It was only in 1999 when Genesis (bus company) extended its route from Balanga-La Union to Balanga-Baguio City. Prior to that, we had to endure the tiring cutting trips from Balanga to San Fernando, Pampanga to Dau, Pampanga to Baguio City. There was an alternative route though. Balanga to Olongapo City to Alaminos, Pangasinan to Baguio City. Pick your choice! (I pick the second one as I’m in love with the greenfields in Zambales and the seas in Pangasinan!)
The alternative route was less tiring but travel time was longer by 1.5 hrs. There was a time when a big flood hit San Fernando, Pampanga so the Olongapo-Gapan road was impassable. The bus (Victory Liner) would have to re-route to Floridablanca where there was a shallow river.
When I was younger and not as street-smart as I am today, I would meet “friendly” strangers along the way. Blame that on the 12-hr travel time; seatmates tend to develop affection for each other. Lol! The first one was named Gerry, a father of two and separated from his wife. We exchanged stories, I told him that I was a freshman at SLU, NBSB (No Boyfriend Since Birth) and blah blah blah. When we stopped over in Sison, Pangasinan for a 15-min. snack, he treated me with sandwich and soda. Afraid that the soda might be laced with sleeping pills, I didn’t drink it. At the zigzag road, my motion sickness began to attack so I was pale and quiet. Gerry noticed it and gave me a hug. Too bad, two of my classmates were aboard the bus and they kept on asking me a day after if he was my boyfriend. Gerry called me up when I got home (PV Boarding Houses) and he sensed that I was not pleased with him playing lovey-dovey to me. He stopped communicating days later.
The second stranger was a self-confessed ex-shabu user. If he was boasting or trying to cut a deal with me, I don’t know! We exchanged life stories and telephone numbers. I told him that I had a handsome boyfriend when he fetched me home. (No, I’m not being cheap, the man was too insistent!Lol!) He called me up when he got home and just like with Gerry, I told him that I was not comfortable talking with a man who was not my boyfriend. He never called after that.
Then there was a Korean sister who gave me the sweetest pomelo from Davao. An old lady who took care of me when my motion sickness attacked. An old man who tried to deceive me while one of his companions was slashing my backpack. All of them were part of my Pinatubo experience.
Yeah, there must be a topic about “bus incidents” but my point is, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to bond with these people had we had a normal travel time.