It’s been my family’s dream to tour the Philippines by land ever since we got our car in 2010. The idea of going on an adventure visiting different places and having a small taste of our country’s diverse culture was planted deep in our heads that we just have to do it.
The idea was to take my family in our car and drive all throughout the country boarding ROROs when needed and stopping by selected cities every now and then.
Fast forward to May 2015, after years of postponing the trip we finally did it and despite people telling us how hard it was going to be, we were surprised that it wasn’t as tough as we thought.
5000+ kilometers and 10 boat/RORO rides after, it’s time that I share our adventure with you all.
Schedule, Planning and Preparation
This I believe is the hardest part of the trip. There’s 6 of us in this trip. Myself, my wife Evelyn, my son Jae (8yo) and my daughters Kei (15yo), Vhi (13yo) and Zee (10mos). We didn’t want to go unprepared especially that we’re traveling with our baby so we tried to plan as much as we can weeks before our adventure.
The goal was simple – make sure that we get to the piers/ports on time so as not to miss our boat ride and at the same time have enough time in our “target destinations” to at least be able to go around and see things a bit.
With the help of Google maps, I made a rough guesstimate of when we should leave certain places. It wasn’t spot on but our guesstimates were pretty close.
We also had to decide on how much stuff we’d bring with us making sure that we’ll have everything we need and at the same time leave enough space for “pasalubongs” on our way home.
We also booked most of our accommodations in advance. None of us would want to spend the night in the car though we almost did at one point (more on that on a later blog post).
For our RORO trips, we made sure that we had our car’s insurance updated and our vehicle registration papers with us.
And yes, cash. Credit cards are NOT accepted in any of the RORO ports we’re going through plus there’s a good chance we’d be eating in some places that will accept just plain old cash – we’re in the Philippines after all.
8:00pm May 23, 2015 – Everybody was excited. We had to leave but we still have a bunch of things to pack. One thing I learned in being a dad for 15 years is that you tell your family that you have to leave 1-2 hours before the actual time of departure otherwise you’re screwed.
I have reason to believe that they already know my technique (and now they’ll know for sure after reading this) but somehow it still works.
We got everything loaded in the car at around 8:45pm and we left at around 9:00pm. The drive from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan to Batangas Port is about 3 hours. It’s our first time as a family to travel by sea and definitely a first time for me to drive my car inside a RORO vessel. We still don’t have our tickets as we’re told that we just have to buy them when we get there.
The FastCat boat leaves at 1:30am so I had to drive fast – good thing the roads were mostly clear as it was already late at night. We arrived at Batangas port at about 11:30’ish pm. We had enough time. Whew!
Evelyn’s cousin whom we call “I.C.” travels to Iloilo by land regularly so we asked him for advise. He referred us to his friend who works at FastCat for assistance. No he wasn’t a fixer, just a nice guy and he did assist us all the way to boarding.
Getting my car on board the RORO vessel wasn’t hard at all. A bunch of people guided me to the exact spot where I would park the car. After parking, we got out and went to the passenger’s area where we enjoyed the sea breeze all throughout the 1.5 hour trip to Mindoro.
Bonus… The dark and clear sky was a good opportunity for me to show my kids a few constellations and the Milky Way galaxy. Fun fun fun…
It was more or less 3:20am when we got off our first RORO experience and this was my first time driving in unknown territory for the last 5 years. I opened up Waze on my phone, typed in my destination (Bulalacao, Mindoro) waited for it to calculate the route and started driving.
It was still dark and I’m not familiar with the road so I asked Kei to be my GPS assistant so I can stay focused on what’s ahead. She did stay up for a while then fell asleep again… Oh well.
The RORO for Caticlan leaves at 10:00am. The drive from Calapan Mindoro to Bulalacao was about 4-5 hours so we had plenty of time. No rush.
Sunrise along Mindoro’s golden rice fields was gorgeous. It’s as if the earth was sprouting golden food for the gods. Thinking back, I wish we stopped for a while and took some photos.
Mindoro’s roads were mostly awesome so it wasn’t really that hard driving. A few bumps on the road but nothing that my trusty Montero can’t handle including the one that caused our whole car to jump about a feet or more into the air.
It was the first time I have experienced that. The sun was up, the road was undulating and fun to drive in, everybody was still asleep except me and Kei then… *BUMP*. What was it? Kei didn’t see it nor did I. It was a patch of road that was repaired with asphalt and it looked as smooth as the rest of the road except that it wasn’t.
We flew a feet into the air waking everybody up. Evelyn and Jae hit the roof of the car and Vhi scratched her knee against the car door’s fabric. Good thing baby Zee wasn’t harmed at all. Me and Kei had the advantage of being awake AND WEARING OUR SEATBELTS.
I like to look at the good results that come out of bad experiences. In this case, it REALLY taught the entire family the importance of the good ol’ seatbelt.
We drove through mountains zigzagging along forests and enjoying the view and then boom, the ocean. We ate bread while driving had a few knock knock jokes (courtesy of Vhi) and before we knew it, we arrived at FastCat’s Bulalacao port.
We had breakfast at a nearby “kubo” – the only place where we can eat near the port. It was also a Sunday so I led the family in a short bible devotion after eating.
Before we knew it, it’s time to board our 10:00am RORO for Caticlan. Boracay, here we come!
Next up — Boracay, Iloilo and Guimaras