It’s was not the first time I rode a RoRo (roll-in, roll-out) ferry boat. I’ve rode one several times when I used to travel to Tacloban City. However, this is the first time I’m boarding a RoRo on a peak season.
My experience was not the most ideal one. I knew that going to Marinduque for the Lenten Season was going to be tough because surely the Philippines’ Lenten Capital would be swamped with people. That was why we decided to go there on the midnight of Holy Wednesday since surely the crowd would be less.
While it’s true that the crowd was comparatively lesser than the crowd on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, still we were met with a very long line and bus loads of people arriving at Dalahican Port in Lucena. We already missed the 12MN ferry and we had to take the next one which leaves at 1:30AM.
The port was crowded and even when one goes inside the building, after they check your things, you can’t find a single place to sit. The port building was jampacked!
When they finally announced that we will be boarding and when they finally opened the gates, there was a stampede. People ran to the ferry. I thought that we would all have enough rooms to sit in. I was wrong.
I was still on the lower deck where the vehicles were parked when I heard an announcement that it was already full upstairs. I was doubtful. I haven’t even claimed my seat. How can it be full? Surely, the ticketing office knows when to stop giving out tickets for that particular boat ride, right?
I was wrong again. I managed to make it to the stairs before finally I cannot move forward. My mom and sister, who were ahead of me managed to make it to the second deck but also close by the stairs. My brother was with me in the stairs. I thought they would make some people go down the ferry to lessen its load. I mean, the ferry has a maximum capacity, right?
Again, I was wrong.
The ferry started moving with me and my co-travelers standing by the stairs or the lobby – all jampacked like sardines in a can. There wasn’t even room to move!
The seafarers (the staff of the ferry line) had difficulty passing through the throngs of people. When asked why the situation was like this, they had no answer. When asked who their captain was and how they can ensure the safety of the passengers – again they had no answer.
Clearly, the boat was overloaded and no one wants to take the blame for it.
It was a terrible experience! Imagine travelling for 4 hours across the sea in an overloaded ferry, in the middle of the night, without assurance of safety. I was aghast that such a thing was allowed to happen. It seems as if they allowed as many people as possible to be crammed inside the boat – thinking they can still climb up the upper decks to find a spot – before they closed the boat, trapping this hundreds of people in.
When I relayed this incident to our resort owner, he said that the shipping lines usually practice this especially during peak season. Indeed, that was the answer of one of the staffs when we asked why the boat was overloaded. I asked if there was no Coast Guard who checks against this thing. Afterall, there were tents of Lakbay Alalay everywhere in the ports. The answer I got was that the coast guard were given a cut for every extra passenger the boat can fit in. Likewise, the ferry lines attempted such a feat only when they know the sea is calm and they won’t get into any mishap.
Given that the trip was pretty uneventful and we all got to our destination safe and sound, but I don’t think it justifies what had happened.
How can Marinduque promote further its tourism if the ferry lines that travel to it promote overloading? And will they wait for an accident to happen before they actually implement strict rules against it?
(pics to follow)