Manila-Boracay Latin Dance Festival

  • Part 1  747-400 upper deck to MNL
  • Part  2  Manila
  • Part 3  Boat to Boracay
  • Part 4  Boracay hotel & dancing
  • Part 5  Boracay-Manila-Tokyo-Seattle-Salt Lake City-Charlotte

Part 3 Boat to Boracay

Taking a boat to Boracay was completely unexpected.  I had purchased a round-trip flight on Philippine Airlines from MNL to Caticlan, Boracay (MPH).  Unfortunately, due to the APEC conference and the coming and going of various heads of state including the POTUS, flights from MNL were canceled on Nov. 20.  All of those attending the dance festival were in the same position.  The organizers of the event advised that we could take a boat instead of fly.

The boat trip would take nine hours instead of 55 minutes by air.  And we would have to go to the docks in Batangas to get on the boat.  To get the group there, the festival arranged two charter buses.  The group gathered at Starbucks in Bonifacio Global City, at 2p.m. on Thursday November 19.   The buses arrived at 3 p.m. and the group boarded and left shortly thereafter.

The bus ride to Batangas, an industrial port city south of Manila, took about three hours including a 30-minute pit stop along the way.  Room was tight on the bus.  Spirits, however, were high.  Many people used the ride for sleep.  That proved to be a wise use of time.

After arriving at the Batangas docks we had to kill an hour or so in the waiting room efore boarding.

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The waiting room was crowded.  At least there was TV, local food for sale, and a few outlets for charging phones.  When it was time to board the ship, we had to go through three sets of ticket takers/inspectors and finally a line-up security inspection with a bomb-sniffing dog.

After boarding we all went to our accommodations to settle in.  I purchased a ticket at a broker in Manila for tourist-class accommodations.  The ticket cost about $24 for the one-way voyage.  A cabin with four beds would have only cost about $5 more, but I was told they were sold out.  Tourist class meant I had a bunk bed in a large dormitory on the main deck.20151118_175200

The bed came with a mattress and pillow.  I had to pay about $2 to rent a sheet, pillow case and blanket.  I had a lower bunk on one of the main traffic corridors.  At least this sleeping area was air conditioned.  There were more bunks upstairs for slightly less money that were not air conditioned and less private.

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Non air-conditioned bunks

After getting the linen for the bed, I visited the restaurant on the deck above.  It was cafeteria style.

The restaurant was a clean and pleasant.  The food was not very good.

After a repast, I went upstairs to the bar area on the stern.  There was live entertainment with two singers and a man who played a keyboard and percussion machine.  They produced a sound  like a four or five piece live band.  The group from the festival persuaded the band to mix in some salsa, bachata and cha cha cha with their regular oldies, hip hop and Philippine songs.

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Bar, band and dancing

The ship sailed around dusk.

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Dusk departure from Batangas

The band started playing even before we left port.  The singers had amazing stamina.  Although the festival crowd would have preferred that they take more breaks.  That’s when one of the festival performers would hook up his Ipod to the sound system and play Latin tunes we could dance to.  The singers were having a good time and would frequently break into what was described as the “Philippine laugh.”   It is very distinctive. I had never heard a laugh like that.

Around 11 p.m., I called it quits and headed down to my berth to attempt sleep.  As I said, I had a lower bunk near a door on a walkway corridor.  It was going to be hard to sleep with the door opening and closing and someone walking within a few inches of my head every few minutes.  I copied what I saw others do and hung my blanket from the top bunk to make a curtain.  Next year, I’m going to check the berthing chart to select a bunk that is more out of the way, or better yet, get a cabin for the nominal upcharge.

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My bunk with blanket privacy curtain

Hanging the blanket made a huge difference.  I actually got a few hours of sleep/rest.  There was no place to store luggage except in the bunk which took up a lot of space.  I gave my backpack with my laptop to a crew member to store in the locked office.

In spite of the less than ideal sleeping arrangements, all in all the bus ride and boat trip was very enjoyable.  It gave me an opportunity to meet and get to know some of the other dancers.  I was glad, though, to get off the ship when we arrived in Caticlan around 7 a.m.

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Disembarking in Caticlan

To get to Boracay from Caticlan, we needed to take another small boat for the 15-minute ride across the channel.  It cost about $7.50.

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Small boat for channel crossing to Boracay

The last part of the journey was a jitney ride from the dock on Boracay to the hotels.  My hotel and festival report is in Part 4.

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