I’ve been travelling from Batangas to Bacolod for at least six times a year since 2013 and ever since I used to take RoRo (roll-on roll-off), I did not bother my self to book for expensive airline ticket anymore unless my trip is planned months ahead of schedule.
The very first time I use RoRo was on September 2010, and because that was a horrible experience with a specific bus company (ALPS), I never used them anymore.
Taking RoRo is advisable only if you have less baggage and not in a hurry.
There is a direct bus trip from Cubao, Quezon City to Iloilo and Bacolod City every day but I will not recommend taking that direct trip for some reasons I will explain below.
Before anything else, I warn you not to take the bus company ALPS if you don’t want to suffer similarly to what we had experienced seven years ago.
My First RoRo Experience
On September 2010, I reserved 3 tickets at the ALPS office in Batangas City worth ₱1,450 each for the next day’s trip.
On the day of our scheduled trip, the two buses arrived from Cubao and each had only one empty seat. We were three and supposed to be boarded in just one bus but the dispatcher told us that two of us needed to ride on the first bus, and one has to take the second bus. Thinking that the two buses will always travel together, we agreed.
The three of us dined together while onboard the RoRo vessel from Batangas to Mindoro. The two buses also travelled in a convoy and we reached the Dangay Port in Roxas with just a couple of minutes interval.
The suffering started when the boat going to Caticlan can only accommodate one bus because it was already full. I had to go first together with the first bus which was three hours ahead of the next schedule RoRo vessel.
Their bus took the next boat only to get stranded again near the Caticlan port for two more hours because the pier was full and there was no available ramp for their boat. Total delayed time was five hours for them.
I arrived at Iloilo City at around 1 PM and since I am the one with money, I had to wait for them for five hours because they don’t have enough money for transportation going to Bacolod.
The whole experience was bloody and right after arriving home in Silay City, I bombarded the ALPS with emails. They never responded. Such irresponsible and worst customer service. They should have never accepted my reservation if they couldn’t settle it first.
My Succeeding RoRo Experience
I never took any ALPS bus again after that bloody and exhausting experience. When I returned to Batangas, I took Ceres Transport at Dumangas town in Iloilo and I was satisfied with their service.
The way on how the bus conductor took care of the passengers made me compare the two bus companies, which the latter (Ceres) is far better than the worse ALPS.
I use Ceres transport until now, but I don’t take direct trips anymore for time and financial reasons.
I started using this strategy in May 2015 when a fellow passenger told me to try it – and it did work.
Before I write this article, I just completed another trip three days ago from Bacolod to my house here in Tanauan City, Batangas. I did not take a direct trip and here’s what I did.
There is actually a direct trip from Bacolod to Cubao that costs ₱1,800 and I did not take that route.
From Bacolod, I took a RoRo ferry to Dumangas which I paid ₱80.00. Travel time is 2 hours.
From Dumangas port, I paid ₱20.00 to a tricycle which brought me to a jeepney terminal bound to Tagbak in Iloilo City. I paid ₱20 for the passenger jeepney. I transferred to another jeepney that brought me to Ceres terminal in Tagbak and I paid ₱7.00 minimum fare. Total travel time from Dumangas port to Ceres terminal in Tagbak is around 1 hour including traffic.
At Ceres terminal in Tagbak, I took a Caticlan-bound bus and I paid ₱360. Travel time is around 6 to 7 hours on this route.
At Caticlan Port, I took a Starlite RoRo vessel for ₱430.00 for a 4-hour cruising time from Caticlan to Dangay Port in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.
From Dangay Port, I took a van for ₱200 until Calapan Port. Travel time is around 3 hours. There are also buses but vans are readily available.
From Calapan port, I took again Starlite boat going to Batangas Port for ₱200, good for two hours cruising time.
From Batangas to Tanauan, I took another bus for ₱56.00 for 90 minutes of travel time.
All in all, I spent ₱1,373 plus ₱50 terminal fee for a total of ₱1,423. I saved ₱377 from the original ₱1,800 is I took a direct trip from Bacolod via Ceres bus.
The savings is not the most important thing that I go after why I took this route instead of taking a direct trip. What important is the travel time difference?
My total travel time is around 22 hours. If I took a direct trip, my shortest travel time will be around 26 hours, and it can take up to 28 hours based on my experience.
Why taking a direct bus trip has a longer travel time
One of my worse experiences was four hours delay in both Calapan and Caticlan ports where the bus had to wait for the next trip because the ships were already full. This is not the case if you are not included in the group. You can jump into any ship is you are travelling along, avoiding any delays at any port.
The route I took seems complicated for the first time travellers, but these transportation (bus, vans, jeepneys) are readily available near each port so there will be no problem.
One time, the bus that I took had to wait one hour at Batangas port because one passenger took a different bus and left his baggage in our bus. There was also a case where one of the passengers lost his child and the bus was also delayed for two hours.
When taking a RoRo trip, I only recommend Fastcat and Starlite between Batangas and Calapan, and Starlite between Roxas to Caticlan. The reason why I do not recommend Montenegro Lines is that it is extremely hot inside. The ships’ air-condition system is defective but the windows are closed. I experienced it several times and promised my self not to take Montenegro again, especially that ship named Urduja which took 4 hours from Batangas to Calapan.
Take Ceres bus as much as possible. They have a speed limit to ensure passengers are in safe hands.
Taking a direct 2Go ship from Manila to Bacolod and vice versa is not recommended for me as I don’t like staying more than 24 hours offshore. Besides, the chaotic loading and unloading of passengers are unbearable. Cost is another thing to consider as well.
If you can book a plane for ₱1,400, then take it. A plane is just not advisable for me as I needed to travel from Batangas to Manila, which means additional expenses on bus and taxi.