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).
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.
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.
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.