Belt/Beep Boasts 200 Passenger Capacity
Another 12-hour power outage was in the works for Guimaras this past Saturday, April 17. The scheduled brownout was as welcome as an outhouse breeze. While my wife and I had already went to the big city a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t want to stay at home without any power. Thus, we went shopping to Iloilo City. It’s only a 15-minute trip through the Iloilo Strait. Moreover, we discovered a new passenger boat plies the Guimaras/Iloilo route.
Breaking Out of My OCD Routine
However, Saturday is a colossal shopping day in Iloilo City. Many sari sari operators in our home province of Guimaras travel to the big city on Saturday to stock up on merchandise.
Consequently, it can make going back home somewhat difficult. There can be long lines at the passenger terminals. There haven’t been enough passenger boats since the ban on wooden-hulled motorized banca boats in the beginning of January 2021.
Therefore, I made an “executive decision.” An “executive decision” is when I take action without consulting my asawa beforehand. Thus, I searched the World Wide Web to book a hotel in Iloilo City for Saturday night. We could do our shopping all day on Saturday. That would even give us time to have a spa session with a manicure, pedicure, and foot spa for both of us.
We could return on the next day, Sunday, after a stop at S&R.
We haven’t been out of Guimaras overnight since we vacationed in Boracay before the start of pandemic lockdowns.
Price is the First Concern for the “Frugal” Expat
My first criterion for my hotel room search is the “price.” After price, comes the rating from previous guests. As long as the place has a decent rating, at least three out of five stars, I’ll book the room if it has a private CR, Comfort Room, and aircon.
My search led me to “Lifesprings” in Iloilo City. The price was right at 1,188 pesos, about 24 US dollars, for Saturday night. It was close to S&R and near SM City, where we would be having our spa treatment.
I expected long lines at the Jordan RORO Wharf Saturday morning. We were going to Iloilo via the Montenegro Ferry. Previously, there have been long queues when 12-hour brownouts have been scheduled.
View from the deck of the Montenegro, the FF Cruz RORO was unloading in Guimaras
Many people want to leave the province. Moreover, it was a busy Saturday shopping day. However, at the time, I wasn’t aware of another passenger boat available at the nearby Jordan Wharf. I don’t like leaving from the Jordan Wharf since the dispatch operator is somewhat rude.
We didn’t even have to wait in line to get our Out Bound passes verified by the wharf screeners. There’s no temperature check as was done previously. No one asks why we are going to the city. We don’t have to wait in line to pay as a passenger on the Montenegro. It costs less than a dollar for both my wife and I to travel as a passenger. You just sign the passenger log and take your seat. Someone will come by later to collect your money.
Spa Treatment for the Crusty Old Expat
After arriving in “The City of Love,” we caught a taxi to SM City. Since the pandemic, we don’t travel by jeepney anymore. While I believe the pandemic is a conspiracy fueled by the Chinese, WHO, Globalists, and Bill Gates, I’m willing to spend a few extra dollars by taking a cab. Traveling in a crowded, non-air-conditioned jeepney doesn’t seem like the safest way to travel now.
We ate at McDonald’s for an early lunch. After a super-sized Quarter Pounder Combo, we try to find a spa. I haven’t had a foot spa, pedicure, and manicure since our visit to Boracay last year.
Our first two stops didn’t have any openings. While we had all day to shop and get our spa treatments, I didn’t want to wait.
I’m an American.
While my spouse was checking out the plant section on the lower level, I wandered into the Salon de Rose. There were nail technicians available for both my wife and I.
However, the foot spa, pedicure, and manicure package would cost 910 pesos each, about 18 US dollars, 340 pesos more expensive than the other outlets we had checked out. Because I didn’t want to wait, we opted for the more expensive Salon de Rose package.
The treatments took about 90 minutes. We had some time before we would be able to check in at Lifesprings. Therefore, we went to Dairy Queen at SM and enjoyed a couple of Blizzards. And yes, the DQ employee did turn the Blizzards upside down before handing them to us, just like in the States.
