I recently moved to Palawan to pursue my dream of farming. Fortunately, I met Medy Tabangay, a provincial agriculturist, and she told me that she was training the Caruray Farmers Association (CaFAs) in organic farming. The whole name of the training is Farmer’s Field School in Organic Vegetable Production (FFS-OVP).
Unfortunately, the training will be held in Caruray in San Vicente, Palawan where the jeep only have one trip per day and the road is long and rough. Who am I to complain? The rougher the road the more enjoyable the trip gets. 🙂 Let me share to you my experiences so far on the adventure road to and from Caruray.
Who am I with on this journey?
Couple of passengers
The pigs seriously stinked that the other passengers complained. The solution shower them with a lot of magic powder or what the locals call rice chaff (ipa ng bigas), a by product when milling the rice.
And a lot of Cargo!
If the jeep is headed to Puerto Princesa from Caruray the cargo are usually boxes of styrofoam with fishes as Caruray is mostly a fishing village, coconut vinegar that is locally produced and a lot of empty containers which will be filled with gasoline and other stuff that residents needs in Caruray.
If the jeep is headed to Caruray from Puerto Princesa the cargo are usually the boxes of fishes but now filled with ice, television, TV signal dishes, gasoline, goods to sell and a lot of fertilizers.
Where does my journey start?
It starts in the quaint town of Magara where I wait at an intersection at the National Highway. I usually arrive here around a little past 11AM only to wait until around 1PM for the jeep to arrive. The worst I had to wait was when the jeep arrived at around 3PM. Seriously, the schedules of the different transportations for me to get to Caruray is not as friendly very friendly so I have to wait a minimum of 2 hours. Fortunately, the people in the intersection were very friendly and one of them is a lady from Cuyo Island, where I learned that you can go directly to Cuyo Island from Metro Manila via boat.
My journey starts at an intersection in the middle of nowhere where the jeepney will be passing by. Usually, I only wait here for an hour but last time I was there I waited alone for 4 hours!!! This was due to the many fishes caught that are needed to be sold in Puerto Princesa, taking the extra time for them to be loaded in the jeep.
When I first saw the jeep, it was not my usual definition of a jeep. It’s a six wheeler vehicle that even I who stand 5 feet and 11 inches needs to stretch my legs so that I could get into it.
Once in a while we would stop in front of a sari-sari store but people would not go down but only goods. The jeepney is also their delivery system to the towns of Little Caramay and Caruray. When the jeepney is headed to Puerto Princesa they will stop briefly in front of a store then the head conductor would be handed with a list on a paper and money. Then when the jeepney arrives in Puerto Princesa the conductors will then go off, buy and collect the lists. When they get back the next day to Caruray they would then stop again at the stores and houses and deliver the goods.
Unlike in the jeepneys of Manila that there would be a maximum of 1 conductor or the driver is also the conductor, the jeepney to Caruray has about 5 in minimum. This is because the others would also help carry the heavy load or push the jeepney if it gets trapped in mud.
bad fun is it to get to Caruray?
When the jeepney arrived in Magara, the inside of the jeep was already full so I sat at my favorite seat, the topload. Unfortunately, it started to rain. It didn’t matter to me as I was always ready to get wet and dirty but the conductors insisted that I go inside the trapal, the textile sheet they use to cover the goods from the rain. When I was not inside the trapal I could see the branches coming over and was able to avoid it, if not at least I know how bad it will hurt. But with the trapal blocking my sight, I have little chance of defending myself. What if a big bad branch hit us? It would really hurt and has a great chance of getting us an injury. So when the jeepney stopped and some passengers alighted I requested that I be transferred to the inside of the jeep, which all of us toploaders did.
Then the rain got stronger. As we passed by some dirt roads I saw the sign “Check your brake”. This sign is a famous landmark to all who live in Caruray as it is the sign that “Ay Diyos Ko” is near. Ay Diyos Ko is a life-changing, steep, winding road going to Caruray. Last 2004 a jeepney fell here and luckily only killed 2 people as many were able to jump out of the jeepney.
After that we passed by a mud road due to the rain where the jeepney got stuck. The first aid would be to let some of the passengers go down. If that does not work then they throw some rice chaff on the wheels to increase friction and push the jeepney on the side. If that also does not work then all abled and willing men would go down and play tug of war with the stuck jeepney.
The earliest I arrived in Caruray is around 3PM and the latest is 6PM. But when I was absent the jeepney arrived around 9PM and the worst they said is that the jeepney arrived 3 days later making the passengers walk more than 10kms on the rough road.
How about getting out of Caruray?
After waiting for 4 hours at a waiting shed in the middle of nowhere I went inside the jeepney. When we got to a weak bridge, the driver and conductors requested all of us to go down and cross the bridge by foot as the jeepney was too heavy with a lot of fishes and may break the bridge when we were inside it.
Then when we were on the foot of Ay Diyos Ko, the driver again requested all of us to go down and walk up to the top of the life-changing, steep, winding road which took us 10 minutes of leg breaking uphill training! Children, the strong, the old, almost everyone of us went down except for the jeepney driver and the old man with a cane.
Change and the price of the bad road to Caruray
I was able to sit and talk with a family in Caruray during their dinner. They told me that the first way to get to Caruray was to ride a pumpboat from the jumpoff town of the Underground River, Sabang. But when the road was constructed it somehow made the town more accessible.
But due to the bad condition of the road a less steeper road was constructed but no one uses it since the road was too long compared to the first road.
According to the people I was talking to, when there are accidents some who needs to be transported to the nearest developed town of Puerto Princesa or Roxas needs to pass by the bad road and if unlucky, the bounce on the road would make the injury worse and if really unlucky, the accident would happen when there is strong rain making the vehicle transporting the patient stuck on the road and he would die.
I am asking for better roads, but I’m afraid that with better roads comes faster developments and faster developments leads to a change of lifestyle. Generally, the people I’ve met in Caruray are kind, friendly and accommodating. I wish they would still stay the same even when developments come.
Jeepney Schedule and Fare to Caruray
Puerto Princesa to Caruray
The jeep leaves at around 9 or 10AM at the San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa. Then it would be passing by the town of Magara around 1PM. The schedule of the jeep depends on how many persons or cargo are already in the jeep, when it is full it leaves.
Fare from Puerto Princesa to Caruray is 200 Pesos/pax; Estimated Travel Time is 5 hours on good weather.
Fare from Magara intersection to Caruray is 50 Pesos/pax; Estimated Travel Time is 1 hour on good weather.
Caruray to Puerto Princesa
The jeep leaves at around 9 or 10AM at Old Site, Caruray. The schedule of the jeep depends on how many persons or cargo are already in the jeep, when it is full it leaves.
Fare from Caruray to Magara Intersection is 50 Pesos/pax; Estimated Travel Time is 2 hours on good weather.
Fare from Caruray to Puerto Princesa is 200 Pesos/pax; Estimated Travel Time is 6 hours on good weather.
One of the techniques some of the locals do since the jeep is slow on the National Highway is that they ride the jeep to Magara then ride a bus or van to Puerto Princesa.