HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Lugging big boxes and an array of luggage, passengers flocked to the Cebu South Bus Terminal (CSBT) yesterday to catch trips to home in time for Christmas.
The scene is repeated in sea ports and at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), where hundreds of passengers were left stranded for two days as Severe Tropical Storm Vinta lashed through most parts of Mindanao and the southern section of the Visayas.
But as those in Cebu and other Visayan areas heaved a sigh of relief that they have been largely left unscathed by the wrath of the typhoon, Mindanao is in disarray and will be having a bleak Christmas with hundreds of thousands of people displaced by floods, and with death toll now exceeding a hundred, with many more reported missing.
As of 7 p.m. Saturday, the center of Severe Tropical Storm Vinta was estimated at 255 kilometers south southwest of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, or 80 km west of Balabac, Palawan, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Vinta was still strong, packing a maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 135 kph.
It was moving west at 22 kph and was forecast to be 645 km west of Puerto Princesa and out of the Philippine area of responsibility by this afternoon.
The southern section of Palawan has been placed under Storm Signal Number 2 while the rest of Palawan was under Storm Signal Number 1.
In Cebu, people were not only scrambling for bus seats but also for tickets in vessels that were leaving ports on Saturday.
In Cebu City alone, at least 12,000 outbound passengers flocked to Pier 1 on Saturday, according to data from the Cebu Port Authority (CPA).
Rhea Oporto, the terminal operations officer of CPA, said 60 vessels, including fastcrafts, had departed from different ports in the city on Saturday.
“Fully book gyud tanan tungod sa kadaghang pasahero (All of the vessels were fully booked because of the number of passengers),” she said in a phone interview.
Marie, not her real name, was with her common-law-husband and their two-year-old son when they lined up for bus going to Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.
Marie said she was relieved and happy when she heard the announcement early morning on Saturday that the trips going to Dumaguete were already allowed.
The couple and their child were taking a bus that would, in turn, be loaded on a roll-on roll-off vessel that would cross between the islands of Cebu and Negros.
She said that they stayed overnight in CSBT because their trip on Friday was canceled.
“Nalipay gyud ko kay nawala akong kagool nga basin dili mi sa amoa mag-pasko,” Marie said.
(I was worried that we might not be able to celebrate Christmas in our home. Now I am happy.)
She said that she could not contain her happiness and excitement, especially since it was her first time going home to Dumaguete City after two years of staying in Cebu for work.
CSBT security management head Jonathan Tumulak said that since Friday evening, passengers started to flock to the terminal.
“Pagawas sa Pagasa sa update mga alas dies kapin, nikalit lang abot ang mga pasahero,” Tumulak said.
(When the Pagasa released its update on Severe Tropical Storm Vinta at past 10 p.m., passengers started to arrive in the terminal.)
He said it was fortunate that there were already available buses in the terminal, and operators immediately pulled out their buses from their garages, Tumulak added.
Right after the Pagasa lifted the storm signal warning in Cebu, trips going to southern Cebu were allowed.
Christmas at the terminal
However, the Ceres Bus Liner bus that was heading for Zamboanga del Norte was still unavailable as of Saturday afternoon.
Tumulak said that the bus operator explained that they could not resume the trip bound for Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte as of noon yesterday since crossing the sea between Dumaguete and Dapitan was still perilous because the sea was still rough.
Ricky Obligar, 45, reluctantly accepted the fact that he and his family might celebrate the Christmas in the terminal.
But he still hoped and prayed that he would be able to go home to Zamboanga before Christmas Eve.
“Okay lang din naman na dito mag-pasko eh wala naman kaming matutuluyan dito sa Cebu. Pero sana may biyahe bago mag-pasko (I suppose it’s okay that we celebrate Christmas here since we don’t have a place where we can stay here in Cebu. But I am still hoping that we can take a trip home before Christmas Day),” said Obligar.
Obligar, who was with his father and siblings, said they came from Masbate and needed to get to Zamboanga del Norte since one of his brothers died and they have to attend his funeral.
The Obligars were among the about 30 passengers going to Zamboanga who were stranded in the terminal since Thursday.
Since the influx of passengers was expected yesterday afternoon until this morning, Tumulak said there was a possibility that there would be a shortage of buses today.
“Posibilidad gyud nga naay shortage kay ang drivers manguli pud. Naa usab silay pamilya nga ulian,” Tumulak said.
(There is a possibility that there will be a shortage of buses today since the drivers will also go home to their provinces. They also have families to go home to.)
Tumulak advised those heading out of Cebu by land to come early to the terminal today to catch the remaining trips for the day and avoid getting stuck in the terminal on Christmas Eve.
He also advised the commuting public to avoid bringing contraband inside the terminal, such as sharp objects, liquors and firecrackers, among others.
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