There was nothing more to do in the morning except to pack my stuff hoping everything would fit. I have become an expert in packing musical instruments from all my trips abroad. It’s easy if you’re packing stuff and heading straight to the airport. Getting on land transportation is a little more tricky as it means less space and more carelessness in handling and stowing luggage. Double all that when you need to get on a beat-up mini-van with about a dozen more people than it normally carries.
I had brought my Lowe Alpine 75+15 backpack which is quite huge but stashing my klutang there was out of the question. In came the two sludoy wrapped in my used shirts. I had already marked and removed the frets so there would be less chances of the fragile strings snapping should it something heavy be placed on top of my pack. The kumbing and sloli were wrapped in the tubao and placed between the sludoy. I had brought my overnight bag as back-up bag in case the pack becomes too heavy and I go beyond the 15kg limit. The klutang was wrapped in used straw sacks. Mel had assured me when I called her that it wouldn’t be illegal to be transporting a small piece of wood. I had become apprehensive that the DENR might call my attention to it as it seems just like any piece of cut wood. I would have to go through the entire process of explaining that it was in fact a musical instrument and why I have it.
I had an early lunch of what else… sugba na tilapia and instant pancit. When I asked for my bill, Elmer said I need not pay as they owners who dropped by yesterday and who I chatted with had told them to feed me as I were their first guest. The couple who owned the Green Box, a doctor-wife and an engineer-husband who are based in Insulan, Sultan Kudarat, were really nice and gracious. If only for that, I’d give a 5-star rating to Green Box and would stay again and even recommend it to others. Sometimes you can forgive not-so-good facilities for really wonderful hosts.
The van to Surallah passed by past 12 noon already and fortunately there was still an available seat and the luggage space behind the last row of seats wasn’t full. I was really lucky to have taken that seat as I was to discover on later in the trip as passengers hopped on and off, they really did fill it beyond its capacity as even the space where the engine was is used for seats! When the entire van was full, the conductor road outside hanging dangerously at the back.
Surallah was a mere thirty minutes away and we finally let out at the bus station. A Marbel-bound bus was pulling out just as I arrived at the bus bay so I got on an empty bus that filled in about 15 minutes. There was no air-con but the cloudy weather made everything.
As I sat by the window looking at the gorgeous countryside of rolling hills and flat plains, the conductor swang by to collect my fare. I gave him a twenty-peso bill and four one-peso coins. He looked at me puzzedly and said something in Ilonggo which I of course, could not understand. “Tagalog,” I told him. He was asking how much I had given him. “Twenty-four,” I answered. He moved on. He must have forgotten the twenty-peso bill I gave him.
The middle-aged man seated beside me struck up a conversation (translated in English here).
“Is this your first time here?”
“Where are you from?
“Didn’t you get scared coming here?”
I was surprised with this. But he must have been more surprised at me traveling alone in this part of Mindanao. I didn’t feel nor see anything out of the ordinary as to invite fear during my entire course of travel here. I felt I was just like in any other provincial town. He introduced himself as pastor who was heading to Marbel with his wife for some errands. They were both very nice and we talked until we reached the Yellow Bus Line terminal.
I loved how the bus connections were all so easy and quick. There was a waiting a/c bus at the bay and I took an aisle seat beside a young guy in office uniform. I had an hour to get a some shut-eye.
The multi-cab chocked streets of GenSan greeted us as we pulled into the bus terminal. I already missed Lake Sebu. I must have had a sign on my forehead reading: “I’m new here” as porters and trike drivers swarmed around me. One particular brusque porter kept grabbing my bag and was about to carry it off to the trike I had negotiated Php 70 to bring me to the hotel in the city proper. I let out at loud yell and he took off.
I had truly come back to realty.