It seems necessary to devote a full blog post to my trip from Iloilo to Palawan, given how fundamentally different it was from the usual tricyle/bus/boat combo that has peppered my time in the Philippines thus far.
Wrapping up a luxuriously lazy week on the pristine and remote Sugar Beach in Sipalay, my next plan was to head on to the rugged and (if pictures aren't lying) stunning island of Palawan, a long slice of land tumbling downward from Mindoro with its southernmost tip straining to touch Malaysian Borneo. As I've catalogued in my prior post, Sipalay was notoriously difficult to get to (we took a tricycle, a v-hire van, 2 buses and a boat to get there from Dumaguete, on the same island!), it actually but proved even more entertaining to leave if your destination is Palawan: a 5.5 hour bus to Bacolod, ostensibly followed by a ferry to neighbouring Iloilo island and then a night boat to Palawan. Upon my arrival to Iloilo after a sweaty day of bumpy, dirty bus travel, a wrench was thrown in my plan: the night boat to Palawan sank recently, and the next ferry wasn't for another 5 days. There were also no reasonably priced flights to Palawan from Iloilo (7000 pesos wasn't remotely reasonable, especially when the ferry was 1000). Iloilo City was not the kind of place I wanted to spend 5 days, and so after a marathon session at the travel agency in the Atrium Mall near my ant and roach and spider infested hostel, I booked a night ferry to Cebu and then a flight from Cebu to Puerto Princessa, capital of Palawan province.
Those of you who have traveled in the Philippines will know that the ferries here are not renowned for their safety, nor are they strict about the capacity of the ship. Most of the boats that sank either did so because the waters were stormy but the company didn't want to cancel or because they stuffed too many people on the ship prior to departure. As a result, I felt it was prudent to Google 'accident Visayas Philippines ferry' in order to make an informed decision about what company I would sail with to Cebu. This internet research proved to be psychologically traumatising, as there were far more accidents than I had anticipated, and the gruesome, detail-oriented accounting of the ferries as they sunk left a pit in my stomach. I ended up going with Cokaliong Shipping Lines, a newer company with no major accidents thus far. This either meant that I was going to drown on my way to Cebu or that they took better care of their boats and followed the rules. I was hoping for the latter.
Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job after 5+ years of working…
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