My wife checked out the plant and flower section again. I devoured my Double Dutch Blizzard. It was time to check in at Lifesprings.
Pre-pandemic days at DQ in SM City Iloilo
Lost in the City
We caught a taxi outside. However, the driver didn’t know where Lifesprings was located. I had failed to print out the street address and directions. I did recall that it was located near the Atria shopping district not far from SM City.
Our driver stopped and asked for directions but no one had heard of the place. Finally, my wife showed the driver a copy of my reservation confirmation that had a small map, which depicted the general location of the hotel.
Our driver now had his bearings. We came to a major intersection and saw a sign overhead, “Lifesprings Community Center.”
You Can Check in but You Can Never Check Out
As we navigated our way through the dirty, gritty crowded street, full of people not wearing facemasks, my wife proclaimed:
“This is a bad place.”
“Should we turn back?” asked the cabbie.
“Is it a bad place?” I asked our navigator.
“No, sir,” came the reply.
“Then let’s check in,” I said, “I’ve already paid for the room.”
We made our way past the “L&S” Café located outside of the reception area. The friendly Filipina receptionist checked us in and led us to our room. She immediately turned on the air con, as it was a typical hot and humid day in April.
April and May are the harshest days to deal with the heat and humidity in the Philippines, at least in our region, Western Visayas.
In April, in Iloilo City, Philippines, the average high temperature is 31.3°C (88.3°F.) The average low temperature is 25.6°C (78.1°F.)
The warmest month is May, with an average high-temperature of 31.7°C (89.1°F) and an average low-temperature of 26.6°C (79.9°F.) In May, the average heat index is estimated at a blistering 40.6°C (105.1°F.)[i]
Warm Room with the Air Con Going Full Blast
Our room was still warm after about 30 minutes. A simple room. Not large. Remember that I always look for a bargain, thus, this “Twin Room” didn’t mean it had two rooms, it meant it had twin beds.
Here’s a look at the room
Furthermore, it had the requisite private CR, Comfort Room, and aircon.
My spouse and I have been married for over 21 years. She probably wouldn’t mind having her “own space” for one night.
I felt the cold air coming from the air con. It was set to the coldest temperature and the highest fan level. I took a shower to cool off and we headed out to Iloilo City again for dinner and some shopping.
The cloud cover gave us a good excuse to walk over to SM City so I could get some exercise. It was only about a 20-minute walk from Lifesprings.
We left the air con running hoping it would cool our room down by the time we returned from SM City.
Pizza Hut Birthday Bash
We had dinner at Pizza Hut. We ordered the meal for two that costs 499 pesos, about 10 US dollars. It comes with two soft drinks, two Pizza Hut Supreme pizzas, two spaghetti dishes, and two pieces of fried chicken.
A group of teenagers was enjoying a birthday celebration. One lone male was among the seven or eight females. He sat next to the “birthday girl.” Everyone took the mandatory selfies for their Facebook pages.
Gifts were given to the “birthday girl.” A cake from Goldilocks was presented. The kids were having a good time.
We finished our meal. My wife wanted to go to the Ladies Department of SM City and the Surplus Store. These are two of her three mandatory stops along with H&M.
Forever 21 used to be on the list, however, but it filed for bankruptcy before the pandemic.
Missing the Turn
Since the front gate for Lifesprings closed at 8 pm, we take a taxi back to our room around 7:30. My wife knew the intersection that the previous cabbie had mentioned as a landmark.
Because it was dark, and since the cab driver was singing along to a “Gloria” remix featuring Laura Branigan, who died of a brain aneurysm, our driver missed the turn at the intersection.
(Branigan was 47 or 52 years of age at the time of her death in 2004 depending on what news source on the “interwebs” that you look at. Of course, don’t forget the version of “Gloria” written by Van Morrison and belted out by “Them.”)
