Crossing the Bicol River via Balongay

Old folks recall there used to be a huge barge that ply the route which accomodates bus and cars during the perilous Bicol river crossing. ALATCO, a defunct public passenger transport company, once availed of the barge services- its route covers the Manila-Naga-Manila via Calabanga trip.

Devoid of the barge facilities now, enterprising owners of motorized bancas (boats) transport passengers to and from Balongay and Tarawal to Cabusao and return. Residents who take the river crossing usually end up in Cabusao’s Barcelonita (pop 2,330) or Sta Cruz (pop. 1,149).

A boat of passengers arriving, towards the landing platform.

The small boats can only accomodate seven people in one cruise. Maybe at times river crossing poses danger as the strength of the water’s current forms swirling waterpools emptying and joning the bulk of the waiting salty, blue sea of San Miguel.

The banca operator is so experienced he managed to device a system of not going straight ahead after departing from Balongay but instead maneuvers a sharp curved route to curtail the push and shove of the current. Imagine being in a crib on a rocking motion.

Just looking at the transport boat, do not expect amenities of comfort for the seat will be a piece of bamboo pole nailed across its rim. And the tidal water seeps in so there should be plenty of time one’s feet will get soaked.

A passenger receives a helping hand from one of the operators.

The trip that kicks-off from Balongay sometimes make a whistle stop at Punta Tarawal and on to Cabusao and return or depending on the passengers on board and their destinations. Boat pilot and passengers are in good rapport it seems they know each other. Small talks and jokes are part of the trip.

For a one-way fare of twenty five pesos, the river crossing is a long wait of close to half an hour I was wondering if Calabanga and Cabusao folks, even though they may have been used to crossing the river, ever find some fear in their heart as they float on the water.

There is small commerce and business between Balongay-Punta Tarawal and Cabusao. But movement of goods and people at the current transport condition will need more than imagination and dream. It would be difficult to expand interaction on current transport conditions and facility.

Expect not to move heavy objects and goods anytime soon because of this limitation. And crossings are only done on daylight time and strictly without any weather disturbance. This mode of transport is not very reliable.

Another boat-load of people departs for Cabusao and Punta Tarawal.

Like the habal sevice, the boat crossing is unregulated by any government agency. (Do you read my mind?)

By the way, I was looking for any historical marker about the landing of American troops in Balongay during World war II, but to my dismay, there was nothing. They were referred to as “liberators” in the push of reclaiming the area from the occupying Japanese imperial forces.

Bicolano guerillas joined the group in the ultimate drive towards the liberation of Calabanga, the surrounding towns and then on to Naga city.

This writer is looking forward to seeing a sign or marker in Balongay soon. It will add reasonable point for enthusiasts to visit the place. A little research, then a literature about this is mostly welcome.

This is not the first time that Calabanga should have been mentioned in the history books. There’s another remarkable event worth mentioning that happened 110 years ago. Discussion of this will be made on another mini-series in our forthcoming posts. Abangan.

Don’t forget to read related posts on this series, here:

Bicol River Basin is a Repository of Failed Programs
The Mother and Queen of all rivers in Southern Luzon.
Crossing the Bicol River via Balongay.
Stepping into the real Balongay.
Balongay and the bridge of broken dream.


7 thoughts on “Crossing the Bicol River via Balongay”

  1. I’ve been interested in this recent update and looks like I will look for some additional infomation. You really interested me.

  2. I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site gave me some ideas. Thank you for all of your time and work.

  3. If a private investor would want to invest time and money for creating an appropriate boat size that will serve the local users/visitors and foreign guest will the local authorities and ministries responsible for granting the permits or approval agrees to the concept without delay and delays.

    The MagicMan

    Reply next issue

    1. @Magic Man: I would say that is a feasible idea. And when a project will make an impact on the general public, there is no reason a proposal will not get support from all sectors.

  4. I was in my teens and experienced crossing this river several times by ALATCO bus. I like to share funny story in this crossings. First time, at the barge crossing, we bought ukoy (fried shrimps in flour about 20 pieces shrimps) that will serve as a meal since trip from Daet to Naga usually takes four hours. Five years later, when I took my last trip through this road only 5 shrimps was in the ukoy. In the 80s, as an engineer of DPWH, Cam. Sur, I once crossed this river by boat as described above. Finally, I would like to suggest to the leaders of Camarines Sur to undertake a feasibility study of constructing a bridge that can span this river. This will open up this area to development since this road will become a diversion road to the present national highway via Danao, Pasacao

    1. Thanks for the nice thought and personal experience you shared. Projects that are not close to the hearts of politicians may not see its fruition.

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