My Cebu Trip of December 2019

It has been some time already since I was in Cebu and part of the reason for that was my health which declined this year. Because of that, there were important invites which I was not able to honor. But my health recovered somewhat and I was able to participate in the Northern Mindanao tour of the Philippine Ship Spotters Society (PSSS) which gave me confidence to do a Cebu tour and this was bolstered by the offer of a PSSS member to accompany me. I also wanted to go to the inauguration of the MV Trans-Asia 20 of Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc. (TASLI) and meet again President Kenneth Sy and his Vice-President wife Pinky Sy and firm up the cooperation between TASLI and the PSSS. The former actually transferred the making of their advertising materials to PSSS and one such activity under that was the coverage of the arrival and inauguration their new ship from Japan, the MV Trans-Asia 20. Our organization was able to acquire photos of the ship even when she was still in Japan and we were also able to get pictures of her when she was traversing San Bernardino Strait from and also during her arrival in Cebu.

December 5 in the afternoon was the schedule of the inauguration of MV Trans-Asia 20 and on the morning of that date me and my companion took an Air Asia flight from Davao to Cebu. One memorable happening in that flight was when we were allowed into the cockpit to take photos together with the lady First Officer of the plane. I already noticed that a lot of passengers were already able to enjoy this treat and I wonder why it seems that in ferries it is harder to request photos inside the ship’s bridge. It is much easier to sabotage and give a big damage to a plane’s cockpit than a ship’s bridge and I think the ferry’s restrictions are a misplaced. It seems it is simply a slavish kowtowing to the demands of ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) which was actually designed for use in international trade.

We arrived in time for MV Trans-Asia 20’s blessing and inauguration. There were plenty of guests including ship owners and representatives from Japan as well as government functionaries. In the registration area it was obvious that the PSSS was expected (well, in the morning the AV team of the PSSS were still taking additional shots). Our delegation was over the limit set by TASLI and included in our group was a special member who wants to see me.

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Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

Our group attended the press conference presided over by Ms. Pinky Sy and Capt. Ariel Garalde as we were classified as part of the media group. The ship’s specs were rolled out together with the hopes of the company about the ship and the background of its acquisition plus the route of the ship. I did not take notes as I was expecting a hand-out which will be necessary for the article about MV Trans-Asia 20 which I will write. I just listened intently together with the other PSSS members who were not part of the AV team of PSSS.

We did not attend the Mass held at the car deck because we preferred to roam the ship. Through this we were able to visit the bridge and talk to Capt. Garalde.  I also had plenty of short talks with the special member of PSSS. A little later we heard some sort of commotion. It was the priest performing the blessing and he was coming up very fast followed by the PSSS AV Team and some other crewmen. Later, at the stern we saw a ramp was being lowered and still later a body wrapped in white was brought down and loaded into a Port Police car. It was only then that it dawned to us that something bad happened to the priest.

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The dignitaries. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

The rest of the inauguration was rather uneventful except for the picture taking where we were able to set our sights on the biggies in the event.and we left when it was already dusk. Then there was partaking the catered meal served to the guests. We left when it was already dusk. Actually, our group was among the last to leave the ship as we had to wait for the AV team of the PSSS.

The next day, December 6, we went to the new head office building of Lite Ferries. That was to honor the invitation of Mr. Lucio Lim Jr., the President and CEO of the company. I tried to prepare a little bit before leaving Davao but actually I had no idea of the topic/s that will be discussed. It turned out that what I did not prepare for was the topic and that was about shipping issues. Lite Ferries had read some of my previous articles in the PSSS WordPress site and they got interested so much so that I was invited to a discussion of shipping issues and in the preparation of their position paper (this is still forthcoming). An invitation was also extended for PSSS to become a non-paying member of the newly-formed Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA) which is a merger of three old shipping associations, the Philippine RORO Operators Association (PROA), the Visayan Association of Ferry Boat and Coastwise Shipowners Operators (VAFCSO) and the United Trampers Association of the Philippines (UTAP). Mr. Lucio Lim Jr., our host is the Chairman of PCSA.

