengers being duped by drivers of colorum vehicles. A lady paid her fare for Liloan in Panaon Is., the transit point for another roro bound for Surigao and about four hours from Tacloban. However, they were told by the driver that he will only be driving them up to the Leyte capital. One passenger didn’t have enough money for another trip. During this high passenger season, vultures hover above unsuspecting travelers who need to get to their home in time for the holidays. Come hell or high water.

Tacloban City at last

An hour before midnight and the van I was in finally arrived in Tacloban. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to Ormoc, a 2 hour trip by land, for the boat bound for Cebu. What consoled me was that the bus terminal was open and the airconditioning worked. Inside, several passengers were spread out on several seats to catch some sleep and wait for their trip bound further south which will start their commute at around dawn.

Initially, I was planning of heading to Maasin in Southern Leyte to catch a motorized boat for Ubay, Bohol where I will ride another boat bound for Cebu. But I was already too tired and my money was fast dwindling that I scrapped this plan. By 2 AM, I was awakened by another passenger as there were enough passengers already for the van bound for Ormoc.

NOTE: Sunka is a Philippine board game with circular depressions on each side. The objective is for the player to place all his stones at these depressions first.

5 thoughts on “Across the National Sunka Highway”

  1. What a ride Estan. You have experienced it all – Pinoy Travel/Transport. Good Luck and Take Care.

  2. From the first paragraph: “I was seated there and used my 5 year old North Face jacket as a cushion. For 8 hours.”

    Now _that_ is funny 🙂

  3. naku bai, your crowded van shot reminds me of my 3-hour van trip from tacloban to naval naman. i’m nowhere as tall as you are but a bit on the hefty side so it was a cramped ride. good thing, on the way back, i’ve got to sit on the middle row, right beside the window. pag may bumabang pasahero, ang luwag 🙂

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