Off to Pagadian City for Michell’s graduation!

Seems pretty straightforward.

Michell’s graduation from St. Columban College was scheduled for March 22 in Pagadian City. I had promised her over a year ago that I would attend her graduation, so on Friday, March 21, I duly set forth on a pilgrimage Pagadian. Being a Kuripot Kano (cheap American), I chose to take the ferry and bus in lieu of flying. (Actually, I had looked into flights but there were no round-trip tickets available for that time.) Pagadian City lies 298 kilometers from the city of Dumaguete.  According to Google, the trip takes six hours and 21 min.  Michell had made the trip here many times, and it usually took her about eight hours.  I figured it would take about the same.  Ha!

Letter for Mark, who watched my house while I was gone.
The first leg of the journey was from the port of Dumaguete on Negros Oriental (my home) to the port of Dapitain, on the northern edge of Mindanao, massive island to the south.  I arrived at the port at around 5 AM and my ferry promptly took off at 7 AM.  It was supposed to be a four-hour cruise, but due to favorable currents, we made it in three hours and 15 minutes – sort of like a three-hour tour, but different.  The accommodations were rather spartan but what can one expect for only 320 pesos ($7.11).  I arrived at the sleepy seaside town Dapitan and made my way to where the tricycles were parked. There, I secured a ride to the nearby town of Dipolog at which I would get on the bus for another long trip to Pagadian City  itself. Halfway to Dipolog, however, the tricycle driver suddenly pulled over on the side of the road. There were a number of other motorcycles tricycles and jeepneys lined up there, and I realized that there must be a Philippines National Police traffic checkpoint further down the road. Stepping off the tricycle, I found this to be the case in the tricycle driver sheepishly admitted that his driver’s license was suspended. Taking a moment to shoot some video I then shrugged off a bit of mounting frustration and hopped on a passing jeepney which finally brought me to Dipolog.
Dapitan port.
Dapitan port again.
Police checkpoint – everyone waiting for it to leave.
The bus from Dipolog to Pagadian City was pretty much a nightmare. Unlike the larger Ceres buses we have on Negros, the Rural Lines buses on Mindanao were not sized for those of a Caucasian Persuasion.  I simply did not fit in the seat and was basically forced to sit diagonally when the seat next to me was occupied,  which was basically the whole trip. I won’t get into the details of that nearly five-hour trip, I will simply state for the record that it was a bit on the tortuous side.
Dipolog bus terminal.
Bus at terminal with vendor.
Your driving is fine – your seats are too small!
This looks like the right bus.
Philippines de-segregated their bus terminals a while back.
Pig in a rice bag at Osmena Terminal – just chillin.
I arrived in Pagadian City at about 4:30 PM, a little over ten hours from when my trip began (damn your eyes, Google!!!)   My lovely girlfriend greeted my hapless self at the bus terminal, prying me out of the bus (she is small but surprisingly strong) and folding me into the tiniest tricycle that I have ever seen.  Knees jammed firmly to chin, we then took a short trip to Chandler Suites , my home for the next three nights. Like my unpleasant discovery on the diminutive bus, I discovered that the accommodations there – while nice – were more suited for a more smaller Filipino – it was the tiniest hotel room I have ever seen: my feet hung off the bed, I had to duck down to see myself in the mirror, and utiliing the…errr.. accomodations were more akin to a hot yoga session.  Still, the air conditioning worked and little bathroom had hot and cold running water.  After that 10 hour trip, I considered it my own little slice of Heaven.

Chandler Suites.
Tiny little hotel room.
Snake jail in front of hotel.
Rocky the python.
Jail birds in front of hotel – lunch for snake?
Your standard hungry Filipina.
But enough of my assorted gripes and complaints. I was in Pagadian to see Michelle graduate, so after a good night’s sleep I did just that. Saint Columban College is a private Catholic school that was founded in 1957.  I had always imagined that Michelle had to commute across her bustling city to attend classes – come to find out she actually only lived about 100 m from the school.  The graduation ceremony took place in the school’s gymnasium and nearly 300 young Filipinos and Filipinas received their diplomas that day. After a 6 AM mass at a local cathedral, the students and their parents filed in to the decorated gym to the expected strains of Pomp and Circumstances. The ceremony lasted a bit over three hours and a number of awards and recognitions were dispersed along with the degrees. Michell received her bachelor of science degree in business administration and although sweating (actually, perspiring is what girls do, I hear -guys sweat) from the sweltering heavy graduation robes (or “toga,” as they call it), was very proud of the time and effort she put in the gaining her diploma. Following the ceremony, we all went home to clean up and then met about 45 minutes later at a nearby restaurant where we had a little graduation lunch. It was the first time meeting her parents that I was a little nervous. They seemed very nice however, and they left later that afternoon to return to their home province.
Knowledge, Kindness, Justice.
Happy family – Michell’s dad in yellow/ Mom in brown.
Michell’s sister with some ROTC peeps – she looks like a mini-Beyonce.
Saint Columban College gym.
I wasn’t feeling good the whole time I was in Pagadian City. I don’t know if it was the trip or what,  but I felt listless the whole time I was there. On Sunday, Michell and I went on a little trip to a small island in the middle of the harbor.  I did a little swimming and video stuff, Michell did a little fishing, and later two of her friends showed up to share our cabana and a some conversation.
Our recent grad in the cabana at DauDau Island.
Southern Mindanao’s got some terrorists.
Got to have an Animal Bite Center.
Filipino families are BIG!
On Monday I got up really once again to make my way back to Negros. This time, I paid for two tickets on the bus so that I could use both seats in order to have enough room. This worked out perfectly and eventually made it back to Dapitan port just in time to miss what I thought was at 230 ferry but was in reality a 2 PM ferry. Recognizing my continued failings as a world traveler, I then kicked back in the air-conditioned waiting room and watched the latest Tom Cruise movie while I waited for the 430 ferry back to Dumaguete. That ferry took off a little late and I think it back to him again today until 930.
Chillin’ in economy class.
Sunset on ferry back to Negros.
Serious tropical downpours and flooding had been predicted for the weekend. If that forecast had been different I would’ve taken my motorcycle on a roll on/ roll off ferry and enjoyed the spectacular scenery along the mountainous roads from Dipolog to Pagadian City. If I visit Michell again in her home city, I will definitely take my motorcycle the next time.  
And although the bus came as a bit of a shock, traveling in the Philippines utilizing their transportation infrastructure is usually relatively  painless and extremely inexpensive. The total cost of this long trip to southern Mindanao cost me:
Ferry 640
Bus 570
Tricycles 120
Total:  1330 pesos or $29 USD for a 600 KM trip.
The three nights in the little hotel room cost me 2600 pesos or about $19 a night.

Yet another example of “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”


  1. Hi Ned! it’s so nice of you to travel all the way from Dumaguete to where Michelle lives just to attend her graduation. Would like to correct about the “kuripot” word, it’s not “cheap”. the real meaning is “stingy” but I would say you are just thrifty. Sounds so negative the stingy to me. Try to visit Negros Occidental too! Would love to have you both visit my city.

    1. LOL – I have no problem with the kuripot tagline. Many folks here are ‘economic refugees’so this can be apropos. I prefer “frugal” myself but there does not seem to be a literal translation of that in Bisaya or Tagalog. 🙂

  2. Hello there, find your blog informative. Yeah, we have the same dillema when it comes to riding buses and tricyles in the Philippines. I am a Filipina yet I’m so tall and heavy. I always pay 2 tickets whenever I travel with buses which don’t have lazy boy seats.

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