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In a break, I asked Mr. Lim if it is true that they are buying the George & Peter Lines (G&P) and he seemed surprised that PSSS knows it. He uttered, “Antaas ng antenna ninyo (your antenna is really tall)” and he let the cards down. There is really negotiations going on and they are weighing their options but of course this is how far I can go as some other things are better kept under wraps. Mr. Lim then ordered lunch for the group and we continued sharing ideas while eating.

That afternoon we went to Nagasaka Shipyard upon the invitation of the shipping company exec who is also a PSSS member and we visited their ships drydocked there. We were not able to take much pictures of the other ships in the shipyard as it seems there is already a restriction. Anyway, we were full of talks related to their company and competition and the talk also veered to a ferry nearby that has a problem with MARINA, the maritime regulatory agency and is not able to sail because of that. Visiting shipyards is always nice as there are a lot of ships inside and it has been some time now that I haven’t been inside Nagasaka Shipyard since getting inside got difficult. The ship we boarded was the LCT Aldain Dowey.

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In the night of the same day we had dinner in “Azotea”, the restaurant at the rooftop of the Mariners Court. It was an all-Admin gathering to review things that happened in the last few months which was very good for PSSS as it left its competition in the dust. But I was a little surprised by the bill. I didn’t know that restaurant is expensive.

The next day I went solo to Mactan via Metro Ferry to visit C/E Mendoza, an old friend of PSSS who is now retired. He grew up working in the old Cebu port and he sent himself to school by being a working student and being employed  in the old Cebu Shipyard and Engineering Works of the Aboitizes (this is the current Mactan Shipyard). With such background he knows the ships of the 1960s. Going back to Cebu I took the Topline ferry. It really covers more ships in Mactan Channel than Metro Ferry. However, it is slower but that is not a really a disadvantage in ship spotting.

On December 8 there was a ship spotting meet open to all the members. I met a few members I haven’t met before but before that I went to the end of Pier 3 and talked someone from Seacat. I also boarded the MV Star Crafts 6 which was the former MV AS Express of A. Sakaluran. The ship spotting meet was a round trip affair aboard Topline and all apparently enjoyed it not only because of the ships around but also because of the talks and banter. From that trip we proceeded to SM to have dinner. A little advanced but the night was also PSSS anniversary night. We decided to advance it as I was not staying in Cebu until December 13, the true anniversary of PSSS. It was the Admins who spent for the dinner like in some other gatherings and there was a raffle for gifts courtesy of a PSSS Admin in Singapore, Vinze Sanchez. Everybody went home with a gift. So much story was shared but somebody noticed that half of those present came from the other group.

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Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

Me and my companion spent the morning of the next day ship spotting at the 7th floor of the City Hall. I was interested to go there to see with my own eyes the progress of the work on the 3rd Mactan bridge. Besides it is also a good vantage point for ship spotting. From there we proceeded to Cansaga Bay bridge to take a motor banca tour of the bay and the shipyards along Tayud. The motor banca tour extended up to Labogon by the Goldenbridge facility there. This tour developed by PSSS yields a lot of photos. I was happy because of the assistance of my companions. Without them I wouldn’t be able to ride a banca anymore as I have already lost my knees and balance due to age and disease.

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Some Cansaga ships. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

From Cansaga we motored back to Mariners Court to take shots from the rooftop. We were not able to take many shots because of the fading light. Instead of patronizing other restaurants we went to “NOAK” which was just nearby. It is an eatery owned by a PSSS Admin and which becomes a gathering place at times by PSSS members.

