Travel trouble on supply run in the Philippines

After six weeks of quarantines, I’ve gotten pretty used to the routine of going to the market for food and supplies. I am the one who must go because the quarantine pass for our family has my name on it.

Here in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines (town, county, province, island, country), that is how enhanced community quarantine works. One named person per family is permitted to leave the neighborhood using the pass, face mask, and social distancing for ‘necessary’ reasons.

Anyway, my weekly trip for money (ATM) and groceries and other household supplies has become standard.  Until today.

The standard supply run

I usually leave the house in the early afternoon (with pass and face mask). I walk three or four minutes up our small side street to the main road. There, security and transport officials check my pass and direct me to a tricycle (motorcycle with big ‘sidecar’) for a free 10-minute ride into Caticlan, about three miles to the east.

After being dropped off in Caticlan – a small port town and airport which services popular Boracay island – I conduct my business; bank, market, stores, etc., then go to the tricycle ‘waiting area’ where all trikes gather to take passengers back to their respective neighborhoods.

The driver brings me and my purchases – usually with one other similar passenger – back to our starting point. Sometimes, on the return trip, I will ask to stop at the take-out chicken roasting place for a whole bird to-go. Back at our apartment property, I unload my stuff, thank the driver, and always give him a couple bucks tip for his service.

It’s a good system. Efficient, quick, safe, comfortable, pleasant. It’s what has been mandated here, so it’s what I do. No problem. Not today.

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Travel trouble on today’s supply run

Somehow, this time, my market transport was one-way only. When I completed my shopping and went back to the ‘waiting area’, no tricycle from our neighborhood ever appeared again. I waited for over an hour, then had to improvise.

I still don’t know exactly what happened or why. The free ride service operates 7:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m, and 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. I was back at the pick-up-point at 4:20 p.m. with a bunch of bags of groceries. As always, I make sure to leave plenty of time for the trip home, and there has always been a ride.

Today, I stood there for an hour watching tricycles from other neighborhoods scoop up people and goods and depart. Of course, many of those other folks took notice of me — just about the only tourist left in these parts. I even engaged a couple of them, wondering aloud where my ride could be? (And hoping they might offer one.)

Just before 5:00 p.m., when I know the transport is scheduled to stop, I even went back across the street to the last store that I shopped at. Actually, it’s more like a stall – selling packaged meat and dairy products  (the only place for cheese). But the lady shopkeeper had no answer when I asked what I should do.

Under normal circumstances a tricycle can be hailed like a cab. I could be home in no time. When we first arrived here, the three of us and our luggage were whisked directly from the ferry terminal to our resort for 150 pesos ($3). But under the quarantine rules, there is no public transit or taxi service permitted. It became obvious I was stuck.

What to do?

I actually waited at the trike pick-up spot until 5:20 p.m. A full hour. Twenty minutes beyond the official transport time. But it gets dark at 6:30 p.m. and I had miles to travel: I had to do something. I started walking towards home.

After a few minutes, I was actually passing through the most central part of Caticlan, very close to the port. I kept looking over my shoulder hoping I might get lucky and be able to snag an ‘unofficial’ trike ride. But as I feared, the quarantine protocols are taken quite seriously here. Nobody is picking up desperate looking tourists.

At that moment, I glanced down the ’roundabout’ road that goes past the ferry terminal. I noticed a small crowd of people in the street – some wearing fatigues. They were members of the local Coast Guard outside their headquarters at the end of the workday. I headed that way.

Actually, I had already thought about going to the police station. But I don’t know where that is. The Coast Guard is ‘like the police’. One guy even had a machine gun!

The solution

I approached the group of seven or eight guys with my hands weighted with grocery sacks and asked for help. Of course, I was wearing a face mask and had my quarantine pass hanging around my neck. I explained exactly as I have here how I came to be stranded in the town center and asked how I could get home?

Three of the officers started talking to me. All spoke perfect English, although they did not seem familiar with where I was trying to get to or the name of our Hangout Beach Resort. They did look at my pass and had some conversation with a couple of the other officers in Tagalog. I heard the name of our neighborhood spoken, “Motag”.

Two of the guys offered me a chair on the sidewalk. The third went walking away toward the way I had come. I sat down and waited. About ten minutes passed. No one said anything more. A few other officers came and went. A couple guys came out of the off Coast Guard offices to smoke cigarettes.

After a few more minutes, I was approached by a guy in nondescript jogging type shorts and a t-shirt with a cell phone and headphones. He confirmed with me that I was trying to get to Motag and asked where I was staying. When I said the Hangout Beach Resort, he shook his head unknowingly. I said “it’s on Google maps.” His response, “lets go!”

Another guy wearing army fatigues had come out of the small building and the two of them led me to a pick-up truck across the street with the Coast Guard logo on the door. The truck bed had bench seats along the sides so I climbed in back with my bags. In a few moments we were zooming out of town. I could see through the back window that the guy with the phone, the passenger, had opened Google maps and plotted our resort.

“Home” again

It was just before 6:00 p.m. when we pulled up at the security/transport station at the end of our small street. The same crew that helped me get to town three-and-a-half hours earlier was still sitting there. They seemed surprised at the Coast Guard presence – with ME in the back!

As we passed, I laughingly said “nobody came to get me!” And, “no tricycle, I waited and hour!” There were some chuckles and head shakes and shrugs. The Coast Guard truck drove right to our doorstep and unloaded me. Our host/landlady, Yolly, thought the whole situation was quite amusing.

Thankfully, it worked out OK. I really do appreciate the ride from the Coast Guard guys. That was really nice. I had hoped they might just summon a tricycle and give the OK to transport and charge me. In any case, it’s all good. And I got home just in time to cook dinner.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails, & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Travel trouble on supply run in the Philippines.”

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Tedly and Ellen post something every day during their Philippine Quarantine adventure. They advocate for travel, once it’s allowed.

Travel trouble on supply run in the Philippines

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