It was time to move on. Butuan was okay but our main purpose for this trip was Bislig in Surigao del Sur. We weren’t really much of a hurry and checked out of our hotel mid-morning. Took a couple of the trademarked orange trykes to Langihan Bus Terminal where we’ll catch our ride to Bislig. It took only a few minutes to get to the station.
Langihan Bus Terminal is much like our usual bus stations in the province – side by side stalls of stores selling souvenirs, snacks, pasalubongs (treats to take home) and drinks. Of course there are the usual roaming independent vendors – the shades vendor, the localized “chicken joy” packed lunch which people seems to be patronizing and also the usual, peanuts, eggs, Chicharon (deep fried pork skin) and candies.
Bachelor Tours is the main bus line in this terminal. They have buses going to various locations in Mindanao, from Cagayan de Oro to Davao and other destinations in between. Their buses look comfortable and well maintained especially for those long haul destinations.
As for our destination, we looked for our bus heading to Mangagoy, the central town of Bislig, home of their trade and industry. There are regular non-aircon buses leaving for Mangagoy every hour from 4am until late afternoon. We actually have a choice of going by Van which a few touts would offer at P250 against the bus P244 and they claim a 4 hour travel time against the bus 6 hours journey. I cannot say much about the comforts of a Van as the leg room has always been a problem for me that’s why we took the bus instead. Besides, I’m interested to see the passing scenery so I don’t mind the extra hours.
The road was wide and smooth that I’m sure if I’m the one driving I would be at ease. The scenery is interplay of trees and a few small concrete houses and commercial establishments once we reach some town’s bus terminals like Sibagat, Bayugan, Prosperidad and Patin-ay where we stayed for a few minutes to pick-up and drop-off passengers. We reached San Francisco, which the locals amusingly call San Franz by noon for lunch. Then we left the wide Maharilka Highway to enter the winding San Francisco-Barobo road to enter the Surigao del Sur area.
We got delayed when we reached the small town of Hinatuan where they were celebrating their fiesta. The streets were crowded and there was a parade and a street dance as well. Leaving the bus terminal there, our bus was filled to the brim with people leaving town. Our bus crawled through the narrow streets trying to find an exit in this coastal town.
The bus went on to its regular pace once it got out. It took at least an hour more until we reached Bislig and the number of passengers trickled down until we finally reach Mangagoy. We got a tricycle, large enough to fit the 4 of us including our bags. But braving this town on a long weekend without any lodging reservations was a gamble.
We went to our first option Casa de Babano, it was fully booked, St Francis Pension House, we were not comfortable with the dorm-like, free entry area rooms, the mid-range Paper Country Inn was also was filled with foreigners, then we went to Pension La Salle with all rooms reserved. We were beginning to get worried where we would stay for night and joked with our driver that we’ll stay at their place. We soon inquired at Hotel One-Eleven, the first inn in Bislig right beside Mercury Drug. And there were rooms! It turned out that the guest who checked in earlier left because their water pipes suddenly broke and there was no water in the rooms. We asked if it’s okay if we just fetch water outside with a pail and they said it was okay. What was important was we finally have a place to stay.
On what seemed to be a series of unfortunate events, things turn to the better. The place which looks somehow aged still has big comfortable rooms with air-conditioning. We got a twin bed room for P650 a night which we thought was a steal. Of course we had to get the remote from the front desk to switch on the cable but we didn’t mind since it’s just a floor down. And hey, they fixed the water pipes sooner than we expected that evening. We also found out the location was near very good eateries, just a short walk away. When we got back, there were a few inquiries at the front desk and a few guests coming back asking if the rooms were still available. Turns out they had trouble finding rooms too. But we already paid for our rooms for a few nights already. It was also the start of a series of fortunate events for the next few days.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.