The next day, December 10, we went to Ouano, the one near the new Mandaue market and the one near the E. Ouano house. There were not many ships in the first but I noticed that the store/canteen there that was friendly to PSSS is no longer around. In the second, I forced my way into the hulk of the MV Lite Ferry 16 where I learned they will rebuild the ship. They were then ripping the car deck to expose the engines that caught fire which will be replaced by new ones. From there we went to the former facility of Villa Shipping and we were lucky an exec of Medallion Transport was there whom we are already familiar with. We got the latest about their two ships there and we got an invitation to the relaunch of the MV Lady of Love and the future inauguration of the MV Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Lite Ferry 16 car deck being ripped out. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

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Medallion Transport ships in Ouano. MV Lady of Perpetual Help in front. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

We then went to the old facility of Asian Marine Transport Corporation (AMTC) in Mandaue Pier 8 to visit the Trans-Asia ships there including MV Trans-Asia 20 which was not yet sailing and MV Trans-Asia (1) which was also not sailing. Also there was the old MV Trans-Asia 9 which is headed to the breakers.

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A goodbye image of the old Trans-Asia 9. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

From there we proceeded to a dinner in Robinsons Galleria which was open to all members. I was hoping to meet members who were not able to make it to the anniversary dinner. What I got instead was a pasalubong from a member to whom I extended help previously in a thesis.  That was practically the last point of my Cebu trip. We were just waiting for our ship back to Mindanao, the MV St. Francis Xavier of 2GO that was several hours late. To kill time, we made a standby in “NOAK”.

Me and my companion opted for MV St. Francis Xavier of 2GO, a ship we haven’t rode before because we thought a liner is better than an overnight ship like before but we were wrong. First, I had a run-in with her vessel escorts who ordered passengers to put their things in the  pier apron which was covered with a third of an inch of dust so that their canine can do its work. I flatly refused, of course. I told them they should use a platform. As compromise they laid down a sack. They were able to meet someone whom they cannot bamboozle.

The next morning we were disappointed by the free breakfast. I didn’t know the 2GO Tourist breakfast is now below the level of the Economy breakfast of before and there was not even coffee. Many did not finish their meal as it was not tasty. The other offerings of the restaurant for snacks are just Goldilocks products that are wrapped in plastic and a few salads. Our lunch fare was also not tasty and there was just one viand. Economy meals of the past always consisted of two viands. Seems there is a lot of cost cutting in 2GO now. Is this a policy of SM which runs the company now? Well, they did not also gave breakfast to Ozamis passengers although it was already 8am.

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The kind of snacks now in 2GO. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

We were able to depart Cebu after two hours of in-port time and it was a surprise to me. Does it mean there was not much cargo? It was a different matter in Ozamis port where our ship was docked for five hours. Most of the passengers disembarking did not disembark at once because of the long line for vehicles under the sun outside the port so they tend to wait in the ship which is air-conditioned. And 2GO cannot handle simultaneous embarkation and disembarkation. Maybe they should do something about it especially if they want to resolve the delay in the schedule of the ship.

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Ozamis port. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

Me and my companion got off in Iligan port to take a bus to Cagayan de Oro. It was a long walk as there was no shuttle. However, the wish of my companion to ride a Super Five hybrid bus was rewarded and our unit was just in its 5th day of service and so it was still very fresh.

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Iligan port. Photo by Mike Baylon of PSSS.

In the Bulua bus terminal of Cagayan de Oro a PSSS Admin picked us up together with his retired Chief Engineer-father and we had dinner and some lively talk. On arriving in the Agora bus terminal of Cagayan de Oro someone offered us a ride in a Montero and the front seat was offered to me. The ride was much better than a commuter van and the fare was only P500 which is lower than that of an aircon bus. Our ride was faster and more comfortable. We arrived in Davao in the dawn of the next day and instead of hailing a taxi I offered the Montero driver the amount I would be paying if I took the taxi and he agreed. And so I arrived in style.

It was a hectic and tiring trip with plenty of talks and ship spotting but it was all worth it in terms of results and in terms of probable future results.

 

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