There was this one long weekend when I was still a college student in Cebu when I came home to Bohol.
Aside from a class-free Saturday and Sunday for me, the coming Monday was also a holiday and so there were no classes on that day, too. To be honest, I don’t really remember what holiday was celebrated then but it gave me the opportunity to be with my family that long weekend. I was then a sophomore at the University of San Carlos, taking up Psychology. Since my Tuesday classes that time were scheduled late in the afternoon, it meant that I could still sail to Cebu from Tagbilaran on a Tuesday morning and I would still be able to attend these afternoon classes. Note that this was in the early ’90s when there were no fastcrafts yet. It would take about 4 hours to travel from Tagbilaran to Cebu and vice versa.
My late father, who had always been concerned about travel schedules, would usually ask me about my return trip details to Cebu as soon as I get to Bohol (my allowance then would only mean I could get a one-way ticket; it was my father who would take care about purchasing my return ticket). But that time, my father just said that there were already several shipping vessels that would be sailing on a Tuesday so that it would not be a problem. By Monday, my father said that I could just go early to the port on Tuesday morning and get my ticket there. There was no need to buy a ticket in advance, according to him.
Monday came and I was supposed to be at the pier by 7 am to catch the 8 am boat. My father, a lawyer, had a case outside town and for some reason, my older brother was not also available to drive me to the pier. My late mother had said then that they had told Nong Doming to drive me to the pier with his tricycle.
The tricycle that Nong Doming was driving actually belonged to one of my uncles, a brother of my Mom. But since my uncle was based out of town, Nong Doming would then park the tricycle at our home every evening when he would finish his city route for the day. Nong Doming must be in his middle-forties then, some parts of his hair and his beard were already white. The few times that I was in our house when he would get the tricycle in the morning or would park it there at night, I had managed to have some small talk with him. This would usually revolve around his family and my studies in Cebu.
Nong Doming arrived shortly before 7 am that Tuesday. We then drove towards the pier, some 15 minutes from our house.
The Tagbilaran City pier today.
When we got to the pier, there were so many people lining up to get a ticket from one ticket stand! I was told by one passenger lining up that the other shipping vessel had cancelled trips that day which explained the huge number of passengers all eager to get on that single morning trip. In my mind, I was sure I could not get a ticket anymore. And so I asked Nong Doming if he could just drive me home. I was resigned to the reality of just sailing the next day. But Nong Doming was not that ready to give up yet.
Nong Doming pointed out to me a man standing near the docked vessel. He informed me that the man in his 50’s, a bit stocky and was about 5’7 tall was the shipping company’s manager. And that this man, according to Nong Doming, knew my father. “They’re friends,” he said. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not. I didn’t recognize the man as one of my father’s friends. I had to admit though that my father could have made new friends while I was already away in Cebu. “We will go to him and ask him to help you get a ticket.” This was Nong Doming’s plan.
I was not that eager with Nong Doming’s plan at all.I kept telling him that I felt embarrassed approaching the man for help. “I don’t even know his name,” I reasoned. And what if he doesn’t believe me that I am the daughter of his friend? But Nong Doming had a ready reply: “Just give me your school ID. I will approach him myself.” Thinking that it would really be much better if I don’t miss my classes that day, I soon obliged and handed my ID to Nong Doming. I followed him as he walked towards the manager.
I have to give it to Nong Doming for his concern for me not to miss my classes and also for his courage to speak to the manager. I was thinking, he must have been very sure that this man was my father’s friend. Or perhaps, my father had already given him instructions before that I was not aware of?
Nong Doming approached the manager, told him whose daughter I was. He explained that we were unable to get a ticket for me and that I had to sail to Cebu because I had classes that I could not miss that day. I was both impressed and touched with Nong Doming’s effort. The manager shifted his gaze from Nong Doming to me and then Nong Doming handed him my school ID. The manager looked at my ID briefly, gave it back to Nong Doming and walked away. Wow. Was he snubbing us? Was he able or even willing to meet our request, I mean, Nong Doming’s request? My own conclusion was negative. I told Nong Doming that we should just leave. But Nong Doming simply said that we should just wait. The boat was still there. According to him, we would only know if our request was denied when the boat leaves without me 🙂
And wait we did. It was getting close to 8 am. The sound of the ship’s whistle finally fills the air, a sure sign that the ship was leaving soon. My heart was now disappointed for both Nong Doming and myself. But just then a man rushed towards us, handing me a ticket! I scrambled for my wallet for the payment. I thanked the man who was actually a ticketing staff. I then hurried to the manager who was standing near the gangplank and thanked him, too. And of course, I expressed nothing but gratitude to a grinning Nong Doming.
As I settled in the ship for the 4 hour-trip, I thought about how Nong Doming reminded me something very important that day. It’s that simple really: if we don’t ask, we will never know the answer or get what we need.