I realized we had missed our turn. I advised the driver who did a quick U-turn. He apologized. “No need to,” I remarked, “it’s dark.”
We spied the unlit “Lifesprings Community Center” sign and made our way to the hotel.
The Room Was Still Warm
Despite leaving the aircon on, our room was still warm. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Suddenly, I realized what the problem might be. I had my wife, who was near a window completely covered with a curtain, to check the window to see if it was open.
With the window closed, our room became quite cool and comfortable after a couple of hours. I advised the receptionist of this fact the next morning when we checked out.
While the price for the room was right, we would not return. The receptionist, the only staff person we met, was a pleasant young woman but the surroundings were too rustic even for a redneck like me. Everything outside seemed too dark and dreary.
The Wi-Fi was good, however. The room was clean. The shower had good water pressure.
Moreover, the neighborhood surrounding the establishment wasn’t too inviting. With no dead bolt on our door and no security that could be seen, it didn’t seem like the safest place we could be staying. The TV programming only had local channels.
S&R Stock-up Specials
We had planned to catch the 12 noon Montenegro RORO on Sunday morning after a stop at S&R. Because we had finished up our stock-up specials early at S&R, around 11 am, we decided to take our chances on a fiberglass boat at Parola Wharf.
We had three boxes of groceries along with three bags. Our regular porter, Lang Lang, wasn’t at the wharf that Sunday morning. We had to rely on porters that we had never used before. We were hoping that the Coast Guard would not stop us from loading our cargo, as they had attempted to do in a couple of previous trips.
New Passenger Boat Plies Guimaras/Iloilo Route
However, we had no problem and our groceries were loaded on a new passenger vessel, the Belt/Beep. The boat boasted a seating capacity of 200 passengers. The now-banned banca boat had a seating capacity of around 40-44.
Of course, with the limits on passenger capacity due to the so-called “pandemic,” restrictions on the number of passengers were set. Suddenly, a Coast Guard official showed up. Oh, crap, I thought, maybe they’re going to try and get the crew to offload our groceries.
While the Coast Guard officer told a passenger to lower his face shield, nothing was said about our cargo. After the vessel arrived at the Jordan Wharf, I noticed a load of roasted pig, lechon, being unloaded. It belonged to a group of Coast Guard officers that were passengers on the boat.
Our power had returned the night before, around 6 pm, so we headed home, where family members were waiting for us. Groceries were unpacked. I lovingly put my White Castle sliders into the freezer to be enjoyed later.
Jordan Yohan Express Returns
In addition, as I was preparing this article, I noticed this post from the Guimaras Provincial Government Facebook page. I advised my wife, who was heading out to Iloilo City with one of her lady friends today, Thursday, to do some (more) shopping.
Much to my disappointment, my asawa informed me that there was no Yohan available at 9 am so she caught a ride with the Montenegro RORO. The Yohan Express did not post any new schedule on their Facebook page. I will post their new schedule as soon as it becomes available.
(Now our “power” company has scheduled another power outage this coming Saturday, April 24, from 4 am to 12 noon, for most of Guimaras. The power is being shut down due to a road-widening project that involves the moving of utility poles. We won’t be traveling to Iloilo City for this one. Why the road-widening project couldn’t be done last Saturday in conjunction with the 12-hour power outage is beyond my mortal comprehension.)
UPDATE: I called Yohan Express on Friday, April 23, 2021. I was informed that daily trips on the hour have now begun from 6 am to 7 pm at Jordan Wharf in Guimaras. Furthermore, my wife has told me that there is another passenger vessel now operating from the Jordan Wharf, the Jordan Ferry 5, although people still have to queue up for a ride.
Here’s a look at that new passenger vessel plying the Iloilo Strait between Guimaras and Iloilo City.
[i] Source The Weather Atlas.com https://www.weather-atlas.com/en/philippines/iloilo-city-weather-may